It hasn’t been a secret that one of my favorite areas to travel to for any type of vacation is the Caribbean. I’ve been to Jamaica for a romantic parent’s getaway with my husband, I’ve traveled to the Bahamas multiples times, and then I decided to go on a Caribbean cruise with Virgin Voyages – and that’s just stating a few of the trips. So when I had the opportunity to visit Curacao and take a family trip, I didn’t even hesitate to book my flights and begin getting ready for a fun Curacao island vacation.
Curacao (pronounced “kur-uh-saw”) is a beautiful Dutch Caribbean island located in the Caribbean Sea. Known for its stunning beaches, clear waters, and colorful buildings, it’s a popular tourist destination for people all around the world.
Our trip to Curacao surpassed the expectations that we had for our trip, and we are already planning our next trip back, and I want so many others to visit. Which is why in this post, I’m going to be sharing a guide to planning your trip to Curacao.
CURACAO ISLAND TRAVEL GUIDE
Curacao is a Dutch Caribbean island just north of the Venezuela coast. The island is a continuant country of the Netherlands and together with Aruba and Bonaire, it forms the ABC islands. With it being located right outside the hurricane belt, it’s actually an island with a dry climate which means that it says very warm with little rain year-round. We actually visited during their “hurricane season” and, at max, it would drizzle for about ten minutes before going back to being bright and sunny with no evidence that it actually rained at all. Because the island connects to the Netherlands, the people who live there actually hold Dutch passports and often study in the Netherlands or have lived there at some point in life. You’ll also see that many of the tourists are from Europe and the majority of the cruise ships coming in day-to-day are European cruise lines.
The island of Curacao is an ideal location for any type of trip that you may be planning. It’s great for romantic getaways, family trips, couples vacations, and girl’s trips. You’ll find the island has various places to stay, eat, and things to do that will meet the needs of any type of traveler to the island.
Tips FOR GETTING READY FOR YOUR TRIP TO CURCAO
FILL OUT YOUR VISADepending on when you are visiting, you may be required to complete a online visa prior to arriving to Curacao. This visa will help you to move through customs when arriving and is typically required to be filled out so that your information is in the system.
LEARN SOME OF THE COMMON PHRASESIn Curacao, the official languages are Dutch, English, Spanish and the language of the island – Papiamentu. You’ll find that many people will actually try to teach you the phrases of the island and how to speak the language, but knowing some come phrases before taking your trip may give you a leg up right when you land. – Bon Dia = Good Morning – Bon Bini = Welcome – Ayo = Good-bye – Danki = Thank You – Dushi = a term of endearment that is used in various situations
PREPARE YOUR WALLETThough the currency in Curacao is the Netherlands Antillean guilder, most places accept the US dollar and major credit cards. Your best bet is to have a travel credit card that is a VISA or Mastercad as some places don’t accept some of the other credit cards such as American Express or Discover.
WHERE IS Curacao?
As mentioned, Curacao is located in Dutch Caribbean which is in the southern part of the Southern Caribbean Sea and is a part of the Dutch Caribbean islands. With it being 40 miles away from Venezuela, on a clear day, you can actually see the mountains on the coastline. With it being that close to Venezuela, as well as very close to Bonaire and Aruba, many locals and visitors actually take day trips to the other islands and other nearby locations in South America because the flights are typically under an hour.
BEST TIMES TO GO TO Curacao Island
When talking to people who were beyond their first trip to Curacao along with the locals, they said there is never really a bad time to visit Curacao. Because it remains around the same climate year-round, you don’t have to avoid hurricane seasons with the tropical rain that may downpour at any time like you would with other Caribbean islands. You may see that people say that the best time to go is in the early months of the year, but I found that many people were saying that there is a decrease in rainfall at the end of the year. No matter the time, you’re in for a lot of sun and a great time.
HOW TO GET AROUND Curacao
To get around Curacao, there’s a few ways help you get to and from:
- By Car: You can easily rent a car right from the airport or, if offered, the hotel or resort where you are staying from car rental companies such as Hertz, Alamo, Enterprise, and others. . Road are easy to drive on and super easy to navigate.
- By Bus: Public buses are offered on the island. You just need to make sure that you are aware of the bus route and scheduled as some routes only run twice a day, and if you are heading to the Westpunt beaches, the buses only go to certain beaches which tend to be the busiest ones.
- By Taxi: There are taxis on Curacao island for you to get around. This would be probably be the best way to get to your hotel or resort if you aren’t renting a car or if you’re not planning on taking a shuttle.
- By Foot: If you stay within the Willemstad area, you can easily navigate the city to get around to many restaurants and shops.
WHAT TO PACK FOR Curacao Island
WATER BOTTLEThe water in Curacao is actually some of the best water that you’ll find. I highly recommend packing a water bottle and filling it up from the tap in your room and using it as you walk around or tour the city. With it being a dry and hot island, you’ll feel that you’ll want to stay hydrated throughout the day so that you feel good all the time.
WATERPROOF SUNSCREENThe sun in Curacao can be quite intense. I went only a few hours without sunscreen to walk five minutes down the road and ended up getting sunburn, so make sure that you pack high SPF waterproof sunscreen to keep yourself from burning.
SUN HATThough it can be quite windy in Curacao, a hat while out in the sun will keep you safe from the sunrays. For kids, I recommend a hat that buckles under the chin or as a little rope in the case that the wind takes it. While we were out exploring on our trip, we lost our little man’s hat because the wind was so strong and just took it away.
WATER SHOESYou’ll want to make sure that you have water shoes for visiting the beach. The beaches tends to have hard coral and stone in the water and on the beaches which can be hard on your feet. There are sometimes vendors near the beaches that sell water shoes, but there aren’t many and they aren’t at every beach. If you don’t have these heading to the beaches, you might find yourself not wanting to head into the water or walk around.
BUG SPRAYBug spray is recommended in Curacao as there are quite a few bugs that bite. We didn’t wear much bug spray at the resort right near the water, but when heading into town and to some of the parks, it was much needed.
PLUG ADAPTERSThough some of the resorts have USB ports and the sockets that you typically see in North America, you’ll also find that some of the resorts have the Type F sockets that are seen mainly around Europe. You can check with your resort prior to arriving to see what type of sockets they have, but I recommend getting an adapter just in case.
PORTABLE CHARGERYou’ll spend a lot of time outside of the room especially on tours and visiting the beaches, and I guarantee you that you’ll be using your phone to take pictures and video, so make sure to bring a portable phone charger to keep your phone charged throughout the day.
Pack Your Bags
PLACES TO STAY IN CURACAO
AVILA BEACH HOTEL
Avila Beach Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in Curacao, and is one of the most popular hotels to stay. It’s a 4-star hotel located on the beach in Willemstad that offers a variety of rooms and suites which all have private balconies or patios. On property, you’ll find a private beach, infinity pool, spa, and two main restaurants – The Pen Restaurant & Terrace and Schooner Bar. One of the favored rooms for families is the Governor’s Suite which is a suite equipped with a kitchen, living area, bedroom with master bath, an additional bedroom near the kitchen, and a balcony overlooking the beach.
PIETERMAAI BOUTIQUE HOTEL
Right in the heart of Willemstad, you’ll find Pietermaai Boutique Hotel. This historic hotel was originally built in the 18th century and has been completely renovated to offer a modern and stylish experience that many adore. The hotel has 36 rooms and suites which are all decorated in a unique and stylish way. Each room in the hotel is outfitted with comfortable beds, private bathrooms, and flat screen TVs with some of the rooms also having balconies and terraces with stunning views of the city. The hotel offers a number of amenities including a rooftop pool and also has a restaurant and bar that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
PAPAGAYO BEACH HOTEL
Located on Jan Theil Bay, Payagayo Beach Hotel is a modern hotel with a stylish Caribbean-inspired design. The hotel houses 50 rooms and suites which all have private balconies or patios with immaculate views of the ocean. The beach itself, which is private, is just steps from the hotel and the infinity pool is heated and has a swim-up bar. Along with going to the beach and pool, you can visit the restaurant or bar, and take party in various activities that are offered for guests including snorkeling, diving, and playing on any of the various sports courts.
CORENDON MANGROVE BEACH RESORT
Corendon Mangrove Beach Resort is an all-inclusive family friendly resort that many people highly recommend. The resort is made up of 399 rooms with many of the rooms being outfitted for families with a king size bed alongside single beds so that everyone has their own comfortable place to sleep. Each room also has a balcony or patio to overlook the ocean, nearby Mangrove Forest, or the pools. Also on property, you’ll find fun for the entire family. In the center of the resort, you’ll find a main pool with a swim up bar, and as you walk past, you’ll walk to the private beach. But if you’re family is looking for something more than the beach and the pool, the resort also houses a waterpark with waterslides and a dedicated kids area.
Another popular all-inclusive family resort is the beachfront Dreams Resort Curacao. Dreams Resorts are a part of the inclusive Hyatt collection just like Secrets Resorts. This resort in Curacao offers the luxury amenities that are expected from the brand and offers seven dining and beverage options along with an infinity pol and private beach.
For those who are wanting to take an adult-only vacation, then Sandals Curacao will be for you. New to the Sandals family as of early 2023, the resort is located in the Santa Barbara area of the island which puts you away from the main parts of the island, but the resort offers plenty of opportunities of taking you to the beaches and off property for tours. Featuring over 350 rooms and suites, including seaside bungalows with private pools, you’ll find this resort offers so many unique and romantic amenities and experiences that aren’t anywhere else. Dip into one of the pools including a heart-shaped pool or the two-level infinity pool, or enjoy dinner food and beverages at one of the 11 dining options.
RENAISSANCE WIND CREEK CURACAO RESORT
The Renaissance Wind Creek Curacao Resort is a great place to stay for anyone looking for a luxurious and relaxing vacation. Like many of the resorts and hotels, this resort has a private beach, infinity pool, and spa along with various restaurants, bars and shops. The hotel is also home to a casino and theater with the casino offering a variety of games, including slot machines, blackjack, and roulette, while the theater hosts a variety of events including concerts, shows and comedy acts.
ACOYA CURACAO RESORT
Acoya Curacao Resort is located at the edge of Willemstad and is within walking distance from many popular shops, restaurants and bars. By just taking a short drive, you can head to the most popular tourist attractions including the Queen Emma Bridge, a pontoon bridge, and Willemstad market.
THINGS TO DO IN CURACAO
TUK TUK TOUR IN WILLEMSTAD
A great way to learn about the history and culture of Curacao is through a Tuk Tuk Tour in Wllemstad. Tuk Tuks are three-wheeled open-air vehicles that are perfect for getting through the city streets quickly and being able to see the beautiful architecture and art while enjoying the fresh air. These tours typically last for about an hour or two depending on how often you ask to stop and how many pictures you choose to take. This type of tour is one of the most popular ways to tour the city and see some of the top attractions including Queen Emma Bridge, and the various murals around the city.
When booking your tour, there are a couple of things that you want to make sure you do. First is to make sure you book well in advance as the tour guides need to know when to pick you up and to be prepared for a tour. Additionally, these tours books up quite quickly, so you want to make sure you are able to book yours before there is no more to book. Also, make sure to wear comfortable shoes. Though you’ll be taken through the streets on the tuk tuk, there is still a lot of walking through some of the areas that you visit.
VISIT SHETE BOKA NATIONAL PARK
A location to visit in Curacao is the Shete Boka National park in Westpunt, Curacao. Many people come to Shete Boka to see how the great trade winds of Curacao impact the ocean. The winds create huge wakes that hit against the rock at the inlet (boka). The national park is great to walk around take a look at the waves and to visit the small cave to see the waves up close. The park is open everyday with a fee of $6 per car, which is well worth it for these amazing views.
BEACH HOP ABOUT WESTPUNT
For a long beach day, head to Westpunt, Curacao and beach hop around the west end area. Each of the beaches in the area are located within 20 minutes from one another, so you can head to each beach to experience the vibrancy and marine life, or just head to one and spend the whole day there. All of these white sand beaches are free to access, but some of the beaches which offer umbrellas and and loungers which you do have to pay a fee for. I was in love with all of the beaches that we visited because of the clear waters and how each was perfect for snorkeling and diving. Here are some details of the best beaches to visit in the area:
PLAYA KENEPAThis beach is one of the largest beaches and is actually broken up into multiple areas. When arriving, if you go to the larger area, you’ll find a parking lot that you can park and then walk down to access the beach. Many people go to Playa Kenepa to also jump off the cliff into the water. This beach does offer umbrellas and loungers, and is often filled with a variety of snack trucks where you can purchase food and drinks.
PLAYA LAGUNPlaya Lagun is one of the smallest beaches in the Westpunt area. Looking out from the beach, you may even think that this beach is a private sea area that has it’s own quaintness about it. Many people enjoy heading to the restaurant that overlooks the beach to take in the sights before heading down the beach and enjoying the day.
PLAYA PORTO MARIEPlay Porto Marie is a beach that is known for the wild pigs that roam the beach in the evenings. This beach can get quite busy with people who are coming to interact with the wild pigs, but if you go earlier in the day it can be more of a relaxed and less busy beach.
PLAYA JEREMIPlaya Jeremi has great natural beauty and is popular place for snorkeling, diving and swimming. With several restaurants and bars located nearby, this beach can get busy but the makeup of the beach is so beautiful that it’s well worth it to visit.
EXPLORE DOWNTOWN WILLEMSTAD
If you’re not one to take a tuk tuk tour, or if you take one and want a little more time in Willemstad, then I suggest taking a walking tour to explore downtown Willemstad. Once you get into the area, one of the best things to do is just wander around to find the unique shops, restaurants, markets, and historic buildings around the city. For those who aren’t quite into the wandering, you can also get a guided walking tour that is offered for those staying on the island as well as for those who are stopping through on cruise.
TOUR THE CURACAO LIQUEUR DISTILLERY
When you visit any location that has a drink or food named after it or that it’s known for, you have to make sure to find out more about it. So while you are in Curacao make sure to head to visit the Curacao Liqueur Distillery at Landhuis Chobolobo. You can take a guided tour through the distillery and be immersed in the process of how the liquor is made while also getting to taste the famous liquor, in various flavors, at the end of the tour. If you want to spend more time at the location, you can even opt in for a cocktail class to learn how to make your own curacao cocktail.
GET A DAY PASS TO MANGROVE BEACH RESORT
For those who aren’t staying at the Mangrove Beach Resort, you may still want to take the time and visit the resort through a day pass. Visitors of the island who are staying at other hotels, can purchase a day pass for after 11am to spend the day at the beach resort and enjoy the facilities and the amenities. You will be given a wristband that notes your day pass so that you can go through the property to enjoy the private beach, pool, waterpark, restaurants, and the bars. One thing to note is that those with a day pass do need to bring their own towels, as the resort doesn’t offer towels to day pass visitors.
VISIT CURACAO SEA AQUARIUM
I’m a lover of aquariums because I think marine life is so spectacular, so if you’re anything like me and want to learn more about the marine life of Curacao then make sure to visit Curacao Sea Aquarium. Owned by a local who lives only minutes from the aquarium itself, this open sea aquarium is unique in the way that it actually uses pipes to bring in ocean water and push it out instead of using filters in the tank. At the aquarium, you’ll find a variety of marine life including sharks, dolphins, fish, turtles, and rays. And while visiting, you have the opportunity to interact with the sea life through a touch pool or through some of the animal encounter options including feeding the sharks.
TAKE A BOAT CRUISE TO KLEIN CURACAO
You may have seen pictures of the iconic pink lighthouse in Curacao that is located on Klein Curacao. To access the area, it’s is about a two hour boat ride where you can spend the day before heading back. The best way to visit Klein Curacao and this lighthouse is to go through a boat cruise. I recommend Irie Tours for the Klein Curacao tour. They’ll pick you up from your hotel to transport you to the catamaran boat that will take you out for the full day on this uninhabited island. On the island, you can also swim in the waters at the beach, snorkel with sea turtles, and interact with other marine life. The tour include breakfast and lunch, along with an open bar.