The Top 10 Things to Do in Curaçao
Updated: Aug 21, 2019
Rent a Car and Drive the Island
I've always found that just driving around the island is not only relaxing (and a great way to see the scenery), but also allows you access to some of the most beautiful, uncrowded, untouched beaches. As mentioned on the Curaçao Main Page, Byron and I like to head to the supermarket right after we arrive on the island so we can stock up on snacks, beer and things to make little sandwiches to go. We fill up our disposable cooler (or on the last occasion, a bucket with ice in it because the store was out of coolers) with pre-made sandwiches and beers, and drive from beach to beach. When you get closer to Westpunt there are fewer restaurants and mini-marts to buy food or beer (though some of the beaches sell beer), so it’s smart to just bring your own stuff if you can. Bring lots of cash, as many of the beaches require an entrance fee and will require small change to get in. We also found cash to be handy when our beers ran out or we didn’t feel like eating warm sandwiches.
Renting a car and driving around also gives you the opportunity to see a number of historical sites on your own without having to take one of those cattle-car tours. We often like to drive out toward Westpunt and work our way back, stopping at different monuments along the way. One place is Ascension, an old landhuis where they housed the slaves who were sick. The locals swear there’s a ghost who haunts the property; the story is that the mean old landowner was buried just outside the property walls and haunts the area, which is the reason they cite lack of cell phone coverage. And right before Ascension is Has di Pal’l Maishi, or “house of corn”, which belongs to the ancestors of one of the first freed slave to be given owned land on the island. You can also drive to the beautiful, iconic church situated on top the hill: St. Willibrordus. You an also drive out to "Willywood" and see the flamingos. These are all must-see landmarks in Curaçao. But having the freedom to drive back and forth to each of the beaches is truly the main reason you need a car in Curaçao.
Check out Curaçao's Best Beaches (Click Here)
Check out the Open Air Markets
Curaçao has a number of beautiful open air markets in town, which sell everything from handmade gifts to fresh fruit from Venezuela. There are the Ronde Market and the Floating Market right off the square on the Punda side of Willemstad, named the floating market because the panga boats pull up alongside the dock and sell fruits and vegetables right out of the boats.
Take a Trip to Klein (Little Curaçao)
The day trip out to Klein is one of my favorite things to do in Curaçao. Though the more enjoyable way to spend the day out at Klein is by taking a private charter, there are dozens of charter companies that do group day trips at a reasonable cost. Most trips leave around 8 in the morning and get back at about 4 pm, cost around $100 per person and include a light breakfast, lunch, and unlimited soda and alcoholic drinks (which for us always meant that we got our money’s worth). You use the engines to get out there in the morning (it takes about an hour and a half and is pretty choppy—take Dramamine if you get seasick as this ride is not for the faint of heart) and then you can sail on the way back, enjoying a much smoother ride. We like the catamaran Jonalisa, operated by Bounty Adventures.
One of the biggest reasons people choose to travel to Curaçao is to dive its incredible clear waters. Though Curaçao is a generally arid, almost desert-like island, the sea life and coral forests beneath the sea are full of life and color. Westpunt is the most popular place to stay for divers because that is where a large majority of the great dive sites are. Westpunt is at the far west end of the island and quite a ways from Willemstad so if you are planning to spend a lot of time diving while you’re there, pick a place in Westpunt to stay (here’s an interesting fact: Westpunt did not have running water until the 1950s). There are a number of dive resorts out there that set you up with everything you need.
Playa Kalki is a beach at the far northwest side of the island that has insanely beautiful water, a white sand beach, and facilities to use. That is where Go West Diving is located, where they teach all levels of PADI courses. It also happens to be situated right next to one of Curaçao’s most famous dive sites—Alice in Wonderland. They also do air boat dives to sites like Watamula, Alvin’s Plane Wreck and Redhio. You can rent gear and air and they have two tank morning boat dives and one tank in the afternoon. Their snorkel trips are on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Also ask about their sunset cruise, which I hear is lovely though I have never done one.
Go West Diving also rents kayaks and paddle boards, so even if you aren’t planning to dive, you can rent from them and still enjoy the beautiful beach. There is also food available (there’s a small restaurant) and beach chairs for rent. Many of the beaches have dive shops with tanks to rent. You can generally rent air for about $6-$9 a tank at Kalki, Lagun, Cas Abao, Porto Marie, and Coral Estates. Each of these spots have either a restaurant or a small snack shack, so you can have lunch during your surface time as well.
Free Dive the Sunken Tugboat (Read More Here)
This recommendation is so important that it gets its own page! So much to tell, you MUST visit the sunken tugboat while you're in Curacao if you love the water.
Dance Your Ass Off!
Curaçao is known for having a bunch of festivals in general, and really great music festivals. While Carnevale is obviously the most well known festival on the island, Curaçao boasts fantastic EDM, reggae and soul music festivals.
There are also a lot of regularly scheduled parties and dance nights at the various clubs and restaurants around the island. Head over to Krakkeput Mei Mei on Mondays, enjoy reggae at Ay Carumba on Tuesdays, and live music at Hooks Hut on Wednesdays. Thursdays and Fridays you can go to DeHeeren. Also on Fridays is Asia De Cuba. There is salsa dancing on Saturdays at De Korea at Waaigat, and then also Fridays and Saturdays at Bermuda. Sundays are spent at Hemongway’s and later at Mambo Beach. Mambo beach is pretty much guaranteed to have something going on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of every weekend.
Generally, Thursday nights are a good night to go out in Punda because they have their weekly event called “Punda Vibes.” Every Thursday, the bars in town offer specials on drinks and live music. On the first Thursday of the month is also “City Vibes”, a free jazz walk from venue to venue all evening.
Because the southern side of the island is wind protected, there is no swell on the south side of the island. However, there are good waves on the north end—if you are experienced enough to deal with the rip currents and the reef breaks. Playa Kanoa is a popular place for surfers and is one of the only major waves I know of on the island. Since my husband is an obsessive surfer, we of course had to check this place out. It’s pretty deserted (and actually seemed a bit sketchy). You basically drive though the mangroves, which the locals use as a trash dump, to get out to the deserted, rocky beach. There were definitely surfable waves here, but Byron didn’t get a chance to surf because he didn’t bring a board. Note that this is for more advanced surfers, not beginners though.
Hike Mount Christoffel
Though I’ve never actually done it, I hear that the hike up Mount Christoffel is an incredible way to see the entire island all at once. You will see old ruins, a copper mine and fantastic panoramic views. Not only will you enjoy incredible 360 degree views once at the top, but Christoffel Park is where you will also find more species of flora and fauna than anywhere else on the island, including rare cottontail rabbits and white tailed dear.You can drive in and hike the park. Curacao Actief takes guided hiking and biking tours through the park and also offers moonlight hikes, tours to find the elusive white tailed deer, and sunrise and sunset excursions. But be advised—the park closes at 4 pm and they lock the entrance gates to the mountain so I would recommend getting there before 12:00 to make sure you’ll be able to get up and back in time.
Mount Christoffel is the highest point of Curaçao and reaches a height of 372 meters. The hike takes about an hour and a half each way. You’ll need good shoes (not sandals), and a lot of water. And don’t forget to wear sunscreen. For a more in-depth explanation of hiking Mount Christoffel, check out this blog.
Visit Shete Boca Tabla
On the far northwest side of the island, located inside Christoffel national park, is a place called “Boca Tabla” where volcanic action from thousands of years ago created a number of natural bridges, small caves, and natural water blow holes. “Boca Pistol”, for example, is named because the force of the waves against the rock formations creates a spray that looks like it was shot from a pistol. You will notice that the topography on the north side of the island is totally different—it almost resembles the west side of Hawaii’s big island, with mostly rocks and volcanic structures. The park has a number of walking trails. During the day there is an entrance fee of 10 guilders (about $6) to get in. On the weekends the locals often sell food.