Where to Stay and Eat in Curaçao
Where to Stay
Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino
This place used to be my go-to hotel in Curaçao. Unfortunately it closed back in 2016, when it was sold to The Piscamar Beach Resort of the Orco Group.
I've included it first on this list though because I have good news: from what I've read, the Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino has been remodeled and is set to reopen in September of 2019!
In a 2016 press briefing, we learned that the new hotel group had agreed to invest $33.7 million dollars into the property to completely refurbish it and even add an additional store. That's great news because prior to closing, the Marriott Beach Resort and Emerald Casino was actually our favorite place to stay. Because it’s a Marriott chain and required very little rewards points to book, so we could stay an entire week there on points and not spend a dime. It also had decent rooms with beautiful ocean views, several restaurants on property, and myriad bars strewn about the property. The photo above was taken before its closing in 2016, and as you can tell the property was already pretty great. I can't wait to see what the newly remodeled property will look like.
There was a beach bar in particular called the “Board Room” that we absolutely loved. Right on the water, you could sip cocktails either on the deck where you can watch the crabs scatter across the rocks or sit in a swing at the other side of the bar. The Marriott also had this great arrangement where they would have happy hour (2 for 1 drinks) at the pool bar at 5 pm, happy hour again at the Board Room at 6 pm, and then happy hour at the main hotel bar at 7 pm. So what that meant is that all the booze-hounds (like us…) would follow each other from one bar to the other each night. It turned into a bit of a ritual and meant that we easily made friends on each trip. The photos below were all taken at the Board Room:
This place is easily the nicest resort on the island. Not best necessarily, because unlike the Marriott it has U.S. and European-like prices.
It has a Rosewood-like feel, with a lot of luxury amenities. The entrance to the resort actually feels like Bali, with lush tropical gardens, stonework and Balinese Buddha statues strewn about. There’s a beautiful, protected private lagoon with a beach that can only be enjoyed by hotel guests or those willing to pay the $50 per person beach day pass. Baoase Luxury Resort offers free use of kayaks, snorkels, and paddle boards, so you won’t get bored. And the restaurant—claimed to be the finest on the island—has beautiful views of that blue Curaçao sea.
The price difference between this place and the next nicest resort is astronomical though—rates here are about $5-700 a night for their base rooms (which will run you almost $4,000 for a 5 night stay after taxes) and as much as $1,800 a night for their Superior Private Pool Villa, which will set you back $9,000 for only five nights. However, with that price tag comes the service and exclusivity that you would expect from someplace like a Rosewood or a Four Seasons, and the private villas are insanely beautiful and well-appointed. Whether it’s worth it for the money is a whole different question though. Curaçao is known for being cheap, and the other resorts reflect that. The next nicest resorts on the island—the Santa Barbara Resort (below) and the Marriott—are only about $200 a night.
The Santa Barbara Resort is a nice happy medium between the absurdly overpriced Baoase and a dump like the Hilton (again, please don’t stay there). The resort is well-appointed, has nice finishes and actually looks as if it belongs in beautiful Santa Barbara, California (where I lived for many years and still live close to), with red tile roofs, cream colored stucco and dark mahogany wood finishes. The property has great king bed rooms for as low as $100 a night if you can take advantage of one of the hotel’s many online “sales” or for about $200 full price in the high season. During their “Summer Cyber Sale”, for example, you can get a Premier Water View King for only $114 (regularly $229) a night or their 960 square foot Sunset Suite for $414 (regularly $829). They also offer a series of high-end suites that can sleep up to four and have a full kitchen, a dining room, living room and multiple bathrooms with stunning balconies that overlook the sea.
The property has several great restaurants, an adult pool, a kids pool, pool bar and private beach. And if you’re a golfer, you’re in luck—the Santa Barbara Resort is home to the Old Quarry Golf Course, rated “Best Caribbean Golf Course” by USA Today. It’s a Pete Dye Course with absolutely stunning ocean-view holes. They also have tennis courts and a world-class spa. The Santa Barbara Resort has a little bit of something for everyone.
The only negative I should point out about the Santa Barbara Resort (though I suppose it wouldn’t be a negative for everyone) is that it’s a bit far out of town. The Santa Barbara Resort is situated at almost the furthest point on the southern portion of the island, putting it about 30 minutes out of downtown Punda or well over an hour to get to Westpunt in the northern part of the island where the best beaches are. So if you want to enjoy the best beaches, scuba or free dive, or party in town, staying at the Santa Barbara Resort will mean a lot of driving to and from Westpunt or spendy cabs to get you to and from town. If you are one of those who enjoys unplugging and not leaving the resort, then this is probably still a good option.
If you came to Curaçao for the sole purpose of diving, staying in Westpunt is your best bet. There aren’t any major resorts there, but there are a number of small family-owned and run boutique hotels and lodges, just like the Lodge at Kura Hulanda, which is located just above Playa Kalki beach and near all the best dive sites. The Lodge has two restaurants, which both serve excellent meals (a bit more upscale, with prices to match). Request to eat on the terrace for an incredible view while you dines. You can also schedule a massage at the lodge, whether you’re staying there as a guest or not. If the Lodge isn’t for you, they also have a sister property in town, the Hotel Kura Hulanda.
Rent a House
You can get a killer deal on stunning, gigantic homes with ocean views and private pools on VRBO or HomeAway for a fraction of the cost a similar house would run in the States.
Where to Eat
Nieuwestraat, Willemstad, Curaçao
Ginger is easily one of our favorite restaurants on the island. The restaurant, located n the Petermaii district of Punda, is actually owned by a Dutch ex-pat who actually owns the adjacent Petermaii Boutique Hotel and several other restaurants and bars on the same block. Ginger serves eclectic, vibrant dishes in a beautiful, dimply lit outdoor patio. They call it “Carib-Asian” food, but really it’s probably more accurately described as tourist-friendly Indian and Thai food, with menu staples like spring rolls, tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala and palak paneer. Don’t let my “tourist-friendly” description scare you away though—the food is EXCELLENT. They also make a great mojito and have wonderful after dinner adult dessert drinks.
Miles Jazz Cafe
41 Nieuwestraat, Willemstad, Curaçao
Just around the corner from Ginger is the Miles Jazz Cafe, which is just the cutest little bar serving up classic cocktails, cigars and live jazz nightly. Here you’ll find locals and tourists alike dancing salsa or simply enjoying some Caribbean jazz. Head to the Jazz Cafe after Ginger for a nightcap and some music—the perfect ending to a great meal.
Johan van Walbeeckplein 6, Pietermaai, Curaçao
Kome is a cool little new restaurant that we found in Punda that has a more modern, Western-style restaurant feel. It was similar to the types of trendy restaurants that we have all over California. The food and the service were both excellent—the waiters were super stoked to have a couple of Americans there (I think they see mostly Dutch locals and tourists) and were about as friendly as you could imagine. What’s even better is that the food is actually as good as the staff is friendly. We enjoyed a beautiful, house-made burrata, lavender and honey appetizer, a really well made caesar salad, some stone-fried flatbread and a really interesting, yet tasty duck dish. What’s even better is that everything is really reasonably priced for the quality of the food, ranging from $12 to $29.
Rif Fort, Renaissance Curaçao, Otrobanda
I’m sad to say that although the food at this restaurant has remained noteworthy, the new location is a bit of a bummer. When we came to Curaçao back in 2013 and 2015, we dined at this restaurant both times. The old location, which was located across the Waiigat bay from downtown Punda and the floating market, was situated on the water with incredible views of Punda and the nightly sunset. This location, however, was slightly difficult to get to and not accessible by foot, so I’m assuming that’s perhaps why they decided to move. They recently moved to the Rif Fort, where the Renaissance is located, which is clearly more convenient but does not offer the same incredible atmosphere and views.
As I mentioned, the food—despite all that I said above—is still very good. We fell in love with their whole fried red snapper dish and seem to get it every time. They also have great lobster, sushi, and steaks. It’s on the pricier side of restaurants in Curaçao, but does meet that higher end restaurant feel, which is actually quite difficult to find in Curaçao. Main dishes range from about $20-35 and it has a beautiful outdoor patio, with a decent ambiance that is sometimes enhanced by live music.