Curacao is the largest island within the Netherlands Antilles and the perfect vacation destination for beach lovers, peace seekers and hikers. The island is known for its beautiful beaches, but there is much more to do. I spent 10 days there, traveling alone, and instead of lying on the beach, I went into nature, did a lot of hiking, discovered museums and snorkeled. In this mini travel guide Curacao I give you all the tips to do and to see in the most popular places and more off the beaten track, I tell you what you should better not do on the island, you can read if traveling alone to Curacao is doable and I give much more information and practical tips. Make your holiday in Curacao as fun as possible!
In this article:
General information about the island
What to do and see in Curacao
What not to do in Curacao? The dont’s.
Going to Curacao alone: a good idea or not?
To Curacao if you are not a beach person
Where to stay in Curacao?
Practical tips for your vacation Curacao
⇒ Is it necessary to rent a car?
⇒ Where do you rent a car?
⇒ Offline road maps
⇒ How do you arrange Internet on your phone?
⇒ Is it necessary to bring dollars or guilders in advance?
⇒ Can you pay with dollars or euros in Curacao?
⇒ Airline tickets to Curacao
⇒ What is the best time to travel?
⇒ Are there a lot of mosquitoes?
⇒ Is Curacao a safe travel destination?
⇒ Can you drink the tap water?
⇒ Doing a photo shoot in Curacao
Curacao: the largest island within the Netherlands Antilles
Although Curacao is a popular travel destination, there is still confusion about what Curacao actually is. Is it a country? A province within the Netherlands? Or does it have nothing at all (anymore) to do with the Netherlands?
This short 4-minute video explains to you exactly which country the Netherlands is and what the country is made up of. And yes, that includes Curacao. So, do you want to know what the relationship is between the Netherlands and Curacao? Watch this fun video (tip: is it too fast? Turn on subtitles or play the video in slow motion):
In case you don’t want to watch the video, here’s the short version: Curacao is a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Located in the southern Caribbean Sea, just off the coast of Venezuela. Previously, Curacao was part of the Netherlands Antilles, but since 2010, the Netherlands Antilles no longer exists as a constitutional unit. Since then, the 6 islands belong to the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
So although Curacao is within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, it has a different currency from the Netherlands, the Antillean Guilder.
More than 151,000 people live on Curacao, of whom about 100,000 live in the capital, Willemstad. Because Willemstad is characterized by Dutch architecture, the city has also been called the “Amsterdam of the Western Hemisphere”.
Although a small island, Curacao is home to as many as 107 different nationalities. The majority of Curacaoans are mainly descendants of slaves brought from Africa, the indigenous population. Many Dutch people also live there, and since the deteriorating political situation in Venezuela, many Venezuelans also live on the island.
The most widely spoken language is Papiamentu, which is also the native language of Curacaoans. As a second language, Dutch is taught in schools alongside English and Spanish. Many residents of Curaçao master Dutch, English and Spanish in addition to Papiamentu.
What to do and see in Curacao
Although most tourists go to Curacao for the beautiful beaches, there is much more to do. Curacao has beautiful nature, an interesting culture, beautiful architecture and an impressive history. And it all comes together in these sights.
Visit museums in Curacao
Curacao has many beautiful and interesting museums to visit. Consider:
- Kura Hulanda, about the slave past. A must-see;
- The Curacaosch Museum;
- Bloemhof country house;
- The Jewish Museum and synagogue in Willemstad.
Street art in Willemstad
In Willemstad you will find not only the most interesting museums, but also beautiful street art in the Otrobanda district. Only recently, this was a dangerous neighborhood, which has been under renovation for a few years. The street art and colorful houses make this neighborhood an open-air museum. Do a street art tour in Willemstad and imagine yourself in the colorful Caribbean.
The most beautiful beaches in Curacao
Although I am not a beach person, I was very impressed with the beaches in Curacao. The water is so blue and the beaches so beautiful, it almost makes your eyes hurt. The underwater world is also beautiful. You can enjoy swimming and snorkeling a lot.
Discover nature on the island
At least as impressive is Curacao’s beautiful nature. You might not expect it, but you can do great hiking in Curacao and see impressive natural phenomena.
My favorite natural parks are:
- Shete Boka National Park, where you will discover the impressive rugged north coast;
- The Christoffel Park, to climb the Christoffel mountain;
- Hofi Mango, an oasis of tranquility.
And there’s more, think Sint Joris Bay all the way in the east of Curacao and Watamula Hole in Westpunt.
Discover the east of Curacao Island
East of Willemstad, there is plenty to do. Not only will you find the most popular beaches here, but also plenty of history, nature and more. Consider:
- The Aloe Vera farm;
- The Chichi workshop;
- Fort Beekenburg;
- Viewpoints in Jan Thiel.
Road trip Westpunt
The west of Curacao Island, or Westpunt, is an hour’s drive from Willemstad and has much to offer. Set aside a day or even two days for a road trip Westpunt, it’s worth it! In the western part of the island you will find, among others:
- Mount Christoffel;
- Shete Boka National Park;
- Watamula Hole;
- Beautiful beaches, such as Kleine Knip and Playa Lagun;
- The Santa Martha viewpoint;
- Hofi Mango;
- Karakter beach;
- Good restaurants.
What not to do in Curacao? | The absolute dont’s.
Although Curacao is fantastically beautiful and highly recommended to visit, sustainability and animal friendliness are a bit disappointing. Therefore, here are some tips for making conscious choices regarding this topic during your Curacao holiday.
1. Swimming with dolphins: you really can’t do that anymore
Swimming with dolphins is really out of the question. It is one of the greatest animal abuses there is. Fortunately, more and more countries and organizations prohibit swimming with dolphins, but in Curacao it is still allowed.
So much has been written about why you should never swim with dolphins in captivity, yet people continue to do it. They may not realize the animal suffering behind captive dolphins. Or animal suffering doesn’t interest them. Which is actually worse.
Are you now thinking:
- But swimming with dolphins is safe, right? Nothing wrong with it!
- And the dolphins really enjoy swimming with people, too, you can tell by their wide smiles.
- They know no different: dolphins were born in captivity and are used to this life. Then it doesn’t matter.
- In captivity, dolphins are much safer, so it’s actually better for the dolphins.
- What do you mean a small pool? They have so much space!
- Swimming with dolphins is educational and such a fun experience for my children.
Or some other excuse to do it anyway….
Swimming with dolphins and doing tricks in dolphinariums once began after the popular series Flipper. In which dolphins are the stars of the series. After the suicide of one of the dolphins, the then dolphin trainer of the series, Ric O’Barry, was so shocked that he has since worked for decades to reverse the interest in swimming with dolphins that his series has brought about. Here you can read the story of Flipper’s suicide in brief.
Be aware of animal abuse
I hope you are now aware of the animal suffering that swimming with dolphins entails, and make the choice not to swim with dolphins in Curacao or anywhere else in the world.
Almost all tourism activities that involve animals, especially when money is involved, is animal abuse. A ride on an elephant, for example, that too is pure animal abuse. A zoo where animals do tricks and live in enclosures that are too small? Animal cruelty.
Similarly, I did not visit the Aquarium in Curacao. Again, animals are kept in captivity to make money. Like the Ostrich Farm (Ostrich Farm). And I will never set foot in SeaWorld.
Responsible activities with animals
Use common sense when it comes to animals. And choose animal-friendly activities. There are so many places in the world where you can see dolphins in the wild. From a distance, or even dolphins swimming with the boat by themselves. In the Azores, for example. Here I have seen dolphins and whales in the wild myself. From a great distance, with no nets or enclosed pool.
Also in the Amazon you can see dolphins in the wild, and even in Europe on the Lofoten islands in Norway. Here by chance, in the distance, we came across a group of orcas and whales. From a great distance, where you can admire nature in the right way.
2. Playa Piskadó (Playa Grandi): swimming with sea turtles in Curacao
You may be wondering why this immensely popular beach is not among my top 7 most beautiful beaches? Well, here’s why.
Sea turtles live all around Curacao. There are many places where they lay their eggs. And yes, sea turtles are beautiful to see and even more fun to swim with. For you, at least.
An idyllic beach with authentic fishing boats
Playa Piskadó is described as an idyllic beach where authentic fishing boats moor. Here they clean their fish and the residual waste is thrown into the sea. Where the turtles come in.
And tourists, that is, and lots of them. Although I visited Curacao in the low season, it was incredibly busy. Nowhere on the island was it more crowded than here.
Too painful for words
I already had a feeling that this was not as it is described on just about the entire Internet. The beach was swarming with people. On the jetty you could barely walk, everyone wanted to see the turtles.
In the water were beautiful sea turtles, surrounded by tourists who all wanted to get as close as possible. Who pulled at each other and even grabbed turtles or stood on them. I could cry so sad.
In addition, it is not at all okay to feed sea turtles, especially with fish. Sea turtles naturally eat plant foods, and (too much) fish makes them too fat, which can even kill them.
Having said that, these days there are not only fishermen feeding the turtles, but also Venezuelans, who ask tourists for money to do so.
A low point in Curacao
Playa Piskadó was absolutely the low point of my vacation in Curacao. Terrible how people treat sea turtles, which are even among the endangered species.
After literally a minute, I turned right around and drove away with a knot in my stomach. What a terrible sight. And all for what? That one picture?
Don’twant to contribute to animal suffering? Then don’t go to Playa Piskadó.
Do you want to go snorkeling with sea turtles in Curacao anyway? Then have respect for the animals. Don’t feed them, don’t touch them, don’t get close, give them space, don’t yell and certainly don’t step on them.
3. Do not throw trash into nature
It seems so simple, but apparently it still isn’t. Even while climbing the Christoffelberg, you come across plastic containers and empty water bottles. For some people, it is apparently normal to leave trash in nature.
And not only there, there is trash everywhere in Curacao. Along the road, on beaches, in nature. You almost get used to it when you spend two weeks driving around the island.
Wherever you go in the world: have respect for nature and animals.
It’s that easy:
- Bring a bag to put trash such as packaging in, so you can throw it away as soon as you come across a trash can. Or leave it in your car and throw it away later.
- In Curacao, you can drink the tap water, so there is no need to buy plastic bottles of water. Bring a water bottle and fill it with water at your hotel or apartment. Saves a lot of plastic (and money) when you are on vacation with the whole family for 2 weeks. I myself use a water bottle from Dopper. But there are many more sustainable water bottles to choose from.
Going to Curacao alone: a good idea or not?
When you think of Curacao, you don’t immediately think of the best destination to travel to on your own. Still, traveling alone in Curacao is perfectly doable. All sights, beaches and natural parks in Curacao are fine to visit on your own.
There are a few things to consider, though:
As always when traveling alone, also in Curacao everything is more expensive. After all, you cannot share the cost of a rental car and apartment or hotel room.
Curacao is not a destination full of solo backpackers. There are hostels in Willemstad, but otherwise there is little for backpackers on the island. Therefore, you yourself should more actively seek out people who also travel alone, if you feel the need. You don’t just run into solo travelers everywhere like in typical backpacking countries.
Make sure you always have a charged phone with you; take a power bank with you everywhere, for example. Internet is also useful, in case something happens and you find yourself on a deserted road somewhere in Westpunt. I myself downloaded the map of Curacao from Google Maps, to use offline. And via Holafly I bought an esim so I had Internet everywhere. This worked perfectly and quick. I normally use my global sim card from Keepgo. It works in more than 100 countries, but just happens not to work in Curacao.
How did I do that: traveling alone in Curacao?
I just wanted to get away from people and really be alone, and Curacao is the perfect destination for that. Instead of staying in the crowds, I chose an apartment in Santa Catharina, in the northeastern part of the island. Few tourists come here, so I was really all alone for 10 days in peace and quiet.
With my rental car, I discovered the whole island and saw and did a lot. For example, I climbed the Christoffel mountain, snorkeled at the most beautiful beaches of Curacao, ate in delicious restaurants and visited the best museums.
The only thing I did with the host of my apartment was the street-art walk through Otrobanda.
I never for a moment felt alone, unsafe or in need of more companionship. However, I must add that I am very much on my own, more introverted and I just love to be alone. Besides, I travel alone more often, and the excitement of that has long since worn off. Going on vacation on your own for the first time can give some tension for a while, but you will see that it is actually a great experience. Eating alone can also be a little strange at first. I myself have never had trouble with this, but if you find this exciting: just do it and after a few times it will be normal.
Going to the beach alone: where to leave your stuff?
First, it’s best to leave all valuables you don’t need for the day in your hotel or apartment. Your passport, for example. Then there are things you don’t need at the beach, which you can leave (out of sight) in the car.
Think of your phone (I always brought this one, by the way) or the keys to your hotel or apartment.
Then put everything in a backpack or other sealed bag. I didn’t spend a second on the beach, only going to beaches to snorkel and take photos (I do love the views and sitting on a seaside terrace somewhere). And especially with snorkeling, you don’t want to leave your gear alone.
At each beach, I always looked around carefully for people to whom I could ask to put my stuff with them for a while. Is this 100 percent safe? No, but that’s nothing. Listen carefully to your gut and step up to people where your intuition says it’s right. Couples, for example, or older people.
I have never had any problems with this, nor has anyone made a problem out of it. In fact, I was told a few times: yes of course, I know from experience how difficult it is with your stuff when you travel alone.
Travel to Curacao alone? I say yes!
To Curacao if you are not a beach person
Curacao is known as a tropical beach destination, and most tourists come to the island for its beautiful beaches.
However, I myself do not like lying on the beach for hours at all. In fact, 5 minutes is already too much for me. All that sand everywhere, and I don’t want to get a tan. Going to the beach for the beautiful views I do, and sitting on terraces too, I love that. Like snorkeling, I did that a lot in Curacao as well.
So I am by no means a beach person. And that turned out far from a problem in Curacao. There is so much to do, you can easily fill 2 weeks with activities without spending a single second on the beach.
Look for an apartment where you can sit outside, possibly with a hammock and pool attached. Many hours I spent in my hammock, overlooking tropical birds and beautiful plants, enjoying the sound of the wind and the birds. Delicious. Check out my apartment in Curacao.
So Curacao is by no means just a beach destination. Even if you are not a beach person, this is a great travel destination.
Where to stay in Curacao?
The most popular places to look for your hotel or apartment in Curacao are Jan Thiel or Mambo Beach. You will also find many nice hotels in the south of Willemstad.
However, there are many more options for hotels and apartments in Curacao. Consider the beautiful south coast at Westpunt, right on the beach. Here you are further away from everything, but so it is also quieter. Or just the northeastern part of the island, where I myself stayed in this apartment. Here, few tourists come and you stay in a quiet neighborhood.
Where best to look for a hotel depends entirely on what your needs are. Here you can read all about the best places to stay in Curacao.
Practical tips for your vacation Curacao
Is it necessary to rent a car in Curacao?
If you want to see anything of Curacao, it is necessary to rent a car. There is a bus, but it is totally unreliable. Renting a car is the best way to get around the island.
Where do you rent a car in Curacao?
This can be done in lots of places and is therefore easy to arrange. I myself like to rent from SunnyCars. This is all-inclusive and you immediately have all insurance taken care of. In addition, SunnyCars allows you to rent a car without a credit card (only if you book in time) and you can cancel up to an hour before arrival (unfortunately, I had to use this on occasion, and it was all taken care of well). Find a rental car here at SunnyCars.
Another option is Rentalcars. Here you have more choice of rental companies.
Offline road maps
Don’t have Internet on your phone? Then download maps.me on your mobile and download the map of Curacao. You can also do this with Google Maps offline maps. This way, you can determine and track your route by just turning on your location, without the need of Internet.
I personally like maps.me because it also allows you to capture the locations you want to go to on the map in advance, so you can quickly see what’s there to do and where to go. Without needing the Internet.
Internet on your phone during your Curacao trip
Don’t have enough with the wifi in your hotel or apartment? Then you can buy a local sim card or buy an esim online. I chose the latter, which saves hassle and time and can be arranged in advance. Buy an esim at Holafly right before you leave home, and activate it as soon as you arrive. You choose how many days you need it for.
Try to use wifi for major tasks on your mobile, so no watching Netflix on your esim. However, you can do a long time with 5GB. With this, I posted a lot on social media, surfed the Internet, used Google Maps and did a lot more on it, and only consumed 3 GB in those 10 days.
Is it necessary to bring dollars or guilders in advance?
No. Right when you arrive at the airport in Willemstad, you can withdraw money. You will find an ATM outside near the departure hall, across from the parking lot.
Can you pay with dollars or euros in Curacao?
In many places you can pay with dollars. You can’t pay with euros anywhere. However, it is very easy to pay anywhere with a card, your debit or credit card. Even beach beds can often be paid for by card.
I myself took guilders out of the ATM at the airport. In the end, that really wouldn’t have been necessary, as I paid by card in most places.
Airline tickets to Curacao
Flights go to Curacao from all over the world. I myself flew from Bogotá, Colombia, with Wingo. A flight of less than 2 hours.
From the Netherlands:
- Book airline tickets or a package holiday Curacao with Corendon.
- Cheap airline tickets can also be found at Tui. Or choose one of the package holidays Curacao.
- Or search the best airline tickets at KLM.
From the rest of Europe, South America, Mexico or the US:
What is the best month to travel to Curacao?
The best travel month for Curacao is from January through June. This is the dry season. From October to December, it is more cloudy and you are slightly more likely to have some rain. But in general, Curacao is sunny year-round and generally receives very little rain. So you can go to Curacao all year round.
I myself went in late May and had beautiful weather, with occasional clouds. Which is not bad at all in the heat….
Are there many mosquitoes in Curacao?
Yes, you will be bothered by mosquitoes. Especially from sunset and in the evening and night. So use a lot of DEET if you want to prevent mosquito bites.
Since mosquitoes don’t like air conditioning, you won’t be bothered by them at night in your hotel or apartment, only outside. So you don’t have to sleep under a mosquito net.
Is Curacao a safe travel destination?
According to the Curacao travel advisory, you face the same risks in Curacao as in, say, The Netherlands. In other words, Curaçao is a safe country to travel.
However, robberies can occur in Curacao, such as in more remote areas where tourists stop the car to look at the view. There are also other remote spots where you have to be a little more careful, such as at Fort Beekenburg. Is there no one else there? If so, I would skip this sight.
I myself found Curacao a wonderful safe change from Bogotá, where I live. Delightful 10 days taking pictures on the streets with my phone and driving around everywhere without worries. Not only did I enjoy this beautiful island, but more importantly I enjoyed the freedom that a safe travel destination brings.
Can you drink the tap water in Curacao?
Yes. The tap water is of good quality and you can drink it without problems. I brought my own sustainable water bottle and filled it every day at the apartment. That way you don’t have to buy bottled water, which saves a lot of money and plastic waste.
Doing a photo shoot in Curacao
I wanted a nice memory of my vacation in Curacao. And nice pictures of myself, which is a bit more difficult when traveling alone. So I decided to do a photo shoot. I chose photographer Diana of Island Girl. We have been following each other’s blogs and social media for years, ever since we both immigrated to the other side of the world. Now I finally met her in real life and it was incredibly fun. I am very happy with the pictures. Information about this photo shoot can be found here.
Curacao: one of the most beautiful islands I have been to.
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