Last Updated on September 25, 2023
Curaçao is a small island nation located in the southern Caribbean Sea, just off the coast of Venezuela. It makes up the ‘C’ in the ABC Islands that consist of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, and is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
With a population of around 160,000 people, Curaçao is a diverse and vibrant nation that is home to a mix of cultures, including Afro-Caribbean, Dutch, and Latin American.
Curaçao is known for its picture-perfect beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant coral reefs, making it a popular tropical destination for tourists and scuba divers. Beyond tourism, Curaçao’s economy is driven by the oil refinery industry, financial services, and international trade.
Although it may be small in size, Curaçao is big when it comes to history and culture. It’s easy to see this reflected in its music, cuisine, and traditions. There is a mix of languages spoken on the island, and most locals grow up speaking all four: Papiamento (the native tongue), Dutch, English, and Spanish. Curaçao is also known for its lively carnival celebrations, which are a colorful and festive display of the island’s culture and heritage.
Curaçao is well worth a visit. Its dry climate and European influence make it a truly unique Caribbean destination. While it would be easy to spend more than 5 days on this island, read on for an itinerary if you only have 5 days in Curaçao.
HELPFUL WEBSITES TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR TRIP
HELPFUL WEBSITES TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR TRIP
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Day 1: Explore Willemstad
Willemstad is the capital and largest city of Curaçao. The city’s vibrant colors, colonial architecture, and rich history have earned it a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Visitors can explore the city’s narrow streets, historic buildings, and waterfront promenade, where traditional Dutch architecture blends seamlessly with Afro-Caribbean influences.
Start your day by walking around the colorful Punda district and visiting the famous Queen Emma Bridge. Also known as the “Swinging Old Lady,” this bridge will literally swing open to allow large ships to pass through the bay. Just be sure to get off the bridge before it swings if you don’t want to get stuck while the ship sails by!
A visit to Willemstad would not be complete without taking a photo with the giant letters that spell out the word, “DUSHI.” Dushi is a word used by locals to describe things in an endearing way. If you are enjoying your food, the weather, or just about anything else on the island, feel free to describe it as “dushi.”
As you marvel at the beautiful buildings in this district, check out the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere. For lunch, find one of Willemstad’s bustling markets or street vendors. This is a fun way to get a taste of the island’s friendly culture.
Head to the waterfront and take a guided tour of the Curaçao National History Museum to learn about the island’s maritime heritage. Admission to this museum is $10.
Cross the Queen Emma Bridge into the Otrobanda district. Here you will find more colorful architecture from the colonial era as you walk around the energetic Brión Square.
Walk over to Rif Fort, a historic monument that was originally built to protect the city from invaders. Now, the walls of the fort surround a wide variety of trendy shops, bars, and restaurants. This is the perfect place for dinner and drinks to cap off your day in Willemstad.
Day 2: Mambo Beach
Mambo Beach is one of the largest beaches on the island, with plenty of space to claim a spot for the day. You won’t get bored at this beach thanks to all the things to do in the immediate area.
If you want to stretch your legs, go shopping at one of the swimwear boutiques or souvenir shops. Have lunch at one of the several restaurants on the beach, where you can eat with your toes in the sand.
The businesses on this beach take happy hour VERY seriously. At 5:00 pm each day, some of the bars will host special live musicians or set up additional tables on the beach as tourists and locals come together for a toast. Chill Beach Bar & Grill is a great spot for laid-back vibes and affordable libations.
After a full day of fun in the sun, head up the stairs to the dynamic strip of open-air restaurants. Enjoy a tasty dinner as you look over the beach with the sun setting behind it.
At night, Mambo Beach turns into a party. Establishments like Wet & Wild Beach Club and Bonita Beach Club stay open late for patrons looking to dance the night away.
Day 3: Outdoor Adventure
Start your day with some exotic bird watching. Simply type “flamingos” into Google Maps and it will lead you to the salt flats of Jan Kok, where you can see a flock of wild flamingos in their natural habitat. If you are lucky, you may even get to witness the rare occurrence of some of the pink birds taking flight.
Head to Christoffel National Park and take a hike to the top of Mount Christoffel for breathtaking views of the island. Due to extreme heat during the day, you are not allowed to begin your climb after 10:00 am, so try to arrive early. The hike takes about an hour to get to the top and is not very difficult. Next, visit the nearby Savonet Museum and learn about the cultural and geological history of the island. $15 gets you access to both the park and the museum.
For your next stop, head over to Shete Boka National Park and enjoy an outdoor picnic. The park is known for its rugged coastline, rocky cliffs, and dramatic sea caves. After lunch, you can hike along the park’s scenic trails, explore its many coves and inlets, and witness the power of the ocean as waves crash against the rocky shoreline. This park is well worth the entry fee of $10 for the photo opportunities alone.
Finally, visit the Hato Cave and explore the underground world of stalactites and stalagmites. The 300,000-year-old cave is fully illuminated and there’s plenty to see. The cost to enter is $10 per person.
Day 4: West Side Beach Hopping
While it’s impossible to visit all 38 of Curaçao’s beaches in one day, there are a few that should not be missed. You can hit each of these beaches as you drive west from Willemstad, with each one bringing its own unique flair to the table.
The first stop is at Kokomo Beach, where you can take pictures on the boardwalk or swingset over the shimmering turquoise water.
Up next is Playa Porto Marie. This beach is famous for the two resident pigs that roam the white sand alongside the sunbathers. Just make sure you keep an eye on any food or drinks, as the pigs have been known to get into people’s bags and eat whatever they find. This is one of the few beaches in Curaçao with an entrance fee, which is $3.
Playa Lagun is a secluded beach surrounded by cliffs. This is a great snorkeling area, as tropical fish love swimming around the rocky parts of the water.
Grote Knip is arguably the most picturesque beach in Curaçao. The endless white sand and clear waters make this a great place to relax. There are typically food trucks here if you would like to have a snack or a fresh smoothie.
If you would like to eat a full lunch, head up to Play Forti. There are a few restaurants here that offer idyllic ocean views. After lunch, if you dare, you can attempt the high cliff jump into the turquoise water.
Bring your snorkel to Playa Piskado, where you can swim with sea turtles. The turtles at this beach are almost always hanging out in the shallow water and are accustomed to being around people. Access to this experience is free and allows you to interact with these majestic creatures in a natural way.
If you still have time on your drive back and want to end your day with a low-key beach, there are a few options. Playa Kalki, Playa Jeremi, and Santa Cruz are all beaches that are considered somewhat “local secrets.” You may not see as many tourists at these beaches, but they are every bit as memorable as the more popular spots.
Day 5: Historic Landmarks
Start your day at the Kura Hulanda Museum, which features exhibits focusing on African art and history relating to the local slave trade. Entrance to this museum is $10 and it opens at 8:00 am.
Not far away is Landhuis Chobolobo, a vibrant mansion with lush gardens, home of the Blue Curaçao liqueur distillery. Take a guided tour and learn all about the world-famous liqueur and its Jewish ancestry. You can get a standard tour for $15 or you can opt for the deluxe tour for $25. The only advantages of the deluxe tour are that it includes locally-made ice cream and you get to drink two cocktails instead of one. There’s also a cocktail workshop tour for $45.
For lunch, dine with the locals in the Jan Thiel neighborhood. In the afternoon, there are plenty of ways to spend time in the area. Visit Fort Beekenburg and explore the historic remnants of a 1703 Dutch military stronghold, or take in the views from Seru Kabritu Summit. You can also explore the water by boat through Mermaid Boat Trips.
Finish your day along the waterfront in the Punda district of Willemstad. Restaurants such as Dal Toro, The Grill King, and Perla Del Mar seem to come alive as the day turns to night. Listening to the waves crash as you enjoy a meal in this classy area is the perfect way to end your trip to Curaçao.
- Half or Full day Climbing Trip at the Tafelberg – A perfect introduction to outdoor climbing, rappel and climb crags that even many local outdoor climbers haven’t tried yet!
- Curaçao Seabob Tour – Explore the underwater world of Curaçao with ease on this snorkel tour with a Seabob allowing you to see more than you would with just a snorkel without the hassle of bulky scuba equipment.
- Happy Hour Sunset Sail – Enjoy a drink on a spacious catamaran while enjoying the scenery and sunset.
- Full-Day Catamaran Trip to Klein – Explore Klein, a sunlit white-sand cay just 6 miles off Curaçao.
- Half-Day ATV East Adventure Tour – Go off-road and explore the rugged island landscape of Eastern Curacao on an ATV and enjoy spectacular viewpoints without crowds.
- Underwater Walking Tour – Take an underwater walk through a path lined with corals and surrounded by colorful fish.
Where to Stay in Curaçao
Luxury Option: Renaissance Wind Creek Curacao Resort
This incredible resort is located on the water in the heart of Willemstad. Complete with its own man-made beach, this beautiful hotel is perfect for families in need of fun or couples in need of a romantic getaway. If you’ve had your fill of the on-site restaurants and room service, you can simply walk to the many eateries in Willemstad.
Budget Option: Bed & Bike Curaçao
The hotel has two locations that are known for their low rates. One in the Pietermaai neighborhood for an experience near the center of Willemstad, and one in Jan Thiel that’s closer to the beach. Bed & Bike also offers budget car and bike rentals so their guests can explore the island.
For a non-hotel option, there are plenty of awesome vacation rental options found in Curaçao. Whether in the city, near the ocean, or in the lush hills of the countryside, you’re sure to find a stay for every budget.
Travel Tips for Visiting Curaçao
While Curaçao has a bus system and some taxis, neither of these options is very consistent or reliable. For getting around the island, renting a car is highly recommended. Having your own car gives you the freedom to drive to the different beaches and historical sites on your own schedule. In the itinerary above, it’s possible to get through days 1 and 2 without a car, but it’s most likely necessary to rent one for days 3-5.
Best Time to Visit
One amazing aspect of Curaçao is its weather. Curaçao is situated outside of the Caribbean’s “Hurricane Alley” and has an arid, desert-like climate. This makes for fewer rainy days and more blue skies than most other Caribbean destinations. While temperatures are warm all year, the best time to visit is February-April.
During this time, crowds will be small, the “rainy season” will have ended, and you may get to celebrate one of the country’s cultural festivals. Carnival, the Plein Air native festival, and the Koningsday festivity are observed in February, March, and April, respectively.
For US citizens, a visa is not required to enter Curaçao. All that is needed is a valid passport and tourists can remain in the country for up to 90 days. Visitors looking to stay longer than 90 days will need a long-term visa.
Currency in Curaçao
The local currency on the island is the Antillean guilder (ANG). The conversion has been fixed to the US Dollar at approximately 1.80 ANG to 1 USD for over 35 years. However, it is important to note that the US Dollar is accepted as payment all over the island. ATM machines in Curaçao will give the option of cash in either ANG or USD.
Written by Steven Geist
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