things to do in curacao photo

Curaçao (map) is a Caribbean island with a coastline that’s indented with numerous bays and coves. Its capital, Willemstad, is situated on both sides of St. Anna Bay, a channel of water that leads to the immense Schottegat harbour. Tourism is one of the mainstays of the economy and there are lots of things to do in Curacao for those on a beach break, cruise or a longer stay. From colourful Willemstad to stunning beaches, dive sites, historic country estates and nature parks, there are a lot of things to do in Curacao to keep visitors occupied.

things to do in curacao
Colourful Willemstad

Formally part of the Netherlands Antilles, Curacao was one of five territories (that included Aruba, Bonaire, Saba, St. Eustasius and Sint Maarten) administered by the Netherlands. In 2010, the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved and these days, Curacao is a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands and is one of the wealthiest islands in the Caribbean. The 150,000 islanders speak Papiamentu, a blend of Portuguese, Dutch, English and other African influences, but Dutch and English are also widely spoken.

Things to do in Curacao and where to stay

There are lots of things to do in Curacao in addition to lounging at the beach or going snorkelling/scuba-diving. The best way to explore the island is simply to hire a car ( and drive around. On my previous visits, I drove to every corner of the island, exploring the little coves and villages, and discovering little beaches which only the locals know of. This time around, I chose a more relaxed pace, spending several days at Jan Thiel in the eastern part of the island and a few more days at Lagun, in the more secluded western end of the island.

Playa Lagun

Curacao is popular as a beach and water-sports destination, with some of the best diving spots in the Caribbean. The larger popular beach resorts are concentrated in several areas close to Willemstad, such as Mambo Beach, Piscadera and Jan Thiel. I can recommend the Avila Hotel, Floris Suite Hotel and Papagayo Beach Hotel (links to

Papagayo Beach & Design Hotel in Jan Thiel
Dining on the beach at Papagayo Beach, Jan Thiel.

1. Discover Curacao’s beaches

Explore the island and you’ll find many gorgeous beaches. The ones I recommend include Daibooi Beach, Grote Knip, Kleine Knip, Playa Porto Marie, Playa Cas Abao and Playa Lagun.

Daibooi Beach
best beaches in curacao
Grote Knip beach (image by J.hendriksen/Unsplash)

There’s much more to do in Curacao. Here are several suggestions:

2. Stroll around Willemstad

Stroll around Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Check out the floating market, the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue (dating from 1692, the oldest surviving synagogue in the Americas), the restored historic Kura Holanda quarter in Otrobanda and walk across the unique Queen Emma pontoon bridge. One activity I can recommend is a historical walking tour of Willemstad. This tour covers both Punda and Otrobanda and includes visits to the fort, Emma Bridge and a rum distillery.

Kura Holanda in Willemstad, Curacao
colorful buildings willemstad caribbean
The colourful Handelskade of Willemstad. A free ferry runs whenever the Queen Emma bridge is open.
One of the historic gems in Willemstad
Queen Emma Bridge in Willemstad

My favourite thing to do is sit at the terrace of the Gouverneur De Rouville restaurant in Otrobanda and watch the ships pass by and the Queen Emma Bridge open and close.

The beautiful De Gouverneur restaurant in Otrobanda. There’s a lovely terrace that faces St. Anna Bay, offering great views.

3. Visit the ‘landhuizen’ or country estates

Visit the ‘landhuizen‘ (or historic estates/plantations) scattered across the island, many of which have been converted into museums, B&Bs or restaurants. My favourites are Klein Santa Martha (now a lovely boutique hotel), Landhuis Jan Kok (an art gallery), Groot Santa Martha (a handicraft workshop for the disabled) and Landhuis Papaya.

Landhuis Klein Santa Martha, now a lovely boutique hotel.
Landhuis Groot Santa Martha.

4. Visit Hato Caves

Walk through the impressive Hato Caves. Located near the airport, the caves are also home to ancient drawings.

5. Spot flamingoes

Stop at the salt marshes with its flocks of flamingoes at Jan Kok. While you’re there, check out the gorgeous art gallery at the Jan Kok Landhuis which overlooks the salt marshes or salinas.

what to see in curacao
Flamingoes in Jan Kok (image by S.v.d.Schootbrugge/Unsplash)
Landhuis Jan Kok
The lovely art gallery at Landhuis Jan Kok.

6. Climb Curacao’s highest point in Christoffel National Park

Admire the beautiful flora and fauna at the Christoffel National Park (with the Christoffelberg, at 375m, the island’s highest point). You can climb to the peak but get there early in the morning (before 11am) when it’s cooler.

A view of Santa Martha Bay and the hilly inland of Curacao.

7. Hike along the rugged north shore

Hike along the rugged north coast with its cliffs, blowholes and thundering waves at Shete Boka National Park or Boca Tabla.

Shete Boka NP (image by M.Osama/Unsplash)

8. Cruise to Klein (Small) Curacao

A popular thing to do in Curacao is to join a day cruise to Klein Curacao, a small uninhabited picture-perfect island with glorious beaches and crystal-clear water. Check out this cruise and snorkel trip.

Klein Curacao (By dronepicr – Klein Curacao Strand, CC BY 2.0).

The colours of Curacao

One thing you’ll soon notice is that there’s so much colour on the island, from the brilliant blue of the Caribbean Sea to the bright, cheery colours of the houses in the countryside and the buildings that line the Punda waterfront in Willemstad. The colours sure add a distinct charm to the island… and never fail to put a smile on my face.

One of the many colourful houses I passed. Loved this one!

After a day of exploring, a fabulous thing to do in Curacao is grab a cocktail, dig your toes in the sand and enjoy the sunset… because the sunsets here are simply stunning!

A stunning sunset in Curacao

Practical info

Curacao has an international airport with direct daily flights from major hubs in the USA, Amsterdam and Venezuela. In addition, there are frequent flights from Canada, Germany, Brazil, Colombia and the other Dutch Caribbean islands like Aruba and St. Maarten. Many of the major car hire brands have their offices at the airport. Curacao is also a popular stop for major American and European cruise lines.

The currency used is the Antillian guilder but US dollars are also widely accepted. There are ATMs all over the island.


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