Bon Bini! This was my third time visiting the Caribbean and it was uniquely different than the rest of my trips. Curaçao was never a destination I thought of visiting prior to this trip. And now I’m questioning every decision I’ve ever made (LOL). I’ve never underestimated a destination more than I did for Curaçao and for that, I am sorry. This island is so much more than its pretty beaches and turquoise waters. The culture and its people are so diverse, beautiful and welcoming.
Located in the Southern part of the Caribbean Sea, just 35 miles north of Venezuela and between Aruba and Bonaire. The island is small, just 10 miles wide and 40 miles long. You can drive the entire length of the island and back in just two hours!
On the island of Curaçao it really is summer year-round with an average rainfall of 3-5 inches in an entire year, reasons cactus are plentiful and iguanas roam free. When you’re planning a trip, rain might be forecasted but I can guarantee if that’s the case it will rain for 5 minutes and the clouds will clear and sunshine will follow.
The island is home to 150,000 residents of 68 different ethnicities. See I told you it was diverse! The 5 most common languages you’ll hear are Papiamentu (their native language and most common), Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch (it is a Dutch territory) and English. I got by with English just fine.
Now that we’ve covered some of the basics, let’s get to why you’re here! Here are my must sees and do’s on the beautiful island of Curaçao.
Honestly it should be a no brainer to book your accommodations at Renaissance Curaçao Resort & Casino. It’s located right in the heart of Historic Willemstad. This colorful resort is the perfect spot to base yourself when exploring all that this island has to offer. You can read more about this colorful accommodation here.
Must Eats in Curaçao
Caribbean cuisine is in a category all of its own. It’s flavorful, sometimes salty but always delicious! I asked a local what three must have dishes are when visiting the island and here is what I got: any catch of the day (might I recommend Lion Fish), iguana soup and Kadushi soup (cactus soup).
I enjoyed lunch at Hemingway Beach Bar, located right next to Ocean Encounters Curaçao (more information on that below!). Order the chicken skewers and chips and guac! Lime water is also a must- don’t ask questions, just order it- I ordered mine without sugar. Here, you’re facing the ocean so chances of you seeing dolphins passing by are pretty good!
Not only is this an Instagrammy café spot, you can indulge in some traditional Dutch dishes. And yes, I will be using this map wall as inspo for my future home. I mean, how could I not!? Located near the Little Amsterdam district.
What To Do On The Island!
This colorful Caribbean city is a UNESCO World Heritage site! It is divided into two parts, Punda on the east and Otrobanda to the west. The Queen Emma Bridge connects the two. For reference, the Renaissance is located on the Punda side and Otrobanda is where all the colorful Dutch-inspired buildings are! Otrobanda is completely safe to wander around and the best way to explore is without any plan at all! Take in the colors, find your way through the alleyways and marvel at the street art. Some of my favorite highlights are as follows
Street Art Skalo (Skalo Street on the Otrobanda side of the bridge).
Pietermaai District (in the 100’s on Pietermaai, Willemstad Pietermaai, Curaçao)
Walk the Queen Emma Bridge
Connecting Otrobanda to Punda, this bridge is for foot traffic only. It opens for boats to pass through sometimes for 10 minutes and sometimes for 40 minutes! There is a free ferry that runs every ten minutes if you feel like using that (great photo opps!). Might I advise, don’t end up on the bridge when it opens for 40 minutes because you will literally be stuck on a bridge with nowhere to go! Best time to walk the bridge? SUNRISE.
Beach Hop With Scooby Tours
The All West Beach Hopping and Snorkeling tour will take you to all of the beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters around Curaçao. Our guide Papi (real name: Rudolfo) was perhaps the best tour guide I’ve ever had. You can expect a lot of dancing mixed with a history lesson! The order of the tour will probably vary but for the day I was on it this was how it went:
Playa Forti (cliff jumping spot)
Playa Kenepa (Playa Abou- can cliff jump here too!)
Visit Shete Boka National Park
On the western shore of the island this national park is full of caves and grottos. Plan to spend at least an hour here walking around and taking in the stunning views of turquoise waters, giant waves and blue skies. From my experience, it costs $3USD per person and you can pay in USD (at least I did). You can also try iguana soup here!
Fruit Shop at the Floating Markets
Fruit is plentiful here! Coconuts, pineapple, passionfruit galore! The ‘floating’ name comes from the part of the market on the water: the fisherman from Venezuela come here to sell their fish. Ocean to table! In fact, many (if not all) of the fruit vendors are also from Venezuela!
A beautiful fort built in 1703, climbing to the top of the tower will provide sweeping views of the surrounding area.
Feed The Sharks With Ocean Encounters Curaçao
With this experience you can feed, interact and observe the marine animals. No dive certification needed for the snorkel experience, note that they do offer experiences for certified divers. With the snorkel experience, you will feed and interact with stingrays, sea turtles, reef fishes and SHARKS! Stingrays are such weird animals- much stronger than I ever imagined.
Visit The Ostrich Farm
Take a safari tour and learn all about these African birds! You can also ride one. I declined but feeding them was an experience all on its own.
Learn All About Aloe Vera at the Plantation
This 10-acre plantation is the perfect place to learn all about the medicinal plant. I didn’t realize there was so much more to the plant than rubbing it on your skin! There are actual health benefits to it. I purchased aloe juice for digestive support. Quick note, chances are if you are buying aloe juice at health food stores you aren’t really getting all that much of the plant. The products purchased through Curaloe online or at this plantation are 100% aloe, without the crazy additives or fillers.
Watch the Flamingos at the Salt Flats
From Willemstad you’ll want to head towards Willibrordus to reach the salt flats. The flamingoes fly here daily to eat. Yes, only to eat- they don’t actually live on the island because their eggs are food for some species of birds! Not to worry, chances are you will spot one on any given day. I think I would starve if I were a flamingo.
Take in the views from Santa Martha Lookout
You can drive right up to this lookout and park. No hiking required! Unobstructed views of the bay below and mountains in the distance with pristine nature surrounding you! Can’t think better characteristics for a lookout.
Then… Watch The Sunset From Santa Martha Beach
A highly underrated beach! What used to be resort grounds are now just abandoned buildings on the water’s edge. I’m just going to let this photo do the talking.
Unwind With A Massage
I mentioned in this post that the Renaissance offers cabana massages. In addition to massages Natural Blends Esthetics also offer manicures and pedicures! TREAT YO’SELF! You can organize an appointment via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are hesitant about the beach cabana bit and are worried it isn’t private enough, don’t sweat it I was too! However, it is completely private and once I saw the cabana myself I was completely comfortable. If you’re still worried, like I said before, book for 8am because no one will be on the beach (most likely).
Tips And Things To Know
I always like to include little facts and tips that I learned about a location while I was visiting so here are a few!
Words To Know
Good morning: Bon Dia (Bon deea) – most common greeting I heard
Thank you: Danki (Dahnkee)
How are you: Kon ta bai? (Contabye)
Kind, Sweet, Tasty: Dushi (Dooshee)
Welcome: Bon Biní (Bon Beenie)
Today: Awe (Ahway)
Tips & Facts
- The main currency is The Netherlands-Anitillean Guilder, Nafl. Or ANG (US$1=1.77Nafl.)
- Although, USD is accepted widely as are all major credit cards.
- The main voltage is 110-130 Volt/ 50Hz. Plugs are American but still bring an adapter.
- Cars drive on the right side of the street.
- The island is on the Atlantic time zone (1 hour behind EST) in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.
- Tap water is excellent here and safe to drink! It is purified seawater and they’ve really perfected the craft. You can also visit the distillery.
- The Tourism Board has great resources
- If you are not renting a car, there are plenty of public transport options. I suggest organizing with Scooby Tours for transfers and tours. Taxis are available, spot them with the ‘TX’ on the license plate.
As you can see there is plenty to do on the island of Curaçao. While I like to think I saw and did it all here, I most certainly did not. I merely scratched the surface of all that this island nation has to offer. Have you been to Curaçao? What did you do?
This post is written in partnership with Marriott Hotels and Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino. As always, my opinions are my own. A huge thanks to all that help make this trip possible. Reggie you were such a joy to spend an entire day with, thank you for showing us your island! “Papi” thanks for showing us the most beautiful beaches of the island! And to Melissa for organizing a perfect itinerary and trip! And to all of the staff at Renaissance Curacao, thank you for making our stay one to remember.