Curacao Travel Tips
Teamed with Aruba and Bonaire, Curacao is one of the three “ABC” islands of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. As the largest and most populated of the Netherlands Antilles, Curacao has the most going on and the most “social life.” The island capital, Willemstad, is a bustling city with brightly colored Dutch architecture, and its Old Town area is a designated World Heritage site. From shopping, casinos, and museums in picturesque Willemstad, to the picture perfect beaches of Blauwbaai and Daaiboo, it’s no wonder this island grows in popularity every year.
- Accommodation: You can expect to pay from around $25 USD per night for a dorm room in a hostel and about $40-60 for a private in a bed and breakfast (or from a rented room). in a guest house. Hotels cost $90 or more a night.
- Food: Curacao has many upscale restaurants, but for travelers on a budget there are also many fast food chains and American style eateries. Sandwiches, burgers, and other cheap Western food costs around $10-15 USD per meal. Local cuisine costs around $10 dollars. There is really good food in the central market. My favorite spot there is Grabia Di Dios. For meals at the resorts or fancier restaurants, expect to pay $30 or more for a meal with a drink.
- Transportation: A taxi from one end of Willemstad to the other will cost around $10 USD. Taxis from Willemstaad to Mambo beach are around $30. Taxis to other points on the island can cost as much as $50. Buses are reliable, costing just over a dollar for a single fare to most parts of the island (buses outside the Willemstaad area run very infrequently). If you can rent a car, you can expect to pay around $30 USD per day.
- Activities: Like most Caribbean islands, Curacao is popular with divers, snorkelers and fishermen. These kinds of organized activities cost around $125 USD. A tour of Christoffel Park is $9 USD and the aquarium is $21 USD.
Money Saving Tips
- Have a BBQ – BBQing on the beach is a popular local activity and can help you save a lot of money on food.
- Skip the taxis – The taxis here are very, very expensive. They should be avoided at all costs.
- Rent a car - The most economical and convenient way to get around to the far parts of the island. I highly recommend renting a car. Not renting one was my biggest mistake when I visited there.
- Use Airbnb - Rental sites like Airbnb or VRBO offer the most affordable accommodation. I rented a room in the main town for only $60 a night (for two people). It was far cheaper than a hotel.
Top Things to See and Do
- Curacao Sea Aquarium – The aquarium is one of the most unique in the world as it uses an “open-water system” to continuously pump sea water into the various tanks. You’ll also have the opportunity to scuba dive and hand-feed stingrays, sharks, sea turtles and other colorful tropical fish.
- Christoffel Park - Rent a mountain bike or walk around this expansive national park, which is filled with deer, 10 ft-high cacti, iguanas, rabbits and rare plant life.
- Hato Caves - These eerie caves are steeped in history — escaped slaves would hide in them for weeks or even months at a time. You can take a guided tour and see the stalagmites, stalactites and cave drawings, which date back 1500 years.
- Dolphin Academy - Prices for swimming with dolphins may be slightly out of the budget traveler’s price range, coming in at around $175 USD, but there are less expensive ways to see these bottle-nosed beauties. A “Dolphin Encounter” costs $99 USD and allows you to pet and feed them.
- Mushroom Forest & the Cave – As Curacao’s best diving spot, Mushroom Forest teems with marine life. The base of the corals have been slowly eroded by waves, fish, sponges and clams over time, creating the appearance of huge mushrooms growing on the ocean floor.
- Superior Producer - This ship sank in 1978 and its cargo of whiskey and clothes washed up on the coast of Willemstad. These days, the shipwreck makes for one of the coolest dive spots around the island as the entire vessel has been taken over by coral and sea life.
- Daaiboo beach - Curacao has beautiful beaches, but you might find some of the more popular beaches too crowded. By sidestepping Blauwbaai (the obvious choice) and going for Daaiboo beach, you’ll get to enjoy white sands and a turquoise sea in relative peace and quiet.
- Mambo Beach Club - There are plenty of nightclubs on the island, but for the best Caribbean beach party, go to Mambo Beach Club. The beach is transformed into an open-air nightclub where the trendy youth mix with tourists. Live music and DJs keeping the party going.
- Curacao Carnival - January marks the beginning of the Curacao Carnival which is a mixture of a street party, theater, art, culture, history, cuisine, and folklore. The Carnival ends with the burning of King Momo at midnight. The life-sized, straw-filled effigy symbolizes infertility, sins, and bad luck. What’s exciting is that this effigy isn’t just burned, it’s blown up in an explosion of fireworks.
- Canoe Safari – These leisurely trips give you plenty of time to explore the beauty of the shoreline while taking in the best snorkeling spots and visiting unspoiled beaches.
- Willemstad – The architecture here is really unique. The colors of the buildings are eye-catching and create a great opportunity for an afternoon stroll. It’s like visiting a colorful and tropical version of Amsterdam.
- Ponche Kuba – This sweet, tick liquor is great to try or simply to take home as a souvenir. It is a creamy Caribbean tradition. It’s also possible to tour the local factory.