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. You can use this travel guide to plan your trip and meet the locals. There are a lot of resorts on the island but once you leave the resorts, you’ll find a lot of delicious restaurants and more interesting activities.
Accommodation – You can expect to pay about 35 ANG per night for a dorm room in a hostel and about 55-105 ANG for a private single or double in a bed and breakfast (or from a rented room) in a guest house. Hotels start at 120 ANG a night. The best way to get inexpensive accommodation here is to use Airbnb. It offers the best deal!
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 cost about 17-26 ANG per meal. If you can, stick with local cuisine, especially at the markets. My favorite spot in the market is Gracia Di Dios. For meals at the resorts or fancier restaurants, expect to pay 53 ANG or more for an entree with a drink.
Transportation – A taxi from one end of Willemstad to the other will cost around 18 ANG. Taxis from Willemstaad to Mambo beach are about 52 ANG. If you’re going to other points on the island, expect about 88 ANG. Buses are reliable, just about 2 ANG for a single fare to most parts of the island (take note though – buses outside the Willemstaad area run very infrequently). If you can rent a car, you can expect to pay 53 ANG per day. If you get stuck and miss the bus, you’ll find lots of people willing to give you a ride back to Willemstaad.
Activities – Like most Caribbean islands, Curacao is popular with divers, snorkelers, and fishermen. These kinds of organized activities cost around 220 ANG. The Christoffel Park entrance fee is 21 ANG and the Sea Aquarium is 37 ANG.
Money Saving Tips
Have a BBQ – BBQ-ing 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 – Getting your own set of wheels is the most economical and convenient way to get around to the far parts of the island. Not renting one was my biggest mistake when I visited Curacao.
Use Airbnb – Rental sites like Airbnb or VRBO offer the most affordable accommodation. I rented a room in the main town for only 105 ANG a night (for two people). It was far cheaper than a hotel.
Top Things to See and Do in Curacao
See the Curacao Sea Aquarium – This 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.
Bike around 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.
Get spooked by the 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.
Dive the 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.
Explore the Superior Producer underwater – 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.
Relax on Daaiboo Beach – Curacao has beautiful beaches, but you might find some of the more popular hot spots 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.
Join in the 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.
Take a 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.
Walk through Willemstad – The architecture here is really unique and 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 (after all the Dutch did colonize the island). The town is pretty small so it won’t take you long to wander the streets.