Curaçao, often referred to as the C of the ABC Islands (also including Aruba and Bonaire), isn’t an overtly touristy spot, and perhaps that’s part of the allure. Catering to the North American traveler, the island offers simplicity in its most beautiful Caribbean form—it's home to more than 35 mesmerizing beaches.
Of course, it's not the easiest trip from Houston. Most routes have a layover in Miami. But the reward is crystal blue waters and inviting beaches to soak up every second of your coveted vacation time.
The average year-round temperature is about 81 degrees. The tap water is completely safe to drink. And though Dutch and Papiamentu are recognized as the island’s official languages, both English and Spanish are widely spoken. Likewise, the official currency is the Netherlands Antilles guilder, but the U.S. dollar and credit cards are accepted almost everywhere.
Catering to such a wide range of travelers, Curaçao makes an easy destination for any travel style. Here's where to start.
What to do
First and foremost, a couple tips: Hiring a tour guide is highly encouraged (find and book a certified guide here), as is renting a car, since taxis can cost up to $90 per person per ride. Looking for an active nightlife and all the weekly happy hour specials? Entertainment guide Pasabon is where you can find a taste of everything going on around the island.
Visit the private island of Klein Curaçao. The 1.2-square-mile island is an ideal day trip relaxing on a catamaran (you can charter a boat) and for avid snorkelers or anyone who wants to get an intimate glance at the colorful sea life. Here you’ll be anchored next to other boats carrying everyone from easygoing couples and families to party-centric bachelors and bachelorettes.
Take your rental car and visit Shete Boka National Park for an up-close-and-personal look at awe-inspiring crashing waves, underground caves, and more than 10 inlets scattered throughout the park. You can watch the unpredictable waves (and get an incredible Boomerang for your Insta) from the bluffs above, or head down to the caves for a different perspective.
Stroll the historic city of Willemstad, Curaçao’s lively capital. The narrow streets are lined with your typical tourist shops, but you’ll also be amazed by the street art, the museums, and the Dutch- and Caribbean-inspired restaurants and bars, and you'll find pastel-colored architecture around town to paint the perfect backdrop. Most of the Dutch Caribbean island consists of bumpy back roads offering peripheral views of the blue-green Caribbean Sea that surrounds it, so even in the heart of the city, you’re not far from its touted beaches.
Spend a glorious beach day at Playa Piskado. 'Piskado' means fisherman, and this is most definitely a fishing beach, planted right on the Caribbean Sea. The locals throw back parts they can’t eat or sell, so it attracts an abundance of fish, birds, and turtles, making your underwater adventures that much more exciting and lively. This is one of the island’s most popular snorkeling spots, but water activities also include kayaking, SeaBobbing, and pier fishing. Located near the heart of Westpunt, and beloved by locals, this beach actually feels like it's straight out of Italy, complete with winding staircases that lead to the water, families frolicking around, and nearby cliff jumping.
Don't skip the world-class dive sites. Home to some incredible bio-diverse reefs and an abundance of sea turtles, Curaçao’s coast is rich in coral and optimal for divers of all levels. Try Mushroom Forest, which houses the longest coral reef at the northwest part of the island, along with Alice in Wonderland, Tugboat, Neptune’s Garden, Watamula, and more diving hotspots.
Where to stay
No matter which side of the 180-square-mile island you choose, it’s easy to go back and forth thanks to the Queen Juliana Bridge, the tallest bridge in the Caribbean. But here are our top picks:
Oasis Coral Estate Beach, Dive & Wellness Resort. Located on the west side of the island, which is known to be quieter and more relaxed, this spacious, luxurious resort on 350 acres offers direct beach access, an infinity pool, sunset yoga, The Experience Spa, rooftop terrace dining, and more.
Lions Dive Beach Resort is known as the island’s sportiest hotel thanks to its ideal location on the water on the island's lively east side. The apartment-style accommodations are fitting for large families and only a five-minute walk from The Blvd, which features some of the island’s best dining, shopping and nightlife.
Baoase. If you're set on a luxury stay and want to enjoy the island’s only five-star luxury resort, this is your spot. The grand resort features 23 luxury suites and villas complete with private beach butler service set amidst tropical gardens directly on the Caribbean Sea. This ultra-exclusive property is the ideal backdrop for a passionate couple’s retreat and luxurious enough for A-listers like Dwayne Wade and Gabrielle Union.