Updated: Mar 27, 2020
Looking for your next vacation? Curacao is it! A guide to planning your perfect trip.
Located between Aruba and Bonaire, Curacao is a small island that boasts of rich history, eclectic cuisine, breathtaking landscapes, and world-class adventure activities. This makes the island an ideal destination for any traveler. For me, I have chosen to travel to countries within the African diaspora and to patronize black owned business while abroad (blog post soon to come), so Curacao was right up my alley. But why should YOU visit? Here are my top 5 reasons to plan an incredible trip to Curacao:
5. The Most Colorful Capital in The Caribbean - Think Havana or San Juan x 10. There is a line of color that greets the waterfront in Willemstad, and colorful buildings can be found throughout the island as well. You will never be short of Insta-worthy photo ops.
4. A Foodie's Paradise - Curaçao has had a long and colorful history of different nations and cultures ruling and/or existing within its borders. This has, ultimately, led to the unique medley of Curacao cuisine.
3, Hurricane season is mild to nonexistent - Unlike many other Caribbean islands, Curaçao is underneath what is known as the “hurricane belt.” It’s very rare for the island to ever experience a hurricane.
2. Almost too much to do - Although the island is small, it's home to a variety of terrains and ecologically diverse environments. There are more than 30 beaches, wild, outback-style parks, fields of cacti, interesting caves to explore, world famous coral, bustling downtown areas with shopping, a floating market, art galleries, museums, nightlife and more.
1. A multicultural Heritage like no other - Curaçao is a true global melting pot, mixing together multiple nationalities and ethnicities over the centuries to form a Caribbean culture that is both colorful and fascinating.
Now that you're convinced, lets talk about how to get there, where to stay, and what to do.
Day 1 : You'll begin your trip by flying into Hato International Airport. Tickets out of NYC can cost as little as $200 - $250 USD round trip depending on the specific dates of travel and advance booking. If an airport shuttle is not provided by your hotel, use this amazing company for round trip pick up. Be sure to double check your booking because some how I selected 2020 instead of 2019!
I highly recommend staying in Pietermaai, the district in Willemstad most famously known for it's colorful buildings. Besides its picturesque architecture, many of the country's museums, landmarks, and unique eateries are accessible by foot if you're based here. For accommodations, check out Pietermaai Boutique Hotel, Saint Tropez Apartments and Suites, or if you're on a budget, Bed and Bike Curacao or here. I stayed at Bed and Bike because if you haven't realized this already...I'm cheap. Plus, it's modern and the dorms are intuitively designed (I'm talking privacy curtains for each bed, outlets, lamps, TWO hooks, etc). Stay in Bed and Bike's private rooms if you want to meet fellow travelers but need your own space.
Oh, and if you plan on hitting up the hottest clubs every night, then Jan Thiel might be a better option for you. (Speaking of clubs, each day of the week has a spot that's jumping, so check out local listings for an updated schedule when you arrive. My favs were Mambo Beach and Hemingway). Papayago or Santa Barbara Beach Resort are guest favorites in this neighborhood and for a budget friendly option, Bed and Bike Curacao is even opening up a new hostel here in the upcoming months.
Day 2: Hop on a catamaran and travel 1.5 hours to a Klein Curacao (translated little Curacao). Blue Finn Charters was the best option for this excursion in my opinion. Although pricing is a little more expensive than its competitors, Blue Finn has the sexiest boat in these Curaçaoan waters, periodt! Upon arrival you'll immediately notice the calm crystal-clear water which is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, or being ferried to the shore like I was. Once on land, lay out in the sun, walk to the light house, or spark up conversations with the crew to learn about the dark history of the island. Back on the boat, the staff mixes up the sweetest rum punch and cooks up some amazing ribs during lunch. I went back for seconds, thirds, and maybe even fourths. Be sure you check the website for Blue Finn's excursion schedule because tours to Klein Curacao are not offered daily.
Day 3: In the morning head over to the Rif Fort Village entrance for a free guided tour with a local expert. I had a chance to get so many of my questions answered as the tour guide shared information about famous landmarks and historic events over the span of 2 hours.
Let's be honest, did you even visit Curaçao if you didn't try some of its world famous liqueur? Visit the distillery to learn about the laraha orange and the origins of the blue drink. Next, enjoy lunch at the old market or Plasa Bieu where you'll experience authentic eats. The menu changes daily for each vendor, but try anything...you can't go wrong. There might even be an iguana dish if you're feeling adventurous.
Although the free guided tour stops by the Kura Hulanda museum, circle back for a deeper dive into the island's role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the longstanding African influence on Curaçaoan culture. This by far was one of my favorite experiences during the trip and it cannot be missed!
Day 4 and 5: Westpunt has some of the best beaches on the island and can be explored over one to two days. There is just so much to see! I recommend renting a car or finding amazing friends like Row (follow him on IG for Curacao's best kept secrets) and Jess who will let you tag along with them in their vehicles. No wheels? No problem. Public transportation is available but it is not practical for all locations. Ask your hotel for specifics.
In Westpunt, snorkel up close and personal with beautiful sea turtles at Piskado or explore the waters of Grote Knip in a two person transparent kayak (approximately $17 USD/hr). To be honest, the kayaking was just for the pictures and exercise. #doitforthegram We were unable to see much sea life from our vantage point and, for our own safety, kayaking was limited to a specific area.
If you're interested in a relaxing beach day, Playa Porto Mari (wild pigs included) or Playa Cas Abao are considered excellent options. If the sky is clear, head over to Kokomo Beach for the best sunset on the island. Catch views from their idyllic, ocean side swing or pier.
While in this area, you might want to check out Shete Boka National Park, too, if rocky inlets and natural bridges are your thing. I particularly enjoyed the origin story of the stacked stones or rock piles along the path of Boca Tabla. Some say visitors are responsible for these structures but others believe the spirit of indigenous people build and maintain the pillars. I prefer the latter.
Day 6: Before you head home, you must snorkel, seabob, or just meet up with the Bearded Butlers, who promote the local experience of Curacao in the most adventurous way possible. This was a last minute find that was one of the highlights of my vacation.
Three days before leaving the island, I thumbed through a handful of pictures on Instagram that I saved on a Curacao inspiration "board." I suddenly realized that half of the images had the same tag. Once redirected to the owner's feed, I was like I know this guy. A day prior, my friends and I saw two bearded men with what looked like mini jet skis at Piskado leading a group of tourist into the water. After a few comments and DMs later with the Bearded Butlers, my friends and I were heading off to an underwater adventure of our own.
Day 7: Trust me, it will be hard to leave Curacao. There is beauty everywhere, but the people, the culture, and the sea made Curacao exceptional. Next time you return, and there will be a next time, be sure to visit the Ostrich Farm, learn about Tambu dance and Afro Curaçaoan drumming, or cook up some local cuisine during a hands-on culinary class. You can even catch a flight to the neighboring Bonaire or Aruba for about $100 USD round trip.