The Caribbean is calling: The Best Things To Do In Curacao
The Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao offers an invigorating blend of the city and the beach. | By Hana LaRock | May 13, 2022
Larger than its neighbors Aruba and Bonaire, Curacao owns the “C” in the “ABC” islands of the Caribbean. An autonomous country within the Netherlands, Curacao offers many activities for visitors ready to soak in the sand, sun and stories of the island. To get the most of your tropical vacation, be sure to explore some of these popular sites and attractions:
Visit Old Town: Spend the day soaking in the colorful and unique architecture in the capital city, Willemstad
Strike a pose: The picturesque neighborhood of Scharloo Abou was made for Insta-worthy moments
Get outside: Discover beaches, national parks, waterparks and more
Explore Old Town, Willemstad
Spend the day strolling through Curacao’s historic area, known as Old Town, and you’ll find remnants of the area’s colonial trading past. Divided into two parts — Punda and Otrobanda (which translates to “the other bank” in Papiamentu, which is a Spanish creole) — the area is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and features colorful architecture and floating pontoon bridges
Established in the 17th century, Punda is the oldest part of the district and its colonial buildings are alive with history. The Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, which dates back to 1732, is the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Americas. Gaze up at the azure-blue glass windows and floors covered in sand, a nod to 18th century Dutch custom, while you learn about the first Jewish families to settle on the island.
Cross over to the Otrobanda side via the swinging Queen Emma Bridge. Otrobanda is more chaotic, offering winding alleyways and hidden squares to wander through — and people-watch.
Check out the vibrant art scene
History buffs will appreciate all Old Town has to offer, but if you’re willing to venture out a bit, Curacao also hosts something a bit more modern — a vibrant arts district consisting of galleries, street art, trendy coffee shops and foodie havens.
Start the morning by exploring the oldest history museum in Curacao, The Curacao Museum, which is housed in a former military hospital from the 1850s. Visitors can step into the island’s past and view a traditional island kitchen as well as art and sculptures by local and international artists.
Leave time for a stroll through the neighborhood of Scharloo Abou, where buildings are laden with colorful murals and there are plenty of restaurants, bars and community experiences to enjoy. Take a break from all the exploring and snag a coconut latte and freshly baked pastry at local favorite, La Reina Coffee, Food and Lifestyle.
Spend the day in the water
Go a few miles in any direction on Curacao, and you’ll eventually hit a beach. But with so many pristine shores to choose from, it can be hard to decide which beach is worth your while. In the mood to swim? Head to Playa Knip. Want to snorkel? Playa Lagun is your best bet — be on the lookout for sea turtles and colorful reef fish. Oh, and if you’re traveling with kids head for the Aqua Park at Mangrove Beach Corendon Curacao All-Inclusive Resort, Curio Collection by Hilton — the thrilling 200-foot-long King Cobra slide is sure to be a family favorite.
Curacao also has countless other opportunities to enjoy the water. Take a boat ride to visit the other ABC Islands or charter a fishing trip for a family-friendly way to catch a little sun and surf.
And, if you don’t mind going a bit deeper, head to Jan Thiel bay, a perfect diving spot for aquatic explorers with its lively sloped reefs. Best of all, it’s right around the corner from the sunken tugboat site off the Caracasbaai Peninsula, which will make anyone feel like a deep-sea explorer.
Explore the national parks
As part of an effort to preserve its culture and natural resources, Curacao established two adjoining national parks, Shete Boka and Christoffel. At both spots, you can catch a glimpse of the local wildlife, go for a swim, venture on steep climbs or ease into the day with an easy nature walk. If you look up, you might see an iguana up in a tree, or catch sight of the national bird, the troupial. Bird-watching makes for another great adventure, and Christoffel is listed as a popular spot on the Caribbean Birding Trail.
So, grab your binoculars, swimming gear and comfortable shoes and get ready to explore all that Curacao has to offer.
Hana LaRock is a freelance writer, copyeditor and content strategist. She currently resides in Jersey City, and when she's not working, she enjoys reading, watching documentaries and scrapbooking.