20 Best Things to Do in Curacao for Cruisers

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Bon Bini or welcome to Curacao, where colorful towns, stunning beaches, dramatic coastlines, rich culture, and charming locals all come together. This beautiful diversity ensures you are never short of things to do in Curacao.

Simply put, it’s an island of many charms. You can relax on miles and miles of tranquil, serene beaches on its southwest coast or go for adrenaline pumping outdoor pursuits on its northwest coast. If none of that interests you, there is always its glorious colorful town, rich with history, culture, excellent cuisine, and friendly residents.

All these elements combined produce a long interesting list of things to do in Curacao but to keep things simple here are the 20 of the best.

Port Information

Curacao’s cruise port is found at the southern point of the island in Willemstad, the capital city of Curacao. Depending on the size of your cruise ship, you can either dock at the Mega Pier or the smaller cruise terminal, both of which are located on opposite sides of the Sint Anna inlet. This inlet divides the town into two districts, Otrabanda on the west and Punda on the East.

The Mega Pier is for large cruise ships that cannot fit under the Island’s Queen Juliana Bridge. This pier is located in Otrabanda, and is where you are most likely to dock when cruising with major cruise lines such as Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Celebrity Cruises.

From the cruise ship pier, Willemstad is just a walking distance away.

1. Wander Around Willemstad

One of the prettiest towns you will ever have the pleasure of visiting is probably Willemstad, Curacao.  Willemstad is the capital city of Curacao and true to Dutch ways, the town is painted in hues of soft cotton candy colors.

The town, whose buildings display a marriage of Dutch and Spanish architecture, has a rich historical and cultural heritage meriting its UNESCO World Heritage recognition.

In this town, you can explore history by visiting interesting museums and forts, or study intricate architecture on an old synagogue and merchant houses. It has four quarters but two of the most popular are Punda and Otrabanda, which sit across one another on the Sint Anna Bay (a narrow inlet that leads to the deep harbor of Schottegat).

Willemstad, Curacao

One of the most popular attractions in this part of the city is the Queen Emma bridge that connects these two famous quarters of the island together. Go eat, explore, take pictures at the DUSHI & CURACAO signage, or shop while in Willemstad. You can do it all by foot or tram.

2. Start at Otrobanda

Otrobanda, which means the other side, is the newer of the two districts on St. Anna Bay. This is where your exploration of Curacao begins. Of notable interest is the Rif Fort, which is a stone’s throw from the cruise pier.

The fort, which is now the renaissance mall, still maintains its original fort structure but the interior has been updated with quaint outlets featuring eateries and shops. You can shop, eat, people watch, or simply relax with great views of Punda and the harbor as seen from the roof of the fort.

Once out of the fort, wander around the colorful streets surrounded by pastel-colored buildings featuring more shopping and eating outlets. Afterward, head over to Queen Emma’s bridge to cross over to Punda, considered the livelier side and the heart of Willemstad.

3. See the Pontoon Bridge in Action

One of the greatest attractions in Curacao is the Queen Emma Bridge connecting the two opposite districts on St. Anna Bay. This quintessential old world bridge is the only functional pontoon bridge remaining in the world.

Curacao Bridge

Walk across its stretch and enjoy the picturesque sites of colorful buildings on either side of the water. Watch as it gracefully swings open to give way to boats, giving it the nickname of the ‘Old Swinging Lady’.

4. Experience Curacao at Punda

You can’t say you have been to Curacao if you haven’t toured Punda, the heart of the town. Punda is one of the most beautiful towns in the world, featuring quaintly colored Amsterdam-like buildings that bear Colonial Dutch, Spanish, and European architecture.

This side of town is also where important historical landmarks such as the oldest Jewish synagogue in the Americas and the history-rich fort Amsterdam are found.

It’s no wonder Punda is declared a UNESCO World Heritage center. You get to this side of Willemstad by crossing the Queen Emma Bridge. Go and walk its paved pristine pedestrian-only streets and check out the StreetSide cafes and waterfront outlets that feature everything from quaint shopping stalls to gorgeous eateries to colorful art stores.

Everywhere you go in Punda is a photo waiting to happen. So, keep your camera close.

5. Visit the Jewish Synagogue

One of the most popular attractions in Curacao is the Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue. This synagogue, otherwise known as Snoa in Portuguese, is the oldest synagogue in the western hemisphere. It was started in 1651.

Inside this magnificent synagogue are polished mahogany benches and bema, brilliant chandeliers, an impressive organ, blue glass windows, and most interesting of all, an all sand floor.

The sand floor is said to be a remembrance of the makeshift places of worship filled with sand on the floor that served to mute movement noises as Jews prayed during the Jewish persecution era in Europe.

Learn this and more interesting history about the Jews of Curacao at the Jewish Museum adjoined to the synagogue. There is a $10 entrance fee but it’s worth every penny to explore.

6. Check Out the Floating Market

Pick up fresh fruit and interact with locals at the floating market in Punda. This unique market is a water-based place where sellers sell fresh fruits and fish from boats. Visit early to get the freshest produce.

Other budding shopping scenes in Curacao are found at Breedestraat in Punda and the renaissance mall in Otrabanda. The picturesque pedestrian-only streets bear quaint waterfront shops selling all manner of merchandise, including chichi dolls, Dutch cheeses, fine art, clothing, utensils, and handicrafts. Enjoy shopping for unique gifts to carry back home.

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Other popular places to shop include the Sambil Mall which features many food courts and at Salina, one of the primary shopping districts of Willemstad.

7. Tour Fort Amsterdam

Curacao has eight forts still standing. The oldest and most interesting is Fort Amsterdam. It was the first fort built on the island, back in 1635. Fort Amsterdam is located at the edge of Punda guarding the entrance of the harbor and the Sint Anna inlet.

The fort is now a UNESCO world heritage site and bears a lot of the island’s history and heritage. Fort Amsterdam is the seat of the island’s government and military operations, and features palatial buildings with interesting architectural designs.

It has a beautiful courtyard and an old church with an embedded cannon wall reminiscent of old wars. The fort is worth a visit to explore its beauty and learn some history. A lot of photo ops are available as well.

8. Eat Like a Local

Sample a great selection of Afro-Caribbean flavors at waterfront restaurants and authentic Curacao restaurants in the heart of Willemstad. Apart from Dutch, Caribbean, African, and Spanish flavors, Curacao has over 50 more international influences in its cuisine, guaranteeing you an unforgettable gastronomical exploration.

A popular place to grab authentic Curacao meals is the Plasa Bieu (old market). Here, fried plantains, jerk chicken, and pumpkin pancakes with savory meat stews make up the menu. The communal style seating allows you to interact with the locals who favor the restaurant for lunchtime meals.

Check these dining tours for Curacao.

In Dutch restaurants, such as Kome, you can try cheese-based treats such as Keshi Yena which are cheese balls stuffed with spicy meats. Or try strange meats such as iguana, lionfish, and ostrich meat, which are served in select restaurants on the island.

9. Visit a Museum

Curacao has an intriguing history made up sad tales of enslavement, colonial wars, and piracy. Visit a museum to learn the island’s past. Two museums of interest in the island are the Kura Hulanda and the Savonet Museum.

Kura Hulanda is located in the heart of Willemstad. It showcases the dark history of African enslavement and the resultant empowerment of Curacao through the slave trade.

If taking a tour of the wild north to Christoffel Park, then a visit to the Savonet museum is a must. It gives you a glimpse into the island’s history from 4,000 years ago with a keen interest in plantations, which were once the backbone of the island’s economy.

Set in Landhuis, a former plantation that ran well into the 20th century, the Savonet museum is based on the plantation’s partially restored buildings. It showcases the plantation’s history through lineage exhibit of the owners and African workers of the plantation.

It’s a good place to imagine what life must have been like in the previous centuries and what it meant for different people. There are many interesting artifacts, restored antiques, and photographs that depict the former way of life in Curacao. This is a nice break away from the beaches that both you and the kids will enjoy.

10. Explore Curacao’s Art

Curacao is an island bursting with colors and surrounded by awe-inspiring landscapes. As such it makes for the perfect muse for artists. True to this, the island has plenty of art galleries that showcase interesting works of sculptures, figurines, paintings, and photographs, plus stunning murals out on the streets.

Willemstad, Curacao

To explore this unique side of the island which is bursting with creativity and is bound to make the wheels of your brain turn, visit an art gallery.

One of the largest and oldest art galleries is Alma Blou open Tuesday to Saturday in a former plantation house at Habaai in Willemstad. Escape the heat of the day and step into the cool, well-lit interiors of this beautiful place and enjoy Curacao’s creativity.

11. Fun Day at the Sea Aquarium

Visit Curacao’s sea aquarium, one of the most unique aquariums in the world, where instead of large tanks of sea-water, the aquarium has real sea-water pools fed by the sea.

The sea aquarium is located on the waterfront in the west coast of Willemstad and has plenty to see, do, and learn. There are large pools with a variety of marine life found in Curacao’s water and interesting shows, such as dolphin, sea lion, and shark shows held daily. It’s an especially fun place for the kids to learn and interact with marine life.

Go, learn, touch, play, or feed marine life such as sea lions, nurse and lemon sharks, stingrays, and dolphins. You can also spend some time hanging out with the sea urchins, stars, and cucumbers at the touch tanks.

Afterward, you can have lunch at the restaurant on the premises or head over to the sea aquarium beach for a sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling session. The aquarium charges $21 per adult and $11 per child ages 5-12 years old. It’s open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and you want to get there early. You can spend roughly 2-3 hours in this park.

12. Day Trip to Klein Curacao

Klein Curacao is a flat, small, 1-square mile island southeast of Curacao. The name Klein means little, hence the island’s name ‘little Curacao’. The uninhabited island features an old lighthouse, a shipwreck, a beach house with thatched palapas, and miles of soft white sandy beaches.

Curacao Lighthouse

This is the place to go to for incredible snorkeling and beach bumming. Take a tour of the lighthouse and the rustic shipwreck which makes for great views and interesting attraction respectively.

If you are looking for some peace and quiet, this is where you want to go. The beach has a restaurant that serves great BBQ and cool refreshing drinks, and has clean washrooms.

13. Hiking at Christoffel National Park

Christoffel Park, found at the base of Mt. Christoffel on the northwestern end of the island, is the sight of exotic flora, fauna, history, mysteries, and beauty. The park is covered by a dense scrubland with exotic plants such as divi-divi trees, cacti rising over 10 feet tall, and fragrant wild orchids.

It’s also the site of the rare white-tailed deer (there are about 250 remaining in the park) and an interesting species of owl, the palabrua, a native type of barn owl. The park has three old plantations, one hosting the Savonet museum mentioned before.

You will need a good travel backpack for these type of adventures.

Get your heart pumping in an adrenaline-filled, adventurous day at this park. There are plenty of ways to experience Christoffel. You can go on a hike, take a dirt road ATV adventure, or take a nature safari.

Enjoy the hike up to Curacao’s highest point some 372 meters (1,200 feet) above sea level and enjoy panoramic views of the island. This is best done in the morning to take advantage of cooler temperatures and to ensure plenty of time to rest and hike leisurely. The mountain hike closes at 10 AM The park charges about 25 florins per person to access the park.

14. See the Hato Caves

Another interesting thing to do in Curacao is to see the Hato Caves. Step 1,500 years back in time as you explore petroglyph-filled walls that detail the life of the original inhabitants of Curacao, the Arawak.

Go up a steep staircase exploring an elaborate system of caves layered in terraces. Hato caves, which are the largest and most beautiful of the caves, are found on the third terrace.

Enjoy a guided tour that details the incredible history of the place touching on the refuge and escape routes. The caves are located in the rugged northern coast of the island. Exploring them can be done in under two hours so it’s easy to combine with another activity in the north.

15. Ride an Ostrich

Enjoy an African paradise in the middle of Curacao at the Ostrich Farm. Set in the wild north, the ostrich farm is set up to mimic ostrich farms of South Africa. This is a fun place to go as a family.

You get to learn all about the birds, feed them, and pet them, or even ride one if you are daring enough. Seeing the cycle of life of the ostrich from hatching to adulthood is one of the most interesting tours on the farm. The African theme in the place transcends to the Zambezi restaurant which serves incredible cuisine, including ostrich steak and ostrich egg omelettes.

16. Visit Shete Boka

Adjoined to Christoffel National Park is Shete Boka Park, a rugged north coast stretch with dramatic headlands jutting out into the sea forming nice little coves. Shete Boka, meaning  seven inlets, is a natural wonder that has some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Curacao.

The park starts at the beautiful inlet of Boka Tabla, which has a nice underground cavern where you can enjoy the sights of the waves rolling in. Or head to Boka Kalki where green turtles can be seen laying their eggs.

Encounter the sheer raw power of the sea against the formidable rock formation at Boka Pistol, where salt spray fills the air as the waves break with a loud bang against the rocks.

Explore rolling lava hills, limestone bluffs, and a natural bridge at Boka Wandomi on a path along the rugged coastline that will bring you back to Boka Tabla.

17. World Class Diving

Curacao’s perfect diving conditions make it a world-class diving destination. The island is favored with good weather, warm waters, healthy coral reefs, and great visibility, making it a great dive destination for beginners and experienced divers alike.

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There are over 40 dive sites in Curacao that cater to all diving skill levels. Some popular ones include Mushroom forest, Superior Producer, Alice in Wonderland, and Beacon point. Go dive with a team of highly skilled dive instructors and see a world of colorful healthy reefs teeming with a variety of fish and sea life.

18. Snorkel at Playa Lagun

Playa Lagun is a nice small, protected cove on the northwestern end of the island found in the sleepy fishing village of Lagoon.

Vaersen Bay

The small calm bay is protected on either side by huge cliffs which adds to the charm of the place. The calm shallow to deep waters of the place are, however, what attract people here.

Playa Lagun is the best spot for snorkeling right from the beach. There are plenty of fish to see here, especially along the rugged cliffs. Some green sea turtles can also be spotted in the middle part of the sloping sea bed.

Visit and spend time in this beautiful and enchanting place. You can get here by rental car or bus. There is plenty of parking and amenities for a smooth day at the beach.

19. Ultimate Beach Day at Playa Cas Abao

Playa Cas Abao is probably the most pristine beach is all of Curacao. If you are looking for a remote uncrowded beach, head to the northwestern side of the island, some 20 miles away from Willemstad, and enjoy a day on this beautiful beach.

Curacao Beach

This beach has a soft white sandy beach with rather inviting sparkling clear turquoise waters. You can swim, snorkel, kayak, or go on a banana boat ride. It’s a nice beach getaway, with plenty of parking for your rented car which is the most affordable and common way to get to the beach.

Foot beach pads are a must for those hot days!

There are hotels on the beach to grab a bite at, but for the best drinks head over to the daiquiri beach bar, known for making mean daiquiris.  Enjoy one under the thatched palapas found at the beach for shade, or get a relaxing massage.

There is an entrance fee to access the beach, that starts from $6 per every four people in a vehicle.

20. Cliff Jumping at Playa Kenepa

Playa Kenepa is a tranquil quiet cove on the northwestern coast of the island that is the perfect beach getaway. Playa Kenepa has two beaches: the Grote Knip (bigger beach) and Klein Knip (smaller beach).

Curacao Beach

Here is where you go for that ideal beach. The smaller of the two beaches is great for snorkeling while the other is idyllic for swimming, tanning, and water sports. Enjoy the crystal clear waters on a transparent kayak, or glide gently over the calm waters of the playa. The clarity and turquoise color of the water is so mesmerizing you may not want to leave.

Midway past the two beaches are rocky cliffs where you can go cliff jumping, an exhilarating moment that you should try at least once or maybe twice. If you’re not as daring, you can relax under the shade of a palapa with a refreshing cool cocktail in hand.

The beach is free and has all the amenities you need at fair prices.

Curacao Weather

Curacao experiences tropical weather which means it’s sunny year round. The best time to visit Curacao is from February to May when it’s neither raining nor extremely hot. The off-peak season runs from May to November and is great if you are visiting on a budget, but it’s also the hottest season with a slight very rare chance of hurricane storms. If a cruise is threatened with a hurricane, however, the ships are often diverted and you may miss your chance to explore this amazing port of call.

Also Read: 20 Ways to Experience Havana, Cuba During a Cruise

It might be difficult to do all these amazing options with only a few hours in port, hence return trips are almost always a must. However, with the right selection, you will have an unforgettable time in Curacao, so, plan well and book excursions early for the best experience. Happy Cruising!

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