Curacao is one of the Southern Caribbean Islands that make up the ABC islands. This includes Aruba and Bonaire which are both stunning places to visit too. Curacao, now a Dutch Caribbean Island, lies about 40 miles north of Venezuela. It was once the home of the Arawak people. Known for its rich history and culture combined with beautiful weather, it has become one of the popular stops on many Southern Caribbean cruises.
20 Best Things to Do in Curacao for Cruisers
This is not surprising since Curacao has colorful towns, impressive coastlines, and stunning beaches. In addition, the charming locals make everyone feel at home. With its diverse landscape, for sure you will not run out of activities to do here.
Just imagine being able to relax on miles and miles of pristine white-sand beaches. Aside from that, adrenaline junkies can go for outdoor sports and activities north of the island. Of course, if you prefer a more laid-back activity, the town itself is where you should be. This is where you can get a glimpse of the island’s history. And best of all, there are plenty of restaurants here where you can grab a bite to eat.
The Curacao cruise port lies at the southern point of the island in Willemstad. This is the capital city of Curacao. There are two docking stations here which are the Mega Pier and the smaller cruise terminal. Where your cruise ship will dock depends on the size of the ship. You will find them on opposite sides of St. Anna Bay. This particular inlet divides the town into two. There is Otrabanda on the west while Punda is on the East. You can use the pontoon bridge or take advantage of the free ferry ride to either one.
For bigger cruise ships that cannot fit under the Queen Juliana Bridge, their port will be at the Megapier cruise terminal. You will find this pier in Otrabanda which will most likely be where you will dock if you choose bigger cruises. Among these major cruise lines are the Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, and the Norwegian.
What are the Best Things to Do in Curacao?
Are you making a list of the best things to do in Curacao while you are there? This is a great idea! After all, you don’t want to miss out on what Curacao Island has to offer. That said, if you have booked a Caribbean cruise to Curacao, make sure that you add these to your itinerary.
Explore Historic Willemstad
The first thing that you should do while in Curacao is to explore downtown Willemstad. After all, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As was mentioned before, there are two quarters that you can explore near the port area. Punta and Ontrabanda lie on either side of Santa Anna Bay. You can cross it using a water taxi or go over the floating bridge called Queen Emma Bridge. Aside from that, you can go on a self-guided walking tour, a group walking tour, or just ride their trolley to get around the city.
For those who are exploring Ontrabanda, you can visit the historic buildings that line the streets. You can make your way to the Kura Hulanda Museum to see important artifacts. Aside from that, there is also the Rif Fort which was built in 1828. The Rif Fort area served as the island’s defense against attackers. Today, some parts of the fort still remain which you can explore. After all, they are part of the Renaissance Mall where you can do your shopping as well.
Meanwhile, once you head to Punda using the pedestrian bridge, you will end up in the commercial area of Handelskade. The first thing that you will notice is that there are plenty of colorful buildings here. In fact, this is where you will find the most photographed building which is the Penha building. Aside from that, you should also check the floating market. This is where you can get fresh fish, meat, and vegetables.
Don’t forget to add the Mikve Israel-Emanuel synagogue to your list of places to visit. It is the oldest surviving synagogue that you will find in the Western Hemisphere. Aside from that, check out the Wilhelmina Park where you will find the statue of Queen Wilhelmina.
Visit the Hato Caves
Another tourist attraction that you should check while in Curacao is the Hato Caves. This is the largest cave formation that you will find on the island of Curacao. In fact, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions here. What makes this an interesting attraction is that it was once used as shelter by the Arawaks.
You can go on a tour to explore the caves which will take about 45 minutes. These tours will give you an idea of how they were formed as well as admire the rock formations too. Aside from that, there are about 50 stairs that you will take into the caves. Once inside the atmosphere will be warm, plus it will be dimly lit too. Your tour guide will tell you which cave you can take photos of. Taking photos in some of the caves is not allowed because of the bats living there.
Tour Fort Amsterdam
Meanwhile, there are eight forts that are still standing in Curacao. If you are going to choose one to visit, it should be Fort Amsterdam. After all, it is the oldest and most interesting of the forts here. It was built back in 1635 and it lies at the edge of the town of Punda. It stands like a guard over the entrance to the Sint Anna inlet.
Aside from that, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is not surprising since it bears much of the island’s rich history. After all, Fort Amsterdam served as Curacao’s seat of government as well as military operations. In fact, you will find plenty of palatial buildings here with interesting architectural designs.
In addition, the fort also has a courtyard and an old church that features an embedded cannon wall. You should spend a few hours exploring Fort Amsterdam. After all, not only does it house ancient history, but there are plenty of Instagrammable spots here too.
Have Fun at the Sea Aquarium
If you are traveling with your kids, then add Curacao Sea Aquarium to your itinerary. This is quite an extraordinary aquarium since it doesn’t use traditional aquariums. Instead, there are real sea-water pools here fed by the sea. You will find the Sea Aquarium on the West Coast of Willemstad with plenty of fun things to see and do.
For starters, there are large pools full of marine life to see. Aside from that, they also host interesting shows like sea lions, dolphins, and sharks. This is a great place for children to learn a thing or two about the sea creatures found on the island. In fact, kids can get a chance to see, touch, and play with these animals. You can even hang out with the starfish, sea urchins, and more at the touch tank.
Aside from that, you can grab a bite to eat in the restaurant on the premises. On the other hand, you can also head to the beach side if you want to go sunbathing, swimming, or snorkeling. There is an entrance fee of $21 for adults and $11 for children between 5 and 12 years old. It is open from 8 am to 5 pm so you might want to arrive here early. This way, you will have enough time to explore the area and still have room for exploring other parts of Curacao.
Head to the Beach
Curacao is also home to beautiful beaches. For example, there is Blue Bay Beach which is one of the most popular destinations here. It lies near the cruise terminal which makes it easy to access. Aside from that, there is a small admission fee here that you will need to pay. This will give you access to the beach, sun beds, and amenities. There are plenty of shaded areas here plus a children’s playground. Also, there are some coral reefs just off the coast where you can go snorkeling or scuba diving in.
Meanwhile, Mambo Beach is another favorite spot for cruise passengers because it is near the cruise terminal. You will find it on a man-made beach near the Sea Aquarium which is a plus. Aside from that, this beach offers more than just access to the waters. In fact, there are plenty of restaurants, bars, and entertainment here that you can explore. Admission fees and chair rentals are reasonable which is a plus.
Aside from that, there are more interesting Curacao beaches located on the west end of the island. It is a 30 to 45-minute drive to reach your destination. But don’t worry, it will be worth it. After all, you get to choose among beaches like Cas Abao Beach, Knip Beach or Playa Kenepa, and Playa Porto Mari. You can also visit Playa Kalki which is a small cove known for snorkelers and divers.
Hike at Christoffel National Park
Meanwhile, guests who want to experience Curacao’s outdoors will enjoy Christoffel National Park. Located at the base of Mt. Christoffel, this park is home to various flora and fauna. Aside from that, there are plenty of mysteries and natural beauty here as well. Dense scrubland covers the entire park with exotic plants thriving here like the divi-divi trees. Not only that but there are plenty of wild orchids growing here as well as cacti towering at 10 feet.
Aside from that, this park is home to the rare white-tailed deer. You can also spot the palabrua which is a native barn owl. In addition, there are three plantations present here with one hosting the Savonet museum.
In addition, this park has plenty of adrenaline-pumping activities to consider. Among these are riding an ATV, hiking up the mountain, or going on a nature safari to see the animals up close. You can even climb up the highest peak to get panoramic views of the island. Just make sure that you head out early in the day so you can explore at your leisure.
See the Shete Boka National Park
Since you are already at Christoffel National Park then why not make your way to Shete Boka Park? This is a rugged north coast stretch with plenty of amazing headlands pushing above the sea. Shete Boka, which means seven inlets, is not only one of the natural wonders in Curacao but has some of the most stunning views too.
In fact, the park begins at Boka Tabla where you will find an underground cavern. This is a good spot to see the waves rolling in. Aside from that, you can also make your way to Boka Kalki. This is where green turtles lay their eggs.
Meanwhile, if you want to witness the sheer power of the ocean, then Boka Pistol is where you should be. This is the perfect spot to witness the crashing of the waves against the rock formations with a loud bang.
On the other hand, if you want to see lava hills, limestone bluffs, as well as a natural bridge, make your way to Boka Wandomi. This will lead you to where you started at Boka Tabla. You will be amazed by the stunning landscape here which is why it is worth visiting. Make sure that your cameras are ready to capture stunning sights here.
Enjoy Local Cuisine
No trip to Curacao will be complete without sampling the local cuisine. In fact, you should try the Afro-Caribbean flavors served at waterfront restaurants. Aside from that, there are plenty of authentic Curacao restaurants that you can make your way to for some amazing dining experience. In fact, you can indulge in Dutch, African, and Spanish flavors here among others. There are more than 50 international flavors available in Curacao so you will not run out of options.
And when it comes to a gastronomical dining experience, make your way to Plasa Bieu or the old market. This is the perfect spot to sample jerk chicken, fried plantains, and even pumpkin pancakes to name a few. Aside from that, the communal seating here makes it easier to interact with the locals over great food. You can even ask them where to head next. For sure, they will point you in the right direction.
If you want to try Dutch food, you should order the Keshi Yena. These are spicy meat-stuffed cheese balls that are quite delicious. If you are one of those adventurous types, you can also sample exotic meats like an iguana, ostrich meat, and others. Aside from that, you can visit a snack bar if you are looking for a quick bite.
Animal Encounter and Snorkel Tour
One of the interesting things that you can do in Curacao is to get up close with marine life. As was mentioned before, Sea Aquarium gives you this opportunity. In fact, their Curacao Shore Excursions give you 2 hours’ worth of learning and interaction with the denizens of the deep. The Curacao shore excursion will give you the opportunity to swim with stingrays, turtles, fish, and even a shark or two.
Your tour guide will make sure that you get the best experience on the water. Once you are ready, you can go snorkeling in their natural lagoon to go snorkeling. You will be amazed by the different species that you will encounter in their aquarium. Aside from that, you can even get the chance to feed them through small openings on the glass partitions.
Of course, you can go snorkeling in the open waters. This is one experience you definitely don’t want to miss while in Curacao. After all, there is more to see in the ocean compared to what you will find in their aquariums.
Go on a Day Trip to Klein Curacao
Another option to consider while in Curacao is to go on a day trip to Klein Curacao. This small island lies southeast of the island of Curacao. It is just 1 square mile of flat uninhabited land that has an old lighthouse standing on it. Aside from that, there is also a shipwreck and a beach house with thatched palapas. The main attraction, however, is miles of soft white sandy beach.
In addition, Klein Curacao is a great spot to go snorkeling. The clear waters around d it gives you a great opportunity to see various marine life easily. You can even explore the shipwreck if you like. Of course, you don’t want to pass up the opportunity to just laze on the pristine beach here.
In fact, if you are looking for a quiet spot in Curacao, this is it. You don’t even have to worry about going hungry here. After all, there is a restaurant here that serves great BBQ and cold drinks. The best part is that there are clean washrooms too. Now you can enjoy exploring this island and the waters around it.
Dive in Caracas Bay
Aside from Klein Curacao, another snorkeling and diving spot is Caracas Bay. This bay is part of the Caracas Marine National Park and is just a 20-minute drive from the Curacao port of Megapier. If you want to do water sports here like snorkeling or scuba diving, your best bet is to book a shore excursion.
One of the popular attractions that you will find here is the Tugboat shipwreck. The shipwreck lies just 5 miles from the surface. You can swim to the shipwreck from Tugboat beach where you will find plenty of colorful fish.
Caracas Bay has a lot of interesting things to offer its guests. There are several restaurants, hotels, bars, as well as recreational areas here to explore. If you love history, then you are in luck. There are several historical landmarks here including Fort Beekenburg. This 18th-century fort dominates the area and is one of the best forts to visit.
If you want to make the most out of your snorkeling or diving adventure here, make sure that you book a tour ahead of time. This way, your guide will prepare everything for you including your equipment.
Visit Landhuis Chobolobo Distillery
Curacao has plenty of fun things to offer its guests. In fact, going on a trip to the Landhuis Chobolobo Distillery is one of them. The first thing that will greet you here is its sunshine-yellow facade. This matches the colorful buildings around the city of Willemstad. Go on a tour around the distillery and get the chance to learn how to make cocktails. Aside from that, you can also head to their gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs to bring back home.
If you have more time to spare, head to their cocktail bar where you can have a drink or two. This is the perfect spot to try some local creations. In fact, you should try the island classics like Cosmopolitan and Blue Lagoon. On the other hand, if you are feeling more adventurous with your drink, go for their specialty cocktails instead. These specialty cocktails are not available in other restaurants on the island so go for it!
Visit the Blue Room Cave
If you are looking for a good place to explore in Curacao, then check out the Blue Room Cave. This natural cave lies near Santu Petru and is completely submerged in water. They call it the Blue Room because when the sun’s rays penetrate the cave, a rainbow of blue colors fills the cave. You will need a waterproof camera to capture the beauty of this cave.
Aside from that, this is another snorkeling spot that you do not want to miss. Thanks to the clear water of the Caribbean Sea, you can easily spot the different types of fish swimming here. Not only that but there are other sea creatures here that you will not find anywhere else. The best way to see them all is to go on a snorkeling tour. This way you will have all the equipment you will need for your snorkeling.
See the Jan Kok Flamingos
Meanwhile, seeing the Jan Kok flamingos is another option to add to your itinerary. After all, these majestic birds are not easily seen in other areas. During your trip to the salt flats of Jan Kok, aptly named after the plantation owner, you will feel like you are stepping back in time. Here you will find samples of Dutch colonial architecture and design. The salt flats were built back in 1650 and have since been drawing tourists to it.
Later on, flamingos began flocking here where they have been staying until today. This is the perfect spot to see these amazing creatures walk around the shore. You can even watch them as they rest on one leg. For sure, you will be taking plenty of photos of the flamingos. In fact, you should bring your family to see them. This is a wonderful opportunity to see them up close.
Soak in the Sun at Playa Cas Abao
If you want to spend one day at the beach then make it Playa Cas Abao. In fact, this is the most pristine beach that you will find in Curacao. One of the good things about this place is that it is an uncrowded beach that lies on the northwest coast of the island. It is about 20 miles away from Willemstad but worth the trip.
The soft sandy beach and turquoise waters invite guests to lounge or swim here. Aside from that, there is plenty of parking space too for your rental car. Also, there are several restaurants inside hotels where you can dine in. However, if you want to have the best drinks, go to the daiquiri beach bar. They make the best daiquiris which you can enjoy while lounging under the palapas.
Go on a Speedboat Cruise
For those who are looking for a little bit of excitement, why not join a speedboat cruise? It is just a short twenty-minute ride to the speedboat docks. Board one of them, along with other guests, and go out into the waters in style.
The captain will take you and the rest of the guests along the coast of Curacao at high speed. From here, you will spot pelicans and other birds feeding along the shores which is an amazing sight. The trip ends with a short stay on one of the private beaches on the island. You can eat and drink here, or play some games with the rest of the passengers. Food and drinks are part of the package, but you can bring your own alcoholic beverage if you like.
Enjoy a Private Sunset Yacht Tour
While waiting for the next cruise, why not go on a private sunset yacht tour with the family? Since the city center gets crowded at times, it would be nice to spend some quality time with the family away from the crowd. And what better way to do this than on board a yacht?
This tour will take you along the coast of Curacao and onto a private beach. Here you can go swimming or do water sports with the family. Aside from that, you can also dine on freshly cooked chicken and indulge in drinks too.
In addition, you might want to keep your cameras ready because you might see some turtles on the shore. After all, this private beach is the Little Curacao which is the home of sea turtles.
See the Curacao Maritime Museum
If you want to learn more about the island’s history, then a trip to its maritime museum is a must. Here you will find exhibits on the Dutch West India Co, the formation of the city, and the slave trade. Aside from that, you will also find the Steam for Oil exhibit which is the working model of the oil refinery. This was the centerpiece of the island’s economy during the 20th century. In addition, the museum offers harbor tours twice a week.
Immerse Yourself in Art
Curacao is a charming and vibrant island that is full of colors and amazing landscapes. In fact, it is not surprising why many get inspiration from its beauty. That said it is a good idea to see the art galleries here to see stunning artworks, sculptures, and more. This will be more than just a short walk because there are plenty of art places to visit in Willemstad.
You can start your art appreciation trip at the Alma Blou. This is one of the oldest art galleries on the island. It lies inside a former plantation house. Take a break from the heat of the sun by stepping inside the gallery. You will find yourself mesmerized by the amazing artwork here.
Tour the East Side of Curacao
From the cruise piers, you can plan on touring the east side of the island. After all, this is where you will find more of the Dutch-Caribbean buildings that this island is known for. With their charming old houses and easy walking distance from one another, you will not get tired when exploring this side of the island.
Wrap Up Things to Do in Curacao for Cruisers
Curacao is the largest island in the Netherlands Antilles. It is also one of the popular spots on various Southern Caribbean cruises. This is why it is not surprising that their port facilities have been upgraded to accommodate more tourists. From offering free Wi-Fi to having easy access to the shopping mall nearby, guests will get first-class treatment as soon as they disembark on the island.
The best time to visit Curacao is between December and May. However, you can still enjoy a trip here any time of the year. After all, it has pleasant weather most of the time. This means that you can hit the beach or go exploring the city properly without worrying about rain. For sure, you will be coming back for more once you see the beauty of Curacao.