Bon Bini! Welcome to your Ultimate Curaçao Island Travel Guide covering everything you need to know about visiting the sunny island of Curacao.
The island of Curaçao is divided into two sides, East and West. While both have their advantages, depending on the type of traveler you are, will determine the side of the island you should spend the majority of your time on. The East side is focused more towards tourism, while the West side is more for outdoor, nature lovers. In Part 1. of this article, we will focus on the East side.
How do you even pronounce Curaçao? It’s Kur-uh-sow.
I wasn’t too sure what I was going to expect when visiting Curaçao. But after my visit, Curaçao exceeded my expectations, and it’s become one of my favorite islands in the Caribbean.
The island is located outside of the hurricane belt weather making the island warm and sunny with little precipitation year-round. The people on the island are so kind, and since Curaçao is an autonomous country within the Dutch Kingdom, you really get a European feel within the island. Plus, I could not get over the gorgeous untouched beaches either with incredible snorkeling and diving.
Curaçao is a perfect destination for all kinds of travelers: families, couples, solo travelers, and more with different kinds of activities, beaches, and things to do. Let’s get into the Curaçao Island Guide.
WHERE IS CURAÇAO?
Curaçao is located in the southern Caribbean Sea, between the islands of Aruba and Bonaire. All three of these islands make up the ABC Islands: Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao.
Curaçao’s location is outside of the hurricane belt, so you’ll find a sunny and driest climate with less rainfall all year round. In fact, you’ll also notice desert-like vegetation on the island (which will discuss more in pt 2.).
WHEN TO VISIT CURAÇAO?
There really isn’t a bad time to visit Curaçao, but you run the risk of some light rain in the months of October-December. The months with the least rainfall are from February to June averaging one inch per month.
WHERE TO STAY IN CURAÇAO
Depending on the type of trip you are looking for, there are certain neighborhoods that can be a better fit for your needs.
Pietermaai is a trendy neighborhood with plenty of bars, restaurants, and small boutique hotels lining the street. Hotels include Avila Beach Hotel (HIGHLY recommended)
Blue Bay is a great location for families and couples. Blue Bay has residences, small boutique Hotels, and Villas which creates this private resort-like feeling with a gorgeous soft sand beach where children can play in the sand easily. Hotels include Blue Bay Golf and Beach Resort.
Jan Thiel & Mambo Beach are fun upbeat neighborhoods located south of Willemstad. Jan Thiel has a popular beachfront restaurant and bar where young adults and locals enjoy the sun and party at night. Hotels in Jan Thiel: Papagayo Beach Hotel.
If you’re looking for a relaxed resort feel check out these options:
- Dreams Curaçao: All-Inclusive beachfront property with 7 food and beverage outlets, beachfront, infinity pool, and modern rooms.
- Renaissance Hotel Curaçao: Recently renovated located steps from Queen Emma Bridge in Willemstad. Rooms have ocean views and an impressive infinity salt lake lagoon.
- Papagayo Beach Resort: This is the resort I stayed at. Located in the Jan Thiel area, the resort is located near much nightlife and consists of beautiful villas.
From personal experience, there is only ONE way I would recommend getting around the island – renting a car. Buses, while cheap, have no fixed schedule and taxi’s are quite expensive, averaging about $50 per trip.
Driving is fairly simple as the roads are modern, easy to navigate, and each beach & activity has clear signs so you won’t get lost!
You can find car rental stations at the airport, and some rental companies have desks at larger hotels. I would also recommend booking these WELL ahead of time as their is a rental car shortage on the island and no guarantee you’ll be able to find a car for your stay.
THINGS TO DO IN CURAÇAO
Visit Beaches – There are 3 main beaches on the East side of Curacao
- Jan Thiel Beach
- Mambo Beach
- Blue Bay Beach
Explore Willemstad – A must when in Curacao is touring the capital neighborhood of Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can wander on your own to find shopping, unique buildings, restaurants, markets, and more or you can use a hired guide. When touring Willemsted here are some sights you can’t miss in the Punda district:
- Queen Emma Floating Bridge: This walking bridge, originally built-in 1888 connects Willemstad to the Otrobanda neighborhood. It is rather unique in its design as it swings side to side to allow boats to pass by instead of opening up. If you need to get to the other side while the bridge is open, you can take a free ferry to the other side.
- Lunch at Plasa Bieu: Plasa Bieu is a food court of sorts with multiple kitchens of various cuisines. If you’re looking for AUTHENTIC Curaçoan food, I would recommend Zus Di Plaza. Here you can sample local delicacies at local prices. Dishes are served with rice and beans, polenta, or mashed potatoes. Favorite staples include (Kabritu Stoba) stewed goat, Piska Dradu (mahi mahi) and Giambo (okra soup).
- Street Art: You’ll notice colorful local street art surrounding the neighborhood.
- Shopping: You’ll find local shops and international brands along the streets here. And be sure not to miss Penha Perfumery near the Queen Emma Bridge. This is the most photographed building and has a great example of Dutch colonial architecture.
Kura Hulanda Museum – This museum impressively exhibits the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in its totality, from slave capture in Africa through the Middle Passage and the relocation in the New World.
WHERE TO EAT IN CURAÇAO ISLAND
Curaçao has a variety of cuisines ranging from Caribbean to Spanish and Dutch with options ranging from quick bites to elegant seaside dinners.
BBQ Express: Truk’i pans (Food trucks) are a must when in Curaçao. You’ll find plenty of food trucks all over Curacao. Many locals and visitors love the laid-back vibe and great food for a low price.
At BBQ express, you’ll find various meats (reminds me a little bit of Hawaiian BBQ) served with fries, moro (rice and beans) or pasta salad (get the pasta salad) with a variety of sauces to choose from.
Zanzibar Beach Restaurant: Located on the Beach at Jan Thiel, you can find a mix of casual bites from sandwiches. burgers, and salads.
At Zanzibar you MUST try their rotisserie chicken Caribbean style. Trust me, you will NOT be disappointed.
Brisa Do Mar: Formerly known as Pop’s Place, this restaurant is ocean front and has some of the freshest fish on the island. I highly recommend trying the conch fritters and the red snapper.
WHAT TO PACK FOR CURACAO
Curacço is a warm and windy destination so it’s best to pack lightweight casual items.
Water Shoes: With Curaçao having some of the clearest water in the Caribbean for snorkeling, water shoes are a must as many beaches have rocks when you first enter the water
Bug Spray: This is a NON-NEGOTIABLE. At night, you look like a tasty snack to mosquitoes
Sunscreen: You don’t visit Curaçao to be in the shade, so sunscreen will be imperative. Please choose a reef-friendly sunscreen that protects sea life by avoiding usage of certain chemicals.
Wireless Phone Charger: I highly doubt you’ll be able to walk very far without taking out your phone for pictures and this will no doubt drain your batter life, so be sure to have a portable charger ready for when it’s needed
The Dutch-Caribbean island of Curaçao now holds a special place in my heart. If you ever have a chance to visit, I highly recommend that you do. Stay tuned for Pt 2. of Ultimate Curaçao Island Travel Guide where I will highlight the West side of the island.