The under the radar Caribbean island you need to visit! A detailed travel Guide to Curaçao

Its no surprise I LOVE the Caribbean, having been 10 times in the past! I will never give up an opportunity to explore a new Caribbean island and this time I was so excited to explore an off the radar island – Curaçao with the Curaçao Tourism Board. I was also really excited to travel with a fellow travel influencer Cherrie Lynn Almonte, who I have admired for the longest time. It was so fun to finally get the chance to meet her and travel together. We are both from the San Francisco Bay Area and connected instantly especially cos we have so much in common! Stay tuned for more adventures together in the future :).

Bon Bini Curaçao!

Bon Bini to Curaçao! Curaçao is a part of the Dutch Caribbean and is such an untouched gem. If Curaçao isn’t on your list already add it now for all these reasons and more :

  • Pristine beaches : Curaçao has over 38 spectacular beaches, and most are tucked into intimate coves.
  • Perfect weather : Year around 85 degree temperature & out of the hurricane belt makes this such a great island to visit anytime of year!
  • Great Location : perfectly situated between US and Europe , and so close to South America!
  • Culture : a vibrant culture with an eclectic mix of Dutch and Caribbean. This is reflected from their language , to delicious food to so much more !
  • History : so much history and color in their capital of Willemstad.
  • Things to do : tons of activities to do on the island.

 

TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS TO CURAÇAO :

Here is a quick rundown of the Main 4 Travel requirements to Curaçao that you would need if you plan a trip in the future :

1. Fill out a Digital Immigration Card
 online as soon as you have all your travel information.

2. Fill out a Passenger Locator Card online 
within 48 hours prior to traveling to Curaçao and carry a digital document of proof with you.

3. Upload a negative COVID-19 test result
. Depending on your country of origin a PCR test or Antigen test is required prior to departure. PCR tests need to be taken within 72 hours before traveling, while Antigen tests need to be taken within 24 hours before traveling. The traveler is required to carry a digital proof of the PLC and negative Covid test result.

4. Book a lab appointment for 3rd day Antigen test in Curaçao
 : You are required to undergo a mandatory Antigen test on the 3rd day in Curaçao depending on your country of origin. For us this also sufficed as an entry test required for traveling back into the US. You will be directed to book the test in the link below.

Check out this website for more info on all these steps.

USEFUL THINGS TO KNOW 

Visas : Many countries do not need a visa to enter Curaçao. Even if you have a multiple entry US visa, you would not need a visa for Curaçao. But best to check with the office of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. More details here.

Currency : USD is accepted everywhere.

Electricity : It is recommended to bring a European adaptor when traveling to Curaçao as United States outlets are not commonly found throughout the island.

 

BEST TIME TO GO ?

Blessed with being outside the hurricane belt and year around 85 degree temperature makes Curaçao such a great island to visit anytime of year! However, the best time to visit Curaçao is from May to November, during the off-peak season where you’ll find the lowest airfares and hotel rates (sometimes 50% lower than they are in the high season).

 

 

HOW TO GET AROUND ?

If you are staying on the east side of the island like we did you would be close to Willemstad and a ton of other shops, restaurants, etc. But I would still recommend renting a car to get out and explore the beautiful island. US drivers licenses work fine to rent a car here.

 

WHERE TO STAY & HOW LONG?

Ideally I think 4-6 days is great for a trip to Curaçao. Personally I loved the east side of the island for convenience. It had great beaches, restaurants, shopping and easy accessibility to other parts of the island too. But if you had more time perhaps you could split your time between the east and west side of the island. There are so many great places to stay at, here are the hotels I would recommend :

1 ) Curaçao Marriott Beach resort

We stayed at the Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort for our first 2 nights. This newly renovated hotel is conveniently located 15 minutes from the airport and along six acres of beachfront. It features 328 redesigned rooms and eight suites that mimic the colorful destination with bold turquoise and mandarin along with a variety of textures and patterns to give it a modern Caribbean luxury feel of the Old World in Europe.

The resort features two pools (one family pool and one adult-only pool), lush tropical gardens, stunning ocean views from the open-air lobby, and four on-site restaurants, including the poolside Salty Iguana Ocean Grill, Izakaya Sushi Bar, C-Spice restaurant, Zala Gastro Lounge. Our room was also spacious with double queen beds, a large bathroom and private balcony with a stunning ocean view.

Poolside and beachside at Curaçao Marriott beach resort

Do not miss your chance to have a toes in the sand kinda private dining here; perfect for a special evening! Cherrie and I were also treated to the most spectacular sunset on the beach during our dinner!

Sunset toes in the sand kinda beach dinner

Unreal sunset colors on our first night!

 

2 ) Renaissance Curaçao Resort and Casino

For our next 2 nights we stayed at Renaissance Curaçao Resort and Casino. Located at the heart of Willemstad, this upscale resort with a colorful facade is walkable to all the attractions in Willemstad. This 237-room property in the heart of downtown Willemstad just completed an extensive renovation in December 2019. The inviting new lobby and restaurant evoke a nautical feel with sleek, airy, white interiors, rope-inspired details and touches of turquoise and sea foam green. The guest rooms follow suit with clean design lines, sky blue accent walls with wood detailing, geometric light fixtures and modern bathrooms.

The resort also has a casino, a mall and so much history like the Rif fort (below) right within the property.

Rif Fort

My favorite part of the resort was this stunning infinity pool! It sure is the most unique pool I have seen – it totally had me fooled thinking it was the ocean! Such a pretty space.

Stunning Infinity beach like pool at Rennaisance Curaçao

 

3 ) Oasis Coral Estate Curaçao

While we didn’t stay here, our guide did recommend this hotel for anyone looking to spend a few days on the west side of the island.

 

THINGS TO DO :

Curaçao has so many things to do all around the island and more! Here are a few of the things we did that I would highly recommend :

1 ) Tour of the town of Willemstad

The quintessential postcard from Curaçao

The historic city of Willemstad is the capital of Curaçao and a must visit on your trip to the island. The Handelskade (waterfront) of Willemstad is the picturesque stretch of pier that you must have seen from every Curaçao postcard!

Willemstad is a UNESCO world heritage site and is known for its old town centre and pastel colored architecture. It has 4 different historic districts which reflect colonial town planning and development.
Cherrie and I were obsessed with all the color in Scarloo district of Willemstad!
We loved exploring the city on an electric bike from Curaçao Green Wheels. This is the best way to explore the city as many of the roads are narrow so a bike would be more convenient than a car.
Our rides for the day – Curaçao Green Wheels. With our amazing guide Tirzah
We explored the city’s four district’s Otrobanda, Punda, Scharloo & Pietermaai and also saw the city’s best sights including the Queen Emma Floating Bridge, Wilhelmina Plaza, the Governor’s Mansion, the art murals and so much more.
Colorful Pietermaai district
Murals galore alla round Willemstad!
Enjoying some traditional lei (an icy treat) in the quaint and charming Otrobanda neighbourhood!

2 ) Beach hopping on the west Coast of Curaçao

32 of the 38 beaches of the island are all on the west side! The west side of the island called Westpunt, or Bándabou in Papiamentu, is the rural, western part of the island. This is where you will find some of the most beautiful beaches on the island as well as the national park and various plantation houses. Some of the must visit beaches here are :

(a) Playa Piskadó :

This small but pictureque fisherman’s beach in Westpunt makes for a great pitstop to see the giant sea turtles and to do a bit of snorkeling with them.

Crystal clear waters at Playa Piskado, we saw so many turtles here!

(b) Playa Kenepa or Grote Knip :

Consistently rated Curaçao’s No. 1 beach, Playa Kenepa is located on the west side of the island in a less populated and quieter region. It’s where locals go to  get away from it all and spend a relaxing day on the beach. Whether you choose to dive, snorkel, cliff jump or simply sunbathe on this perfect little stretch it is a must visit during your trip to Curaçao.

The iconic Playa Kenapa / Grote Knip – from the lookout point above

From a birds eye perspective

and from the beach level. Cooling off with a cold coconut!

(c) Cas Abao

Cas Abao shows off with its white sandy beach, crystal clear waters, waving palm trees and many gazebos for shade. The beach combines a natural country setting with all the conveniences of a full-service beach. Cas Abao is ideal for swimmers of all ages and its reefs are a paradise for snorkelers and scuba divers. There is also a bar, restaurant, showers and a massage facility. At the bar – try a pina Colada with blue Curaçao – so yummy!
Postcards from Cas Abao
A must try – Pina Colada with Blue Curaçao!

(d) Playa Portomari

Playa PortoMari is a beautiful sandy bay to be found on the private estate of Plantages PortoMari. Its white coral sand beach with clear and calm water is a true paradise for water lovers. The unique ‘double reef’ is easily accessible from the shore providing a fascinating snorkel and dive site.

Picture perfect Playa Portomari

While you are here – look out for the wild pigs on the beach! We found one just lounging near the lounge chairs by the beach, so cute!

Piggie on the beach!

 

(e) Kokomo Beach

Located near Varsenbaai, Kokomo Beach is a beautiful natural bay on the road to Bullenbaai and has a surfer look with a classy touch. Looking for a cool photo opp: Snap a pic of the in-water swings and Kokomo sign! Unfortunately we didn’t have time for this, but add this beach to your list when you visit.

 

3 ) Shete Boka National Park

Shete Boka National Park is an area contiguous to Christoffel Park that covers more than 10 kilometers of  the island’s northern coast. Exposed to rocky waves, Shete Boka has approximately 10 small bays where three species of sea turtles are known to lay eggs. Here you’ll witness the powerful crashing waves, stunning views from coves of the sea like cliffs, etc. Do not miss out on seeing the natural bridge and entering the famous Boka Tabla cave.

Dramatic scenes of crashing waves at Shete Boka National Park

 

4 ) Day trip to Klein Curaçao

Klein (little) Curaçao is a small, tropical, uninhabited island with a pearly white beach, azure blue waters, and a spectacular reef with a beautiful underwater world. Located about eight miles off the eastern edge of Curaçao, Klein Curaçao offers one of the longest most pristine stretches of beach in the Caribbean.

The most beautiful beach in all of Curaçao and one of the best beaches in the Caribbean – Klein Curaçao!

This beautiful island is only accessible by a one hour boat ride and is SO worth it ! It has one of best beaches in all of the Caribbean, I can vouch for that ! Having been to the Caribbean 10 times this is certainly one of my personal faves.When we arrived at Klein, Cherrie and I were awestruck with the sheer beauty of this beach! It was handsdown our fave activity of the trip, I highly highly recommend it.We went to Klein Curaçao with Miss Ann boat trips and highly recommend them! The day trip tour includes breakfast, lunch and snorkeling gear too. The boat tour company also has a designated space on the beach with shaded palapas and lounge chairs. If you get sea sick, I recommend packing Dramamine for the 1 hour boat ride from Curaçao to Klein Curaçao.

I mean – look at these waters! WOW!

Pure Paradise!

Swings and lounge area of Miss Ann Boattrip on Klein

Be sure to check out the abandoned lighthouse here – it makes for the most moody backdrop for photos.

Abandoned Lighthouse at Klein Curaçao

 

FAVE PLACES TO EAT :

1 ) Plasa Bieu

Airy Plasa Bieu is situated in the heart of Punda. This popular lunch spot for both locals and travelers serves up krioyo soul cooking and a wide range of local dishes. Some of the signature dishes include:  bòkel (salted mackerel), kadushi (cactus soup), bonchi kòra (red kidney bean soup), etc. After exploring Willemstad, this is a great local spot for catching an authentic and  classic Curaçaoan meal.

 

2 ) BijBlauw

One of the most Insta-worthy restaurants, BijBlauw is located in Pietermaai, the most vibrant area of Curaçao. BijBlauw has an international kitchen where both Caribbean and European dishes are served. The combination between these kitchens makes for a nice mix, and offers a variety of dishes, ensuring that there is something for everyone to enjoy! The setting is absolutely romantic and we loved our delicious drinks and food!

Loved the vibes and yummy dinner at BijBlauw!

 

3 ) Zanzibar

Perfectly situated on Jan Thiel Beach is the atmospheric Zanzibar Beach & Restaurant. As the name implies, the bar and restaurant exude the warmth and coziness of East Africa. This is a great place for sundowners for drinks and yummy food!

4) Landhuis Klein Santa Martha

Perfect for when you are on the west side of the island. A 17th century monument, now a restaurant and Boutique Hotel, Landhuis Klein Santa Martha serves a variety of delicacies. They offer local, international and vegetarian cuisine.

 

5) Bario Urban Street Food

My FAVE meal of the trip! Bario is a food market in Otrobanda that has multiple food options, a cocktail bar and a Snèk where guests can taste local food, experience history, music and art. Chef Heinrich Hortencia is a talented young chef who has worked in several large restaurants and while living in the Netherlands, he worked in a Michelin star restaurant. At Bario, he creates amazing dishes using local inspirations to elevate Curaçao’s local dishes. You can truly taste his passion for food and personality in his dishes. Every thing we had here from drinks to the tapas style shared dinner plates to dessert was absolutely delicious!

Such a cool concept & incredible food at Bario!

Cherrie and I with our amazing ambassador Vanessa from the Curaçao Tourism Board. 

6) Number 10

This excellent little café serves fresh, simple breakfasts and lunches and is located in a restored mansion on the beautiful grounds of Landhuis Bloemhof, the most imaginative art gallery in the country.

 

WHAT TO PACK :

  • Clothing : swimwear, casual dresses, tees + shorts, a few dressier options for evenings, sandals, sneakers, etc.  Check out my resortwear essentials in this blog post.
  • Accessories : a travel backpack/beach tote, sunglasses, straw hat, etc
  • an underwater camera – I love my Gopro Hero black 7!
  • lots of reef safe sunscreen. It is hot and humid and we applied and reapplied sunscreen every few hours.
  • and of course we live in a new COVID era – so pack extra face masks, hand sanitizers, sanitizing wipes. etc
  • For a list of other travel essentials I never travel without check out this blog post.
  • Other random things – Dramamine, European adapter, bug spray, etc

Here are some outfits I packed on this trip :

 

Hope this guide helps you plan a trip to Curaçao in the future. Thanks for stopping by.

xoxo

Jyo

 

** A big thank you to the Curaçao Tourism Board for sponsoring our visit to the island of Curaçao. All thoughts and opinions in this blog post are my own. 

 

 

 

 

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