Curaçao is the hidden gem Caribbean island you’ve been looking for all along. Located in the southern Caribbean and out of the hurricane belt, Curacao is just a tiny island, but it packs a huge punch for travelers. Think coral-covered shipwrecks, vibrant culture and beautiful street art, colorful historic architecture, and dozens of white sand beaches; it’s truly impressive.
This ultimate guide to the best things to do in Curacao has all of our favorite Curacao destinations and activities for the perfect vacation to this impressive Caribbean island. Whether you have just one day in Curacao at port, or have the luxury of getting to know this island for several days, you’ll love the vast array of things to do in Curaçao.
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Things To Do in Curacao
1. Snorkel Tugboat Wreck
There’s nothing like exploring a shipwreck if you’re looking for a unique adventure. While Curaçao has more than its fair share of shipwrecks to explore, the Tugboat Wreck is a particularly popular one, especially with snorkelers and travelers on a budget. Why? It’s accessible from the beach, and only sits in about 15 feet (5 meters) of water!
Not only is this 30-foot wreck impressive, and with plenty to explore, but it has become covered in impressive sea fans and corals, and is home to sea life like swarms of colorful fish, seahorses, and even rays and eels. It’s an underwater dream, and especially impressive considering it’s so easily accessible, perfect for beginners, and even accessible by children (I was 14 and my brother was 11 when we swam out the first time).
Access to the Tugboat wreck is quite straightforward from the tiny Tugboat Beach near Caracasbaai, east of Willemstad, and not far from the famous Jan Thiel Beach. You’ll need to swim about fifty yards from the beachfront along the side of the cliffs, headed south, until you reach the Tugboat Wreck, which is located just below the historic Quarantainegebouw (Quarantine House).
While the beach isn’t one of Curaçao’s nicest, it has a small beach bar and a decently-sized parking area, just enough to make it a comfortable spot for travelers looking to swim out to the wreck.
2. Visit Playa Lagun – One of the Caribbean’s Best Beaches
Curaçao has a number of incredible white sand beaches worth exploring, but a favorite hidden gem is Playa Lagun on the island’s southwest shore. Though this area of Curaçao is a popular one because of its number of beautiful beaches, Playa Lagun stands out for its unique, protected bay, lai-back atmosphere, and incredible snorkeling (and cliff diving!) potential, even popular with Curaçao snorkeling tours – it’s among the best beaches in the Caribbean.
Dramatic cliffs protect this small cove beach from waves, making this the perfect beach spot for families looking for little to no waves for beginner swimmers. The cliffs also make for great snorkeling conditions, as vibrant corals grow along them all around the beach, and they provide protection for swarms of fish, turtles, and other mammals.
Above the beach, you’ll find a gorgeous ocean lookout at the beach bar, as well as some great places to stay. A dive shop near the entrance to the beach has plenty of gear for snorkeling.
Read More: 16 Best Beaches in the Caribbean
3. Go Beach-Hopping
It isn’t enough to just visit one nice beach in Curaçao; one of the simple pleasures of a visit to the island is exploring a number of beaches and discovering their soft sand, vibrant beach bars and restaurants, and warm, clear waters first-hand. It’s hands down one of the best things to do in Curacao.
While there are beaches around Curaçao, the best beaches are on the island’s southern coast, with the majority of the best beaches in Curaçao west of Willemstad. These are some of the favorite beach destinations on the island to consider visiting:
Cas Abou is a favorite beach destination in Curaçao with its powdery sand and clear waters. Closer to Willemstad, it’s often easier to reach than some of the beaches further west on the island, making it a more popular favorite than some of its more off-the-beaten-path neighbors.
With its full array of beach amenities – bathrooms, a dive shop, beach bar, chair and umbrella rental, etc. – it makes for the perfect beach day for travelers looking for a hassle-free experience. Plan on coming for the whole day and eating while you’re here; once you see the stunning scenery, you’ll never want to leave!
Grote Knip & Kleine Knip
This pair of white sand beaches on the island’s far western edge are among the very best beaches in Curaçao. Grote Knip, the larger and more popular beach, is a pristine swath of white sand meeting turquoise waters for that classic Caribbean beach experience you’re looking for. However, it can get a bit crowded, as its reputation precedes it. Head to smaller Kleine Knip just a few minutes south to escape the crowds, though here you won’t find as many beach amenities.
Close to Willemstad, it’s no wonder Mambo Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Curaçao. Easily accessible from the city, this beach has an array of beachfront restaurants, cafes, and shops as well as stunning blue water and soft sand. Rent beach chairs or snorkeling gear, or post up at a beachside bar for a perfect beach day.
As this beach is just 15 minutes from the cruise port, be aware it can get crowded when cruise ships arrive! If you’re looking for a more tranquil spot, choose a beach on the island’s west end. However, Mambo Beach is also home to some incredible family-friendly Caribbean resorts, so if you’re going to stick around on a family trip, this might be a great place to consider.
For a totally off-the-beaten-path beach escape in Curaçao, Playa Jeremi is the best bet. Just 4 minutes north of Playa Lagun, it’s an easy addition to any beach-hopping day you’re spending on the island’s west end. Come prepared with everything you may need – this spot has no real beach amenities to speak of! – though you’ll love the quiet, calm waters and feel like you’ve found a slide of paradise all to yourself.
4. Explore the Island’s Rugged Interior
Many visitors to Curaçao get out of Willemstad to explore the island’s beautiful beaches along the southern coast, but there is so much more to see in the more rugged corners of the island than just beaches! Head to the Santa Marta lookout near Soto, eat local food at Jaanchie’s, or go hiking in Christoffel National Park for some unforgettable local experiences – some of the best things to do in Curacao.
A great (thrilling!) way to explore Curaçao is to take an ATV tour of some of the island’s most impressive landmarks. Eric’s ATV Adventure is a fantastic local tour company that offers half-day ATV excursions or full-day ATV excursions around the island to visit natural jacuzzi tubs along the coast, aloe vera farms, and even impressive caves. It’s easily the best way to see some of the island’s hidden gems.
5. Visit a Historic Landhuis
Curaçao is dotted with historic landhuizen – or land houses – colorful and often quite historically significant as the main houses of former plantations that covered the island. While Curaçao used to have hundreds of these impressive houses, there are only about sixty still standing today.
You’ll want to visit at least one while visiting Curaçao, as they are quite impressive. There are some of the most impressive landhuizen to visit in Curaçao:
Landhuis Chobolobo is by far Curaçao’s most famous landhuis. A former historic residence purchased by Senior & Co. in 1947, this landhuis is now the home of Blue Curaçao liquor. You can tour the distillery and visit the historic property to learn more about Curaçao’s most famous export; this experience is a must for many travelers!
Near the twin beaches of the same name, this formerly prosperous plantation once produced divi-divi seeds and sheep wool. It was also the site of the famous 1795 slave revolt that rocked the island. This beautiful building now serves as a museum, worth a visit if you’re interested in learning more about the island’s history.
Landhuis Jan Kok
Located on the island’s west end, this former salt plantation is now an impressive gallery. Make a pit stop on your way to the white sand beaches in the area and enjoy a bit of history and culture on your beach day.
6. Sip Sunset Drinks at Fort Nassau
Perched on a hill high above Willemstad, the historic Fort Nassau is an old monument with a new future. The strategic position of this 18th-century fort is now home to the popular Fort Nassau restaurant, a popular destination for travelers looking to get one of the best views of the city. Make sure to come in time for the sunset – whether you’re just here for a drink or to enjoy a meal; it’s the most spectacular time to enjoy the expansive views.
7 . Visit Kura Hulanda Museum
Curaçao played an important role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, but rather than trying to forget this painful period of history, the island has done an excellent job in educating and informing visitors and locals alike about its impacts, past and present. The Kura Hulanda Museum, located in the heart of Willemstad where enslaved peoples were bought and sold, is an important part of this, and a must when visiting the island.
The Kura Hulanda Museum does an incredible job documenting and communicating this past, with an incredible array of documents, artifacts, and exhibits that are quite accessible even for visitors with little background knowledge. Tickets are easily bookable online and affordable.
Looking for an easy way to visit some of the island’s most important destinations like this? Choose a small group guided tour of the island. While these are popular with travelers just visiting Curaçao for one day, they’re also a great choice for travelers looking to see the highlights without the hassle.
8. Take a Catamaran Ride to Klein Curacao
Did you know that Curaçao is more than just one island? A visit to its little sister island, Klein Curaçao, is a highlight for any visitor and one of the best things to do in Curacao. With this deserted island’s impossibly fine white sand beaches and the gorgeous old lighthouse, it’s an impossibly beautiful spot to spend a day in the Caribbean.
Cruise on a catamaran from Willemstad to Klein Curaçao for an unforgettable day of sailing, snorkeling, and relaxing on the island’s famous white sand beaches – it’s easily one of the most popular excursions on the island.
BlueFinn offers an incredibly popular catamaran excursion to Klein Curaçao that includes a full barbeque lunch with an open bar, as well as snorkeling gear and plenty of space to spread out as you cruise, about 1.5 hours each way to this deserted island. They’ve been a favorite for this excursion for years!
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9. Explore Curacao’s Foodie Destinations
Curaçao is an unexpected paradise for foodies. Surprised? We were. Boasting both delicious local food and an incredible array of restaurants with everything from Japanese to Mediterranean food and everything in between, Curaçao’s food will be a pleasant surprise, like a cherry on top of a perfect trip.
Here are some of the favorite spots around the island worth trying:
- Maira’s Kitchen: Delicious Mediterranean food in Otrabanda
- Hofi Cas Cora: Farm-to-table restaurant with incredible, fresh bites
- Van Gogh Coffee: A gorgeous, renovated mansion turned dreamy cafe
- Gouverneur de Rouville: Delicious, upscale Caribbean fare on the St. Anna Bay
10. Dive Curacao’s Superior Producer Wreck
For certified divers looking for an impressive wreck diving experience, Curaçao is a gold mine. From the Tugboat wreck (one of the best things to do in Curacao!) for beginning snorkelers to what seems like dozens of easily accessible wrecks, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Curaçao’s most famous wreck, the Superior Producer, is known as being one of the best wrecks in the Caribbean for divers, and is well worth an excursion!
The 100-foot Superior Producer sunk just outside of Willemstad in 1977 when it was overloaded with cargo headed to Venezuela. Today the wreck sits almost perfectly upright under the water, meaning divers can explore the full deck and even explore the cargo hold – it’s pretty cool. Not to mention the corals, sea fans, and abundant sea life that you’ll find along the way.
Less than 450 feet from Otrabanda, Willemstad, the Superior Producer wreck can be accessed by land, though almost all divers usually visit the site by boat. However, due to its location, it’s inaccessible when cruise ships are docked at port. You’ll find opportunities for excursions with dive shops around the island – generally, the dive is considered a relatively easy one
11. Photograph Handelskade
Willemstad is well known for its stunning and colorful architecture, though no part of Willemstad is more beautiful than Handelskade. This waterfront area on the Punda side of the city (the eastern side of the city) is the oldest portion of Willemstad, and is marked by incredibly beautiful and colorful architecture worth a million pictures and more.
Handelskade architecture is as Dutch Caribbean as it comes, with buildings that look like they could line any Amsterdam canal, but in cheery shades of pink, yellow, blue, and green. While you’ll love finding the perfect angle for photos around Punda, some of the best photos of Handelskade are from the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that floats across the St. Anna Bay and moves when ships enter.
This is an area you’ll surely want to spend time wandering and exploring – no matter how long you have in Curaçao. With the area’s impressive architecture and photo-worthy colors, it’s no wonder exploring Handelskade is among the best things to do in Curacao.
12. Visit Hato Caves
Just north of Willemstad, Curaçao’s famous Hato Caves are truly a sight to behold; while Curaçao’s northern coast is littered with caves, Hato Caves are the largest and most impressive of them all. Tickets include a guided tour, which is fantastic and does a great job explaining the science behind the site. You won’t need to spend too long exploring the cave, though at least 45 minutes will suffice.
You can find excursions to Hato Caves from Willemstad and Jan Thiel, and can generally choose from shorter excursions just to the caves or opt for a half-day trip that also includes visits to nearby beaches. Either is an excellent option and makes transport a breeze!
13. Visit the Plasa Bieu for Local Eats
Is there any better way to get to know a place than through its food? While Curaçao has more than its fair share of cute cafes, cutting-edge restaurants, and fun beach bars, Plasa Bieu, the Old Market in the heart of Willemstad is a hands-down favorite, great for cheap eats and the freshest local favorite dishes.
Plan to spend at least one afternoon exploring and eating at Plasa Bieu – I recommend walking the whole market before finding a vendor that looks particularly appealing! Stews, seafood, rice dishes, plantains, and other Caribbean favorites feature heavily here, with goat stew being a particularly delicious favorite!
Plasa Bieu is located in the center of Willemstad; you can’t miss this place – nor would you want to!
14. Take a Walking Tour of Willemstad
I’ve been to a number of Caribbean capital cities, most of which are quite unremarkable, but Curaçao’s capital of Willemstad is truly a destination all its own. Even if you’re picturing your time in Curaçao as one spent sipping drinks by the pool, I encourage you to check out all this city has to offer.
One of the best ways to get to know Willemstad is by taking a walking tour with locals. We loved the walking tour with Dundu Tours, led by local tour guide Jacqueline – she does such a brilliant job showing her passion for Curaçao and her abundant knowledge of the very best of Willemstad.
Tour the major attractions and some of the more hidden gems of Willemstad, including areas filled with street art and local favorite spots, all while learning more about Curaçao’s history, cuisine, and culture. Take just a few hours out of your day for a walking tour of Willemstad – it might just be one of your favorite parts of your trip.
15. Sip Blue Curaçao
There’s no more famous export of Curaçao than Blue Curaçao, the sweet orange-flavored blue liquor that carries the island’s name.
Of course, you’ll find beverages with Blue Curaçao on menus at restaurants around the island, but if you’re looking to really *experience* Blue Curaçao, make sure to head to Landhuis Chobolobo. This former historic home was purchased by Senior & Co. in 1947 and converted into the headquarters for the famous liquor.
Visitors can visit the historic home and tour the distillery – tours are inexpensive and informative. Of course, there is also a taste-testing portion, which includes a choice of cocktail and gelato. It’s a great way to spend an hour and a fun way to learn about Curaçao even if you’ve never tried Blue Curaçao before!
16. Shop at Rif Fort Village
Located at the entrance to St. Anna Bay, the impressive 19th-century Rif Fort has been given and transformed into a popular area for shopping and dining in the heart of downtown. Wander among old fort walls and bastions and discover some of Willemstad’s best attractions for a fascinating mix of old and new.
Part of the joy of visiting Rif Fort is just wandering along the fort walls, taking in the waterfront views, finding the historic cannons, and checking out this storied spot. Throughout the area, you’ll find cool shops selling an array of souvenirs, jewelry, clothing, and plenty else to bring home with you.
While the area is packed with bars, cafes, and restaurants, Ceviche 91 on the fort’s top floor is a popular spot with ultra-fresh seafood, great sushi, and of course, incredible ceviche – it’s a true Curaçao favorite. The views of the city and waterfront from the terrace are particularly impressive, and it’s the perfect spot to catch the sunset.
17. Swim with Dolphins at Dolphin Academy Curaçao
If you’ve ever wanted to swim with dolphins, Dolphin Academy Curaçao is definitely the spot for you. This is one of the only facilities in the entire world that works with trained dolphins in the open sea, meaning you’re in for a one-of-a-kind experience that is just about as ethical as you can get!
Dolphin Academy Curaçao offers a few different experiences with dolphins, including a dolphin encounter (perfect for all ages!), a dolphin swim, a dolphin snorkel, and even an open-water scuba dive with dolphins along the reef. All of the dolphin experiences are truly unique and much more interactive and in-depth than similar dolphin experiences you’ll find elsewhere in the Caribbean. If this is an experience you’ve been waiting for, now is your time!
18. Explore Christoffel National Park
Curaçao’s largest national park, located towards the western side of the island, was created in 1978 when three historic plantations merged to protect the impressive natural flora and fauna on this idyllic part of the island. Today, Christoffel National Park is a stunning spot whether you’re in the mood for a scenic drive through the park or something a little more adventurous.
A highlight of a visit is climbing Curaçao’s highest mountain, Mount Christoffel, which is an impressive 1,220 feet (372 meters) and boasts absolutely incredible views of the entire island, and the ocean beyond. This moderately difficult is only available to visitors in the morning, so plan to arrive by 8:00 AM at the latest if you want to attempt it, though the ticket office opens at 6:00 AM, meaning you can also enjoy sunrise here. Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen.
19. Visit Santa Martha Lookout
Curaçao’s rugged western end is known for its beaches, but don’t speed to white sands and miss out on some of the other gems on this side of the island. For a quick taste of what this side of the island has to offer, make sure to stop at the Santa Martha Lookout, with its expansive views over the Santa Martha Bay and surrounding hillsides.
Whether you’re in Curaçao during the drier season or in time to see the hillside covered with more lush green, the view is extremely impressive. Easily accessible and just off the roadside, it’s also a breeze to visit.
Head towards Playa Santa Martha (Santa Martha Baai) near the town of Soto and you’ll drive right past it! While Playa Santa Martha isn’t anything particularly special, you’ll be just 10 to 15 minutes from the nearby beaches like Playa Lagun that you certainly won’t want to miss.
20. Eat at Jaanchie’s
While you’re on the west end of the island, make sure to stop at the famous Jaanchie’s for some delicious local food. Located just north of Playa Kalki, it’s easily accessible if you’re visiting nearby beaches. We’ve been visiting Jaanchie’s for years, and Jaanchie himself still visits your table and explains the menu! It’s a true family spot and a great local gem.
Menu highlights include beef and goat stew (delicious!), rice and beans, and plantains. You’ll surely spot the iguana on the menu – long a favorite at Jaanchie’s and actually quite good! You really can’t go wrong with whatever you order here.