Welcome to Curaçao, one of the Caribbean’s most colorful destinations. Tucked in the Southern Caribbean off the coast of South America, Curaçao is decidedly unique. Its capital, Willemstad, feels like a European capital (perhaps because the island is still considered a country within the greater Kingdom of the Netherlands). The island is bright, airy, and fantastically tropical, with Easter-egg colored buildings and cobblestone streets around every turn.
The blend of Caribbean and Dutch influences makes it a fantastic place to visit, and some of the best things to do in Curaçao relate both to the ocean and to the island’s history. The suggestions below will give you a good idea of the variety of adventure available on this amazing island.
Unwind at Mambo Beach
Mambo Beach is just as fun as the name implies and is one of the best beaches in Curaçao. With calm water ideal for swimming and floating, you could laze the day away in the surf. But if you’re the kind of person who gets antsy after lounging for too long, you’ll find plenty to do just off the soft sand.
Play beach tennis, rent snorkel equipment, or stroll along the cute shops on Mambo Beach Blvd. No matter how you spend the afternoon, make time to sample a piña colada at a beach bar—it’s one of the best things to do in Curaçao after a day in the sun.
Go Underground in Hato Cave
As with many islands, Curaçao was formed through centuries and eons of volcanic activity and lava flows, which eventually piled up to form the island’s landmass. And if you’ve studied geology, you’ll know what else comes with lava flows: caves.
Curaçao has many caves on the island, but the largest and most impressive is Hato Cave. On a Hato Cave tour, you’ll spend about 45 minutes in the 300,000-year-old cave, learning about the various stalagmite and stalactite formations as well as the history of the cave. It’s well lit and has a smooth path, but if you’re afraid of bats, you may want to opt instead to stroll through the cactus garden outside the cave.
Swim with Dolphins at the Dolphin Academy
Part of the popular Sea Aquarium Park, the Dolphin Academy is your chance to get in the water with some of the island’s most popular marine residents. There are various programs available, including one for people who want to stay in water no deeper than their waists, but one of the very best is the dolphin snorkel. You’ll be able to free dive and play with the dolphins just below the surface as they play in their lagoon. An instructor will be on hand to answer questions and teach you about the dolphins’ advanced echolocation abilities.
While at the Sea Aquarium, leave a bit of extra time to wander around the other facilities, including a huge walk-through aquarium, sea lion encounters, and even chances to feed sharks and flamingos. Scuba diving dolphin encounters are also an option for adults with open-water certifications.
Snorkel on a Sunken Tugboat
One of the very best things to do in Curaçao for anyone who likes the ocean is to jump in the water and go snorkeling at Caracas Bay. The area around the peninsula is protected as a national park, which means fishing and industry are quite regulated and the underwater marine populations are thriving. There are multiple areas to see underwater, all of which offer different sites.
Head into the water just off Tugboat Beach, where you’ll find a sunken tugboat in around 15 to 20 feet of water. It’s been there for about 30 years, so it’s well established as a habitat for different kinds of fish.
There are a few other snorkel sites in the bay—Director’s Bay and Small Wall are two of the most well known—and there’s a chance of seeing exotic fish, lobsters, eels, octopus, sea turtles, and more at any of the sites.
Hike at Boca Tabla National Park
If you love the beach but aren’t willing to forgo a workout just because you’re on vacation, spend the morning with an active hike through Boca Tabla National Park in the northern part of the island. The park’s beautiful beaches and large waves crashing against the cliffs make it one of the most captivating places on the island.
There are several hikes in the park, including the Boka Pistol Trail (ideal for watching the huge waves smash into the coastline) and the Boka Wandomi Trail, which leads past lava flows to a natural bridge. Taking landscape photos here (especially around sunset) is one of the most popular things to do in Curaçao for traveling photographers.
Taste Blue Curaçao at the Landhuis Chobolobo
The first thing you’ll notice about the Landhuis Chobolobo Distillery is no doubt its sunshine-yellow facade, which matches the bright colors found throughout Willemstad. Here, you can tour the distillery, learn how to make cocktails, or just swing by the gift shop to pick up some souvenirs for folks back home.
If you’ve got extra time, swing by the Landhuis Chobolobo cocktail bar to sample some of the island’s most creative cocktail creations. Of course, you can try island classics like a Blue Lagoon or Cosmopolitan, but if you’re feeling daring, opt instead for one of Landhuis Chobolobo’s specialty cocktails created by the bar staff and not found anywhere else on Curaçao.
Learn About Native Plants at the Dinah Veeris Herb Gardens
If you love plants, herbal remedies, or just learning about local knowledge, stop by the Dinah Veeris Gardens. Dinah Veeris is one of the island’s most well-known herbal healers and teachers, and she opened the garden in 1991 as a home base for her knowledge. Along with her team, Dinag grows more than 300 species of native plants and herbs, many of which she uses to make the organic products sold on-site.
The garden is also called “Den Paradera,” meaning “the place you want to stay.” Taking a stroll past the plants is one of the best things to do in Curaçao if you’re interested in botany, but fortunately, you can still find her products at shops around Willemstad if you’re unable to make it out to that part of the island.
Shop for Local Gifts at Rif Fort Village
Wandering through Rif Fort Village is one of the best things to do in Curaçao whenever you need a break from the beach. Built in the 1800s, it was originally a fort to protect the island, which explains the dozens of cannons and thick, tall stone walls. However, now that the threat of a pirate invasion is gone, it’s been converted into a shopping area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In addition to souvenir shops and artisan boutiques, Rif Fort Village has plenty of great restaurants, live music, and entertainment on weekend evenings. If shopping isn’t your thing, you’ll be happy to know there’s both a museum and interactive displays about the fort and its history.
Sunbathe at Knip Beach
For a lazy day in the sun, you can’t do any better than Knip Beach. It’s one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful beaches owing to its geography: it’s a sandy stretch of beach bookended by two rocky cliffs. While the beach is shallow, soft, and sandy, there are rocky and reefy sections underwater near the rock cliffs where it’s possible to see all kinds of colorful fish, either by snorkeling or wading.
Knip Beach doesn’t have much in the way of restaurants or beach bars, so it’s best to bring along everything you think you might need. However, in peak tourist season and on summer weekends, you’ll often find locals with food carts selling homemade snacks, drinks, and beach treats like ice cream. Bring a few extra bucks with you as it’s a great place to try some of the best food in Curaçao.
Learn about Curaçao at the Museum Kurá Hulanda
The Museum Kurá Hulanda chronicles the history of the peoples who built Curaçao. The museum takes a deep dive into the island’s human migratory history, colonization, and West African influences. It also has an extensive collection of relics and art from various cultures and periods.
The museum’s entrance fee includes a guide to the various displays. You can also arrange a tour if you call the museum a day or so in advance.
Whether you want to unwind on the beach or hike up a mountain, Curacao has it all. What better way to explore the stunning island than on a cruise to Curacao? You’ll visit other islands in the Southern Caribbean, like Aruba and Bonaire, while surrounded in complete luxury.
Browse cruise itineraries on our website and book your Caribbean getaway today.