Curaçao is a Caribbean destination with a difference, a small and skinny tadpole of an island that constitutes the mid-point of the ABCs. The environment isn’t your typical soft sands and jungle, with picture-perfect beaches and rugged headlands dressed in the odd bloom of palms and sea grasses, spiky cacti, and divi-divi trees.
Hidden coves like Playa Lagun, with its twin of rocky outcrops, and the salt-buffeted Shete Boka park, merely an image of the wild tropics, are a little more chiselled than that.
Add in the pulsing, captivating capital of Willemstad, which clings to its own bay on the island’s south-western tip, and you’ve got a historical and cultural component to boot.
Old Flemish homes and pontoon bridges, mediaeval forts (including one named after Amsterdam) and a plethora of intriguing museums may all be found here. Let’s check the Curacao things to do in.
1: Christoffel National Park
As the glory of the Caribbean sun falls behind the majestic form of Christoffel Mountain, piercing the horizon like the chiselled Matterhorn of the tropics, bats fly between the boughs of divi-divi trees in the early evening at Christoffel National Park.
Yes, this national park in the north, which covers 4,500 acres, is simply breathtaking.
Visitors are welcome to visit the rugged hiking trails and tackle the enormous stone mountain — a two-hour hike from bottom to summit.
Others will go looking for cottontails and unusual animals, as well as the fragrant Lady of the Night (a very lovely orchid) and a plethora of attractive hummingbirds in the air!
2: Visit Otrobanda and Punda
Visit Otrobanda and Punda The historically significant neighbourhood of Otrobanda is the indisputable heart of Willemstad, the island’s capital.
It has a special beauty, having been designated by UNESCO for its abundance of fine Dutch dwellings and pastel-painted terraces of Flemish-style townhouses.
Come stroll through the Brionplein, which runs parallel to the courses of St Anna Bay, and admire the painted colonial homes of Hoogstraat.
The Punda region is located across the sea. The magnificent facades of the Penha Building from 1708, as well as the palm-peppered lawns of Wilhelminapark, can be found here.
3: Savonet Museum
The Savonet Museum is one of the go-to destinations for travellers interested in the history of Curaçao and the ABC Islands. It is located in the heart of the picturesque Christoffel National Park, where the big peak on the island’s north side rises to a summit above the rainforests. It’s housed in a rebuilt plantation structure – previously the Savonet Plantation, one of the country’s oldest – and features exhibits that trace the region’s long history of human occupancy.
Expect tales of Arawak Indians dating back four millennia, tales of high-seas piracy, and a look at the centuries-long symbiosis of Curaçao’s tropical nature and its people.
4: Curaçao Carnival
The Curaçao Carnival is a dazzling explosion of colour and imagination. The huge cultural event, which has been developed over generations, is one of the most absorbing in the region.
It takes place every year in early spring, and it features troupes of local samba dancers dressed in vivid and bold Caribbean colours on the streets.
There’s also a lot of Calypso and Tumba music, as well as strange masquerades and dance processions.
Travelers will also have the opportunity to witness the customary burning of King Momo, whose massive effigy is set ablaze with fireworks at the conclusion of the festivities.
5: Shete Boka National Park
Shete Boka National Park, which is joined at the hip to the much more well-known reserve of Christoffel, falls down from the cactus-covered slopes on the island’s northern side to where the untamed Caribbean Sea crashes into the bays.
The area is well-known for its sequence of little inlets and as a turtle nesting hotspot. People travel from all over the world to witness the endangered green sea turtle and other carapace-topped sea animals.
Others will hike the maintained Wandomi Trail or Pistol Trail to conquer the rocky rocks and limpet-strewn headlands.
6: Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge
Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge Connecting Willemstad’s two historic sections – the Otrobanda and Punda – this sequence of pontoon boardwalks in the heart of the capital has become a symbol of Curaçao.
The structure was originally built as a toll bridge in 1888.
Today, visitors come to walk across the wooden planks and gaze out at the colourful mansions and Dutch-style houses that flank the water’s edge. Wait for the bridge to swing to the side to allow ships to pass through the harbour — it’s one of the landmark’s unique features, and the reason it’s affectionately known as “Our Swinging Old Lady.”
7: Baoase Dine In
Baoase Dine In Half culinary masterclass, half magnificent resort, Baoase is located south of Willemstad, within a stone’s throw from Curaçao’s boulder-strewn shoreline. With deck spaces and covered cabanas to hide the timber tables, the restaurant has sweeping views over the hotel’s pristine private lagoon and Bibi’s Island on top of it.
The menu, which features a medley of refined Carib delicacies with a European flare, never fails to impress.
Expect dishes like lionfish and avocado mashups, wagyu beef tartars, and Asian-themed evenings and cooking seminars.
Blauwbaai is a wonderfully lovely little beach surrounded by the palm gardens and golf courses of the Blue Bay Resort, approximately north of Willemstad city.
The bay is surrounded by breeze-buffeted palm groves and small rocks, and is popular with both locals and visitors. While the sands are ideal for sunbathing and beachcombing throughout the day, it’s the undersea that attracts the most visitors.
The ocean floor is blanketed in corals, and there are schools of multi-colored tropical fish aplenty, making this cove popular snorkelling and swimming area.