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Curaçao

13 Best Curaçao Tourist Attractions

Handelskade waterfront; © Curaçao Tourism Board

The best Curaçao tourist attractions and things to do include the historical city of Willemstad as well as the Curaçao sea aquarium, parks, HATO caves and liqueur factories. UNESCO has chosen Willemstad as a cultural heritage of the world.

One of the most famous Curaçao attractions is the capital city of Willemstad. Our day-long walk through the city center showed why UNESCO chose it as a cultural heritage of the world. It is very Dutch.

Cruise and hotel visitors to Curaçao will find that Willemstad offers more than enough things to do in one visit. A walk through the city reveals great historical places, monuments and architecture. A national shore excursion operator offered a guided walking tour that costs about $30 and takes 90 minutes.

1) More About Willemstad

Willemstad has more than 750 historical buildings with many of them along or near the famously colorful Handelskade waterfront. The waterfront is a popular photographic opportunity because of its vibrant colors and interesting architecture.

St. Anna Bay divides the city into two major districts—Punda on the east and Otrobanda on the west. Visitors will enjoy the famous Queen Emma Bridge, a swinging pontoon bridge that connects the two districts over the canal.

Like many visitors, we especially liked sitting at the outdoor restaurants along the canal and watching the bridge open and close for boat traffic.

A highlight of Punda is Fort Amsterdam, built by the Dutch after they captured the island from Spain in 1634. It now serves as the Government seat of the Netherlands Antilles.

Unlike the orderly grid of Punda, Otrobanda is filled with twisting streets and alleyways, many shops and restaurants and a variety of colorful and historic buildings.

Curacao Sea Aquarium
© Curaçao Tourist Board

2) Curacao Sea Aquarium

Located on the oceanfront at Bapor Kibra, the Curaçao Sea Aquarium is an ocean water system because of seawater pumped continuously into it.

Visitors can snorkel or dive with stingray, turtles, fish and sharks among the 400 species at the facility. Other highlights include feeding shows, a Touch Tank and video presentations.

3) Dolphin Academy

Dolphins
Dolphin Academy is a popular Curaçao tourist attraction. Credit: Depositphotos

Like a growing number of Caribbean islands, Curaçao has a facility where visitors can swim with dolphins. Visitors experience dolphins in six different programs at Dolphin Academy in Willemstad.

Dolphin Encounter allows them to stand on a platform in the water about waist deep, learn about the dolphins and have moderate contact with them. In Dolphin Swim, participants can swim next to dolphins and pet them.

For Dorsal Ride, two dolphins will pick up swimmers and give them rides by holding on to their dorsal fins. In Dolphin Snorkel and Dolphin Open Water Dive, participants will dive on a reef with the dolphins. Dolphin Academy teaches participants about being a dolphin trainer.

Prices range from about $150 to $200 or more per person depending on the program. Note that the Sea Aquarium is just a quick taxi drive from the cruise pier.

4) Swimming with Sea Turtles

Like Barbados, visitors to Curacao can swim with sea turtles. After a 45-minute bus ride to Grote Knip beach, visitors will spend an hour snorkeling with the turtles, which come right up to low water and even the beach. Prices often start at $95.

5) Klein Curacao Beach

The island has 17 beaches, most of which are located on the southwestern coast ranging from the northern tip to southern tip. Note that some charge admission for access. There are no good beaches within walking distance of the cruise port.

Curaçao’s longest and whitest beach is on Klein Curaçao, an uninhabited island eight miles off the southeast coast. It is the most popular beach with shore excursion operators. One example shore excursion via catamaran has prices starting at $130.

Kenepa is one of the most popular beaches because of its two coves. A popular choice for families is Porto Marie, which is about 18 miles or 30 kilometers from the cruise port.

6) Golf

Vacationers will find two 18-hole and one nine-hole golf courses. Curaçao Golf and Squash Club is the nine hole course; phone: +(5999) 737-3590. Blue Bay has an 18-hole golf course and resort; phone: +(5999) 868-1755. Hyatt Regency has an 18-hole Pete Dye-designed championship golf course; phone: +(5999) 840-688.

7) Ostrich Farm

The Curaçao Ostrich Farm is one of the largest Ostrich farms outside of Africa. Visitors can see more than 600 animals, learn about their habits, hold an egg, pet chicks and paint Ostrich eggs. The farm’s restaurant specializes in African food.

8) Hato Caves

The Hato cave covers 4,900 square meters and has limestone formations, pools, waterfalls and a Madonna statue.

It also has a colony of long nose fruit bats. The caves are open seven days a week and have tours on the hour starting at 10 a.m. and going until 4 p.m.

Shore excursions usually combine Hato Caves with other attractions such as an island tour. They cost about $50 per person with small discounts for adults.

9) Underwater Marine Park

Among the snorkeling opportunities around the island is the Curaçao Underwater Marine Park, which extends 12 miles along the southern coastline.

Views include shipwrecks, expanses of hard and soft coral, and massive numbers of fish.

Curacao scuba diving
The island is popular with scuba divers. © Curaçao Tourism Board

10) Scuba Diving

Curaçao boasts 40 different dive areas with 65 dive sites including plane wrecks and a sunken tug boat.

Barracuda Point is a chance to meet curious barracuda. Playa Piskado, Playa Kalki, Jan Thiel and Kokomo Beach are popular with divers. Caracasbaai beach also is often used as an access point.

11) Christoffel Park

Christoffel Park is the largest national park of Curaçao and is home to wild orchids, the Palabora, the rare native barn owl, Curaçao White Tailed deer, and eight hiking trails including one to the top of Mt. Christoffel.

12) Shete Boka National Park

The park has 10 inlets where three species of turtles nest. Boka Tabla is the first inlet and has large waves that crash against an underground cave.

13) Liqueur Factory

Visitors to Landhuis Chobolobo can watch and learn about the production of the island’s famous Blue Curaçao liqueur.

Landhuis Chobolobo is a free-access country home in Salina. Visitors can take a self-explanatory tour in the visitor’s’ center and receive a free liqueur tasting. The center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
December 12, 2023

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