Curacao, Dive in to the Heart of the Dutch Caribbean
Over the years of living and literally breathing diving here in Curacao, not to mention being a professional diver and attending countless international dive shows, it never surprises me to hear a lot of the same frequently asked questions about our Dutch Caribbean island.
Some of the more regular questions include: Where is Curaçao?, Why should I dive in Curacao versus Bonaire?, How do I pronounce Curaçao?, Is there things to do on Curaçao?, and so many more. The truth is, this is why I founded Dive Curaçao in the first place and as a resident, I am positive that even if you cannot find the answer you are looking for here, I think I may know a few people to ask. Click here and please contact us.
If you are thinking, planning or just dreaming of your next Caribbean dive vacation, keep reading this complete dive travel guide to dive in to Curacao!
Where is Curaçao Located?
Curaçao is located 43 miles (70km) off the North Coast of Venezuela, outside of the hurricane belt in southern part of the Caribbean. Curaçao is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of The Netherlands and, together with Aruba and Bonaire, it constitutes the “ABC” islands. Curaçao is considered part of the Dutch Caribbean that also includes St. Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius, also known as Statia.
Located at just 12° north of the Equator, Curaçao’s consistently warm and sunny climate creates the perfect scenario for year round tourism. That coupled with the average temperature around 27°C (81°F) plus the cooling winds blowing constantly from the east (strongest in the spring months) provide excellent conditions for adventure travelers and beach goers alike.
How do I pronounce Curaçao?
The name starts with a hard ‘C’, while the ‘ç’ (c-cedilla) is pronounced as an “S”. So, this means that Curaçao is pronounced as ‘Cure-ah-souw’.
No one is sure how Curaçao got its name, but one theory is that it comes from the Portuguese word that means “heart”, since the island was the center of commerce in the seventeenth century. Although the name has remained, Portuguese is only one of the languages that you will hear on the island of Curacao: Papiamento, Dutch, English and Spanish are the others.
Traveler Tip: Language of Curaçao – Papiamento for tourists
Why Dive in Curacao?
Scuba Diving in Curacao is the number one thing to DO – but of course there are plenty of things to do in Curacao and no right way to experience any of them. All travelers can make the island their own experience while embracing its authentic, unforgettable spirit that clearly distinguishes Curaçao from other Caribbean and worldwide destinations.
The fact is that Curaçao is surrounded by more than 104 sq. km (40 sq. miles) of some of the best coral reefs in the Caribbean, but has remained off radar for most diving enthusiasts.
When it comes to diving in Curacao, your experience should not be limited to either the East or West because there is so much incredible magic that is happening just below the waterline. With over 70 world class diving and snorkeling sites to choose from that lie along the southern coastline, you will be hard pressed to find a bad one, whether it is a shore dive or a boat dive. But, to truly uncover this “best-kept secret of the Caribbean” you will need to prepare yourself to be overwhelmed by the intense amount of life and color when you plunge yourself into the warm turquoise waters.
These healthy fringing reef systems are attracting all kinds of marine life visitors, and hopefully more human visitors now too.
Dive Sites in Curacao
The island nation of Curaçao is home to some of the Caribbean’s best dive sites that consist of densely populated coral reefs. Though this little Dutch Caribbean island is best known for its colourful colonial waterfront in Willemstad, too few know about the rainbow of vibrant coral and marine life under its waters. That is why Dive Curacao developed the useful Curacao Diving and Snorkeling Guide with an interactive map that allows you to easily visit over 70 world class diving and snorkeling sites. Start mapping out your next Caribbean diving adventure!
Traveler Tip: Top 10 Dive Sites in Curaçao
Dive Shops in Curacao
The Dive Shops in Curacao and retail scuba stores are owned and operated by passionate divers who have dedicated their lives to creating responsible businesses. By shopping at Curaçao’s scuba diving equipment retail stores and dive shops, you will ensure that you will always have the best service, expert training, excellent travel opportunities, premium rental equipment and the advice you want and need as diver when on vacation.
Dive Resorts in Curacao
Planning your next trip to Curaçao, but wondering where to stay? Accommodation is a prominent part of the travel experience, which is why Dive Travel Curacao has partnered with the BEST Curaçao Dive Resorts, Hotels and Apartments for individual divers, groups, families and your friends.
LionsDive Beach Resort Curaçao
This is the natural place to consider for your next ideal dive vacation to Curaçao. With Ocean Encounters as the on-site dive shop, they are ready with 4 custom dive boats to take you out on incredible boat diving experiences including a menu of special trips. At LionsDive Beach Resort, you can indulge yourself in its warm, casual atmosphere that is set amidst a stunning tropical location because it is the perfect resort for everyone especially if you are a beach-lover, a snorkeler, or an avid scuba diver.
Sunscape Curaçao Resort, Spa and Casino
Grab your dive equipment or some snorkel gear and step on to one of Ocean Encounters boats or take a giant stride right off the pier into the crystal-clear Caribbean waters that a host of marine life call home for an unforgettable shore dive at, Oswaldo’s Drop Off, the house reef. Memories created at Sunscape Curaçao Resort, Spa & Casino last a lifetime.
Dreams Curacao Resort, Spa and Casino
Relax poolside or wade in the warm Caribbean waters, satisfy your taste buds at one of our seven dining options and four bars, or pamper yourself at the Spa by Pevonia®.
The beautifully designed accommodations and the Unlimited-Luxury® experience paired with the vibrancy of this unique island makes Dreams Curacao Resort, Spa and Casino perfect for your next dive vacation.
Enjoy an experience that is above and beyond the traditional all-inclusive vacation experience with Unlimited-Luxury®. It includes every amenity you’d expect and it’s all wristband free!
All West Apartments and Diving
Since 1996, All West Apartments & Diving has been located in the small fishing village of “Westpunt”, Curaçao. With different accommodation options to choose that all boast a spectacular sea view, All West Apartments is really known for catering to total diving freedom with their relaxed Sleep, Drive and Dive Packages, a nice atmosphere and the individual care of their guests.
The village of Westpunt is known for it’s excellent scuba diving provided by GO WEST Diving, and is home to several outstanding shore and boat dive sites including a submerged airplane wreck and beautiful reefs including Playa Piskádo, the beach below All West Apartments, a perfect places to swim, snorkel with turtles and of course, shore dive the famous site called Neptune’s Kingdom.
Dive in to the Flavors of Curacao
In Westpunt, we would highly recommend visiting Sol Food and Sunshine Getaway for lunch or a casual dinner. Follow the signs to GO WEST Diving or the Lodge Kura Hulanda, near Playa Piskádo, and then turn left at the ball field where you will find your way to Sol Food and Sunshine Getaway. You will be served a great a meal that could include the best pizza you can find on Curacao, which will undoubtedly be served with a side of friendly local advice from Sunshine. They’re only open Friday to Sunday, so it is recommended that you make a reservation.
On the Punda side, we recommend that enjoy a relaxing beverage along the waterfront at the Iguana Cafe to watch the “swinging old lady” open and close to allow ships to enter Willemstad’s massive inland harbor. These ships get impressively close and it is always a miracle to see how they manoeuvre in and out. Alternatively, you may like to enter Fort Amsterdam, the large yellow historic building south of Iguana Cafe which is the site of the Governor’s Palace and the 1769 Dutch Reformed Church. For dinner, we suggest a visit to the Restaurant De Gouveneur on the Otrobanda side, or go to one of the many restaurants in the Pietermaai District.
An area frequently missed by tourists is the Pietermaai area which is also referred to as the “SOHO” of Curacao. Many of the run-down buildings have been totally restored over the last decade and turned into colorful apartments, boutique hotels, restaurants, and trendy bars.
Mundo Bizarro is a not just a fabulous restaurant with Cuban decor but it is also an eclectic bar with daily happy hours from 5:30 to 6:30pm with live music every Saturday. Other restaurants in the Pietermaai district include 27 Curacao, the oceanfront restaurant of Bijblauw, and the gourmet favorite of KOME. For more information on the Top 10 Restaurants in Curacao, click here.
Travelers Tip: Discover Punda Vibes’ every Thursday night. The mission of Punda Vibes’ is to make you fall in love with our dushi Punda.
Things to Do in Curacao
As mentioned earlier, Scuba Diving in Curacao is the number one thing to DO – but of course there are plenty of things to do in Curacao and no right way to experience any of them. Whether you love adventure, hiking, biking, sailing, shopping, exploring or just simply want to chill out on the beach, we can assure you, Curaçao is a Caribbean destination that has it all… and maybe more! Simply, it is your choice to experience it all, but it is also a perfect choice to do nothing at all too!
The following is a short list of our picks to highlight essential things to do while visiting Curaçao. Of course there are more experiences available, so please contact us for more information.
National Parks of Curaçao
Christoffel National Park – this is the largest and most biodiverse park on the island! In the park you can find stunning nature, the Christoffel Mountain, beautiful birds, the national white tailed deer and wonderful hiking trails. They offer tours, guided hikes on 8 different trails, and seasonal activities. Inside the park you can find the Savonet Museum that offers insight to a unique cultural and historical experience, not to mention a complete perspective on plantation life on Curaçao.
Shete Boka National Park – Follow the main road from Willemstad towards Westpunt until you see the Shete Boka National Park sign along the road. It’s quite a long way (26 miles), but you’ll see some great scenery as you go, including Mt. Christoffel. Shete Boka National Park is located on Curacao’s north coast and it is an absolutely amazing place with breathtaking views. To enter, there is a small fee but it is well worth it.
The three bokas (translated: mouths) that are protected sea turtle nesting grounds include the sea cave at Boka Tabla, Boka Pistol with its crashing powerful waves, and Boka Wandomi with its very impressive landscape. Also, take the time while there to see the impressive natural bridge and do not forget to carry water with you as you explore the area as there is little shelter from the sun.
Travelers Tip: Start your trek into the Parks early in the morning and ensure you pack plenty of water for hydration. Additionally, think about wearing appropriate foot wear and avoid using sandals or flip flops.
Top 5 Beaches of Curaçao
According to USA Today, Curaçao is a “Beach-hoppers’ paradise”!
Because, “If you’re looking for a long stretch of beach lined with resorts, you’re on the wrong island. Curacao’s coast is dotted with small coves, where you can sit back on a curve of sand surrounded by cacti-covered hills while gazing out onto the endless turquoise water ahead. Beach-hopping between coves, never knowing quite what the next one will look like, is a perfect way to spend a day.”
Kenepa Plantation – The Playa Kenepa beaches are two of the most popular free public beaches located on Curacao. Playa Kenepa Grandi (Grote Knip) and Playa Kenepa Chiki (Klein Knip) are regularly visited by both tourists and locals because the natural beauty and serenity that they exude. The overlook is breathtaking, and the water is calm and clear. If you are adventurous, there are a couple of spots to jump off the stone cliffs. Just be careful! The best snorkeling is at the wall on the left side. There’s also the Landhuis of the Kenepa Plantation to visit where you will hear; “Echoes of the past that resonate loud and clear, where aspirations of freedom were once reduced to hushed tones and secret drum beats…” wrote Susan Campbell, Freelance Travel Writer.
The Kenepa Plantation is the perfect place on Curaçao to get away from it all, to get lost in nature and spend a relaxing day on the beach with an aquatic wonderland just a few footsteps away, across the sand of these magnificent beaches.
Cas Abao Beach, also spelled Cas Abou, has been proclaimed to be the most beautiful beach of Curacao and is also in the top 5 of most beautiful beaches of the world.
According to Forbes: Cas Abao is one of the “Best Caribbean Beaches” – “With its clear turquoise water, waving palm trees and white sandy beach, Cas Abao is a true paradise. Located at the northwest coast of Curaçao, the beach is and ideal spot for shore diving, snorkeling, and swimming because of the spectacular shallows leading to the healthy fringing reef. Runners-up include Kenepa Grandi, Playa Kalki, Playa Porto Mari, Klein Curacao, and Kleine Kenepa.”
Playa Porto Mari – Located inside the historic Plantation PortoMari is one of Curacao’s more beautiful fully equipped beaches, about an eight-minute drive from Willibrordus church. The Valley at Playa Porto Mari (also called Porto Marie) is not only unique and diverse, it is also one of the top 10 sites on Curacao.
The “valley” between the two healthy parallel reefs is just a short swim out from shore where you will find a wide variety of healthy marine life on the fringing reef. This unique double reef system is accessible directly from the beautiful sandy beach where you can cruise through the large schools of blue tangs and curious trunkfish who are exploring the man-made habitat balls in the shallows.
Kokomo Beach in Vaersenbaai is an ideal beach to enjoy a quiet day with the whole family, have a great lunch, try one the delicious cocktails or just fall in love with the crystal clear water!! There are beach lounge chairs so you can relax, read a book, or just hang out with an ice-cold beer! Kokomo has no entrance-fee and they probably have the best beach chairs on the island. Kokomo also has an on-site dive center that can provide you with excellent advice or guide you around the amazing underwater world of Kokomo Beach.
Kokomo Beach Club, is a full service beach where you can find a beautiful restaurant and bar plus there are public restrooms and showers available. The Kokomo Beach House Reef is a very nice and pretty reef dive that is easily accessible from shore. The Car Wrecks, is located east of the Kokomo Beach House Reef at Vaersenbaai.
Mambo Beach Boulevard has more of the ambiance of a beach party than that of a conventional shopping mall. It features some 50 restaurants, bars and stores, including souvenir retailers and boutiques selling swimwear (as well as everything else you might need for a day in the sun). There are also water-sports operators, and your time browsing can be broken up by some time on the beach. There’s even a nightclub with a schedule of live performances that keeps the energy going into the afternoon and evening.
The Stella Maris Reef – located adjacent to Mambo Beach is the house reef of LionsDive Beach Resort & Ocean Encounters Diving. Ideally located inside the Curaçao National Marine Park, Coral Restoration Curaçao set-up their initial coral nurseries on this site due to the abundant health of this beautiful fringing reef. Click here to learn more about Coral Restoration Curaçao.
There is always more things to do in Curaçao
Private Boat Trips – Jump aboard and enjoy a boat trip to Klein Curaçao where you can spend the morning snorkeling or swimming in the bright blue waters off the beach, or sun tanning in one of the public palapas. Your captain will be preparing a bbq feast for lunch, complete with a choice of beverages. You will then finish the day cruising back to the mainland of Curaçao, basking in the glow of late afternoon sun.
Private Sailing Trips – The weather on Curacao is perfect for sailing. Explore the beautiful Curacao beaches and the blue Caribbean Sea with Maxie Sailing. Exclusive sailing, cruising, swimming, snorkeling and diving. If you wish to personalize your own private boat trips, let us know!
Curaçao Island Tours – Experience our island like a true local, as you follow Curaçao guides on off-road adventures, sailing along the coastline, beach hopping, or on your own customized tour for your group. We assure you, there is no shortage of hidden gems to see, or friendly locals eager to share them with you.
Are you ready start planning you next Caribbean adventure?
The only thing better than trying to navigate Curaçao on your own is allowing our local guides and our sustainable tourism partners to show you the all the secrets spots and telling you the incredible stories that go along with them.
We hope you will start thinking of packing your mask, fins, dive computer, certification card and your thirst for adventure as you consider traveling to Curacao. WHY? Because we believe that Curaçao is an incredible Dutch Caribbean island that is a world class scuba diving and vacation destination! We invite you visit Dive Travel Curaçao, and let us help you discover Curaçao so you can “feel it for yourself”! We hope to see you soon to Dive Curaçao!
Special thanks to our partners: Nature Pics Films, Frank Do, Gail Johnson Photography and the Curaçao Tourist Board for collaborating with us on this special Dive Curaçao Travel Guide, to assist us the wonderful videos and photographs.