Part of the Netherlands Antilles group along with St Maarten, Curacao is the largest island in the archipelago, an arid and largely flat island stretching about 40 miles in length. The southern coastline is scattered with spectacular bays, beaches and secluded coves and is more inhabited than the rough northern shore where the weather-beaten terrain takes the brunt of the wind, and cliffs are pounded by the rough surf. The best beaches are scattered along the southwest coast where the calm, crystal clear water also makes it a tropical paradise for divers, snorkelers and swimmers; towards the east are the largest bays, where the main port and historic capital city Willemstad is situated.
Curacao is an ideal holiday destination for underwater lovers, as the excellent visibility, warm water, active reef conservation and variety of dive and snorkeling sites ranks the island among the most popular dive locations in the Caribbean. On land there are also several interesting sites to visit, including the "living" Hato Caves where centuries-old stalagmites and stalactites are still being formed; the protected wildlife preserve of Christoffel Park encompassing Mt Christoffel, the highest point on the island, with fantastic views over the island from among the park's exotic flowers, bent divi divi trees and blue iguanas; and the dramatic caverns carved out of the limestone cliffs by the crashing waves within Shete Boka National Park.
The capital city and seat of government for the Netherlands Antilles, Willemstad has been a major international trading center for centuries, its society a mixture of different nationalities, races and cultures and its shops filled with goods from around the world. Old Willemstad dates from the 18th and 19th centuries and is one of the most remarkable historic areas in the Caribbean with charming alleys and superb Dutch colonial architecture housing restaurants, museums, shops and hotels. Many of the beautiful Dutch buildings have been adapted to life in a hot and breezy climate and sport Caribbean-style shutters, porches and verandas, lending further charm to the cheerfully painted historic structures.
Whether the days are spent in sun-soaked relaxation or by taking advantage of the endless activities on offer, on land or in the water, when the sun begins to set the trend is to slip into one of the bars, where happy hour is just the beginning of the night to come.
Curacao experiences a warm and sunny climate throughout the year with average temperatures of 81F, which are tempered by the constant trade winds from the east. It is located in the tropics and although outside of the hurricane zone tropical storms can cause uncharacteristically bad weather at any time of year. The rainy season is from October to February, but what little rain it receives usually falls at night.
Best Time to Fly to Curacao
December through April is the peak season, out of the rainy season and when the temperatures are low in Europe and North America and tourists look for some winter sun.
Easter time is also very popular, with carnival at Mardi Gras drawing lots of visitors.
The most rain falls in October and November. Temperatures remain good throughout the year though, and the island is not in the main hurricane belt, so it is a good destination year-round.
Getting around Curacao
Public transportation is available, though irregular and often slow. There is a bus network as well as taxis. When taking a taxi make sure you agree the fare before setting off.
Renting a car allows greater freedom to explore the island and will help you find your way to less crowded beaches.
Curacao Travel Information
- Willemstad is the capital of the country, divided into two parts by St Anna Bay. The Queen Emma Bridge connects the town. To get between one and the other, or just for a good view of the harbor and town, take a stroll across the bridge. Be aware, however, that it opens up when large ships come into the harbor. If you find it open, a free ferry takes passengers across the bay.
- To explore the city, with its colorful Dutch houses, it is worth taking a guided tour. The Willemstad City Highlight Tour from the tourist office takes in the city as well as the lue curacao liquor factory and the Jewish quarters.
- Operating at Curaco’s “seaquarium”, the dolphin academy has various courses for interaction with dolphins. After some basic training, you can swim with the bottle-nosed dolphins in one of their pools. Very popular with children.
- The ostrich park is another spot for animal lovers, though you might prefer not to dwell on the fate of the ostriches, which are being grown for meat. Feed the birds, learn about them from the keepers, and even take a ride.
- The “Yellow Jeep Safari” from the tourist office is a trip exploring the interior of the island. The off-road vehicles visit the North Shore and Christoffel National Park, which contains landhouses – old plantation houses – and Mount Christoffel.
- Despite its name, the floating market of Punda isn’t actually afloat. The stalls are right on the waterfront and sell fruit and vegetables and, naturally, lots of fish. Arrive early in the morning to see the market in full swing and sample some wares for breakfast.
- There are a number of private resorts on the island, most of which offer special day passes. If you feel like getting away from it all, head to Breezes, the first "super-inclusive" resort in the area. A day pass will get you entrance to the casino, five swimming pools, breakfast and lunch buffet as well as free drinks from the bar. Sure, it’s not authentic, but sometimes it’s nice just to unwind…