Curaçao is an island in the Caribbean Sea, among the group known as the ABC Islands alongside Aruba and Bonaire. This trio is located near Venezuela, and is considered to be outside the Caribbean's so-called "hurricane zone"; vacations to the island are rarely disrupted by tropical storms.
|Currency||Netherlands Antillean guilder (ANG)|
|Population||160.3 thousand (2017)|
|Electricity||120±10 volt / 55±5 hertz (NEMA 1-15, NEMA 5-15)|
|Time zone||Atlantic Time Zone, America/Curacao|
|edit on Wikidata|
One of the most notable things about the island is its unique culture:
- The architecture is distinctively Dutch but with the houses painted in beautiful pastel shades. Visitors often see it as a colorful, tropical version of Amsterdam.
- The lifestyle is very laid back with lots of people just working enough to get by.
- The local language is a creole called Papiamentu (see "Talk" below)
Curaçao is warm and sunny throughout the year. The average temperature is about 27° C (81° F). Trade winds with a cooling effect blow constantly from the east. The rainy season is between October and February. Showers during the rainy season occur mostly at night and are usually short. Total annual rainfall is around 570 mm (22 inches).
The island lies outside of the hurricane belt, and a hurricane has not made landfall in Curaçao since the United States National Hurricane Center started tracking hurricanes. Prehurricane tropical storms occasionally affect Curaçao; the last one to do so was Tomas in 2010.
Mainstream weather websites are largely inaccurate with Curaçao weather forecasts. One of the most accurate sources for weather is the Curaçao Meterological Department website.
The native language, Papiamentu, is a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish (90%) and Dutch (10%), but with a very basic grammar and a limited vocabulary. It is exclusively spoken on Curaçao, Bonaire, and Aruba (where it is spelled Papiamento). Official spelling exists, but Aruba has a spelling that is different from Curaçao and Bonaire. Due to the limitations of Papiamentu, in education it is only used in the infant classes. Dutch is used in the higher classes and governmental affairs. One term often encountered is "dushi". "Dushi" is a generic term to describe everything good. It can be translated as "nice" (view), "beautiful", "sexy" (person), "delicious" (food), "honored" (guest). Another important word is "danki", which means "thank you" ("dushi danki" is thus "thank you very much").
Countries eligible for a visa-free entry are shown in cyan on image to the right.
Other countries require obtaining a visa, which is valid for Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and the Caribbean Netherlands and allows multiple entry for a maximum period of 90 days within 180 days. The maximum uninterrupted stay in one of the individual countries is 30 days. The visa is not valid for the European part of the Netherlands.
Those who want to travel by air can enter at Curaçao's airport, Hato International Airport (CUR IATA), located in Plaza Margareth Abraham, not far from the capital of Willemstad. It is served by international and regional carriers.
Before entering the island, a Digital Immigration Card must be filled out at the Curaçao Tourist Board's website. The paper-based ED-cards are no longer available as of 2019. It must be done at least 48 hours prior to departure.
Immigration can take a very, very long time (easily 2 hours). Handicapped people can wait for their turn in a seating area at the far end of the immigration hall (usually hidden by the 10 or so lines of people queuing up).
To get from the airport to Willemstad without a rental car, there are three options:
- There is a public bus (Konvoi) departing once every 1-2 hours from the bus station on your right when exiting Arrivals, past the rental car desks. Cash only, see Get around > By bus.
- Taxi (see Taxi section, including Click app)
- Bus (see Get around section) drivers enter the airport to pick up passengers, though they are not taxis and might be chased away by airport staff. Despite that, they are a great way to get into the city cheaply if you have some cash, light luggage and enjoy an adventure. They usually go to the large Otrobanda bus terminal just west of Pietermaai.
Cruise ships arrive at Curaçao Mega Pier or the Curaçao Cruise Terminal. From these ports it's a short walk to many of the island's popular tourist destinations. Travelers can also enjoy nearby shopping at duty-free stores. Larger ships will arrive at the Mega Pier, and smaller ships will dock at the Cruise Terminal.
Sailors can enter at ports in Willemstad and has various marinas at which seafaring travelers can dock their ships.
There are no ferry services to other islands or to Venezuela.
A car is pretty much needed to get around the island. While almost all of Curaçao is accessible by bus, departures are often 1-2 hours in between and getting to many of the spots, especially on the western part of the island, is very hard or impossible.
Cars can be rented for about USD45 per day, from a variety of hirers at the Hato Airport and across the island. Driving in Willemstad is pretty similar to most Caribbean locations, with aggressive drivers, loosely enforced traffic laws and driving on the right side. Signs will be in Dutch using a European style. If you are involved in an accident, local laws prohibit moving your car. Dial 199 for road service. Do watch out for road hazards, such as donkeys, goats, and iguanas. If you stay outside of Willemstad, renting a car might be a good option as the taxi fares can be quite expensive and public transport is not very reliable.
If public transit isn't your style, and you don't want to rent your own car, taxis are another popular and easy-to-find option. They, too, are marked, and their plates read "TX." Some taxi drivers will even be your tour guide for the day, if you ask. But remember to agree on a fee before heading out.
Click Curaçao is the local ride-sharing app (equivalent to Uber/Lyft) with cheaper fares than regular taxis.
There are two types of buses on the island, BUS and Konvoi. The easiest way to ride is to go to one of the two bus stations in Willemstad. These include Otrobanda Station, across the street from the Rif Fort (see Willemstad) and Punda Station, at the post office, across from the Circle Market. For the most part, the Punda bus station serves stops along the eastern side of the ring, and to the east including Salina, Zelandia, Mambo, while the Otrobanda station serves destinations West of the Bay, to include the Airport, Piscadera and even Westpunt. The destinations do not typically overlap, so a 10- to 15-minute walk between stations may be necessary for cross island trips.
- Konvoi are large metro-style buses which run infrequently between major points in the city. Prices and routes are set at about 2 NAf, paid in cash only since the bus card requires residency. The ABC Curaçao app (Android / iOS) has a basic route planner and time tables which is helpful when traveling by public buses. 50 and 100 NAf bills are explicitly not accepted, so have smaller change ready.
- BUS., on the other hand, are 9-12 passenger vans which look a lot like a taxi. You can spot a BUS. by a cardboard cutout in the front windshield listing a number of its stops, instead of the yellow Taxi sign in the windshield or on the roof, and/or by the BUS letters on the license plate.
Unlike taxis, the BUS. prices are not negotiable (1-3 NAf), but the route is. A common practice with bus drivers is to negotiate how close the driver can take you to your destination. Be sure to ask the bus driver if the bus stops near your destination before entering. You can pay the driver while the BUS. is en route, or before exiting the bus. You can board a bus anywhere on the island by waiting at one of the ubiquitous yellow 'Bushalte' signs and waiving at a coming BUS or Konvoi. Taxi drivers will also try to lure you in. So make sure to look at the sign in the window or a license plate (that says BUS.) to avoid paying high taxi fares. The bus schedule varies, from about 6AM-8PM for most stops, and until 11PM or even midnight (and sometimes later) to Salina and Mambo. If you are ever lost during daylight hours, just find a yellow bushalte sign, and the bus should take you to either Punda or Otrobanda.
Ferries are a great way for shoppers to get to and from some of the island's main shopping areas.
- Willemstad waterfront; a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Westpunt: The westernmost point of the island has restaurants and beautiful small beaches abound.
- Nordpunt: The northernmost point of the island, much rougher sea than at Westpunt but beautiful nature (not recommended for swimming!).
- Watamulu, the "lungs of the island": Between Nordpunt and Westpunt hollow rocks and corals spit out water with every wave. An impressive sight and a must see when in the area. Note that one either needs a car or has to hike from Westpunt.
- Diving and snorkeling: The clear waters and maritime life make it an ideal diving destination. Divers are, after cruise ship tourists, the largest group of tourists. Plenty of dive schools offer courses and certifications.
- Christoffel National Park, ☏ . West Point. A national park that is run by the Carmabi Foundation. Christoffel National Park is home to Boca Grandi, Indian caves where you can see paintings left by the Arawak Indians and Mount Christoffel. (At 1,292 ft (394 m) high, Mount Christoffel is the highest point in Curaçao.)
- Shete Boka National Park, ☏ . West Point. A national park also run by the Carmabi Foundation, Shete Boka is home to the "7 bocas" including Boca Tabla and Boca Pistol (also known as "The Shooting Pistol") In season, some of the boca's serve as sea turtle breeding grounds.
- Curaçao Sea Aquarium, ☏ . Bapor Kibra Z/N. Home of the Dolphin Academy. This is one of the most popular attractions in Curaçao. If you wish to do a Dolphin activity book as early as possible! Entry price depends on activity you choose, but paying for an activity (such as something at the Dolphin Academy) gets you entry to all of the Aquarium.
- Hato Caves, ☏ . F.D. Rooseveltweg Z/N. Open 7 days a week, with tours twice a day. Coral and limestone caves that were carved out below the sea and born when the sea level dropped. There are beautiful stalactite and stalagmite formations as well as water pools and a waterfall. The cave is also home to a colony long nose fruit bats. (Because of the colony, photography is limited and not allowed in certain chambers.)
- Snorkeling and Diving at Curaçao's Marine Park. The complete southwestern side of Curaçao is one large coral reef and marine park. In the north you can dive at the Banda Abou National Park, in the center at the Central Curaçao Underwater Park and in the south at the Curacau Underwater Park. Curaçao offers plenty of dive sites, from easy shore dives, pristine coral bay dives to sheer drop-offs especially in the southeast.
- Curaçao Ostrich & Game Farm, ☏ . Santa Catharina. The Curaçao Ostrich Farm is one of the biggest Ostrich farms outside Africa. The tour takes you around the ostrich pens and incubator. Meat from this farm is shipped to Aruba (Ostrich is a red meat, which is high in protein and low in fat.)
- 1 Kunuku Aqua Resort, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Small all-inclusive resort with lots of water slides, pools and bars. Nice for a day with kids.
Lots of land on the eastern coast is privately owned and access is prohibited; exploration of these areas is not encouraged as private security services patrol most of the area and are known not to take intrusions lightly.
- Playa Kalki, also known as Alice in Wonderland, is located at the far west end of the island past the town of Westpunt. Ocean Encounters West is a full service dive shop. For a small fee, you have use of a dive locker for storage of personal items while diving/snorkeling and use of fresh water showers and equipment cleaning area.
- Playa Grote Kenapa, also known as Big Knip is a large sand beach west of the town of Lagun.
- Playa Kleine Kenapa, also known as Little Knip is another beach past the town of Lagun. It is a nice secluded beach with plenty of shade trees if you desire to stay out of the direct sun. The bar/restaurant on this site operates on a sporadic schedule, so visit prepared.
- Playa Jeremi is a small secluded beach slightly north of Lagun. There are no facilities here.
- Playa Lagun, is a secluded bay towards the western end of the island in the town of Lagun. It is a small sandy beach on a rectangular shaped bay with tall cliffs on each side. The waters adjacent to the cliffs is excellent place for snorkeling. Both sides of the bay along the cliffs are teaming with a wide variety of marine life and corals. The left side of the bay has a greater variety of underwater structure for a better experience.
- Playa Porto Mari is a large beach with a full service restaurant, and a complete dive shop including fresh water showers and restrooms operated by Porto Mari Sports
- Cas Abao is a beach on a plantation. It is a long stretched sandy beach with lots of facilities including huts, beach chairs, restaurant, fresh water showers and bathrooms.
- Daaibooi Baai is near Habitat in Rif st. Marie. Limited facilities. Huts, restrooms, grill area. Beautiful protected cove with calm waters. Avg depth: 20m
- Pirate Bay. Is located on the Piscadera Bay. The location is a short drive a few miles west of downtown Willemstad near The Marriott and Hilton hotels. It has many beach amenities including showers/bathrooms, Hook's dive center and an excellent full service restaurant.
- Habitat Beach is located in Rif St. Marie on the SW coast. It is Curaçao's Newest beach and has a full service Dive Operator, DiveVersity, Habitat Dive Hotel, Oceans Restaurant, and in the gated community of Coral Estate.
- Kontiki Beach is about a ten minute drive east from downtown Willemstad near Breezes hotel. Kontiki is a full service beach offering watersports, shops, beach-bar and a restaurant. It is also serviced by Ocean Encounters dive center. Can get very crowded.
- Mambo Beach. Is next door to Kontiki beach and is the place where locals and tourists alike visit for the nightlife partying here.
- Seaquarium Beach
- Jan Thiel Beach
- Barbara Beach Private beach and future home to the Hyatt Hotel.
- Klein Curaçao is an uninhabited island accessible only by boat.
Exchange rates for Netherlands Antilles Guilder
As of May 2018:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
The Netherlands Antilles guilder or florin, denoted by the symbol "ƒ" or "NAf" is the official currency, but the euro and U.S. dollar are readily accepted.
Automatic teller machines are widely available throughout the island, and many machines will dispense guilders and the U.S. dollar. Beware that ATM fees are high (US$10 per withdrawal at MCB, US$6 at RBC as of April 2022), so it might be a good idea to bring cash since you won't need to use it that much – cards are widely accepted.
Visa and Mastercard credit cards are accepted nearly everywhere on the island, but foreign, non-Dutch, non-Maestro cards will often have to pay in USD. American Express is not widely accepted.
Currency can generally be exchanged at local hotels, casinos and places of business. The exchange rate is generally pegged at about 1.77 NAf to the USD and stable. It is unlikely for tourists to be taken advantage when changing currency, but it is best to be aware of the current rates prior to arrival.
Gas on the other hand requires cash (USD or NAf).
There are a plethora of random shops and markets around Willemstad offering clothing, souvenirs, crafts, and other goods. These include a commonly-termed "duty free enclave" in the downtown area. Offerings emphasize European goods, to include jewelry, timepieces/watches and linens, plus the usual collection of souvenir shops. Perhaps not noted for great bargains, you may find items at decent prices you'll see nowhere else in the Caribbean.
A water front market lies on the near north side of the main shopping area. It's packed with fresh foods and flowers, best seen or shopped in the mornings.
On Sundays, however, most businesses other than restaurants in the city are closed.
Local cuisine in Curaçao is a mixture of European, West-Indian and East Asian (particularly Indonesian) flavors. Dutch influences are found in the use of cheeses, bread and seafood, which are also important in Curaçaoan food. Indonesian cuisine, a migrant from Suriname, another of the Netherlands' former colonies, can be found on the island, and explains the widespread availability of sate and peanut sauce along with the islands more Caribbean fare. Also, Chinese "snacks" can be found all over the island serving cheap Chinese food. They cater mostly to locals, but most serve good food.
If you are not staying close to the city center, buying groceries on one of the local supermarkets (Centrum supermarket, for example) might be cheaper than eating out.
Curaçao is littered with 'Snacks,' small bar restaurants which serve Chinese food. These are typically inexpensive, double as convenience stores and bars, and are typically open later than most other restaurants which cater to local (rather than European) patrons.
- Plasa Bieu, located in Punda, about 300 meters ENE of the floating bridge in Punda, is the favorite lunch spot of most, if not all, of the island's local-born population working in Punda. Open M-F, 10AM-3PM, the Plasa Bieu has about five restaurants within it, serving Chinese, Jamaican and Krioyo (local) food. Try the Cabritu Stoba (stewed goat) at Grasia di Dios, for an excellent example of the island's local cuisine, at one of the only restaurants in Punda which offer it. 8-14 NAf
- Downtown Cafe at the Hotel Estoril Breedestraat 179 (O), located 200 west of the Arti Supermarket, on the Otrobanda Side's main shopping strip (the Breedestrat/Roodeweg) Open seven days per week 7AM-8PM, 'el Estoril,' as the locals calls it, packs its seven or so tables full from about 10AM-4PM, with Venezuelan, Colombian and Dominican expats. The Estoril serves a mix of local and Latin dishes, all served in a more typically Latin style. Order at the bar and sit down when a seat becomes available. You'll be expected to share a table if your party cannot fill it. 8-20 NAf.
- Seaside Terrace is located next to Breezes Hotel and close to Lions Dive Hotel and Mambo Beach near the end of Penstraat. Seaside Terrace has a limited menu, but serves delicious fresh fish (red snapper, dradu, tuna, etc.) and, if available, very well prepared lobster against very fair prices. The owner "Amigo" is very friendly and makes you feel at home right away.
- On y va picnic sells picnic baskets to take to the beach. Order your favorite basket one day in advance and pick it up along the way to the beach, or they will deliver it. Located on the way to the beaches on the west side of the island. 26-45 NAf
- Gouverneur de Rouville is a popular restaurant in Willemstad that serves a variety of continental European dishes in a wonderful atmosphere. Ot is just north of the floating bridge on the Otrobanda Side, 25-45 NAf.
- Oceans Restaurant, Habitat Dive Resort in Rif. St. Marie on the SW coast. Serves a wide variety of international and regional cuisine. Overlooks the Caribbean Sea in an open air casual decor. Has full service bar. 15-35 NAf
- Wilhelmina Plein Cafe is 200 meters east of the Floating Bridge in Punda; this cafe is a favorite among the island's many Dutch interns and businessmen. Wilhelmina Plein Cafe offers exclusively outside seating along a major pedestrian thoroughfare, with good food and one of the island's better beer selections. 18-28 NAf
- Vincent's Cafe Copa Cabana is a relatively hidden cafe just east of the Iguana Lounge's Main bar along the water on the Punda side of the bay. Skip the overpriced and mediocre waterfront restaurants on the Punda side and go to Vincent's for great sandwiches and a number of good daily special entrees. Vincent's is an outdoor cafe under the shade of a number of trees and the two buildings between which it is sandwiched, which also create a very pleasant breeze. 8-20 NAf. M-Sa Lunch - 6:30PM.
- Old Dutch Cafe on the Pietermaaiweg 500 m east of the Bay on the Punda Side, the Old Dutch Cafe serves inexpensive Dutch cuisine with a kitchen that stays open late into the night. 15-28 NAf. Closed Sundays.
- Kontiki Beach Club is a seaside restaurant offering good food in an idyllic location right on the beach. It is a little outside of the city, but it is well worth the short drive.
- La Granja is a Peruvian influenced chain restaurant with a very local feel, serving great Latin cuisine, including excellent whole chicken, Lomo Saltado, and other great dishes. Sta Rosaweg 15-25 NAf. Open 7 days.
- Il Forno is a popular Italian/pizza restaurant with two locations, (Caracasbaai location and Doormanweg location) serving European (though not Italian) style pizzas with fresh and delicious ingredients. 15-30 NAf.
- Kasbanini located in the Rif Fort, 100m south of the floating bridge on the Otrobanda Side, is probably the best of the Rif Fort's five or so mid-level restaurants. Offering typical seafood and chops with a bit of local flair. 30-40 NAf. 7 days/week, lunch and dinner.
- La Pergola, in the Old Fort on the southwest side of Punda, is likely the island's best Italian restaurant. Offering good pasta dishes as well as a few innovative 'secondi', La Pergola's quaint waterfront view completes an excellent dining experience. 25-40 NAf.
- Ay Caramba is an American restaurant offering excellent American pub-grub with Tex Mex offerings. Located just below the Governeur Restaurant.
- Golden Star, on the Dr. W.P. Maalweg, on the way to Salinja. It serves local creole food and drinks, and is a good value for the amount of food you get. Prices vary from 15-25 NAf for a main course with sides.
- Bistro le Clochard, located in the Rif Fort, offers outstanding French Cuisine with a beautiful waterfront view. Open daily. ANG50-80
- Sculpture Garden Restaurant located in the Kura Hulanda Hotel one block West of the Governeur Restaurant. Excellent international cuisine with some very innovative specials
Tap water, which comes from a large seawater desalination distillation plant, is excellent tasting and perfectly safe for consumption.
Popular alcoholic drinks include:
Amstel Bright beer, which used to be locally brewed by Antillaanse Brouwerij, a subsidy of Heineken International. It is a pale style lager, usually served with a wedge of lime.
Polar Beer, which is brewed in neighbouring Venezuela. It is a 5% abv lager beer.
Brion beer is the official local beer, though it is brewed on Barbados.
Curaçao is famous for the alcoholic beverage of the same name, Blue Curaçao, Orange Curaçao, Green Curaçao and White Curaçao. It is made from bitter oranges grown on the island and, except for the white one, food coloring. It is mostly used in cocktails, though, and rarely drunk straight.
- Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino. Has excellent restaurants such as the Portofino Restaurant and the Seabreeze Bar and Grill, which specialize in local dishes and fresh seafood.
- Flamingo Villa, St. Willibrordus, info@Flamingo-Villa.com. Luxury villa that sleeps 12 people with a private pool and overlooks the magnificent Caribbean Sea.
- Pietermaai Smal Apartments, Pietermaai Smal 51 (20 meters away from the Caribbean sea), ☏ . In a 200-year-old renovated country house surrounded with an stylish swimming pool, you will find boutique hotel style apartments. Apartments with a distinctive design.
- Seaside Curaçao, St. Willibrordus, Banda Abou. 10+ private villas to choose from. New beach-bar and restaurant, private pools. It sleeps 4-10 in a pure countryside setting with friendly security.
- Westhill Bungalows, Westpunt (west from Willemstad). A place for a short or extended stay. Just up from Playa Forti and a short drive from other great beaches, each of the 2 bedroom bungalows are well equipped and all have kitchens. Nice grounds, pool and wonderful owners. 100 NAf.
Safety is not a big issue on Curaçao. The locals are friendly, welcoming, and willing to give assistance. After all, a major part of their island's income comes from tourists. Just take normal precautions for a tropical island and use common sense.
Car break-ins are a reoccurring problem so that some car rental agencies even prohibit parking rental cars at some specific places. In general it is a good idea to never ever leave valuables in a car.
Curaçao has two main cell providers, UTS and Digicel. International roaming is also available for many carriers but it is usually cheaper to purchase a prepaid SIM card from one of the local providers. Prepaid local SIM cards will need to be purchased at either a UTS Store or a Digicel Store. Refill cards can be bought at many stores and supermarkets around the island or it can be done online for both carriers.
Both carriers have good coverage around the island although UTS is slightly better. Both carriers have started deploying LTE and it now covers most of the island.
UTS offers roaming at no extra charge to countries in what they market as Chippieland. In addition to Curaçao, this includes, Bonaire, Saba, St. Eustatius, Dutch St. Maarten, French St. Martin, and St. Barts.
Digicel offers roaming at no extra charge to Aruba and Bonaire.
Leaving Curaçao will require you to pay an exit tax not included in your flight ticket with most airlines. As of 2016, it's USD39 for international flights (Visa and MasterCard accepted), USD10 to USD20 for flights to Aruba, and Bonaire, and USD5 for connections (in cash only). See the airport's website for the most up-to-date information.
- Aruba (a few minutes away by air)
- Bonaire (a paradise for divers)
- Guyana (a former British colony in South America, known for its pristine jungle and impressive waterfalls)
- Saint Martin (a former member of the Netherlands Antilles, with many gourmet, shopping, and beach options)
- Suriname (a former Dutch colony in South America, culturally linked to the Dutch Caribbean)
Airport security in the departure area stops working after the last scheduled departure, no matter whether some flights are delayed by hours. If you have not cleared security by then there is no way to board your plane. Thus, even for heavily delayed flights, checking in and then heading out to a beach or into town is not a viable option.