10 things to do in Curacao: diving, snorkeling, beaches, and more
Are you dreaming of diving or snorkeling in the Caribbean but would also like to have other things to do? Curacao could be the perfect destination for an active outdoorsy vacation with white beaches and turquoise waters but also a lot of other things to see and do. Scuba diving in the Caribbean had been in my dreams already for quite some time and I decided I would live this dream on my birthday. Since it was hurricane season it was important to find a location out of the typical trajectory. Finally, it was a choice between Bonaire and Curacao – Curacao got selected because of slightly better flight connections, colorful buildings in the photos of the capital Willemstad, UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it seemed like it would be easy to find also other things to do in addition to diving.
What I really liked about Curacao was how safe, clean and organized it appeared. A huge additional bonus was the drinkable tap water. Also, it was easy to communicate as everyone I encountered spoke good English which is Curacao’s official language in addition to Papiamento and Dutch. LionsDive Beach resort was an excellent location to stay as it was right at the beach and offered different restaurants to choose from. The breakfast at Restaurant Hemingway’s on the beach was just amazing – both for the food and the views!
Scuba diving was absolutely the main reason for traveling to Curacao and diving with Ocean Encounters was fantastic. Our guides Lexi, Pieter & co were very professional and made the day trips to the sea safe and fun. It was easy to pre-book the boat dives in advance and I’d recommend it to be on the safe side – even though at least they did have available seats even for the next day.
As the dive shop is right next to the resort it was super easy to go there and take only minimal belongings along. Don’t forget sunscreen and a hat! And bring along your dive log book as it’s a good idea to get the instructor’s signature and stamp right after returning to the shore. 4 days double tank boat trips took us to some amazing diving spots on the west coast of Curacao:
Smokey, Boobey Trap, Bullenbaal, Blue Bay Garden, Beacon Point (wall, drift dive), Shipwreck point (wall, drift dive), Newport, Barracuda point – Small Wall – Director’s Bay (drift dive through 3 diving sites)
Photo: Turtle & Ray Productions Curacao
We saw for example turtles, barracudas, stingrays, tarpons, lion fish, angel fish, green moray eel, trunk fish, lobster, parrot fish… Some of the dives were drift dives with lighter or stronger currents where it was very practical that the boat came to pick us up where ever we surfaced in the end of the dive. The diving spots were mostly not too far and the boat rides were maybe half an hour at the most.
Photo: Turtle & Ray Productions Curacao
The sea was quite calm which made me very happy as I didn’t experience motion sickness (unlike my previous scuba diving in Australia). The boat was good too and offered enough shade as well as some seats in the sun. Drinking water was available all the time and some orange slices were offered after the first dive which tasted refreshing.
On the downside, to be honest, I got an understanding from frequent divers that there has been maybe too much fishing and less marine life than there used to be. I hope this is something that’s taken seriously now and that the amazing underwater world will be protected to stay amazing for our children as well! I was happy to notice that Ocean Encounters and other dive centers in Curacao actively participating in coral conservation efforts and underwater cleanups. Reducing the environmental impact not only from fishing but also from pollution and other stressors on the environment will require lots of collaboration and commitment from us all.
The weather in Curacao was really HOT in September, even above +35 degrees celcius and the sun was scorching – so hot that it was difficult to move in the middle of the day. Scuba diving was the by far best activity for these hot days. After lunch in the afternoons it was best to continue the day by snorkeling from the beach. Just remember that the sun can burn even if you’re in the water and protect yourself with sunscreen and UV-clothing!
LionsDive Beach resort’s pool was Olympic size 50 meter long – perfect size for swimming some laps. Swimming lessons were organized at the pool couple of times a week.
Willemstad’s colorful buildings and Queen Emma Bridge
Curacao capital Willemstad’s brightly colored buildings are just as picturesque as they look in photos. LionsDive resort offered complimentary mini-bus transportation to the city a couple of times a day so it was within easy reach although far beyond walking distance. The city center is quite compact and it felt safe and easy to walk around. The views around the floating Queen Emma Bridge are gorgeous and it’s fun to see it swing open for boats to pass through.
On the Pietermaai side of the bridge on Waterfortstraat there’s some restaurants with amazing views to the sea – for example Perla Del Mar is a great place to stop for a drink or a meal if you’re staying in the city for longer.
After crossing the Queen Emma Bridge to the Otrobanda side you can find the Renaissance Mall in the Rif Fort. I needed to do a bit more shopping than usual as the airline had lost my luggage and it took a few days for it to arrive. After some serious shopping, I was very happy to find a Starbucks and cool down with a caramel frappucino 🙂 Some stores had appealing discounts but be aware that the mall is located close to the Cruise ship port and it looked like some shops were taking advantage of this in their pricing. It seemed that there were less expensive shops on the other side of the bridge. Zuikertuin Mall is a bit further away from the center but it’s a nice small shopping center with air conditioning which makes it a pleasant place to cool down if you’ve already had too much of sun for the day.
Early mornings were the best time for going jogging because of the hot weather. There were some nice paths along the seaside but sometimes private areas were blocking the way and the only way to continue was at the side of the road. I was still happy that I had brought my sneakers along.
Yoga and gym with sauna
Body Beach Wellness Club is located adjacent to Lions Dive Resort and guests have unlimited free access to the Wellness Club. Sunset yoga class was organized on the deck close to the sauna. Even in the sunset it was still a hot yoga class in practice and great exercise.
Strolling on Mambo Beach boulevard
The strip along Mambo Beach boulevard has numerous small shops, a small convenience store and lots of clothes shops selling mainly beach wear. There’s plenty of cafes and restaurants where you can dine under the stars at night.
Renting a car and seeing more white beaches and turquoise sea: Playa Kalki and Grote Knip
At the Seaquarium beach you might realize that you’re swimming with doplhins as the aquarium is next door and they take the dolphins to the open sea. The sand on the beach is white and creates a dreamy contrast with the turquoise sea. The sunsets were stunning too!
Playa Kalki and Playa Kenepa /Grote Knip and Kleine Kip located in the north west of the island are rated the best beaches in Curacao and were absolutely worth the drive up there. Up north Playa Kalki is a stone beach that seamed to be a popular spot for divers while Playa Kenepa is a gorgeous white sand beach.
The fantastic benefit of staying at a hotel on the west coast is the opportunity to enjoy amazing sunsets. Add a cool cocktail and some Caribbean beats in the background and you’re all set for a relaxing end of the day.
Have you been to Curacao or the Caribbean? Or dreamed about going somewhere special for a long time? I’d love to hear about your experiences!
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