Let’s break down the top 10 things to do in Curaçao. Whether you’re on the island for 10 days like we were, or only have 8 hours to wander off from your cruise ship, this list will point you in the right direction!
In this post:
- Swim & snorkel with sea turtles @ Playa Grandi
- Enjoy some of the best diving in the Caribbean
- Road trip through Christoffel National Park
- Grab an arepa and some fresh juice at Curaçao Shakes
- Sample the island’s famous “green rum” at Netto Bar
- Take a self-guided walking tour of Willemstad
- Visit Nieuwestraat Street (Pietermaai District)
- Dive into resort life @ Jan Thiel Beach
- Watch waves crash (and baby turtles hatch!) @ Shete Boka National Park
- Go cliff jumping at Playa Forti
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1. Swim & snorkel with sea turtles @ Playa Grandi
Playa Grandi is known as the home of the protected sea turtle. The Sea Turtle Conversation Team in Curaçao is dedicated to saving and protecting endangered sea turtles around Curaçao. Through research, conservation and education, their goal is to spread awareness about the threats sea turtles face as a result of human behavior and what people can do to slow down those threats.
At Playa Grandi, you can snorkel or dive with these sea turtles…and even get to know them by name!
PSA from DnA: please do your part and treat the turtles with respect. Cut down on your plastic use. Pick up a piece of trash the next time you’re on the beach. Our oceans depend on it. Our world depends on it. Project AWARE is an amazing organization dedicated to protecting underwater environments, and all of their awesome inhabitants.
Dinner note to self: you can also buy freshly caught fish here! Both times we visited Playa Grandi, local fishermen were cleaning and cutting up the catch of the day, as locals lined up to purchase.
2. Enjoy some of the best diving in the Caribbean
Scuba diving in Curaçao is a great way to ease in to your new diving career, refresh old skills, or simply enjoy the plethora of gorgeous options as an experienced diver. We explored 4 different sites over 3 days with Go West Diving.
Curaçao has more than 60 dive sites to choose from, each with slightly different dynamics as far as depth, current, temperature and wildlife you can expect to see.
Check out our article about diving in Curaçao for a deep dive (sorry, had to do it) into this epic diving scene!
3. Road trip through Christoffel National Park
Christoffel National Park is the largest national park on the island, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. You’ll find a rich variety of flora, fauna, and wildlife that are rarely seen anywhere else on the island. Wild orchids, the native barn owl, and the Curaçao White Tailed deer (sadly, there are only about 250 left), to name a few.
The park has a couple of scenic driving circuits on paved roads that you can access with your own car. We drove the main circuit which took about an hour, including 3 stops for photos at epic viewpoints.
Hiking is also extremely popular here. The park features 8 hiking trails, ranging from short, easy strolls to intense treks. The most challenging is the hike to the top of Mount Christoffel, although you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views at the top. Plan for 3 hours if you’re starting from the visitor’s center or 2 hours if you’re starting from the foot of the mountain.
Get there before 10am if you want to hike Mount Christoffel! For safety reasons, you won’t be able to access the trail after that. Plus, you’ll wanna beat the heat. Bring plenty of water & sun protection.
Other Christoffel highlights & need-to-know info
- The park is open every day, but only from 6am – 2pm (last entrance at 1:30pm).
- If you’ve got a large group, contact them to make a reservation for a guided trip.
- Ask about other unique activities like sunrise safaris, animal presentations, cave excursions, and full moon walks.
- History buff? Don’t leave the park without visiting the Savonet Museum. It’s located on the site of the former Plantation Savonet—one of the earliest plantations on the island and a cultural highlight of Curaçao.
There is a separate entrance fee for the Savonet Museum, but if you want to visit both the museum and the park, you’ll get a combo discount.
4. Grab an arepa and some fresh juice at Curaçao Shakes
In 10 days on the island, we ate here 3 times. And we have no regrets.
The freshly made arepas and homemade sauces deliver unbelievable tastes while the delicious fruit juices and milkshakes make you feel like you’re floating on a cloud.
The family who owns the joint is pretty awesome, too. In November 2015, Bert and Alaida decided to open a little food stand in front of their house. Behold: Curaçao Shakes. In 3 short years, they’ve done an incredible job of bringing a warm, familial feel to what would otherwise be just another roadside food stop.
Read more about Bert and Alaida’s awesome operation here!
5. Sample the island’s famous “green rum” at Netto Bar
If this seems like an aggressive way to start the day, talk to some of the Netto Bar regulars who show up here when the doors open everyday at 8am.
The legendary tavern is home of the original “ròm bèrdè” (green rum)—100% homegrown and only to be found in Curaçao. So, what’s in it? You’ll have to ask Chu, a Curaçao native—and the current owner—who’s been working here for nearly 40 years. Fair warning: he’s a man of few words. You may not get him to divulge the secret recipe, but you will enjoy the rum.
Netto Bar will celebrate its 65th birthday this December, making it the oldest bar in Otrobanda.
“Work until the sweat pours off your forehead to achieve everything you want in life and always help wherever you can.” — Ernesto “Netto” Koster | Founder, Netto Bar
6. Take a self-guided tour of Willemstad
A self-guided walking tour of Willemstad promises a colorful mix of character and charm. Start in western Otrobanda, cross the bridge to pastel-colored Punda, and end the tour in vibrant Pietermaai.
A few tour highlights:
- Admire Queen Juliana Bridge: the tallest bridge in the Caribbean, spanning majestically across St. Anna Bay
- Cross the floating Queen Emma Bridge from Otrobanda to Punda
- Wander along the pastel Punda waterfront
- Visit Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue: the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Americas
- Check out the local artist scene
- Explore the vibrant Pietermaai district
Check out our full guide to this easy-to-navigate walking tour of Willemstad!
7. Visit Nieuwestraat street (Pietermaai District)
The Pietermaai District is home to the coolest street we discovered after a week on the island: Nieuwestraat. Colorful pastel buildings line the one-way street, lighting up the area by day. At night, hip outdoor cafés fill up with locals—and a few tourists in the know—as the nightlife engine begins to rev up.
Enjoy some jazz (maybe a cigar) and a drink on the best walking street in town @ Miles’ Jazz Café.
Hungry? We had fabulous meals at both of these Nieuwestraat restaurants:
- Ginger: mouthwatering fusion of Caribbean, Asian & Indian flavors (opens at 5pm every day)
- Mundo Bizarro: good food, relaxed outdoor seating and live music on Saturdays (breakfast, lunch & dinner available; check hours)
8. Dive into resort life @ Jan Thiel beach
As Adam described it, “it feels like we’re on a cruise ship…on land.”
Beautiful, nonetheless. Crowded, very. Lots of families and lots of amenities. If you stay on this side of the island, specifically at Papgayo Beach Resort, you may feel like you never have to leave!
Our experience on the northern side of the island was very different – much quieter, fewer crowds, and extremely laid back. That being said, this side of the island is also super beautiful and if you’re traveling with young children, this may just be the perfect place for you!
Things we missed…that you should check out if you can!
At home or on the road, there’s never enough time to do it all! These 2 activities made our top 10 list as we heard great things from locals and other travelers. Next time we go back, we won’t miss them 🙂
9. Watch waves crash and baby turtles hatch @ Shete Boka National Park
Bordering Christoffel Park is another majestic site worth visiting: Shete Boka National Park. The area features 10 beautiful inlets where 3 species of sea turtles are known to nest. Time your visit right, and you just might get to snap some pics of some adorable turtle hatchlings!
The park begins at Boka Tabla where enormous waves crush against an underground cave. Explore the park’s 2 hiking trails, or just wander around coves and into caves, admiring natural bridges, limestone bluffs and coral rock formations along the way.
fun fact: Shete Boka means “seven inlets”…although as it turns out, the park has more than 7!
10. Go cliff jumping at Playa Forti
Adrenaline junky? Do as the locals do and jump off a 40-foot (12 meter) cliff into the turquoise water below. We had dinner at the restaurant next to the jumping off spot, and it looked pretty cool, even at night. Head to Restaurant Playa Forti and they’ll point you in the right direction!
A note to cruisers: head north!
Most Curaçao cruise-ship-stopover-travelers think they don’t have time to venture to the northern part of the island. Not true!
Instead of bumping elbows with 2000 boat mates around the streets of Willemstad, rent a car for the day (or jump in a taxi) and seek out some laid-back, north Curaçao vibes. In less than an hour, you’ll cross 75% of the island (south to north) and arrive in Sabana Westpunt—very close to items 1, 3, 9 & 10 on this list!
Additional restaurants to enjoy:
- Sol Food
- Cactus Cafe
- Restaurant Playa Forti
- Jaanchie’s (didn’t eat here but heard great things! recommended by many locals)
- Surf & Turf (next to seaside terrace)
Bonus! Enjoy live music & dancing
Interested in Curaçao’s nightlife scene? Here are some recommendations we received to soak in live music and dancing during your holiday:
- Wednesday: Zanzibar’s “Unplugged Beach Sessions” followed by dancing & music at Cabana Beach
- Thursday: Punda Vibes in Downtown followed by Omundo
- Friday: Hemingway Restaurant at LionsDive Beach Resort
- Sunday: head to Mambo Beach for Sunday night dancing to welcome in the new week
That’s all folks!
We hope you have an amazing time on this incredible island. Leave questions or comments in the section below, and if we can help you plan your trip in any way, please reach out!
▾ Complete reviews of where we stayed on Curaçao ▾
North side: this one-of-a-kind cliffside villa | South side: this vibrant boutique hotel
▾ Search all Curaçao accommodation here ▾
Booking.com | Hotels.com | Airbnb | VRBO
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