It’s easy when you think of the Caribbean to default to places like the Virgin Islands (US or British), Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico because these are the islands we are all the most familiar with. We see them in movies, read about them in magazines and hear stories from friends or family members that have either traveled there in the past or plan to in the future. All the Caribbean islands are beautiful, no doubt about that, but if you are looking for a getaway this year we have to recommend that you step out of the box and try out a new island that many people don’t even exist. Now, we already dropped some knowledge on the epic blue waters in Zanzibar in a previous post, but this place we are about to tell you about is another island we have visited that shares the same gorgeous, clear blues and happens to be a little closer to home for us USA natives. Before we get into this do yourself a favor and open up a flight booking site. Trust us, you are going to want to see what it takes to get here.
Deep, deep in the southern Caribbean is a small island called Aruba. Nooooooooo don’t worry this isn’t the place, but just for location purposes we bring it up. Just next door to this famous island getaway is another tiny island called Curaçao. Ever heard of it? Didn’t think so. Curaçao is the Caribbean’s best kept secret and part of the three islands known as the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao) and is also known colloquially as the “Dutch Caribbean”. All three islands are constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and are all extremely beautiful.
Here’s the thing… everyone goes to Aruba because of the all-inclusive, one stop shop, sit-on-your-butt resorts and they don’t even know about the its neighbor because, well, it is more of a destination for the adventurous type. Don’t get me wrong here, Curaçao has resorts - lots of them - but here you have a bit more of the untamed nature and little bit more of a locally influenced charm. Who doesn’t like a resort stay, right? We sure do, but the days always seem to blend together and you go home without a story to tell. Curaçao is action packed and sure to get you to push aside that last piña colada so you can wake up early to hit the beaches right as the sun comes up. Also, when you tell someone you went to Curaçao they will be dying to hear about it because they will know nothing about it. Tell someone you went to Aruba and that is the end of the story... no one needs elaboration on that destination.
Curaçao just has it all. You have gorgeous, sprawling beaches, cliff diving, world class snorkeling and scuba diving, historic locations, local restaurants and fine dining experiences, a unique downtown and the perfect mix of fair/tropical weather that we all hope we can retire to one day (hot but never too humid). It is a small island, about a 1.5 hour drive from the north to the south, and that is what makes it so incredibly epic. You can literally do it all in a short trip and you have the ability to do it all on your own.
We recommend getting down there for a week. This will give you time to hit all the locations we are going to list here and then still have some time to return to your favorite beach for a nice day in the sun sipping away on Amstel Brights or the mix drink of your choice. Car rentals are inexpensive, some starting at 20-25 USD a day. We recommend staying somewhat near to Willemstad (the capital and downtown harbor area) so that you have quick access to the nightlife, restaurants, and gorgeous western beaches. We have stayed in the past at Papagayo Hotel (not Papagayo Resort) and also at Avila and loved them both. Papagayo is a little bit more removed from the bustle of Willemstad, but at the same time Avila is walking distance to downtown - it comes down to preference and truthfully we like them both just the same. Hop on Booking and use the locations of these two to determine which hotel/resort you might want to stay with.
Alright… things to do… let’s get into it. Get your pen ready. Let’s talk about the beaches first because this is going to be a tropical destination for you. Hit the northern coast first and check out Grote Knip. It is a stunning cove beach with a shallow, sloping sandy bottom that seems to go on forever. This is a great place to relax, cliff jump and also to go for a leisurely snorkel. After that head over to Piskado to do the same, but with the accompaniment of sea turtles. Both Piskado and Grote Knip are very remote and you will likely have them to yourself in the early morning. There are no resorts on this part of the island because the government wants to keep them pristine and protected. Pretty epic, huh? Once you have these two spots under your belt you should head back south, just past Willemstad and spend an afternoon at Mambo. This is a more populated area and has beach bars and resorts along the shores. This is an amazing place for food, drinks and late night beach parties.
List our favorite beaches… CHECK! Restaurants are up now. To be completely honest you really can’t go wrong with restaurants in Curaçao. They are all very good and the food (especially the fish) is always very fresh. If you are looking for a refined, fine dining experience you definitely need to check out Mosa. It is a tapas style restaurant and the food is just perfectly crafted. If you want a more chilled, laid back experience then make Maira’s Kitchen your go-to. The food here is amazing and the restaurant is extremely cozy… be sure to get the baklava with lemon yogurt ice cream!
If you want to hit the more adventurous activities then you have to go diving and you most certainly need to take the boat trip out to Klein Curaçao. Diving is best on the west and even better in the northwest. Places like Coral Estate have incredible walk-off-the-beach diving and boast some pretty nice suites for their guests as well. Coral Estate also has a pretty sweet infinity pool. If you want to have a vacation based purely around diving then this is a good place to go. We didn’t mention it previously because it is too far from town for our personal liking. We just like to have options quickly available so we prefer the places near Willemstad. Lion’s Dive on Mambo Beach is also a solid choice and that keeps you more central. Waters along the coast can be a bit rough sometimes, especially in the windier months, so we recommend keeping some seasickness medicine on hand. This comes in handy for the sailing trip to Klein Curaçao.
How about that water in the photo above?? That is Klein Curaçao. The trip there is rough, I don’t want to lie to you and say it is smooth sailing. You cross open ocean for a while and the trip takes about 2 hours in total from the Blue Finn dock at Zanzibar Beach to the shores of Klein Curaçao. It is actually quite fitting that the beach you depart from is called Zanzibar because the tiny island of Klein Curaçao has waters that rival those of the actual Zanzibar. Here you can enjoy a freshly prepared meal on the catamaran, lay out on the beach, explore the two shipwrecks on the island, or snorkel in the pristine waters with sea turtles. The ride out is rough, but it is totally worth it. Don't worry too much though because the ride back is easier as you travel with the wind and the waves. Also, you will probably have a solid buzz by the time the boat takes you back and that can be helpful.
Wow… that was a lot, but hey, you should know about this little gem of an island. There is plenty more to do, but I am certain that you can figure it out on your own. Be adventurous. Get out there and have yourself a seriously memorable vacation in one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful destinations.
Head to our Instagram to check out our highlight on Curaçao and see more photos from our time there!
Til next time…