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  • Writer's pictureRachel Ober

Travel Guide: Curacao

Curacao is an underrated gem in the Caribbean, often overshadowed by her more popular sister island, Aruba. You know -- very Jane vs. Marsha Brady vibes (or Khloe vs. Kourtney for my Gen Z readers). Curacao is part of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao) and is right above Venezuela's northwest coast. Should you add Curacao to your Caribbean travel list? Let's dive in and find out...


Quick Recap:

  • World-class beaches with minimal crowds. Curacao is home to some of the most beautiful water we've ever seen! In my mind, the beaches of Curacao are top-tier and comparable favorably to the Bahamas (and surpass other popular Caribbean destinations like Aruba and Puerto Rico). As my friend would say it's like swimming in Frost Glacier Gatorade.

  • Willemstad is such a colorful city for unique photos. It's like the Netherlands with a Caribbean twist. (Note: the colonial architecture is aesthetically beautiful but also represents a pain-filled past)

  • Fantastic and fresh seafood. If you love fish and shrimp, you HAVE to visit De Visserij Piscadera!

  • Rent a car and experience Curacao at a "self-guided" pace. No Ubers and taxis are far and few between. Renting a car gives you the ability to zip around quickly to a bunch of really unique beaches (unless you just want to chill at your resort, in which case you don't need a car).

  • Localized experience, especially relative to Aruba. Curacao is less commercialized and you'll have actual interactions with the citizens of Curacao (and the local people are SO sweet and so hospitable!)

  • If swimming with sea turtles is on your list, check out the beach section below!


Where we went:

Hotel: Renaissance Wind Creek Curacao Resort (avg. $256/night) We chose this hotel for 2 main reasons - Marriott points and I wanted to be close to the city for content and dining. We knew we were getting a rental car so we could drive to the beaches we wanted. The island is small enough that you can get to any beach within 75 minutes from Willemstad, so we recommend staying in the city. The rooms are nice here but unfortunately no beach! They have a sandy saltwater infinity pool that looks like a beach though; they also have cute hut umbrellas with a bar. I recommend the strawberry daiquiri!



Beaches:

  • Grote Knip: An absolutely stunning beach. Looks like a postcard and not terribly crowded. The only downside is the travel distance from Willemstad (~1 hour), but well worth it. #1 in my eyes.

  • Playa Kenepa: Least crowded beach. Beautiful and quite relaxing. I would give Grote Knip and Cas Abao the edge in terms of aesthetics (although not by much - we are talking about the difference between A+ and A-). That said, Playa Kenepa is more tranquil. Chairs are available, but no food/drink options. You can bring your own, or drive to nearby Grote Knip if needed.

  • Cas Abao: People like this beach for the amenities (drinks, food). Not crowded by "Miami" standards, but the most crowded beach we visited in Curacao. Beautiful and worth the visit, but we prefer Grote Knip and Playa Kenepa.

  • Playa Piskado: Go for the sea turtles, then relocate. As a beach, this is easily the least interesting, but the turtles are incredible. You can stand on the pier and watch the turtles. You can also swim and snorkel with them (rental equipment available).




Food:

  • De Visserij Piscadera: Our favorite dining experience by far in Curacao. This is a moderately-priced, fresh-caught fishery. Y'all we almost never eat the same place twice (in NYC or on vacation). The experience has to be truly outstanding to get us to go back. We went twice to De Visserji Piscadera and have pined to go back. Don't expect fine dining. Expect a fish fry, battered shrimp, and cold local beer.

  • La Boheme Curacao: Adorable little Dutch bakery. Go for breakfast, brunch, or just a coffee. A little slice of Europe in the Caribbean. Good prices.

  • Gouverneur De Rouville: Our favorite place in Willemstad. Great views of Anna Bay. Best seared tuna I've ever had (and I have ordered a LOT of tuna). Moderately priced.

  • Koraal: Recommended the drinks and sunsets, as this is a gorgeous rooftop restaurant. We would go for apps (which were great, especially the Dutch cheeseballs) and skip the entrees (which were average and overpriced). Instead, head downstairs to the romantic Karakter Beach Lounge restaurant (but make reservations in advance).

  • Kome: Was recommended by a follower that knows the owner. So glad she recommended this place. We enjoyed lunch before we headed off to the airport. Both of our meals were delicious but I highly recommend the beef brisket. Kome means EAT in Papiamentu, the language of the beautiful ABC islands.



Curacao is right for you if...

  • You want a tropical vacation: close to the equator, high-quality beaches, and relatively shielded from hurricanes

  • Your family loves fresh seafood

  • Sea turtles are a bucket list

  • You love colorful buildings, or as we say "A taste of Netherlands with a Caribbean twist"

  • Snorkeling or scuba diving are high on your list



Curacao may not be your ideal vacation if...

  • You enjoy large metro experiences

  • You like very "familiar" vacation experiences with the comforts of home (e.g. more convenient tourist experiences - Curacao is tourist-friendly, but perhaps not a highly developed tourist economy).

  • Manicured towns or cities - outside of downtown Willemstad, Curacao is primarily residential and rural.

Planning Your Trip

  • Bring your drone! I had no issues flying the drone here (other than windy weather on occasion). I filled out the flight application for a permit but customs did not ask for it.

  • Secure your car rental in advance...if you plan on leaving your resort (which I recommend)! There are great beaches to explore. Plus there are no Ubers and the taxis are hard to come by; I'm not even sure they will drive you to the beaches because they are 45 minutes from the city.

  • Local currency (Dutch Guilder) is helpful, but not necessary. It normally doesn't hurt to have a few bucks on you but we didn't need it during our stay. We used either USD or our cards, even for beach entry at Cas Abao. Weirdly a gas station didn't take VISA, so we had to go to the next one but no big deal!

  • Very easy immigration and airport experience, but no passport stamps! Insert sad face emoji.

  • Sunscreen & aloe: This seems like a no-brainer but we didn't pack our own since we didn't check bags. We bought SPF 45 and applied it several times still burned badly (Ben was so badly burned that he bled insert very concerned emoji). We've lived and traveled in tropical locations, but the sun rays in Curacao hit different.

  • Dresses or shorts, no jeans -- tell your man! Ben was too hot in jeans, even at night!

  • COVID 19 - check updates regarding testing 72-48-24 hours before departure. When we first checked it was a test within 72 hours and then didn't check again and when we arrived they updated it to 48 hours. No big issue but Ben had to pay $70 for a test at the Curacao airport.








1 Comment


Benjamen Ober
Benjamen Ober
Jun 29, 2022

Wonderful guide and beautiful photos

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