My 5 day trip to Curacao was exactly what I needed: a little rest, a little fun, and all the sun to get over the Northeast winter.
When I told people I was headed to Curacao I got a lot of puzzled looks as most Americans don’t seem to have heard of the island. To give a bit of background Curacao is a Dutch Caribbean island part of the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao). It’s just off the coast of Venezuela and known as an amazing diving location because of it’s coral reefs.
I headed to Curacao with 5 friends to escape the NYC winter and it was exactly what I needed. If you’re looking for a trip for some R&R but also the ability for a ton of exploring and a bit of culture than Curacao is right for you. It isn’t as well known as other Caribbean islands, but honestly that makes it the perfect escape in my opinion.
WHERE TO STAY
When going to Curacao there are two main options for when deciding where to stay. You can either stay in the center of Willemstad or you can head a bit out of the city. From my research I read that staying in the city meant a lot of options for food and cute boutique hotels. However, if you wanted beautiful beaches you should head out of town a bit. I’d 100% agree with this after our experience.
Lions Dive Beach Resort
We stayed at Lions Dive and I cannot say enough good things about the experience! The staff was incredibly friendly throughout our trip (even when my friend set off the fire alarm) and the resort looks just like the pictures. We stayed in a 2 bedroom 2 bath apartment that had a huge patio with dining table. It was the perfect setup for a girls’ trip! We had enough space to comfortably spread out and spend time in the room without feeling claustrophobic. Plus, it was nice that we could all be in one large space vs spread out across multiple hotel rooms.
The resort itself was beautiful! I easily could have spent the entire time we had sitting at the beach and ordering drinks from the beach bar. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking, but I was incredibly impressed by the beautiful palm tree covered beaches and overall aesthetic of the resort.
We didn’t eat on the resort for most of our meals as we’d read that the nearby restaurants were better. I did go to the breakfast buffet almost every morning though. It’s a bit pricey at $20 per person, but you couldn’t beat sitting right by the water with a freshly made omelette and banana pancakes. We also ordered snacks and drinks from Chill Beach Bar almost every day!
The resort is about a half hour from the airport and 20 minutes from Willemstad center. This was the perfect distance for being by a great beach, but still being able to easily get into the city!
Santa Barbara Resort – Santa Barbara is definitely the nicest resort on the island, but was out of our price range. We stopped by it on boat trip and it looked gorgeous, so if you’re going with a boyfriend I might recommend checking this place out!
Hotels in Willemstad Center – There were a number of boutique hotels that looked adorable in town including Bijblauw Hotel . If I had been going with a smaller group I might have stayed in town and planned more excursions to get the great beach experience.
WHAT TO DO IN CURACAO
Beach Time & Drinks
Of course if you’re going on a beach vaca than the number one thing is getting some beach time. If you’re me you’ll want a piña colada in hand at all times. I loved having the private beach on our resort so we could walk right down every morning. However, if you’re staying in town then head to Mambo Beach Blvd or Jan Thiel Beach. Mambo Beach was right next door to our resort and you could easily find a spot to lounge for the day and order drinks.
When we arrived in Curacao we set up an excursion with Bounty Adventures for a half day snorkeling trip. It was easily one of my favorite parts of our trip. You get the chance to snorkel at two different locations, one of which has a shipwreck (so cool!). There is also an open bar the entire time as well as a full lunch with a TON of food! I loved our guides from the moment one of them asked me If I wanted me rum & coke strong or weak at 10am. While it’s technically a half-day trip it really was closer to a full day with us leaving our hotel at 9:15 and getting back around 3:30. In my opinion it was the perfect amount of time. Bounty Adventures will also pick you up and drop you off at your hotel which makes the experience so easy!
I knew when we booked the trip that I wanted to spend a bit of time exploring the capital city of Willemstad even if we weren’t staying right in the city. Willemstad is known for its Dutch architecture with a colorful Caribbean twist. The Queen Emma Bridge also connects the two sides of the city across the harbor. If you’re looking to explore town I recommend spending a morning or afternoon in the city. We spent about two hours exploring and then got lunch. This ended up being the perfect amount of time to explore the main center.
Rent a Car & Explore Western Beaches
This was the one thing on my wishlist we weren’t able to do that I was a bit bummed about. The beaches on Curacao’s east side are beautiful (this is where all the resorts are!). However, the beaches on the west side of the island are known to be absolutely incredible. The best way to see them is to rent a car and explore for a day to see multiple coves. What I’d heard from other visitors was that there isn’t much out west besides nature but that it’s totally worth it to spend a day exploring!
Ok, I know this is out there, but there is an ostrich farm on Curacao where you can ride ostriches! I think it could have been so much fun, but my friends were not into the idea. If you don’t want to ride them there is also the option to feed the birds!
WHERE TO EAT
Most of our meals in Curacao were about the ease of eating by our resort. They were all good, but there were a few restaurants that stood out as really great!
Hands down this was the best meal of our trip! Bijblauw (pronounced bye-blauw) is in town and set right on the water so it’s the perfect place to have a sunset dinner. We ordered cocktails, multiple apps, and I had tuna for my main and honestly everything was supreme. I definitely recommend emailing them ahead of time for a reservation, especially if you want to sit close to the water. We set our reservation early for 6pm to get prime sunset time, but if you’re going closer to summer you could definitely go later!
Pizza Mare was right by our resort and is the kind of place you can eat all the food and order lots of wine without breaking the bank. I had read online beforehand that the pizza was amazing – even NYers said so, and I have to agree! The outdoor restaurant was the perfect place to spend the entire evening. Between six of us we went through three bottles of wine and ordered 4 pizzas and our total spend was under $50 per person.
Gouverneur de Rouville
This spot was a last minute find to go to for lunch while we were in Willemstad and I give it major points for the beautiful view. From the front patio you look out across the harbor at the beautiful colorful buildings of Willemstad. The drinks were great (proof seen here) and I honestly could’ve ordered two more and just sat there all day!
Recommendations We Didn’t Get To: Kome (tapas), Fort Nassau Restaurant (for a fancier dinner), Mood Beach
When heading to Curacao we didn’t really know what to expect in terms of nightlife and I’ll say it was definitely interesting. We mostly stuck around our resort and went to the Madero Ocean Club after hearing about the live music. Since the island is mostly visited by Dutch tourists we found that almost everyone out at night was dutch and the music played was all pretty much Dutch or Spanish. It was fun to go out for a bit, but realistically I wouldn’t head back to Curacao for the nightlife.
English isn’t the primary language of Curacao, however everyone we interacted with spoke English. On our snorkeling trip they also led everything in English as it is the most widely known across tourists. Many tourists are from the Netherlands since it’s a Dutch Island, so you’ll hear a lot of Dutch!
Curacao is on the NAF (Netherlands Antillean Guilder), but everywhere takes American dollars and most places list prices in both currencies so you honestly don’t need to worry about the currency at all. What is important is to have USD in cash to pay for cabs! I’m so used to pulling out my credit card that I didn’t bring much cash with me. I wish I’d had about $150 personally for my 5 day trip to pay for cabs. However, this was the only time I used cash – everywhere else accepted credit cards!
If you’re staying at a resort or in Willemstad you definitely don’t need to rent a car. Taxis are a bit expensive, but they’re worth the ease of being able to get around without worrying about having to rent a car.
Headed to Curacao? Ask any questions you have via the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org OR comment below! See more travel guides here.