Curaçao: not just a neon-colored liqueur. The definition of Caribbean paradise, the island country of Curaçao is known for its crystal blue waters, colorful Dutch style architecture, and miles-long stretches of white sand beach.
Curaçao makes up the “C” of the ABC Islands in the Dutch Antilles, with Aruba and Bonaire completing the set.
While Aruba is the most popular among tourists of the three islands, beautiful Curaçao is equally worth the trip. Nearly 1.3 million foreigners visited Curaçao in 2019 and 64% of those tourists only visited for one day or less*.
Whether you only have 24 hours to spend in Curaçao, or you’re planning to stick around and explore for longer, this Curaçao travel guide will help you maximize your time on this quaint Caribbean island.
- Where is Curaçao
- When to travel to Curaçao
- Weather in Curaçao
- Things to know before you go to Curaçao
- Things to do in Curaçao
- Places to visit in Curaçao
- Highlights of traveling to Curaçao
Curaçao is located 65 km or 40 miles North of the shores of Venezuela, in the southwestern part of the Caribbean sea.
Curaçao is an island in the Lesser Antilles, also known as the Dutch Antilles, within the Kingdom of the Netherlands between the Bonaire and Aruba islands.
If you’re coming to Curaçao on a cruise, you probably don’t have much of a choice as to when to visit.
But if you are planning a trip independently, the best time to travel to Curaçao is May, June, September, or October.
During these months, the islands experience the spring and fall seasons. This avoids peak tourism season, which makes the beaches less crowded, resorts and hotels more affordable and your trip more enjoyable overall.
In May and June, the precipitation levels are very low, and both the water and air temperature are warm. In September and especially October, you can expect more rain but enjoy even warmer weather.
Weather in Curaçao
The ABC Islands are tropical islands, so enjoy sunny, warm weather all year round.
If you love the sun, good news: temperatures in this region are consistently high, hence being the perfect choice for a vacation. The levels of humidity on Curaçao are usually bearable too, falling in the moderate range.
Curaçao doesn’t typically experience the violent storms of the Caribbean’s hurricane season, but the islands experience a short rainy season from October to December.
From your travel requirements to things to bring, we’ve got you covered. Read these guidelines first before packing your things and buying your tickets!
Traveling to Curaçao
Even though Curaçao is in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, it’s it’s own country. And in the Caribbean, it’s nowhere near the Netherlands!
To get to Curaçao, you have two options: arriving via air, or on a cruise ship.
- Air travel: There is one airport on the island, the Curaçao International Airport (also known as Hato International Airport).
- Cruise: Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity cruise lines all have itineraries that stop in Curaçao.
Despite their close proximity, there are no ferries between the ABC islands, so if you want to do some island hopping, your only option is via air.
Flights to Curaçao
All public flights to Curaçao fly into Curaçao International Airport, which has direct flights from Charlotte, Miami and Newark.
If you’re coming from Aruba or Bonaire, you can take the very short, 30-minute flight on Aruba or Divi Divi airlines.
Visa & Passport Requirements
Citizens of Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, and Trinidad and Tobago do not need a visa or a passport to visit Curaçao. Only a national identification card is required to pass through the airport.
Citizens from the US, Canada, Japan, and Europe do require a passport, but not a visa. Visitors from these countries are permitted to stay for up to three months.
All other countries’ citizens are required to show a visa while at the Curaçao International Airport.
Is Curaçao Safe to Travel To?
Currently, Curaçao is considered safe for travelers, per the US and Canadian International Travel guidelines.
Like anywhere, there is crime in Curaçao, but it’s typically petty in nature. Take normal precautions when you’re visiting the island, such as not leaving valuables in your rental car and keeping your belongings close.
What Language is Spoken in Curaçao?
The people at Curaçao are from diverse cultures, but there are two official languages of the island: the local language Papiamento, and Dutch.
Most of the citizens of Curaçao speak English and Spanish, so you shouldn’t experience a language barrier.
Money in Curaçao
The ABC islands are modernized and popular tourist destinations, so the US Dollar is universally accepted in Curaçao.
While you can use the US Dollar almost everywhere in Curaçao, there is a local Curaçao currency: the Netherlands Antillean guilder.
The current USD exchange rate is 1.79 ANG.
Is Curaçao Expensive?
Whether Curaçao is expensive to travel to largely depends on what you plan on doing there. Enjoying the white sand beaches is, of course, free, and they’re a major attraction to the island.
But, like with most islands, expect to pay more than a continental destination for most things.
Taxis are comically expensive on Curaçao, so if you can figure out another mode of transportation you should be able to save.
Tipping Etiquette in Curaçao
Tipping for service is expected in Curaçao. Expect to tip 15-20% for taxi drivers, restaurant servers, bartenders, and hotel and wait staff.
Check your bill before you add a tip at a restaurant, though. Many restaurants charge a 12-15% service fee which is already considered the tip.
How to Pay for Things in Curaçao
Most businesses in Curaçao prefer to settle up in the traditional way: with cash.
Credit and debit card payments are not encouraged, and many businesses only take cash, so try to hit the ATM when you land at the airport.
Dress & What to Pack for Curaçao
Curaçao is a melting pot of cultures, so you won’t find one specific type of dress here.
Curaçao lies within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, so it has a Dutch cultural influence, but you’ll also find the effects of Latin American, Afro-Caribbean, and French cultures in Curaçao.
There’s no specific dress code or norms on the island, so you can expect to pack the type of attire you’d normally wear in hot, tropical climates.
Because of the high UV index and heat, be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses for your trip.
Curaçao Laws to Know
Because you don’t want to get caught on the wrong side of the law in a foreign country, right?
- Legal drinking age: The standard accepted age to drink alcohol is 18 years of age.
- Legality of cannabis: Marijuana is prohibited in Curaçao, though if you’re caught in its possession, the police are most likely to just confiscate it with no further action (unless you are under 18 years old).
Notable: Drinking and driving is considered a problem on the island. While it’s of course illegal, there seems to be a lack of consistent regulation, so when you’re driving on the island, take extra caution.
Of all the things that attract travelers to Curaçao, it’s best known for its white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and stunning coral reefs. It is a Caribbean island, after all.
A day in Curaçao is best spent at the beach, and it has plenty. Head to Kenepa or Cas Abao Beach, the two top-rated beaches in Curaçao. Swim, enjoy a picnic (go on a weekday to Kenepa for fewer crowds), and do some snorkelling ling to see the marine life.
If you want to get off the beaten track, take a day trip to Klein Curaçao, a local favorite. This little island off the coast of Curaçao requires a boat to reach, but is absolutely worth the ride. Stunning turquoise water and white sandy beaches complete with a few shipwrecks and a lighthouse.
If you want to explore deeper than you can with a snorkel, Curaçao is a scuba diver’s paradise, with world renowned dive sites all around the island. Rent your scuba equipment at one of the dive shops on the island and head out to the vibrant coral reefs of Mushroom Forest, do a wreck dive at the Superior Producer, or do a quick independent shore dive.
If you want a break from the water but still want to enjoy nature, the Christoffel National Park has wildlife and hiking trails, and the Hato Caves offer guided tours of the millions-of-years-old marine coral limestone caves.
If city travel is more your speed, check out the capital of Curaçao, Willemstad, and enjoy the vibrantly colored colonial Dutch architecture. Stop in at the Landhuis Chobolobo for a distillery tour (enter that Curaçao liqueur!) in an old mansion.
Curaçao is a small island, but like most places, it’s made up of a handful of distinct neighborhoods and regions.
Willemstad, Curaçao’s capital city and where the lion’s share of the shops, restaurants, hotels and nightlife are. There are two districts in the city of Willemstad: Punda and Otrobanda.
Punda is best known for its pastel-colored buildings called Handelskade, Curaçao’s waterfront feature that you probably think of when you think of the island. There’s a floating market, and tons of shops and restaurants.
Otrobanda is across the bridge from Punda, and while it’s not as highly rated as it’s opposite, it’s still worth the trip. You can see a great view of Handelskade from Otrobanda, dine at one of the restaurants on this side of the city, or browse the unique preserved neighborhoods.
Westpunt is the northwestern part of the island, and is all about untouched nature. Called Banda Abou (literal translation of the “lower side”) by locals, this area of Curaçao is home to Christoffel Park, Grote Knip and Playa Lagun beaches, and even a couple of cultural heritage sites.
These are restored slavery houses and plantation estates which have been turned into restaurants and guesthouses.
You can stay in Westpunt in one of the small resorts but most travelers visit just for the day.
Pietermaai is a historical district just south of Willemstad, but within walking distance to the city center.
This area was built in the 18th century. By the time the 20th century rolled around, Pietermaai was overtaken by the drug trade, but in the past century has made a lot of progress and is now a beautiful and upscale part of Curaçao, with luxury accommodations and beach clubs.
Sint Willibrordus is a small village to the northwest of Willemstad, on the way to Westpunt. Also known as Williwood, this area is home to art galleries, public beaches and even interesting wildlife.
If it’s the latter that you’re after, stop and check out the flamingos at the salt ponds in Sint Willibrordus.
One of the most upscale areas of Curaçao, Jan Thiel is allegedly where the Dutch tourists choose to stay on the island when they’re visiting, and for good reason. Home to Jan Thiel beach and the Spanish Water area, this region of the island is best known for its Spanish Water lagoon and many restaurants and bars.
Off the beaten track and full of things to do, the St Joris area is on the northeast coast of Curaçao. This area is where you can find The Aloe Vera Plantation, an ostrich farm, and Sint Joris Baai which is not the best beach on the island but secluded and good for kitesurfing.
Since Curaçao is an island, there’s no doubt that you’re not taking a road trip here.
When you land at Curaçao International Airport, you have a few options for transportation. Note that there are no ridesharing services such as Lyft or Uber on Curaçao, so you’ll have to choose between one of the following:
- Taxi. Right outside of the airport, there are many taxi drivers ready to take you to your hotel. Expect to pay about 45USD from the airport to your hotel in Willemstad. Taxis are the most expensive form of transportation in Curaçao, and you’ll probably want to opt for the second option.
- Rent a car. You will probably want to take a few day trips to Westpunt and other areas of the island, so this more affordable option is probably your best. There are several car rental agencies at the airport and in the city. Just be aware that all the traffic signs are in Dutch, and it’s right-side driving.
- Public transportation. There are a couple of bus services on the island but they are very limited, so we don’t recommend relying on public transportation when you’re visiting Curaçao.
Under-rated Attraction: The buildings around the Curaçao are painted in bright colors. It is believed that a Curaçaon governor suffered from migraines because of white buildings, so he had to paint them in beautiful pastels.
Best Beer: The staple and most loved beer in Curaçao is the Amstel Bright beer. It is the best-brewed beer specifically for the Dutch Caribbean.
Hidden Gem: Klein Curaçao is a must visit when you’re on the island, especially if you’re visiting for more than a day.
Local Favourite Restaurant: Don’t miss the Bowls Noodle Bar and the Rozandels restaurant. These are the two best restaurants in the region according to many locals.
Little-Known Fact: The island is locally pronounced as ‘Cure-ah-sow’.