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Curaçao Travel Guide: Top 12 Activities & Unique Stays

Located in the southwest of the Caribbean, Curaçao is the largest of the Dutch Antilles, a vibrant island offering a blend of culture, landscapes, and hospitality. I was lucky to be able to revisit Curaçao after 23 years and was impressed by the development and big touristic offering, which I'm happy to share in this Curaçao Travel Guide with my top 12 activities and stays.

Pina Colada The Rif at Mangrove Beach Hotel Corendon
Pina colada at beach of The Rif at Mangrove Beach Hotel

And although much improved and has been added over the years, the island’s natural beauty remains the same. Half December I explored the island for 10 days with and Curaçao Tourism, which was enough to experience almost everything this Caribbean island has to offer.

But also relax, as December is the perfect time of year to soak in that winter sun with an average of 28 - 30 degrees Celsius and escape the cold of my homeland.

Seaside views in Curaçao
Seaside views of Curaçao

Tropical melting pot


Curaçao's culture is shaped by Dutch, Spanish, and Caribbean influences. This melting pot is reflected in the pastel-colored buildings that line the streets of Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage site. In my opinion Curaçao fuses European charm with those Caribbean vibes so well, which made my trip a unique and vibrant experience.

Colorful streets of Punda - Willemstad
Streets of Punda - Willemstad
Kleine Knip beach - Curaçao
Kleine Knip from above

While most people live in the south and the capital, the southeast of the island remains privately owned and undeveloped. The northeast mainly holds rugged coastline and National Parks and the west mostly consist of nature and pristine coastline. Did you know that in total 75% of the island is still undeveloped and that 90% of the houses are built by locals themselves?!

How to get to Curaçao


There are different cruise lines that stop here, but from Europe, North- and South-America there are also several airlines that fly directly to Curaçao.

Handelskade Willemstad - Curaçao
Handelskade Willemstad from above

From the Netherlands KLM and TUI were the main airlines flying there, but since Corendon purchased a brand-new Airbus A350-900 for this route, they will be flying there directly from the Netherlands 5 times a week now, in just 9 hours.

You can book the plane tickets separately, however in combination with a hotel, their package deals will be much more affordable, as I experienced myself during this trip.

Curaçao Travel Guide - my top 12 activities & unique stays 

I’m happy to share 12 fun activities and unique experiences, all tried and tested myself, that will make your stay at this little piece of paradise even more memorable. Including 2 exceptional accommodations, with many of my own pictures.

Small Pontjesbrug sunset at The Rif at Mangrove Beach Hotel  Curaçao
Pontjesbrug at The Rif at Mangrove Beach Hotel

1. The Rif at Mangrove Beach 5 star Hotel


If you want to enjoy Curaçao in luxury and style, I can highly recommend staying at The Rif at Mangrove Beach, the new 5 star ultra all-inclusive hotel of Corendon. I had the honor to be the first to sleep in 2 room types of this hotel, that just opened December 15th.

It's located in the Otrabanda neighborhood of Willemstad, just a 15-minute walk from the city center, near all the main sites. Right on the beach next to Mangrove Beach Resort, of which you can use all facilities too, only when you book a stay at the Rif.

Together they have 9 restaurants, with 7 à la carte, which are all included in your stay, upon reservation. The ultra all-inclusive concept also means that cocktails of great quality are available at 3 (beach) bars all day and night. As well as regular sun beds and parasols by the pool and on the beach.

The resort even has an atmospheric Mondi café with fresh coffee and delicious cakes!

Of course the rooms have all the amenities you can expect from a 5 star hotel and are quite spacious.

And with 2 private beaches and 5 different swimming pools to choose from you will not have to leave the hotel at all!

Get a taste of my stay here through these pictures taken by me and click on them to see the bigger version & description

You can even book a special swim-up room that has direct access to the side pool, mine looked out over the mangroves:

Swim-up room at The Rif at Mangrove Beach Hotel
Swim-up room
Swim-up room, pic credits
Swim-up room, pic credits

Find more info or book your stay at this resort directly, as a package deal including flights, through Corendon on: The Rif at Mangrove Beach Hotel.

And see all their other Curaçao options here: Corendon/Curaçao.


2. Plantation Jan Thiel Lodge


If you prefer a more authentic vibe and small-scale accommodation you can find serenity at Jan Thiel Plantation.

Plantation Jan Thiel Lodge

from above - Curaçao

A privately-owned historic mansion with just 7 unique and characteristic rooms, set amidst the island's lush greenery of a former plantation, just a 5-minute drive from Jan Thiel beach.

This AirBNB offers a peaceful escape, where you can relax by the pool, on the many terraces, go for a hike or even horse-back riding amidst nature and the salt pans.

Do note: bring mosquito repellent, as especially during the rain season, there can be quite some bugs and mosquitos here.

Personalized service from the friendly Dutch host Loeki, coupled with delicious home-made food and the natural settings, make Plantation Jan Thiel Lodge truly a unique and authentic option to stay.


3. Curaçao Rif Mangrove Park


Located next to the Rif at Mangrove Beach, right across from the 2nd cruise terminal, learn all about the unique mangrove system of Curaçao at the Rif Mangrove Park, on the edge of Willemstad.

Rif Mangrove Park walkway - Curaçao

A protected sanctuary, accessible by wooden walkways that lead you through 3 types of mangroves and a big diversity of flora and fauna.

You can visit for a small fee, with or without guide, go for a canoe trip or even paddle-board here.

4. Colorful neighborhoods of Willemstad


Immerse yourself in the vibrant colors and historical significance of Willemstad's (UNESCO-listed) districts Otrabanda, Punda, Pietermaai and Scharloo.

Never have I seen so many colorful houses, street art, galleries and nice bars and restaurants located near each other.

Willemstad has surely developed and improved a lot since my last visit. The tourist offering is big which makes it a real must visit with much to see and do.

Kurà Hulanda village Willemstad - Curaçao
Kurà Hulanda village
Creative streets of Otrabanda Willemstad - Curaçao
Creative streets of Otrabanda

Make sure to explore the art district and murals in Punda, the street art throughout Otrabanda and walk through Kurá Hulanda village.

The 2 historic forts near the Queen Emma bridge are great to visit as well, especially if you enjoy history and great viewpoints.

More about this in my next blog. Get a preview already in this gallery:

5. Queen Emma pontoon bridge


When in Willemstad the iconic Pontjesbrug is not to be missed, by day and night. The only bridge in the world that floats on wooden pontoons and can open horizontally, connecting Otrabanda to Punda.

Pontjesbrug Willemstad by Liselotte of @Journalofwonders
Pontjesbrug, pic credits Liselotte of @Journalofwonders
Queen Emma Pontjesbrug at night Willemstad - Curaçao
Pontjesbrug and Punda Willemstad from above - Curaçao

You can cross it on foot and capture stunning views of Willemstad, the colorful buildings on the Handelskade and its bustling harbor.

And I was happy to find out that I was also allowed to fly my drone here, to capture even more impressive shots, as you can see above.

6. Den Paradera herb garden of Dinah Veeris


This botanic and historic garden is the place to go to if you want to learn a bit more about the island's history and indigenous medicinal plants.

Dinah Veeris' herb garden - Curaçao

Dinah Veeris, also lovingly known as the ‘herbal woman’, is a 84 year old local that set up this extensive garden in 1991, on the east side of the island, and still curates it herself, she even lives there. It's open to the public for a small fee.

You can also book a guided tour with her and learn more in the educational area.

Don’t forget to take home some of the natural products that they produce themselves.

7. Christoffel Park & Shete Boka


These 2 natural wonders really add to the allure of Curaçao, each offering a special experience.

Christoffel Park is the largest National Park on the island, covering approximately 4,500 acres. With unique ecosystems, lush tropical vegetation and several well-marked hiking trails, leading up to the summit of Mount Christoffel, the highest point of the island.

View of Mount Christoffel from the National Park - Curaçao
Mount Christoffel view from National Park

Shete Boka is located right next to it and consists of a rugged and dramatic coastal landscape with seven coves. Each boka has its own character, with crashing waves, blowholes and natural bridges.

I visited Boka Pistol, where the sea splashes up onto the coast with great force

Boka Pistol at Shete Boka NP - Curaçao
Boka Pistol at Shete Boka NP - Curaçao

This is also an important breeding ground for sea turtles. I can highly recommended visiting both parks with a guide, bookable through the National Park’s head office.

Do note: that not only is a guided tour here safer, but also very interesting to learn more about the island’s flora and fauna from a friendly park ranger, like Cyriel.

8. Jan Thiel Beach


Relax, enjoy good music and food at Jan Thiel Beach, where sunsets are accompanied by atmospheric dinners, cocktails and vibrant parties at no less than 5 restaurants and 3 beach clubs, all located next to each other.

I really enjoyed Koko’s for lunch and their beach beds, which are set a bit further apart.

Beach beds at Koko's beach club - Curaçao

And for dinner and cocktails I like Zanzibar and Zest, where the menu is delicious and the setting so atmospheric, as you can see here:

9. Beach road trip


Renting a car for at least a day or 2 is also a must. Of course you can also book a guided tour, but there are so many nice beaches to explore, each with its own vibe and character.

With a car you will have the freedom to explore more and stay longer at the ones you like.

Grote Knip viewpoint with Thirza - Curaçao
Grote Knip viewpoint with Thirza
Grote Knip viewpoint - Curaçao

When you go on a road trip along the (north)west coast you can truly experience the nature and authenticity of Bandabou, where the coast is lined with hidden gems.

My favourites were Grote and Kleine Knip, Playa Kalki, Piskado, Jeremi, and Cas Abao, but there are many more to explore!

Castaway Beach Club at Playa Kalki - Curaçao
Castaway Beach Club at Playa Kalki
Sea turtle at pier Playa Piskado - Curacao
Sea turtle at pier Playa Piskado

Do note:

  • Some beaches are only accessible for a small fee, but usually have more facilities like beach clubs and secured parking.

  • At Cas Abao, Grote Knip and Playa Piskado you can also rent snorkling gear and at most beaches the regular beach beds generally cost no more than $5, or a bit more including an umbrella.

  • At Playa Piskado you can easily spot sea turtles swimming around the pier, but always give them space and never touch them!

Get an impression through these (drone) pics:

10. Klein Curaçao day trip


A day trip to Klein Curaçao, actually part of Curaçao and reachable by boat in less than 1,5 - 2 hours, is a must for its pristine beaches and laid-back vibe!

You can sail there by catamaran with a tour company, like Irie Tours, to enjoy the electrifying blue waters and the longest and whitest beach of Curaçao.

Do note: on the way there the sea can get rough, so do take a pill in advance if you get sea sick easily.

Irie Tours catamaran - Curaçao
Irie Tours catamaran & Klein Curaçao from above

You can even spot sea turtles here and stay overnight, if you don’t mind sleeping under the stars😊

There are several free palapas on the small island, 2 beach clubs (which are exclusively for Miss Ann and Mermaid tours), and also a shipwreck and derelict lighthouse on the other side.

Do climb to the top of the lighthouse for impressive panoramic views, or fly your drone around it, like I did..

11. Hofi Mango Park


This former mango plantation of 42 hectares is located in the pure surroundings of Bandabou. It's owned and funded by the Dutch comedian Jandino Asporaat, who calls it the best-kept secret of the island, and lovingly shaped it into the diverse nature park it currently is.

Hofi Mango plantation from above - Curaçao

The park is built around a 3,016 year old plantation, with more than 600 mango trees. For a fee of $15, with parking included, you can enjoy the authentic nature of the northwest and see the historic sugar mill and rum distillery.

Climb 88 steps for an impressive view towards the Christoffelberg and admire ‘The hands of God’. A guided tour is also possible for just $5 extra.

Make sure to end your visit with a delicious lunch at the park’s brand-new restaurant.

12. Sunset cruise


We concluded our Curaçao adventure with a sunset cruise with FBTT Travel. Gliding along the coast on a private yacht, past the southwest, with its luxurious mansions and rugged coastline, accompanied by music, rum punch and snacks, made the perfect ending to a great trip!

FBTT Travel sunset cruise along the south - Curaçao
Sunset Cruise, pic credits Chris of
Photo credits Chris of

Best time to visit Curaçao


As Curaçao is located in the south of the Caribbean Sea, below the hurricane belt, it’s hardly affected by the rain and storms, opposed to some other Caribbean islands.

The temperatures are consistently high, between 25 - 35 degrees throughout the year, with a nice refreshing breeze!

Kleine Knip beach tranquility - Curaçao
Kleine Knip beach tranquility

However, to avoid the rain the best time to visit would be between January - May, which is also high season. Although in the months before that, the island is more green and photogenic due to the rain season.

These showers are however usually very short and haven’t been a real problem when I visited in December. The most affordable time to visit is between September - November.

Unique Caribbean holiday combination


Curaçao's allure lies not just in its diversity of landscapes, but also in the mix of cultures and big range of tourist sites. This tropical island has much natural beauty, with its plantations, National Parks, small coves and extensive beaches.

This authenticity and diversity, together with Curaçao's vibrant capital Willemstad and many beach clubs, create a unique Caribbean holiday experience!

Jan Thiel beach sunsets - Curaçao
Jan Thiel beach sunsets

If you're interested in exploring other islands too you can check my Caribbean blogs page for even more inspiration.

And stay tuned for my upcoming foodie hotspots blog, in which I will share some of the culinary delights and restaurants Curaçao has to offer.

In the meantime I hope you can use this Curaçao Travel Guide to your advantage and enjoy my top 12 activities and unique stays during your own visit to this paradise island in the Caribbean!


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