My Curaçao travel guide
February 2018 – Getting away for a little vitamin D in the South during the winter always does our spirits and sanity good!
Not being the all-inclusive-lover type, I was looking for a place where we would have the possibility to do various activities and move around by ourselves. After browsing through a few blogs, our choice landed on this beautiful Caribbean island: Curaçao.
Central Island of three, its right-hand mate is Aruba and its left-hand mate is Bonaire. It has a very arid climate, and I was really surprised to see all these cacti! It rarely rains in Curaçao and the wet season is between October and December.
In this article, I’ll discuss our week on this exotic island which allowed us to rest, eat well and do different activities.
Curaçao is part of the Netherlands Antilles and is therefore an independent state of the Netherlands. The English influence can be seen when you walk through the Punda district in the city centre.
The architecture and its flamboyant colours make us want to stroll between the buildings and terraces that adorn the port, including the façade of the Handelskade, with its 18th century architecture. There are several restaurants, art galleries and shops.
The Punda and Otrobanda districts are linked by a bridge, the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge. It often lifts up to allow boats to pass through.
Our accommodation in Curaçao
For the first 3 nights of this trip, we decided to rent a private room in a youth hostel known for its charm and good services. Located in the Pitermaai area, the price was right for this area and fit into my budget. We were also a 15-minute walk from Punda, so we didn’t have to take our car to visit the area or to eat at the restaurant.
Our experience in this hostel was as I expected, that is, to be disturbed by noise in this kind of place. It doesn’t last all night, but if you want to go to bed early, you might be disappointed! We had a very clean room with a private bathroom.
My boyfriend has a lot of dietary restrictions, so I’m always looking for accommodations where it’s possible to cook for ourselves. We thought we would have an easy time finding grocery stores with rotisserie chickens and prepared foods, but… no. Many are more like convenience stores. The restaurants were more or less affordable for our budget, so we were a little discouraged at the beginning of the trip.
On the other hand, we found what we were looking for when we moved to a different area of the island, I’ll tell you about that later.
The place is very clean and the staff very nice. By staying at the Bed & Bike, you benefit from:
- Free internet access
- Air conditioning
- Access to the common kitchen and roof terrace
- Free access to bicycles to explore the surrounding area
- Free guided tours of the city are organized, but not every day.
For 3 nights the total was $205, but since I booked through airbnb, I was able to apply $65 of credit I got through referring friends, for a total of $140 for our stay.
Bed & Bike now have a new location in the Jan Thiel district close to the beach. The place looks beautiful with its pool and offers the same type of accommodation, both dormitories and private rooms. Click here for more details.
For the second part of our stay, we chose an airbnb in the Julianadorp neighbourhood. We couldn’t afford accommodation with a kitchen by the sea, so this little annex did the trick!
By the way, we found the kind of supermarket we were looking for, Centrum Supermarket Piscadera, just two minutes from our accommodation. You will find everything you need there. Meat, fish… just pick.
So here is our beautiful little private annex with a kitchen and a washer/dryer to do our laundry.
- Price for 4 nights: $268
- Expect additional charges for electricity use to be paid in cash. Approximately US$20 for the 4 days. Most airbnb’s charge a fee for the use of electricity as it is very expensive on the island.
- Click here to see the full description of the accommodation
Our accommodation was located 10 minutes from Kokomo Beach. This was our last morning at the beach before our return home. Would you like to have a little drink before you leave?
The idyllic beaches of Curaçao!
The beaches of Curaçao are simply beautiful! You will be spoilt for choice during your stay. Of course, there are some beaches that are more popular than others, but you will certainly find your favourite. Here are some of the ones we spent time lounging on!
The first one is the one I liked the least. Popular beach with music and restaurants, I would say this beach is a good choice if you want to party and meet people. The beach is not very big so you are close to each other with lots of deckchairs and beds ($).
- There’s free parking, and beach access is $3.50
Playa Piscado/Playa Grandi
Two names for this beach that we loved! The beach itself is not very big; however, it is not crowded and that’s where you can see turtles near the pier!
Every day, fishermen come to sell their catch of the day. They throw the leftover fish into the sea for the turtles to eat. Bring your mask and snorkel!
I found the place really quiet and peaceful. The colours in the afternoon are superb with the small houses for rent on the edge of the cliff and the fishermen’s boats.
Playa Forti is a very small beach on the side of a cliff, not very busy. We went there especially to dine at the restaurant perched on the cliff. By the way, you can jump into the water from the restaurant! No thanks for me, but it seems to please the thrill seekers.
The view is very beautiful on the coast with a good curaçao 😉
- Free parking and access
Although popular and busy, I preferred this beach to Mambo Beach. The atmosphere is great and you will surely have the chance to see its two consumers inhabitants… two pigs! I don’t promote this beach for its pigs. In fact, you may not even see them.
They were not put there to attract tourists like in the Bahamas. They know how to open coolers and don’t mind drinking directly from a water bottle, eating a good slice of watermelon or resting under your parasol!Propos d'une Québécoise habitant l'île.
They have acres of land to walk on. The owner is really sensitive to their welfare and has always had pigs on his land. His grandparents already had a small pig farm.
The pigs really come to cool off when they want to. Sometimes they stay only 5 minutes and then return to the forest. So I think it’s far from the same conditions as in the Bahamas…. They are not forced to be present on the beach. I don’t know the exact condition of the pigs in the Bahamas but I can confirm that in Curacao, they are not treated badly… and often tourists are disappointed because they didn’t have the chance to see them during their stay.
I would like to say that I would never participate in an activity that would endanger the health of an animal, and I always advise the people who accompany me not to touch the pigs if they see them.
- Free parking
- US$3 per person
- Free for children under 12 years old
- Official website of Playa Portomari. If you are a diving enthusiast, this activity is offered on site.
Grote Knip or Playa Kenapa Grandi
This beach is beautiful, especially at the end of the day to admire the sunset! Very nice place for swimming.
- Free parking and access
That’s it for the beautiful beaches I visited during my time in Curaçao. There are many others that I have not had the chance to see. You’ll be spoilt for choice when the time comes!
Things to do in Curaçao
There’s more to Curaçao than just the beach. Scuba diving, hiking, kiteboarding, kayaking, paddle boarding, buggy, cave exploring are some of the adventures that make the island a very diverse place to be.
The cave is over 200,000 years old. Hato Caves is located in the northern part of the island of Curaçao. We visited this site at the beginning of the trip, without much expectation. Finally, it was a pleasant surprise!
There is more than the cave on site. You can see a small cactus garden and take a 20-minute walk on the Indian Trail. Curaçao is a very dry island and it is more common to come across a cactus than a palm tree! Here are some pictures of this garden.
Long before the arrival of the Europeans, Hato Caves was used as a place for slaves to hide. There is a lot of history in this cave!
Contrary to what you might think, you won’t go down underground to get there but climb several steps to get in.
The guided tour is interesting and dynamic. You will learn more about its formation and you will be able to see the cave’s inhabitants: small bats!
Do you feel like spending a nice day in the sun on an uninhabited island with nearly white sand? Klein Curaçao is for you! There is no lack of heat on this desert island! You will have the opportunity to swim with turtles, relax on the beach or go for a walk near the lighthouse and abandoned boats.
Klein Curaçao is a small island of 28 sq. km located in the Lesser Antilles. The water is incredibly crystal clear and the sand is fine, almost white.
The departure starts around 8:00 am and the catamaran trip lasts about 1h30. Beware, it’s not all restful! If you are seasick like me, I advise you to sit at the back of the boat. Put away your electronic devices, and your cell phone. We were at the front and we got a wave that drenched us. I reassure you, the return is much more quiet!
In addition to basking in the sun, you can walk to the other side of the island where there is a lighthouse and an abandoned wreck. It’s very hot, don’t forget to bring water.
Explore on a whim
The improvised visits often make us discover unknown places, close to the locals and without crowds of tourists.
The North of the island being famous for its smashing waves, we wanted to discover this side which seems so different from the South. So we opened Google Maps and we set course for Playa Kanoa, not knowing what to expect. We arrived in a volcanic field with windmills in the background. I understand better why this place is well-known for kite and surf!
We also met a Quebecer, who was also trying to discover new things. We spent a few days together following this meeting. This confirms that the unexpected often makes things right!
- Price: free of charge
We spent the afternoon away from the crowds on the small beach that you can see on this picture.
Travelling without hiking is almost impossible for me. Mount Christoffel was one of the reasons why we chose this island. My heart was won over!
- Distance: 3.0 km round trip
- Time: 2 hours including a break at the summit
- Height: 372 meters
- Level: Intermediate
- Opening hours: 6am to 2pm
- It is not allowed to start the climb after 10am because of the heat.
- Adult : 25 florins (18$ CAD)
- Child : 7,50 florins (5,50$ CAD)
- Official website: Christoffel park
The trail is strewn with large rocks. You have to watch where you step and be careful in some places, but it’s doable. The view from the top is well worth all the effort.
You will be able to observe many cactus and various plants of the arid environments on the path. Be careful not to fall in the ditch! Bring at least 1 litre of water per person.
There are many other things to do on the island:
- Scuba diving (we only did one dive during the week). Very good service from Go West Diving
- Visit to the Curaçao liqueur distillery
- Stop by the Flamingo Sanctuary Sint Willibrordus
- Discover the island in a Buggy
- Paddle board, kite, snorkeling
I will be honest, I found the cost of living a little higher than I expected. By the way, the local currency is the florin and the US dollar is accepted everywhere.
I would have loved to eat seafood and fish every night, but it was a bit out of my budget. Here are two suggestions of restaurants that we liked:
- In the Jan Thiel district, the Brisa do Mar – Pop’s Place for its location and excellent seafood. Book in advance to have a table on the balcony. It is a very popular restaurant.
- My second suggestion is Landhuis Misjé, qxcellent food with a friendly outdoor terrace. You will surely have a visit from the roosters at your table!
For our flight, we booked in September for the month of February. We bought our flight – in 2018 – for 20,000 Aeroplan points + $92 taxes and fees for the outbound only: I didn’t have enough points for a round trip. So we booked a direct flight home with Air Canada for $360 for a total of $452 per person.
A friend joined our trip a little last minute and paid $870 to be on the same flights as us.
To get around the island, I really believe that using a car will give you the freedom you want. It is not difficult to drive on the island, it is like here.
I booked a small car through Expedia for a total of $287.75 for 7 days. I paid for the rental with my Scotiabank Visa Infinite Passport card and was able to pay the entire rental bill with the bonus of 30,000 Scotia Rewards points. This card is interesting abroad as there are no currency conversion fees.
In Curaçao, you have the choice of paying in florins or US dollars. You will also be able to use your Priority Passes offered with this card for your Montreal-Curaçao flight.
If you don’t intend to rent a car or if you like accompanied tours, I suggest you deal with Gone Caribe. Jessica lives in Curaçao with her boyfriend and has started a private tour company.
Tours are offered, but you can also create your own itinerary. Encouraging a local company abroad and having the chance to have a guide in French, I think it’s a great way to visit the island! Click here for more details on the tours offered.