It was a last minute trip to a sunny destination to escape the dreary winter we’d been having. We joined some friends on a diving trip to Curaçao last April not knowing much about the destination. I was surprised to discover an enchanting island far from the mass tourism path. Curaçao is located about 60 km off the coast of Venezuela in the southernmost part of the Caribbean. It is the largest of the ABC chain of islands that also include Aruba and Bonaire. All three islands are constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherland. Curaçao’s colourful capital Willemstad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with over 700 protected buildings. The city is famous for its Dutch Colonial architecture characterized by gabled roofs with curved eaves, candy-colored walls, red-tiled roofs and narrow façades. It has all the charm of Amsterdam with the added bonus of an average year-round temperature of 27ºC. Curaçao’s climate is semi-arid, which sets it apart from other lush Caribbean islands. It sits away from the hurricane belt and close enough to the equator to result in an average year-round temperature of 27 degrees. It’s the perfect beach and diving destination and yet is not as popular as other Caribbean destinations, which makes it even more perfect. The Dutch influence is omnipresent, from Willemstad’s stunning architecture to the kroketten served in restaurants and all the way through to the local Papiamentu language, a mixture of Dutch, English and Spanish.
Curaçao has many assets, least of which is its stunning coast, an essential in my attempt to escape Montreal’s winter. While the east coast of the island is rugged, wild and comprised of jagged cliffs, its west coast is replete with gorgeous coves crowned with ravishing fine sand beaches kissed by shimmering turquoise water. These beaches are all fairly close to one another, which makes it easy to spend the beach hopping and picking a perfect spot to call your own for a few hours each day.
Curaçao’s best beaches
Most of Curaçao’s nice beaches are located north of Willemstad with a few exceptions. Southeast of the capital are Mambo Beach and Jan Thiel, two of the island’s most popular. Both strips combine restaurants, shopping, dive enters, kids’ waterparks and entertainment with beautiful stretched of beach. They’re Curaçao’s most dynamic and animated waterfront and reminiscent of Miami’s South Beach. A little further south is Tugboat Beach (or Caracasbaai), a calmer expanse of sand with a snack shack attached and a hippie-vibe that is an instant charmer. Tugboat Beach is famous for the shipwreck that has been taken over by a rich marine life and has become a snorkelling and diving destination. It’s some of the best snorkelling you can do on the island.
I was looking forward to checking off all the beaches north of Willemstad that I had noted on my Google map. Walking from the parking spot to peek over the cliffs at any one of the dozen or so lovely coves was a repetitive surprise I didn’t grow tired of. They are all breathtaking. I couldn’t believe that I never had the desire to visit Curaçao before! So many missed opportunities to frolic in its magnificent calm water and enjoy some of the best snorkelling in the world! A few of these beaches stand out with unique features that make them even more special. Here they are from south to north, or from Willemstad to the westernmost tip of the island.
Playa Porto Mari (see first photo) has a rehabilitated double reef that’s a pleasure to snorkel around. It also counts wild pigs among its beach dwellers. Please do not feed said wild pigs!
Cas Abao is one of the largest beaches and is equipped with water sports, restaurants, bars, umbrellas and more. It’s a great place to grab a bite while watching kids jump in the water.
Playa Lagun is a beautiful deep cove surrounded by rocky cliffs. Candy coloured fishing boats are scattered on the small beach, which lends so much charm to this calm cove.
Playa Jeremi is a wild stretch of sand with no facilities whatsoever, except for a few umbrellas. This makes it one of the most relaxing beaches on the coast and one of my favourites.
Playa Kenepa Grandi and Playa Kenepa Chiki are tow of the most popular beaches on Curaçao. Kenepa Chiki is the smaller of the two and more wild with no facilities except for daybeds and umbrellas. Kenepa Grandi is a large fine sand beach and one of the most popular on the island. You’ll find restaurants, bathrooms and water sport rentals on site. It’s surrounded by cliffs if cliff diving is your thing. Both Kenepas are gorgeous and ideal for relaxing or snorkelling.
Playa Forti is a quiet beach located right before popular and busy Playa Piskado. It’s surrounded by steep cliffs that people dive off and has a restaurant near by.
For me, the highlight of beach hopping in Curaçao was making it to Playa Piskado, towards the island’s westernmost tip. I actually headed to that particular beach twice. Playa Piskado is a fishing port and doesn’t quite qualify as Curaçao’s prettiest stretch of white sand but it’s the only beach where you’re guaranteed to see and swim with sea turtles. I wrote about this meditative experience in a previous blog post. I loved snorkelling all around the island but swimming with these turtles was one of the best water bound experience I’ve ever had and I highly recommend it.
Playa Kalki is a small quiet beach north of Piskado with a few umbrellas, a snack bar and bathrooms. It’s popular with locals, divers and snorkelers and has a dive shop on site.
And of course, Klein Curaçao, a small uninhabited island off the south west coast makes for a great beach outing. It’s got great diving, snorkelling and general beach merriment. You can reach it by boat or catamaran but be aware that only some of these boat companies will have facilities on the island such as umbrellas for shade. As much as you may crave star damage, you won’t want to spend hours exposed to it even with the best sun screen lotion.
So now that the cold weather is here and you’re dreaming of that sunny winter destination to get away from it all, why not steer away from the beaten path and head towards Curaçao? There are direct flights from Montreal and Toronto to this sunny slice of paradise and I promise you will love it. I know I have and I’m already planning my next destination there.
Note: My trip to Curaçao was not a press trip and this is not a sponsored post, I just really fell heard for this small island.
Click here to read more of my articles on Curaçao.