In the Southern Caribbean lie the ABC Islands – Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao with Curacao being the biggest of the three and a popular holiday destination for the Dutch.
Curacao’s main port city, Willemstad, is like an Old World European city dropped into the Caribbean. The brightly coloured Dutch colonial houses sit on cobblestone streets, but as soon as you leave the city, the landscape shifts to a desert scene with cactus and aloe sprouting atop weathered limestone cliffs.
The real draw for me to go to Curacao was the crystal clear, turquoise blue waters. The island is surrounded by rocky cliffs, dotted with picture perfect bays and coves along the coast. So much of the coast is undeveloped and the reef that surrounds the island is remarkably healthy, making it an underwater paradise.
Best of all, Curacao is sheltered from the hurricane belt, so it’s possible to make a trip in July (low season) and enjoy perfect weather, 80 degree waters, and your choice of the top hotels and restaurants.
We spent the week diving, swimming, and eating. We made our base the Saint Tropez Hotel and Ocean Club and selected an oceanside room and terrace, so we had the perfect view to wake up to each morning. We spent the mornings diving, the afternoons relaxing and swimming at the beach, and the evenings indulging in amazing Caribbean food and drinks.
The diving in Curacao is pretty laid back – there are plenty of options for shore dives, easily accessible from the beaches that surround the island. There are dive spots that can only be accessed by boat, most notably Mushroom Forest and Watamula. Given this, I decided to do a mix and split the trip with a few days of shore diving and a few days of boat diving. The water is warm, the visibility is great, and while there are no sharks, I did manage to see plenty of turtles, lobster, crab, squid and eel, and even a few eagle rays.
On the mushroom forest dive, we did our safety stop and surfaced in the Blue Room. The Blue Room is an almost submerged cave in the cliffs of the West Coast. With the way the sunlight shines in, the water looks extremely blue making for a great place to swim.
We did manage to fit in a couple other activities as well though — we spent one evening on a sunset sail, which was a lovely way to see the Spanish harbour and take in the sunset while sipping bubbly on a catamaran.
While on the west coast, we stopped in at Restaurant Playa Forti, initially to have a bite and take in the stunning view, but then I decided to jump off the 15 meter cliff and swim back to Playa Forti beach! Following that thrill, we drove to Shete Boka National Park.
Shete Boka covers more than 10 kilometers of the rocky wave-exposed north coast of the island. Curacao was formed by a volcano and can clearly be seen here. We walked over the volcanic rocks and watched the waves pound against the rock face and the salt water splash high into the air.
The other highlight was the wild flamingos. On the way back from Cas Abou, we stopped over in one of the areas that the flamingos hang out!
Porto Marie: plenty of chairs in the shade to relax (for rent), blue water for swimming, and known for the wild pigs that also hang out on the beach. There is a double reef just off the shore, making it for a great place to dive as well. There is a restaurant and bar onsite. Entrance fee to enter, but bathroom and showers are free.
Cas Abou: white sand and crystal clear water make it a great place for swimming. There are some trees for shade, chairs for rent and food and drink available for purchase. There was an entrance fee and tokens were needed for the bathroom.
Mambo Beach: This a man made beach filled with white sand, blue waters, and a lot of restaurants, shops and beach clubs. Perfect to walk around, swim and grab lunch. Free entrance and parking
Jan Thiel Beach: This long narrow beach has resorts right next to it. There is an entrance fee, but free bathrooms once you enter. Chairs can be rented right on the beach, or at the Papagayo Resort, which also has a salt water swimming pool overlooking the ocean. A number of restaurants and a dive shop onsite.
Playa Knip – Free parking and admission, and a really chilled out beach. Turquoise waters and nice sand, perfect for swimming.
Playa Forti – the view from above this beach is right out of a postcard so it’s worth a visit!