5 Best Things to Do in Curacao on a Cruise
Curacao is a Southern Caribbean island, collectively with Aruba and Bonaire, referred to as the ABC islands. This now Dutch country, located approximately 40 miles north of Venezuela, was originally inhabited by the Arawak people.
With a rich history and culture, beautiful weather, and storybook-like vistas, Curacao has become a popular tourist spot and a stop on many Southern Caribbean cruises. If you are sailing to Willemstad, Curacao on your next cruise, then be sure to check out our list of the 5 Best Things to Do in Curacao on a Cruise so you don’t miss out on all this colorful island has to offer.
Visit Historic Willemstad
Downtown Willemstad is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a visit to this historic area is definitely one of the 5 Best Things to Do in Curacao on a Cruise. This colorful and historic city center consists of two quarters which are conveniently located near the cruise port. Punda and Ortrabanda are separated by the Saint Anna Bay which can be crossed via a water taxi or the famous Queen Emma Bridge. Whether you chose to complete a self-guided walking tour, an organized walking tour with a guide, or a fun trolley ride, there are many notable stops along the way.
While in Otrobanda, be sure to visit the Kura Hulanda Musuem and stroll along the city streets to admire the historic buildings.
You can also visit the Rif Fort, which was originally built in 1828 to defend Willemstad. Today, some of the walls remain but the area has been transformed into the Renaissance Resort and Mall, where there is plenty of shopping and restaurants.
Once you head over the bridge to Punda, you are in the main commercial area, Handelskade, which is lined with colorful buildings including the most photographed building in Curacao, the Penha building.
While in Punda, you also need to visit the floating market where vendors sell fresh produce, fish, and local goods directly from their boats.
Another notable landmark is the Mikve Israel-Emanuel synagogue, the oldest surviving synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. You will also want to check out the Wilhelmina Park and its statue of Queen Wilhelmina.
Last but not least, you will certainly want to visit Fort Amsterdam, the oldest and most important monument in Curacao. Built in 1635 to guard the entrance to St. Anna Bay, you will now find the Governor’s Palace and Fort Church Museum inside the massive stone walls.
Explore the Hato Caves
The Hato Caves, located on the north side, are the largest cave formations on the island. Since its opening to the public in 1991, cave tours have become a popular tourist activity while visiting Curacao and ranks one of our 5 Best Things to Do in Curacao on a Cruise. These caves now made accessible by foot for visitors were once used by Arawaks for shelter and later by escaped slaves.
Guided 45 minute tours are offered daily where you can learn a bit of the history of these caves, catch a glimpse of some bats, and marvel at the limestone formations that have been naturally carved out over the years. The guides will point out several stalactite and stalagmite creations that are said to resemble various creatures and even the Virgin Mary. Be advised that there are approximately 50 stairs to enter the caves, and it is very warm and dimly lit once inside. Photography is also prohibited in all of the caves but one.
Enjoy the Beauty of Nature
Whether you chose to relax on one of Curacao’s beautiful beaches or traverse one of its National Parks, exploring the natural beauty of this island makes our list of the 5 Best Things to Do in Curacao on a Cruise.
Blue Bay Beach (Blauwbaai) is the largest and probably most popular beach located near the cruise terminal. A small admission fee of $8 will gain you access to the beach, use of the facilities, and sun beds. This beach offers plenty of shaded areas, restaurants and bars, and even a children’s playground. Not far off the coast of this beach, there are some amazing coral reefs and a great spot for snorkeling and diving.
Juilana Duffy |Source | CC 2.0
Mambo Beach, also located close to the cruise terminal, is another popular beach among cruisers. It is located on the man-made beach near the Sea Aquarium. Along this beach strip, neighboring resort beaches also include Kontiki and Lions Dive. These resort beaches can be accessed for a fee of as little as $3. You will also have access to plenty of entertainment, bars and restaurants, and use of facilities throughout the day.
Touted as the 3 most beautiful beaches on the island, Knip Beach, Playa Cas Abou, and Playa Porto Mari are a bit further from the cruise terminal, requiring a 30-45 minute ride, but they are well worth the visit. Playa Porto Mari features a unique double coral reef, but all three of these beaches are great sites for snorkeling and diving. Of note, as these beaches are somewhat less touristy, there are also fewer facilities available. Peter Trips Curacao offers a unique beach trip stopping at all of these beaches for a very reasonable price.
Shete Boka National Park and Christoffel National Park are located adjacent to each other on the northern part of Curacao. Shete Boka, which means “seven inlets”, covers approximately 6 miles. The most popular inlet is Boka Tabla, where you can walk down the rock-carved steps into the mouth of the cavern, walk the limestone bluffs, or just admire the waves crashing into the cavern.
Walk Down to Cavern at Shete Boka Cliff Hells |Source| CC B 2.0
There are also 2 hiking trails available that allow you to explore other areas including Boka Brown where sea turtles lay their eggs and Boka Pistol where huge waves explode into the sky.
Best Things to do in Curacao on a Cruise Mt. Christoffel – Ivo Jansch | Source |CC B 2.0
Christoffel National Park, an approximately 40 minute drive from Willemstad, is the largest national park in Curacao and home to Mt. Christoffel the island’s highest point. There are 8 hiking trials that allow visitors to explore the flora and fauna or even hike to the top of Mt. Christoffel. Guided tours are also available, and there is even a museum in a former plantain house for the history buffs.
If hiking is not your idea of a vacation, there are various excursions offered that also visit the park including a Jeep Safari.
Have Some Fun at the Sea Aquarium
The Curacao Sea Aquarium is possibly one of the biggest tourist attractions on the island, and thus, is one of the 5 Best Things to Do in Curacao on a Cruise. It is unique in that it maintains a natural habitat for its creatures by using an open water system and natural light; everything in the aquarium originates from the sea surrounding the island.
Curacao Sea Aquarium Map ©
Since it opened in 1984, the Sea Aquarium has continued to expand its marine exhibits and activities offered. The Aquarium area now comprises a marina, a large beach (Sea Aquarium/Mambo), a hotel, and the aquarium complex. Standard admission to the aquarium includes a dolphin show, a sea lion show, a nurse shark action show, a flamingo interaction, a stingray encounter, an underwater observatory, and touch tanks.
For additional fees, other activities are offered including sea lion encounters, the dolphin academy, or take a dive in the Substation Curacao. With endless possibilities, there is something to keep the entire family entertained for hours.
Tour the Curacao Liqueur Factory
Landhuis Chobolobo is an old Country Estate built in the early 1800’s that since 1946 has housed the Senior Co. distillery which produces the famous Blue Curacao. So, when in Curacao, you must sample the Curacao! The Curacao Liqueur Factory makes our list of the 5 Best Things to Do in Curacao on a Cruise as it offers free tours daily during which you can tour the inside and outside of the property.
You will gain some history of the estate, observe the making of the liqueur, and best of all- sample all the delicious flavors. There is also a café serving up cocktails and dishes inspired by Curacao and a gift shop for you to purchase some of this famous liqueur. Some popular flavors include rum raisin, coffee, and chocolate. This tour will take no more than 1-2 hours, so be sure to couple this experience with some of the other great experiences that Curacao has to offer during your visit to this island.
Have you visited Curacao on a cruise? What is your favorite thing to do on this colorful island? Drop us an anchor below to tell us about your experience and help your fellow cruisers make the most of their visit to Curacao.