Curacao is a tiny island that will leave a big impression. Home to the highest bridge in the Caribbean, one of the busiest harbors in the world and water you’ll want to live in forever, the country is a beautiful mix of colorful buildings, friendly people and striking scenes.
GUEST POST BY PAIGE ANDREW
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What’s the best time to visit Curacao?
Curacao is quite hot – temperatures range from 80 to 84 °F throughout the year and long droughts are more common than you’d think. There’s a brief rainy season from October through December with November being the wettest month.
The capital city of Willemstad is almost always bustling with inland tourists and those visiting on cruise ships, but it somehow never gets overwhelming.
To avoid too many tourists and enjoy beautiful weather, steer clear of the Atlantic hurricane season which runs from June to November. Opting to travel between January and May would be a great idea. It’s low season and this also gives you the opportunity to experience quite a number of festivals, from the Carnival and International Sailing Regatta in January to the Jazz Festival in May.
a Few facts about Curacao
Nestled in the Southern Caribbean, Curacao is a constituent of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Most people are fluent in Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese and English which all combine to create their local language Papiamento.
Willemstad, Curacao’s capital city, is picturesque with colorful buildings overlooking glistening water, quaint cobbled streets, street art, bars and restaurants galore. There’s outdoor dining overlooking the sea, floating fruit markets and the Queen Emma Swinging Bridge. The city is divided into two parts – Punda and Otrabanda.
Punda, which tends to be a bit busier, was once the main city until it became overcrowded and expanded to Otrabanda which translates to ‘other side’. The two parts of the city are connected by a moving bridge, the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge commonly called the Swinging Old Lady. The bridge which dances on the water while you walk from one part of the city to the other was built so that it can move because it lies in the middle of one of the busiest harbors in the world.
While Otrabanda is home to the Kura Hulanda Museum – the perfect place for a lesson on Afro heritage and culture in the Caribbean and Africa – Punda is home to Punda Vibes.
Every Thursday evening the city stays open a bit later to entertain. There is live music and dancing on the streets, sales, happy hours are extended and there’s excitement all around. This culminates with a firework display at 8PM. If you’re in Curacao on a Thursday, it’s a must do!
One Day in Curacao Itinerary
While Curacao is tiny, there’s quite a bit to do, so start your day early. You’ll want to stay in or near Willemstad to use your time and money on transport efficiently. Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Curacao.
The best way to see the entire city and gain a true appreciation of the history and culture is through a tour. You have two options: a walking tour ($15USD) or a tour on a trolley train ($25USD). To make the most of your time, do the walking tour.
First grab an arepa for breakfast at La Boheme Curacao and then make your way to the main tourist booth which is opposite the Queen Emma Bridge. There, you can schedule a two-hour walking tour which will cover Punda.
If you’d rather explore on your own – grab a map at the tourist booth and get going! Be sure to grab trinkets at the craft market, get some fresh fruit at the floating market, keep an eye out for the amazing street art and quaint architecture and try the mojitos at The World’s Best Mojito Bar.
After your tour, head across the Queen Emma Bridge towards Otrabanda. Stop for some pictures on the bridge – don’t get caught on it while a ship is close or you’ll be stuck on it for a while!
Lunch at Dutch Treat
When you get to Otrabanda, make a left turn and order some lunch at Dutch Treat. Try the Patat Oorlog or anything else which catches your eye. While you wait for your food, find a nearby Batidos truck. Batidos are fruit drinks which are quite popular in Curacao.
Visit the Kura Hulanda Museum
Spend some time people watching, eating and recuperating and then take a short walk to the Kura Hulanda Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Be sure to get a guided tour at the museum ($13 USD) which will take you through the rise and fall of African kingdoms and empires and provide some insight into the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Mambo Beach Boulevard
At this point you’ve probably had enough sun, but you’re ready for the sea and sand. Head back over the bridge toward Punda and take a taxi to Mambo Beach Boulevard. Arrange for the driver to pick you back up in three hours. The ride to Mambo Beach is about 15 minutes. The Boulevard is home to a beautiful beach with clear, calm water, countless beach chairs and cabanas, restaurants, bars and stores. Spend some time exploring the Boulevard, get a tan on a beach chair or simply enjoy the water.
Dinner at Mundo Bizarro
Head back to your hotel or apartment and have a rest – it’s been a long day. Be sure to head back out to Punda though – this time to the Mundo Bizarro, a quirky, eclectic Cuban café with live music and great food. Try a traditional Dutch dish like Bitterballen or play it safe with something you already know. After dinner, you can walk back towards the Queen Emma Bridge and end the day with a drink overlooking the water at the gorgeous Iguana Café, or just pop in for an ice cream cone at the parlor nearby.
You’ve explored the city of Willemstad, had great food, and enjoyed a great day in beautiful Curacao.
Where to stay in Curacao?
Extra tips for visiting Curacao
You can explore the entire city without a taxi – just be sure to stock up on water and take breaks in between as it can get really hot. If you’d like to go to the beach or explore the areas right outside of Willemstad, it shouldn’t cost you more than $20 USD per taxi. If you’re heading out of town, take a taxi from Punda as these are cheaper than those in Otrabanda. Taxis in Punda are lined up waiting on the left of the Queen Emma Bridge, opposite the tourist booth. Ask the guides at the booth for assistance – they’re really helpful.
If you’re not bent on exploring the city in its entirety and don’t mind passing on the museum, after your morning tour you can opt for a customized tour of the western part of the island with Sand and Stilettoes. Run by a friendly and professional woman, the four hour tour takes you wherever you want to go – some great stops include Shete Boka National Park, Hato Caves and Cas Abou Beach.
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Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.
Paige is a queer Caribbean girl with a serious case of wanderlust. Follow her travels on her blog Lah Hay: https://lahhayy.wordpress.com/