Curaçao, one of the ABC islands off the coast of Venezuela, is a Dutch colony and is made up of Curaçao and the smaller, uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao. Unlike many of its neighbors, Curaçao does not rely as heavily on tourism. Rather, they focus on industries such as their oil refinery and logistics.
Klein Curaçao has a gorgeous beach, but one will not find the same endless white sand beaches all over Curaçao, as they will find on many of the neighboring islands. The capital town, Willemsted, is a picturesque port-city with a number of restaurants, shops and entertainment.
Curaçao is not your typical beach vacation destination and because of the lack of focus and investment in tourism, there aren’t a lot of brands to choose from. You can find a Hilton and two Marriott’s on the island: the Renaissance and the Marriott Beach Resort. Otherwise, you’ll find a few options on beaches: namely, Avila Beach and Santa Barbara. There are also several boutique hotels in Willemsted. Prices vary, but expect to pay between $200-400 nightly for a room rate at a 4 star property.
Car rentals in Curacao are quite reasonable and most hotels offer the option to book a day rate directly with the front desk. We recommend renting a car to explore the island for a day or two, it’s almost impossible to get lost.
Taxis are available as well and we recommend taking one if you plan to leave your hotel for dinner. While the island is safe enough compared to some destinations, we did feel a bit anxious walking longer distances at night.
The town of Willemsted is the only really notable “dining” area on Curacao. The cruise ships dock in the town center, and therefore a number of restaurants have sprouted in the area. The best restaurant we found was at the hotel Bijblauw.
We did find several cute bars on the water’s edge along the main canal and we had a great time enjoying beverages while the ships came and went. Overall, we found the service to be about the same everywhere as well as the food quality.
There are some great shops in Willemsted that sell adorable crafts and jewelry. Our favorites are Seeya and Out of the Blue. They sold local jewelry, bags, accessories and gifts. We loved their focus on sustainability and awareness.
Unlike its neighboring Aruba, Curaçao’s lack of tourism focus also means you will get a more “real” experience with the island. There are certainly parts of town outside Willemsted that have been long abandoned and never revived. You won’t find endless tour companies and activities in Curaçao. People in Willemsted are friendly and helpful, but the farther you get outside the main town, the less you’ll find the same level of service and safety.
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Overall, Curaçao is a pretty reasonably priced island. Most of the hotels you will see are 3-4 stars with prices ranging $200-400 USD. You won’t find any all-inclusive deals or cater-to-your-ever-whim luxury here, but you will find some great deals.
From what we see, most hotel rooms include breakfast if booked direct, so be sure to check the hotel websites for their offers.
Typical food & beverage costs range depending on how high-end the hotel brand is, but we typically budget $300 per day for food & alcohol. Transfers to & from the hotel to the airport range as well, but we typically budget $30-40. Excursions, such as tours or scuba diving, approximately $130-$150 per person.
There really is not such thing as a ``rainy season`` on the ABC islands - which is great news for travelers! The best time to go is May-November, during off-peak season when rates are approximately 50% of the peak seasons from December-April.
While Curaçao was not our favorite island in the Caribbean, we had a great time exploring something incredibly different than what we’re used to on an island. There’s a lot you can do in a short amount of time on the island and we recommend you stick to a hotel near Willemsted to be close to the “action”. The cruise ships all dock in Willemsted, so the majority of the tourism focus is centralized in this small town.
As you start to plan your trip, be sure to check the Google Satellite images to make sure your hotel is on the beach you’re hoping for. Our recommendation is to book a hotel near Willemsted and rent a car for the duration of your stay.