In the map of the Events Curaçao you can see that most of the attractions are either in the northwest or southwest of the island.
The beaches in the southwest are mostly in front of the resort hotels. We went to Cabana Beach in front of Van der Valk Resort, as it was only 5 minutes drive away from our apartment. It is a nice sandy beach, IF only all the people and loud music weren’t there. If you’re looking for a spot to relax, not sure if such resort hotel beaches are the best choice. I had the feeling the people were there to see and to be seen. Not my cup of tea… Sorry. Most of the beaches here are not even natural. They are made artificially with sand, because this is apparently what most of the tourists want. I think it is very sad not accepting the nature as it is but to deform it to our convenience instead.
Plus, you need to pay a fee to enter these beaches ( 3,50$ for Cabana Beach) which is actually a NO GO. Beaches are part of the nature and belong to everyone. I agree to pay for chairs and shades, but not to enter a beach. Apparently I am not the only one who thinks this way. The goat figures you might see in the beaches are the symbol of the protest movement, “Nos Costa” (Our Coast) which is basically about locals claiming their beaches back. It was depressing seeing all the hotels even building their own harbour by blocking the entry to the sea for the others, just for their own convenience. This again was for me an obvious sign of corruption in this island. Who has enough “influential” money can do anything. This is sad.
I liked the beaches in the northwest more anyways.
- Playa Kalki is just before Westpunkt. The small sandy beach is named after the limestone cliffs surrounding it (Kalki means limestone in Papiamentu). You can snorkel and dive here on your own which is always a plus for me. The surrounding trees make it even more beautiful here but make sure to stay away from them while raining, because these Manzanilla trees are poisonous. There is also a cafe with colorful chairs and tables and a dive shop. The beach itself is free, but you need to pay 6$ for a chair. There are also shades.
- Santa Cruz (also free entry) is a very pretty sandy beach where the locals prefer to go in the weekends. There are no single chairs but picnic banks under big umbrellas where you can have a BBQ and spend a day with friends and family. At “Let’s Go Watersports” you rent a kayak or take a ride with watertaxi to visit The Blue Room for snorkeling.
- Playa Lagun is a small cute sandy beach. I loved the fishing boats on the sand waiting for their next ride. The water is clear and shallow which makes it perfect for visitors with kids. It is a very popular snorkel and dive site thanks to the healthy corals at the drop-off. The beach entry is free and there are enough shades (well maybe not enough in the weekends). At the dive shop, Discover Diving, there is a nice bar/restaurant, called Willy’s where you can escape the sun to eat, drink and chill a bit.
- Cos Abou unfortunately costs and even worse the entrance where you need pay is not directly at the beach which means you need to pay for it without even seeing it before. I don’t know how you feel but I want to see the beach before I decide to hang around or not. So this is actually the reason why I didn’t visit Cos Abou. It is supposedly a nice white sandy beach with crystal clear waters. Admission fee is 5.80$ during week days and 7.20$ during weekend.
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The old (very old) oil refinery, the so called “La Isla” located in the hearth of Willemstad, causes massive air and water pollution which again causes serious health problems to people living near by. But the Curaçaoer government seems to be ignoring it as long as it brings money.
Pack for a Purpose
- Accommodation: The double room prices start from 60$ per night. Just check Booking.com. Airbnb is also good way to search for price worthy accommodation. We stayed at Atlantis and felt very comfortable.
- Eating & Drinking: In Punda and Pietermaai there are quite a few restaurants. I very liked Mundo Bizarro in Pietermaai with its unique atmosphere and vintage look and reasonable prices. In Punda, Plein Cafe Wilhelmina and its neighboring cafe/restaurant have daily specials (fajitas, burger, pizza, etc.) for 8-10$, which was actually quite good. Rock Beach in Pietermaai has an awesome location directly in front of the sea where you can watch the waves fighting with the rocks. Burger looked tasty but was out unfortunately. The mixed plate for 20$ was rather poor I would say. So go and get a drink and let your evening fade out here.
- Currency: They have their own currency (NAF) but everywhere you can pay with US$. Just keep in mind you probably will get local currency back as change.
- Language: Dutch and Papiamento (mix of Spanish, English, Dutch) are the official languages, but everyone I met in the island could speak English just fine. Masha Danki (thank you) is very easy to learn and brings a smile to faces of the locals.
- Weather: Don’t think long. It is warm and nice (average of 30 Celsius) all year long and it is outside the hurricane belt.
- Getting there/away: You can fly from/to US, Europe, South America and other destinations in Caribbean with the usual suspects KLM and Delta. Insel Air is flying frequently between the Caribbean destinations. Just keep in mind when flying from Curaçao to somewhere else, you need to pay airport tax depending on where you fly to with which airline. To Aruba we took a flight of Insel Air and paid 20$ tax per person.
To go or not to go?
Curacao is a very relaxed small island. From south to north you drive in about 45 minutes. The beaches are accessible easily and there are many cute sandy beaches with crystal clear waters. If you find a good offer for a reasonable price, go for it. If you’re looking for a 5 days relaxing vacation, yes go for it. But if you’re looking for adventure and brand new cultural experiences then you rather look for another destination.
For more insights I recommend Lonely Planet's Travel Guide for Caribbean Islands.
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