An ABC Island made easy as 123.
On the surface, each Caribbean Island seemingly blends together with its sugary white sand beaches, swaying palm trees, and turquoise blue waters. But to see the Caribbean islands as interchangeable is a mistake. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover that the islands vary greatly in culture, cuisine, architecture, and offerings. Curaçao is one such country, a Dutch Caribbean Island whose capital city of Willemstad looks as though Copenhagen got up and took a tropical vacation.
From street art splashed walls to an innovative culinary scene, medicinal gardens to women-empowering art initiatives—there are many reasons to travel to Curaçao. Known as the “C” in the ABC islands (comprised of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao), this island is defined by its storied past and the pastel-colored homes that dot its capital. This is an island whose solid infrastructure makes it a Caribbean breeze to travel through and whose tap water is not only safe to drink but considered the finest quality. Between its thriving culture and stunning beaches, there are many reasons to up and travel to Curaçao.
Explore a Newly Transformed Neighborhood
WHERE: Pietermaii District
The neighborhood of Pietermaai has transformed recently, with century-old heritage estates and buildings morphing into vibrant and colorful trendy restaurants, cafés, boutique stays, offbeat bars, and cool courtyards. This neighborhood has its own electric vibe, and the close-knit community presents all kinds of special art and cultural events. By day, you can enjoy walking tours, and at night, it’s worth visiting the Scharloo’s secret nightlife quarter known as District 1850.
Dive For a Purpose
WHERE: Reef Renewal Curaçao
Curaçao has many cool dive spots, but there’s only one where you can learn to plant a coral forest. Reef Renewal Curaçao gives divers the unique opportunity to tour its nurseries and restoration sites, learning first-hand about coral care. The half-day experience provides you with the necessary equipment, a guided dive, and a presentation on the organization’s restoration efforts. Reef Renewal Curaçao is on a mission to halt coral reef degradation and to inspire the local and international community to take an active role in protecting its ocean. The project initially launched with 20 coral nursery trees, which has since expanded to 40 trees and has reintroduced over 10,000 corals to the island’s reef.
Empowering Women With Chichi Curaçao
WHERE: Serena’s Art Factory
No matter where you wander in Curaçao, it’s hard to miss the doll-shaped figurines called Chichi. Chichi is a Papiamentu word for “older sister” and a term of endearment used to describe strong, proud Caribbean women. These vibrant and hand-painted curvaceous figurines honor the women of Curaçao while supporting its female artisans. The dolls hail from Serena’s Art Factory, founded by German ex-pat Serena Israel, who has created a space that celebrates and employs Curaçao women, who each design a Chichi in a style reflective of themselves. You can buy a Chichi doll online or in their shop in the art alley of Punda, Willemstad. Better yet, you can create your own by visiting Serena’s Art Factory, which offers workshops.
Explore Under-the-Sea by Submarine
WHERE: Substation Curaçao
Imagine exploring 1,000 feet below the waves without even getting wet. You can with Substation Curaçao and their Curasub, a surreal-looking four-person submersible. Witness the magnificent colorful coral walls and marine life from inside a glass bubble in the same kind of vehicle that was used to film many of Titanic’s deep-sea scenes. The Curasub is also used in important marine life and ocean research, with the team having discovered some new species of fish while working with the Smithsonian Institute. The sub descends four times a day and offers select night dives.
Reap the Benefits of Aloe Vera
WHERE: Aloe Vera Farm
Aloe vera is a true miracle plant, from its ability to calm sunburnt skin to its bevy of antioxidant and antibacterial properties. On the island of Curaçao, you can get your fill of aloe vera by visiting the Aloe Vera Farm. Tours introduce you to the power of the aloe plant and the Curaloe products that reap its benefits. Expect to be led through endless fields of wild aloe vera while learning about the unique process of transforming the plant into consumer Curaloe products. Best of all, you can purchase Curaloe products on-site, which is a sound move for the inevitable sunburn you’ll get on the beach!
Motor Beneath the Waves
There are few places on the planet where you can motor around 30 feet below the waves without a diving certification, but this offbeat, eco-friendly vehicle allows you to do just that. The Aquafari is a one-piece molded scooter and air helmet that lets you ride and breathe below the ocean as easily as if you were on land. It’s an amazing adventure guided by a diver who shows you the colorful marine life, with stops to feed the fish. You need only know how to swim well enough to submerge under the helmet to mount the scooter, and you’re off.
Dine at a Historic Mansion
Many well-known ex-plantation houses have been turned into historical museums or dining spots on the island, such as Landhuis Vredenberg. This heritage mansion is the best-kept secret only locals know about. Set in a gorgeous mansion with stunning antiques and sprawling lush grounds, this historic home is also an excellent lunch spot for authentic island cooking on the big wraparound terrace. A family-run enterprise, the daily menu of specialties is always entirely up to whatever “Mama” feels like cooking that day.
Discover the Island’s Beaches By Jetski
WHERE: Tourrific Curaçao
Few things are more freeing than flying across the surface of Caribbean waters, exploring cove after cove and beach after beach. This is the experience waiting for you with Tourrific Curaçao, where you’ll venture to multiple beaches by jetski. Uniquely, Curaçao is home to dozens of stunning beaches found tucked inside coves along the island’s rugged coastline. As you skirt across the clear waters, you’ll visit each beach—seemingly defined by one characteristic or another. At one beach, you’ll spot snorkelers scrambling to catch sight of the many sea turtles that call this particular cove home. At another beach, you’ll notice a clifftop restaurant from where dare-devil patrons can dive into the shimmering waters below. Some of Curaçao’s beaches seem like an ongoing party, while others appear quieter and serene, making it clear that whatever your style, there’s a beach waiting for you.
Indulge in Innovative Cuisine From Local Chefs
WHERE: Bario Urban Street Food
Nestled in the neighborhood of Otrabanda, Bario Urban Street Food is one of those cool open-air food concepts you’ll be recommending for years to come. Imagine an inner courtyard surrounded by converted shipping containers, each boasting a unique food concept. Behind you sits a bar ready to whip up sumptuous cocktails as you debate between ordering ceviche or vegan Caribbean fare. As you dine, cultural performances showcase European and Afro-Caribbean dances unique to the island. While the culinary concepts rotate, at the moment, you can expect to find Piskechi (a seafood-focused eatery helmed by Chef Viktor), Bario Skina (a stand serving local dishes elevated by Chef Heinrich’s creative flare), BJ Caribbean Flavors (a vegan stand serving veggies made sublime by Chef Bernadette), and Adorable Cakes (a dessert stand serving traditional Curaçao sweets by Chef Nacheska).
Find Healing at This Woman-Founded Garden
WHERE: Den Paradera Herb Garden
Too often, we throw WebMD searches and prescription pills at anything that ails us. But, on the island of Curaçao, Dinah Veeris reverts to the healing powers of nature with her Den Paradera Herb Garden. Back in 1980, Veeris began her research on healing herbs and traditions, interviewing elders in her community in the hope of preserving their knowledge for future generations. Studying Herbal Studies in California, she returned to Curaçao in 1991 to start her garden, painstakingly tending (and even singing) to every plant. The result is a sprawling garden blooming with every herb and flower you can imagine, all promising a medicinal benefit. Whether you’re looking for an alternative way to manage headaches, arthritis, or stomach pain—this garden has it all.
INSIDER TIPDen Paradera Herb Garden sells teas, lotions, and bottled tinctures, so you can easily take these natural remedies home.
A Spectacular Breakfast in an Iconic Art Gallery
WHERE: Number Ten
Look no further than Number Ten for another stellar restaurant housed within a historic mansion. This beautiful café serves gorgeous breakfasts on the grounds of the Landhuis Bloemhof, the most imaginative art gallery in the country. After having your fill of waffles, stroll around the estate—making sure to stop by the Cathedral of Thorns—before returning to the inner courtyard for coffee beneath a canopy of native trees.
INSIDER TIPIf you’re a fan of salmon, order the BB Salmon, which comes with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs served atop a sweet potato bun with capers, red onions, and dill.