Green Sea Turtle in shallow water of the coral reef in the Caribbean Sea around Curacao
Swim with sea turtles and all sorts of other aquatic critters.
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Island Vibes Meet European Culture: 7 Incredible Things to Do in Curacao

Soak up a Unique Blend of Caribbean Sunshine & European Culture

You won’t need to filter your photos from Curacao — it’ll seem like the color saturation has already been turned up. With sun-drenched beaches, brightly colored Dutch colonial architecture and water as blue as the island’s liqueur, Curacao is a certified jewel in the Caribbean.

Curacao is one of the top destinations in the world in recent years, so make sure you don’t miss out on this lush locale, where island vibes meet European culture.

In a place of natural beauty and rich history, you’ll find it hard to fit all of the highlights into one itinerary. To help kick off your trip planning, here are the top things to do in Curacao.

Take a Deep Dive Into Underwater Beauty

Some of Curacao’s best sights are underwater. The warm waters are particularly pleasant for scuba diving, which is the ideal way to get a closer look at the colorful coral reefs and their many aquatic inhabitants.

Sunken ships, cheerful dolphins and graceful stingrays are just a few of the wonders that await you underwater. The Mushroom Forest doesn’t sound very enticing, but you’ll find it difficult to tear yourself away from the impressive coral star formations, and underwater caves such as the Blue Room glow with sapphire light.

Interested? There are many dive operators on Curacao who can help you get scuba certified if you’re not already, but you will need to allow enough time in your itinerary for the course.

Colorful strip of houses on the Dutch Island of CuracaoWillemstad looks like a postcard and is full of surprises.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Take to the Streets of Willemstad

Willemstad’s architecture is often compared to Amsterdam — albeit a much more colorful version. Pastel-colored buildings pop against blue skies, and down cobblestone streets you’ll find alfresco restaurants, art galleries and designer boutiques. This is city life at its best.

The historic area of Willemstad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a great place to simply wander for an afternoon. Willemstad is also the canvas for some talented street artists, so venture further afield and you’ll also discover a more contemporary side to the city.

Exploring the alleyways of Punda, Sharloo or Otrabanda, you’ll come across vibrant murals that have transformed some streets into a sunny outdoor gallery.

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Aeriel view over Shete Boka National Park on Curaçao.Shete Boka National Park is a great spot to discover a little of the island's wild side.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Go Wild

The northern end of the island is a rugged antithesis to the refined culture of the capital. Christoffel National Park is a great place for a scenic drive or, for the more outdoorsy types, a hike. Orchids, barn owls and endangered white-tail deer are all found in the park and even if you don’t spot any wildlife the incredible views from the top of Mount Christoffel will make up for it.

Neighboring Shete Boka National Park encompasses a stretch of rocky coastline where turtles nest. Walks along the top of the limestone bluffs will let you appreciate the power of the water driving against the rocks — in some spots, waves can get up to 40 feet into the air.

Savonet museum in CuracaoOnce a plantation house, now a museum — don't miss Savonet. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Brush up on Your History

For a small island, Curacao has some outstanding museums. Museum Kura Hulanda in Willemstad documents the brutal history of slavery in the region, covering everything from the slave trade, to slave culture and finally abolition.

As well as giving you insight and appreciation for an ugly history that could easily be forgotten in such a beautiful place, it’s an important glimpse into the way African cultures shaped the Caribbean.

Another gem is the Savonet museum located in the north of the island. Set in an old plantation house, this museum offers another look at slavery, from the point of view of the former Savonet Plantation.

Grote Knip beach, Curacao, Netherlands AntillesWhat could be better than relaxing on a paradise beach?Photo Credit: Getty Images

Catch Some Rays

Unsurprisingly, you can find dozens of spectacular beaches on Curacao. Many of them are small coves hidden away from plain sight, so you’ll have slivers of white sand bordered by tranquil blue waters all to yourself. Some of the standout places to pitch your beach towel are Jeremi, Kenepa and Playa Lagun.

Of course, you can also find beaches with plenty of loungers, umbrellas and cocktails if that is more your style! Check out Cas Abao or Blue Bay Beach for an indulgent beach day.

For something a little further afield, try a snorkeling trip to Klein Curacao. The “Little Curacao’” is an uninhabited island off the southeast coast, and is a gorgeous day trip destination for anyone who wants to explore isolated beaches and splash around in pristine water.

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table in a restaurant in curacaoGet comfy in a local restaurant and tuck into some Creole cuisine. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Feast on Creole Cuisine

Sitting seaside and dining on fish that were swimming in the ocean only hours earlier will probably be one of the highlights of your trip. With influences ranging from Dutch to Indonesian, Curacao’s cuisine is as unique and exciting as any in the Caribbean. Make sure you try the national dish, keshi yena — a spiced cheese and chicken casserole with olives, onions and prunes.

To wash it down, awa di lamunchi is a sweet, mildly addictive lime juice.

Try Rozendaels or the Seaside Terrace in Willemstad for grilled mahi-mahi served with creole sauces

Man wearing carnival costume in curacaoCarnival is nearly two months of outrageously colorful parties. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Time Your Trip to Take in Carnival

Carnival is a big deal throughout the Caribbean, and Curacao is no different. The Curacao Carnival is the biggest local tradition and a source of huge pride. Visit during Carnival itself or in the weeks running up to the main events and you will be treated to lively street parties, showstopping parades and non-stop music.

During Carnival week, there are several events to take in. The Main Parade, or Gran Marcha, is a great place to see some outrageous costumes, while the Marcha di Despedida is usually during the night and a good chance to party out of the heat of the sun.

The Horse Carnaval Parade typically kicks off the festivities and it is every bit as enchanting as it sounds, with beautifully decorated horses prancing through the parade. Whether you take in one, two or all seven of the parades, this is certainly an event you’ll remember.

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