Things to do in Curaçao
With its delightful Dutch colonial architecture, bustling commercial capital and excellent history museums, Curaçao feels like a little piece of Europe on the edge of the Caribbean. That is, a little piece of Europe with glorious hidden beaches, amazing onshore snorkeling and diving, and a wild undeveloped windward coast.
MIKVE ISRAEL EMANUEL SYNAGOGUE & JEWISH CULTURAL HISTORICAL MUSEUM
Consecrated in 1732, and commonly known as the Snoa (short for the old Portuguese word for synagogue, esnoga), Mikvé Israel-Emanuel is the oldest synagogue building in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere. Its most notable feature is the sand floor.
In 1970 a Jewish Cultural Museum was established adjacent to the synagogue. The museum displays an exquisite variety of priceless ceremonial and cultural objects and artifacts collected during the over 350 years of Jewish life on Curaçao. Many pieces in the collection are still used today in the Congregation’s services and rituals.
A Torah scroll brought by the first Jewish settlers to Curacao, 200-year-old silver tray from Holland, still used for the smashing of the wineglass during wedding ceremonies in the Synagogue. Chairs of Elijah (circumcision chairs); one over 300 years old. A silver Havdallah spice-box dating back to 1704. Unique, hand-wrought silver K’tarim (Torah crowns) from the first half of the 18th century; Colorful, hand-decorated Ketubot (marriage contracts), the oldest dated 1739;and countless other small, but no less significant memorabilia, such as coins minted by local Jewish families, commemorative stamps honoring famous Curaçao Jewish enterprises and culture, etc.
Entrance Fee: USD 10. Children under the age of thirteen (13) are admitted free of charge.
Hours: Open on weekdays from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Both the Snoa and adjacent Museum are closed for tourism on Shabbat’s, Sundays, Jewish Festivals and public holidays and are accessible for wheelchairs.
Address: Hanchi Snoa 29
BEIT HAYIM BLENHEIM JEWISH CEMETERY
Consecrated in 1659, Beth Haim is not only the oldest Jewish cemetery on Curacao but is the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. The oldest tombstone dates from 1668.
The cemetery contains more than 2500 tombstones, many of which were works of art, often telling biblical stories. Mortality among women in childbirth was frequent. On the tomb of Rachel, wife of Yitzhak Pereira, the father is shown handing over the newborn child to another woman before the dead mother.
Unfortunately, the oil refinery which was built nearby has deteriorated many of the old stones. Approximately one hundred, of the 2,500, 17th and 18th centuries, are still somewhat visible and readable today. Replicas of some of the elaborate tombstones can be seen at the entrance to the Curacao Jewish Museum located adjacent to Mikve Israel-Emanuel Sunangoue in Punda.
The last burials held in this cemetery were in the 1950s.
Location: Google Maps
CURAÇAO (KOSHER) LIQUOR FACTORY
Blue Curacao is one of the most famous liqueurs in the world. But did you know that the Genuine Curacao Liqueur is produced on the island of Curacao at Landhuis Chobolobo? A distillery tour of Senior Liqueur is a journey through local history, where you will discover the unique “Laraha” or “Golden” Orange found only on our island, and you will have a first-hand experience into the Kosher-certified production process of this iconic liqueur.
Free entrance & tasting. Guided tours are available, see website for pricing.
Hours: Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm.
Address: 129 Schottegatweg, Willemstad, Curacao
Phone Number: +599 9 461 3526
DOWNTOWN, PUNDA, AND OTROBANDA
Punda is the historical part of Willemstad, together with Otrabanda, which is situated on the west side of the St. Anna Bay, they form the historical city center of Willemstad. The oldest part of Willemstad, it was established in 1634 when the founding merchants built offices, warehouses, stores and living quarters on the eastern side of the bay. Together with old colonial architectural buildings, you can find modern shopping facilities.
The most important and visible remaining of the colonial days is Fort Amsterdam. It is Curacao’s oldest and most prominent monument, dating back to 1635 when it was built to dominate the harbor entrance and protect the city.
When visiting Punda, make sure to walk over the Queen Emma Bridge, also called the “Swinging Old Lady” or Pontoon bridge by the inhabitants. It is a 168-meter floating pontoon bridge made of wood. It is the only one in the world of its kind. When you are on the Queen Emma Bridge or on the Otrabanda side, take a look to the Punda side and you will see 18th-century houses with Spanish and Dutch colonial influences. A beautiful view to capture on picture.
Punda has fashion and many jewelry stores and Otrabanda has market-like stands with affordable souvenirs.
CURAÇAO OSTRICH FARM
South African–themed zoo offering guided tours & ostrich feedings, plus a souvenir shop.
The Curacao Ostrich Farm is one of the biggest breeding farms outside Africa which offers you the change of a lifetime to come and watch, feed or ride these fascinating birds. At the Curacao Ostrich Farm, there is an exciting safari trip by truck leaving every whole hour.
Hours: 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Address: Weg Naar groot St. Joris z/n Willemstad, Curacao, Curaçao
Phone number: +599 9 747 2777
Located on the north side of the island, the caves are only 4 minutes driving or 12 minutes walking from the Curacao International Airport, Hato.
The caves cover an area of 4900 sq meters and are the home to the beautiful limestone formations, romantic pools, and waterfalls. Also inside the Cave is a colony of seldom seen long nose fruit bats.
Ages 4-12: Ang. 12,25 or $7.-
Ages 13-up: Ang. 15,75,- or $9.
Hours: 9 am to 4 pm.
Address: F.D.Rooseveltweg - 12-minute walk from the airport
Telephone: +5999 8680379
SHETE BOKA NATIONAL PARK
In Shete Boka National Park the waves pound against the coral rock formations and the salt water splashes high into the air. Walk to cliff-like coves of the sea. See the natural bridge, experience the shooting sound of Boka Pistol and enter the famous Boka Tabla cave.
The Shete Boka National Park is an area adjoining the Christoffel Park covering more than 10 kilometers of the rocky wave-exposed north coast of the island and has approximately 10 pocket bays where 3 species of sea turtles are known to lay eggs.
The park begins at stunning Boka Tabla, where huge waves thunder into an underground cavern. Steps cut into the rocks lead you directly into the mouth of the cavern; you can sit on the very edge and watch the surf roll in. After you peek inside the cavern you can walk along the limestone bluffs above for a spectacular view of Curacaos rugged north coast. The inlets in the park are protected turtle breeding areas.
There are also 2 hiking trails in the park.
Address: Weg Naar Westpunt
Below is a partial list of the less crowded beaches (during the week).
Please note that many beaches charge a small admission fee to visitors.
Watamula is a gorgeous water Hole located in Sabana Westpunt, in the extreme north of the island.
Location: Google Maps
Hours: Open 24 hours every day
PLAYA KALKI/ALICE IN WONDERLAND
One of the nicest dive sites on Curaçao, Playa Kalki at Westpunt, nicknamed Alice in Wonderland, is a perfect spot for a day at the beach with divers, snorkelers and sun lovers. This is one of the top 10 sites on the island so you will often meet up with other divers underwater or at the beach. Keep an eye out for green moray eels, lobsters, mushroom-shaped star coral formations, as well as a wide array of colorful reef fish.
Location: Sabana Westpunt, Curaçao
PLAYA GRANDI / PLAYA PISKADO
If you are looking for an enchanting location on Curaçao to swim side-by-side with sea turtles, Playa Piskádo is the spot to go. This tiny fishermen's beach is also popular for snorkeling and diving and has some good photo ops of the boats and nets. Manchineel trees provide some shade. Entrance to the water is somewhat rocky.
Hours: Every day from 9 am to 9 pm.
Location: Sabana Westpunt
A small bay close to town, it is quiet, has shallow water and is perfect for snorkeling (many fish) along its rocky ledge and small fishermen's cove. Pergolas provide adequate shade and there is also a snack bar that is open both during the week as on the weekend. To the west of the beach, a small trail leads into the countryside.
Location: St. Willibrordus, Curacao
CAS ABAO BEACH
Cas Abao offers you a white sandy beach, crystal clear waters, waving palm trees and many gazebos for shade. The beach combines a natural country setting with all the conveniences of a full-service beach. Cas Abao is ideal for swimmers of all ages and its reefs are a paradise for snorkelers and scuba divers. A raft for sunbathing and playing is moored off the beach.
Open daily from 8 am to 6 pm.
Snorkeling and diving are popular in the calm waters of this bay on Curacao's western coast. The entire beach is surrounded by lush mangrove forests and features some really nice, cream-colored sand. The waters just off shore are exceptionally clear and brilliantly blue, great for casual swimmers. This location is a real escape from the public without amenities and no entrance fee.
KLEINE/GROTE KNIP BEACHES - PLAYA KENEPA CHIKI/GRANDI
The intimate Playa Kenepa (a.k.a. Klein Kenepa or Knip Beach) actually comprises two beaches: the larger Kenepa Grandi and smaller Kenepa Chiki. The beaches are partly shaded by manchineel trees and have a cliffside lookout point, which makes for a nice photo op. You can snorkel right off the beach and swim out to the reef. There is a snack bar and restroom on site.
FLAMINGO SANCTUARY SINT WILLIBRORDUS
The sanctuary gives you an excellent opportunity to see flamingoes in their natural habitat, in beautiful scenery. Definitely worth a visit. You'll see them congregating in the Saliña Sint Marie, the salt flats on the southern side of the road heading toward Playa Porto Mari. There are several places to pull off the road to get a better look at the wading beauties (whose numbers can vary greatly, anywhere from a dozen to hundreds).
Location: Weg naar St Willibrordus, Sint Willibrordus