Caribbean Travelweb

Guide To Curacao



is the largest island in the Netherlands Antilles, and is part of the Dutch Leeward Islands, also known as the Dutch Antilles. Willemstad, the capital, is noted for its brightly coloured, Dutch-style houses and Cunucu dwellings (based on African-style mud and wattle huts). It is one of the finest shopping centres in the Caribbean. The harbor has a floating market where colorful barges full of agricultural produce are moored. Nearby is the new market building, the design of which is very striking. St Christoffel National Park, occupying the most northwestern part of the island, is a nature reserve dominated by the mountain of the same name. There are several caves decorated with Arawak Indian paintings, some unusual rock formations and fine views across the countryside. Lucky visitors may spy iguanas and shy Curaçao deer. Traditional Dutch food is popular, as well as the exciting flavors of Creole food, criollo, which makes good use of fresh fish. There are several discos run by hotels on the island some of which also have a casino.

Sun worshipers enjoy Curacao's many beautiful and diverse white sand beaches, tiny and private to enormous sweeps of sand. Golfers shouldn't miss playing at Blue Bay, the island's challenging new 18-hole golf course which takes advantage of seaside terrain and Caribbean vistas.

Curaçao offers many choices of places to stay, at many price levels: luxury resorts operated by international chains, one-of-a-kind boutique hotels, fully equipped vacation apartments and convenient, affordable properties. Roads are excellent and public transportation reliable; a hospitable, multilingual population makes visitors feel welcomed.

Many of Curacao's most amazing secrets lie beneath the water. Curaçao diving is unique for many reasons. It is set apart from other Caribbean destinations by its diversity and its density of sea life, its many underwater landscapes, and its reef's proximity to shore. Reefs surround the island, attaching to the shore like a narrow fringe. Massive coral formations extend into the depths with deep-water fish patrolling the plunging walls. The reef walls on Curaçao vary from moderate 45 degree angles to steep 90 degree angles. There is plenty to see, be it dolphins playing, turtles sunning, or even pilot whales migrating.

Getting There

By Air

There are a number of airlines which service Curaçao, allowing travel any day of the week.

To / from North America

American Airlines

Insel Air

Air Canada (seasonal)

WestJet (seasonal)

To / from Europe

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines


Air Berlin

To / from Latin America


Avior Airlines

Copa Airlines

Surinam Airways

Aerolinea Estelar

To / from Caribbean

Divi Divi Air

Insel Air

Liat Airline

Tiara Air

Entry Requirements

Generally tourists holding a passport may enter the Netherlands Antilles without a written permit and remain with us for a period of fourteen to thirty days. However, several nationalities (e.g. Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, India, Peru) are required to present a tourist visa to enter the Netherlands Antilles. A visa should be applied for at least one month in advance at any representation of the Netherlands (in the concerning country). US visitors require a passport to get back into the USA.

Tourists should be in possession of:
Valid passport
A return or outward ticket on arrival
Sufficient funds for accommodations and food
The necessary documents for returning to the country of origin, or further travel elsewhere

The following nationalities require a Visa to enter Curaçao:
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbeidzjan;
Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bhutan, Burundi, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Botswana, Burkina Faso;
Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, China/ except holders from Hong Kong
Hong-Kong SAR en BNO Flying document holders, Colombia, Comoro, Congo
Democratic Republic (Zaire), Congo (Brazzaville), Cuba;
Djibouti, Dominican Republic;
Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia;
Fiji Island Philippines;
Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau;
India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Ivory;
Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyz, Kiribati, Kuwait, Korea (North);
Laos, Lesotho, Liberia, Latvia;
Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Marshall Islands, Mauritania,
Mauritius, Micronesia, Moldavia, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar;
Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria;
Oman, East –Timor;
Pakistan, Palau, Palestine Authority, Papua New Guinea, Peru;
Russian Federation, Rwanda;
Salomon’s Islands, Samoa (West), Saudi-Arabia, Sao Tome en Principe, Senegal
Serbia en Montenegro (Yugoslavia), Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somali, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria;
Tadzjikistan, Taiwan (Republic of China), Tanzania, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Togo, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkey, Tuvalu;
Uganda, Ukraine, United Arabian Emirates, Uzbekistan;
Vanuatu, Vietnam;
Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Departure Tax
Airport departure fees are assessed for International destinations of USD $32.00 ( NAFL. 57,60) and USD $ 8.00 (NAFLS. 14,50) for domestic destinations. Children under the age of two (2) are exempted of payment. Domestic destinations are Bonaire and St. Maarten.

Helpful Visitor Information

Getting Around
While taxis are available in Curaçao, a rental car will be helpful in getting around and is a necessity to explore Curacao’s various shore diving locations. Several resorts offer transportation to the downtown area.

Taxi's are easy to recognize by their signs and the TX on their registration plates. The prices are based for 1-4 people from 6 am-11pm. A fifth person costs 25% more. After 11pm there is 25% surcharge. Passengers should agree on a price for the journey with the driver first. There are taxi stands at the airport, hotels and Sha Caprileskade in Punda.

Rental Cars
Avis, Hertz, National, Budget and a number of local companies are available. There are a choice of models available and rates range from about $25. for a compact to $45. for a jeep. Driving is on the right side of the road. At intersections and traffic circles yield to traffic coming from your right unless signs indicate otherwise. At all T-crossing through traffic has priority. The speed limit is 45 km/hour in town and residential areas and 60-80km/hour outside the city and on the four lane Ring Road.

Banks are open Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The airport bank is open Monday through Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Selected banks branches have ATMs that disburse US dollars.
US dollars are accepted almost everywhere, traveler's checks less so. Bills of US$ 50 and 100 can be hard to cash. International credit cards are accepted at most major commercial establishments. Debit Cards are accepted at a few large shops and supermarkets.
The larger denominations of guilder bills (100 and 250) are hard to cash for small purchases. There are currently two versions of guilder coins in circulation. The old square nickel and the newer square fifty cent piece are some of the only square coins in the world; along with the 21/2 guilder coin they are popular souvenirs, particularly for children.

Average temperature is 80-82 F. Annual rainfall is about 20 inches. Curaçao is a dry, windy island. Cactus and parrots are a common site. Water temperature is around 80-84 degrees. Curacao, like Bonaire is south of the Hurricane belt and is therefore a good destination for late summer/Fall travel.

Curaçao is on Atlantic Standard Time, which is one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

Electricity is 110 - 130 volts/50 cycles, similar but not identical to the US standard. Most 60 cycle electrical appliances from the United States will function properly, although appliances that have internal time mechanisms will not keep the correct time and hairdryers and curling irons may overheat if used for too long. Dual voltage appliances from Europe and South America will need an adapter plug, readily available on the island. Although electrical current is generally reliable, consider using a surge regulator for sensitive electronic devices and computers. It's a good idea to charge underwater strobes and videos on the regulated systems at dive shops and photo centers.

Temperatures are warm throughout the year, so light, casual tropical wear is in order. Remember to protect yourself from sunburn. Most indoor establishments are air conditioned so if you chill easily, you may need a lightweight jacket or long sleeves. Some restaurants prohibit shorts or sandals; some casinos also require jackets for men. Overly revealing clothes and bathing suits are not appropriate, except on the beach. If you plan to walk in the countryside, wear sturdy shoes and long pants to protect your legs from the cacti.

Language and Culture
Dutch is the official language on Curaçao, but Papiamento is the local language. English and Spanish are widely spoken.

Curaçao distills water from the sea and it is excellent. No problems here.

It is customary to tip porters NAFl. 1 per bag, and taxi drivers 10% of the fare. Restaurants usually add a 10% service charge to the bill; you can leave a couple more guilders change if you like. Most hotels add a 12% service charge to the bill. All this beside the 5% Government sales tax.

Visitor Activities and Attractions

Curaçao is a shopper's paradise. Some 200 shops line the major shopping streets such as Heerenstraat and Breedestraat. Right in the heart of Willemstad is the 5-block Punda shopping district. Most stores are open Monday through Saturday from 8am to noon and 2 to 6pm (some from 8am-6pm). When cruise ships are in port, stores are also open for a few hours on Sunday and holidays. To avoid the cruise-ship crowds, do your shopping in the morning.

Look for good buys on French perfumes, Dutch Delft blue souvenirs, finely woven Italian silks, Japanese and German cameras, jewelry, silver, Swiss watches, linens, leather goods, liquor, and island-made rum and liqueurs, especially Curaçao liqueur, some of which has a distinctive blue color. The island is famous for its 5-pound wheels of Gouda and Edam cheeses. You'll also see wooden shoes, although we're not sure what you'd do with them. Some of the stores also stock some deals on intricate lacework imported from Portugal, China, and everywhere in between. If you're a street shopper and want something colorful, consider one of the wood carvings or flamboyant paintings from Haiti or the Dominican Republic. Both are hawked by street vendors at any of the main plazas.

Curaçao has a large selection of international restaurants, with a wide variety of cuisine. The local food includes delicious seafood, meats and side dishes. Some of the local sea food is Dradu (Mahi Mahi), Piska Kora (Red Snapper), Karko (conch meat), shrimp, and lobster. Kabritu Stoba (goat meat) is also a local specialty. Plantains (fried bananas) are usually served as vegetables or side dishes. Keshi Yena is also very delicious and means "filled cheese"; the cheese is filled with chicken, raisins, beans, and many other good things. Funchi is another specialty and is made out of corn; it's similar to corn bread and is usually fried like french fries. Another local specialty is Iguana soup. Typical side dishes are rice with beans, white rice, french fries, or baked potatoes.

A note on dress: beachwear is not appropriate except for beach bars and takeout, shorts and sandals for men are not acceptable at many places. Expect locals to dress very fashionably. Many restaurants are air-conditioned; you may want to bring a light jacket or coverup. Most restaurants add a 10% service charge beside the government 5% sales tax.. You may leave an additional tip if you are pleased with the service.

The Curaçao Museum is located in the western part of Otrobanda in an historic building dating from 1853. This spacious museum, Curaçao's largest, showcases works by traditional as well as contemporary local and foreign artists. A permanent collection of antique period furniture, including some exquisite mahogany pieces from the 18th and 19th centuries, antique maps of Curaçao and the Caribbean, and Indian art are also on display. Special exhibitions are organized regularly. The large shaded grounds are a pleasant place to stroll; children love the real locomotive.

In addition there are other museums including Maritime Museum, Jewish Cultural Historical Museum, Postal Museum, Fort Church Museum, Numismatic Museum and Tele Museum.

Curaçao has some thirty public and private beaches, ranging from intimate rocky coves to long strands bustling with activity. Almost all of the swimming beaches are scattered along the sheltered southwestern coast, where the waters are generally calm and crystal clear. The northern coast, with its powerful surf and strong undertow, is not suitable for swimming. Topless bathing is officially prohibited on all public beaches and some private ones, although tacitly accepted in some places.

Scuba Diving & Snorkeling
Curaçao diving is unique for many reasons. It is set apart from other Caribbean destinations by its diversity and its density of sea life, its many underwater landscapes, and its reef's proximity to shore. Reefs surround the island, attaching to the shore like a narrow fringe. Massive coral formations extend into the depths with deep-water fish patrolling the plunging walls. The reef walls on Curaçao vary from moderate 45 degree angles to steep 90 degree angles. There is plenty to see, be it dolphins playing, turtles sunning, or even pilot whales migrating.

Even the most experienced diver will find the fish life of Curaçao entertaining. even sometimes dramatic. Instead of exploring the whole reef in one dive, choose one coral-covered spot and just float above the coral heads and watch life go on. There are over 500 species of fish inhabiting these Caribbean reefs, so you are sure to see plenty of activity.

Deep Sea Fishing
The marlin, Dolphin, sailfish, tuna, and wahoo, Barracuda, Snapper in nearby waters provide an exciting challenge even for seasoned anglers.

Horseback Riding
Ashari's Ranch and Rancho Alegre provide guided tours on horseback for beginning as well as experienced riders.

Trails run throughout the 4,500 acres of Christoffel Park, and the 2-mile Rif Recreation Area offers a surfaced track for jogging.

With year-round winds of over 13 knots, Curaçao offers excellent opportunities for windsurfing operations. Skilled professionals are on hand to offer instruction for beginners.

Curaçao is home to a number of sailing regattas throughout the year, and Hobbie-Cat and Sunfish equipment are always available for rent.

The Seaquarium displays many fish and sea-life and the under-water observatory lets even non-divers observe the aquatic world. While driving out to Westpoint, a stop at Boca Tabla (see below) is highly recommended. Landhouses are worth a visit for their architecture and history, especially landhouse Brievengat, Chobolobo, and Knip. Many old buildings in Punda and Otrabanda have been restored and renovated and give a nice insight into the early settlers' lives. Curaçao is also the home of the oldest Synagogue in the Western Hemisphere and an old Jewish cemetery. For hiking fans, the Christoffel Park is a nice but hot place to visit. A tour of the Curaçao Ostrich Farm will reveal details on how these giant birds grow up. The Hato Caves (see below) are a great place to learn more about Curaçao's geological history. Last, but not least, simply walking around in Punda, crossing the Emma bridge, looking at the waterfront, and observing people and their activities is a nice way to pick up the flavor of the Caribbean and Curaçao.

Boca Tabla
On the northern side of the island the rough sea water has been smashing against the rocky coastline for centuries and has built several caves and little inlets into the rock. The most interesting one to see is probably Boca Tabla which is located close to Westpoint on the north-western end of the island. Visitors can walk over the massive volcanic rocks and observe the wild sea and listen to the wind. It's exciting to climb down into the cave to observe the waves clashing against its walls. On weekends simple but good local food is offered and people can sit in the cool shade of Divi-Divi trees and eat.

Hato Caves
These are limestone caves located close to the Curaçao airport. The cave has been commercialized in the early 90s and is now open to the public. Joining one of the hourly tours, visitors can enter the cave and learn more about Curaçao's geological history. The Hato Caves were formed below sea level thousands of years ago and as the water level dropped with the Ice Ages the cave became exposed. Like in other sea caves, shells and corals can be recognized in the stone. The cave is still active and stalactites (icicle shaped rocks hanging from the roof) and stalagmites (inverted stalactites on the floor) are growing to form columns. Flowstone and dripstone, curtain formations, lime ribs, and terrace formations suggest that the cave has been wetter in earlier times. Movements of the earth about 4000 years ago caused cracks (visible by lime deposits) and rocks fell down from the roof of the cave creating a small opening. This opening is used by the few hundred bats living in the cave to leave at night and hunt for food. Outside the cave Caquetios Indians carved Petroglyphs into the rock wall indicating that some of their religious ceremonies took place there about 1500 years ago.

Carnival is a main event in Curaçao which usually takes place in late February. Many carnival groups come up with unique and interesting themes, colorful costumes, and large floats that they display during the parade. Preparations always start several months in advance. The carnival is not government funded and groups have their own way of raising money. One of the main fund raisers every year are the so called Jump-Ups that start in January. Bands on trucks playing carnival music followed by a dancing crowd move through the streets of Willemstad and party.
Participants have to purchase a T-Shirt and get music, drinks, and fun in return. Most importantly, everybody is getting into the carnival mood and bands can practice their carnival songs for the year. The actual carnival parade usually takes several hours and is done twice, once during the day and once at night, resulting in two very different looking displays. Every year one of the groups participating is chosen to be the winner based on their theme and their appearance. In addition to those groups, popular bands on trucks and drumming groups are contributing with live music, and floats with Miss Curaçao etc. are participating. Carnival is known to be the busiest time of the island since many international spectators come to visit.





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