While many peoples, from the indigenous Arawak tribes to Spanish settlers, have lived here, it’s the Dutch who have most noticeably influenced Curaçao, especially since the island remains a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, forming part of the Dutch Caribbean ABC Islands along with Aruba and Bonaire.
Immerse yourself in centuries of Dutch history across downtown Willemstad, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its preserved colonial architecture. Vibrantly colourful, the historic buildings here seem to have been dropped straight from a Dutch city to the Caribbean seaside. Some of the most notable landmarks include Fort Amsterdam, Curaçao’s oldest monument built in 1635, where you’ll also find the island’s oldest church, Fortchurch. The church was attacked by the English in 1804 and one of the cannon balls used can still be spotted where it stayed stuck in a wall!
To revel in modern Curaçaoan culture, head to the historical Pietermaai district of Curaçao, also in the capital of Willemstad. Once a thriving neighbourhood occupied by wealthy merchants, it fell into disrepair later in the 20th century, but has since been restored into a cultural hotspot, attracting artists, musicians and travellers to an excellent seaside dining and social scene.
Pro-tip: Pop quiz: where is the oldest continually used synagogue of the Americas? The answer might surprise you, because… it’s right here, in Curaçao! Visit the Mikve Israel Emanuel Synagogue to learn more about the country’s Jewish heritage.
Get back to nature
From forested hills to windswept, uninhabited rugged plains, Curaçao is bound to surprise with its diversity of landscapes awaiting you just outside Willemstad.
Experience the island’s natural marvels at Christoffel Park, Curaçao’s largest national park located along the north-western side of the island. Hiking trails wind their way around green hills teeming with native flora (Beard mosses! Bromeliads! Orchids! Oh my!), a deer sanctuary, historical ruins of former plantations, and a beautiful mountain (Mt. Christoffel) offering breathtaking panoramic views.
Go coastal over at Shete Boka National Park, whose names translates to “seven inlets,” where giant waves crash against the rocky, volcanic cliffs that border the different bays. Look out for the area’s favourite locals: three different types of sea turtles come here to nest!
Curaçao’s varied landscape also proves to be fertile ground for all kinds of herbal remedies. Discover a prime example at The Aloe Vera Plantation, an active farm dedicated to the growth and production of one of the country’s most popular natural products. Learn about the farming process and stock up on aloe vera products direct from the source! Find more locally grown healing herbs at the Dinah Veeris Herb Garden, where you can find out which indigenous herbs help ease any ailment.
Pro-tip: Looking for your own little corner of natural paradise? Take a day trip to Klein Curaçao! Just 2 hours by boat from the main island, it has the country’s longest beach and tons of exciting shipwreck sites to explore. You very own tropical desert island for the day!
See you at sea
Blessed with a sun-soaked location amid the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, just north of South America, Curaçao captivates at sea as much as it does on land.
Divers of all levels can find worlds of wonder underwater! Its year-round warm waters welcome snorkellers and scuba divers to explore top diving sites, mainly located off the south-western coast. Admire the mushroom-shaped reef formations at Playa Kalki, look out for lobsters and turtles at Porto Marie or swim among the most colourful marine life inhabiting the waters of Snake Bay.
Between land and sea sizzle the many beaches of Curaçao (35 in total!). Shimmering white sands and infinite cerulean views of the Caribbean are what favourites like the beaches of Santa Barbara, Kenepa and Lagun have in common. Lucky for you, our selection of all-inclusive resorts in Curaçao all promise beach-side bliss.
Pro-tip: Travelling with the kids? You might prefer diving at the Curaçao Sea Aquarium and Curaçao Dolphin Academy! Both invite you to get up close and personal with local sea life in complete safety, from swimming with dolphins to feeding sharks.
Sample Curaçaoan delights
Sometimes, this country’s most surprising marvels find themselves… on your plate! Don’t leave without trying local cuisine, featuring a delicious blend of flavours influenced by the island’s multi-culturalism.
A few must-try dishes? Keshi Yena, a signature dish consisting of baked gouda or edam cheese balls stuffed with meat, kadushi (cactus) soup, loads of fish and seafood, and Dutch treats like oliebollen (doughnuts) or poffertjes (puffed pancakes)! For an extra local experience, try a full meal from a Truk’i Pan, the Curaçaoan version of a food truck.
Pro-tip: You’ll want to add an iconic nightcap to your meal! After all, this is the home of the beloved, orange-flavoured Blue Curaçao liqueur. Check out the Landhuis Chobolobo distillery for guided tours that will show you how it’s made!