High on the list for sun-seeking travelers, Curaçao’s 38 beaches offer more to do than than just lounge on white sand under palm trees. Located along the protected Curaçao Underwater Marine Park, the beaches on the island’s southern side provide exceptionally clear waters and an abundance of marine life, making swimming, snorkeling, and diving here a memorable experience. With a number of hidden bays splashed along Curaçao’s coastline, visitors have ample opportunity to enjoy a different stretch of sand every day for over a month.
To get you started, here’s a list of Curaçao’s beaches that are not only well-loved by locals but also mostly free to the public.
Playa Forti is located on the northwest of the island in a village called Westpunt, which is popular for weekend getaways. While lounging in the pebbly sand is always nice, many visitors here prefer jumping instead—straight from the cliff into the turquoise water below. If cliff jumping isn’t your thing, grab a seat at nearby Restaurant Playa Forti and watch the divers from a distance. As with most beaches on the island, Playa Forti can get quite busy on Sundays.
Also located in the northwest of Curaçao near the village of Lagun, Playa Jeremi is a popular choice for locals but relatively unknown to tourists. Steps carved into rocks lead the way to this narrow cove that also includes a reef wall with grand coral formations. With little vegetation to offer shade, we recommend you bring along your umbrella as well as your cooler and snacks, because like many of the beaches on this list, there are no facilities. But, if you ask us, that’s just part of the charm—and the shimmering ocean water doesn’t hurt either.
South of the village of Lagun sits the wide bay of Santa Cruz. Popular with locals on the weekends and during holidays for camping, Santa Cruz Bay is a beach that offers not only welcoming water but also the perks of shaded areas, restrooms, and a restaurant called Captain Good Life. Hiking aficionados will enjoy the seven-minute trail, which starts at the left of the bay near the restaurant and leads to the hidden beach of Santu Pretu, as well as the popular Blue Room underwater cave.
Depending on the tide and because of its narrow opening, you may have to place your hands along the rocks to feel when you’re in the clear to enter the cave itself, where you can enjoy snorkeling in electric blue water. The Blue Room is not recommended for those who are claustrophobic.
Playa Kenepa Grandi
Also known as Grote Knip in Dutch, this picture-perfect beach between the villages of Westpunt and Lagun is one of the most popular images that pops up in internet searches for “best Curaçao beach,” likely because of its stunning white-sand shoreline. Here, you can rent an umbrella, beach chair, and even kayak, plus purchase drinks and food. There is also a restroom available. Do note that these facilities may not be open during the week.
Playa Kenepa Chikí
Next to Grote Knip lies the lesser known Kleine Knip, or Playa Kenepa Chikí. While this beach is definitely smaller than its famous neighbor, it’s beloved for its white sand and memorable snorkeling—the best is on the left side of the beach near the cliff. You’ll find an impressive biodiversity of coral, home to squid and fish of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Manta rays and turtles are often spotted here as well.
Just a 30-minute drive from Willemstad, close to the village of Sint Willibrordus, is Daaibooi. It’s one of the few beaches where barbecuing is allowed, making it very popular with the locals. You are guaranteed to be welcomed on Sundays with whiffs of grilled meat, which undoubtedly will be served next to a healthy portion of potato salad.
But for those who don’t feel like dragging their grill to the beach, there is a small snack bar and beach chairs for rent. And you’ll glimpse Daaibooi’s history in remnants of walls from when the bay was a harbor for small boats, which would collect salt from nearby plantations to be shipped to Europe.
Colorful wooden fishing boats line Playa Lagun’s shore, making it one of the most striking beaches on the island. This narrow cove protected by limestone cliffs is popular with fishermen, divers, and snorkelers alike. It has a rich underwater world with little coves in the cliff wall, plenty of fish, and even seahorses. Visit early in the morning for a better chance to spot turtles, and look for iguanas jumping from the cliffs in the early afternoon hours. These prehistoric-looking lizards, native to the island, are known to be remarkable swimmers.
Although it’s not free, Playa Manzalina is unquestionably worth a visit for its seclusion and wild beauty. It’s one of four undeveloped beaches on the private San Juan plantation and a favorite for Curaçaoans because of its accessibility and many manzalina trees lining the shore. Although these trees—which the beach is named after—offer the only shelter from the hot sun, stay away from the poisonous fruit and leaves.
If you prefer a more secluded and shaded area, come early to claim the only spot available in the nearby shallow cave located all the way to the right of the beach. The road to the sand can be bumpy in the rainy season, so it’s best to travel in a Jeep or pickup truck. Each car entering the private estate is required to pay 10 guilders, or US$5.50, to the gentleman standing by the ruins of the old San Juan plantation house.
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