Curaçao Adventures

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Curaçao Adventures
There's more to Curaçao than its Caribbean beaches. The island is also an outdoor adventurer’s paradise, boasting dramatic caves, top-notch diving, and two national parks. Down to shopp? There's plenty of outdoor markets to enjoy (and restaurants to explore when you're done)!
By Ashley Castle Pittman, AFAR Contributor
Photo by Ashley Castle
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    Dive into the Deep Blue
    Curaçao's waters are ideal for underwater adventures. While any of the island’s beaches offer incredible opportunities for snorkeling, several also provide fantastic spots for shore diving. Try Porto Mari for its healthy coral reefs and tropical fish, Playa Grandi where turtles come to feed on fishermen's scrap, or jump in anywhere along the Playa Forti coastline. Explore the Tug Boat, a ship wreck teeming with fish, or Boka Fluit (the Blue Room), an underwater cave known for its deep sapphire waters.
    Photo by Ashley Castle
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    Curaçao's Underworld
    Curaçao's unique landscapes hold many opportunities for travelers who want to do more than cultivate a sunburn. The island's most incredible landscape can be found at Shete Boka National Park—it's a thrill to hike to seven inletsin one day, many of which have caves where you can watch the sea furiously rushes in. Observe nature's brute force from up close by climbing carefully into the entrance to Boka Tabla or The Hato Caves (near the airport).
    Photo by Tony Waltham/age fotostock
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    Willemstad Photo Safari
    Willemstad's Punda district is known for its eye-catching flourescent houses. Legend has it that in the early 1800s the Governor General suffered from migraines that he believed were caused by the glare off the whitewashed buildings, and issued a decree instructing the residents to paint their homes any color other than white. The resulting color riot has led to Willemstad's designation by UNESCO as a World Heritage City, and to its popularity with photographers. Cross over to Otrobanda next to see Dutch colonial architecture before stopping into Museum Kurá Hulanda to learn about the island's slave trade. End the walk in Scharloo with its baroque mansions and life-sized street art murals on Bitterstraat.
    Photo by Terrance Klassen/age fotostock
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    Outdoor Dining: Tastes of Curaçao
    Most restaurants here have outdoor seating, which—thanks to Curaçao's tropical climate and can't miss views—is the best way to share a meal. If you're in the city, grab some grub streetside at a truki pan, or food truck. (Try BBQ Express or Elite Grill after a night out). Head to the Punda District, a favorite for its affordable prices and local atmosphere, or venture to Netto Bar to experience the island's only rom verde (green rum) with a lively, diverse crowd. You can get fancy by dining at BijBlauw.
    Photo by Kay Maeritz/age fotostock
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    Outdoor Markets
    For fresh fish, you can't beat Curaçao’s Floating Market, where Venezuelan fishermen park their boats and sell their catch to discerning shoppers. Continue on to the local markets in downtown Willemstad, where you can load up on fruits, vegetables, and handcrafts before refueling with a tropical smoothie at one of the most popular batido trucks on the island. When you need to sit down, Plasa Bieu is an outdoor eatery located in a building that was formerly a marketplace. Lined with picnic tables and protected from the sun, this is a good spot to enjoy local specialties like freshly caught fish, plantains, pumpkin pancakes, tutu (a mix of cornmeal, sugar, and beans), and cactus soup. Thursday evenings in Punda are for arts and crafts market lovers, with locally made items on sale during the weekly Punda Vibes event—paint your own Chi Chi doll at Serena's Art Factory on the Windstraat, or grab a carving at SilvanyRoss.
    Photo by Terrance Klassen/age fotostock
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    Stunning Views of Curaçao
    The best way to see Curaçao is from a mix of several vantage points, including both land and water. Take a drive along Princess Juliana Bridge for a stunning panoramic view of Willemstad's colorful colonial city from above. Hike Mount Christoffel, located in the Christoffel National Park. Go with a local guide to the mountain’s peak, which takes about two hours round-trip and provides sweeping, panoramic views of the island. Then see some rugged landscape up close by walking the coastal trails at Shete Boka National Park, and standing near inlets where the sea crashes violently against the rocks. Soak up the views at Playa Kenepa, a picturesque and secluded white sand beach tucked below towering rocks located on Curaçao’s western side, and a favorite haunt of locals. Take a boat off the island to get a different perspective from the water: head to secluded Klein Curaçao for a day trip.
    Photo by Walter Bibikow/age fotostock
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    Curaçaoan Culture and Art
    The Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue in Willemstad is one of the oldest in the Americas, and also houses a museum dedicated to Curaçao's Jewish culture. Take a self-guided tour of Punda to explore the architecture, and then duck inside the synagogue and its adjacent museum. Save a couple of hours for the Museum Kurá Hulanda, in Otrobanda, an anthropological museum housing the largest African collection in the Caribbean. Then follow a guided walking tour to learn of all about Otrobanda's history and art. Over in Scharloo, admire the Skalo Street Art murals that have transformed rundown colonial buildings. Throw in a visit to a landhuis on the way out of town, where you can learn how to make Curaçao's signature liqueur, or dine in an old plantation home setting.
    Photo by Jeff Greenberg/age fotostock