Top Attractions in Curaçao

Curaçao may only be 40 miles long, but this Caribbean island came to play. Whether you’re here to laze on a tropical beach, explore a neighborhood filled with street art, or jump off a cliff, we’ve rounded up a list of what to do.

Highlights
Kon. Emmabrug, Willemstad, Curaçao
No island getaway is complete without seeing gorgeous scenery you’d never, ever see at home—and Willemstad’s floating bridge delivers! Built in 1888, “Our Swinging Old Lady” is supported by 16 pontoon boats and two motors. When you hear the siren, look to see the entrance gates slam shut and moments later, the bridge sways to accommodate passing ships. (If you don’t feel like waiting for Queen Emma to reopen, you can take a ferry between Willemstad’s Punda and Otrobanda districts instead.) At night, the bridge’s lights cast a shimmering rainbow on the water.
Otrobanda, Willemstad, Curaçao
Stroll through Otrobanda for more than five minutes and you’ll immediately understand why locals call it the cultural heart of Willemstad. Located across the bay from Punda—Otrobanda literally means “other side"—the district is a fascinating mishmash of restored colonial buildings and run-down alleys covered in fading murals. Along the Breedestraat, the neighborhood’s main shopping road, you can find rows of Chinese and Indian stores, bars, lotto shacks, bakeries, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. The best way to explore this area’s complex past is to join Shirley of Dushi Walks on a two-hour trek to her favorite sites—complete with history, art, and stories from the residents you’ll meet along the way.
Hanchi Snoa 1-5, Willemstad, Curaçao
Willemstad’s first colonial settlement started as a hub for Dutch slave traders. Now a World Heritage site, this modern city center has a distinct Euro-Caribbean atmosphere, its preserved colonial buildings housing fashion boutiques, art galleries, and sidewalk cafés. Wander down Punda’s narrow cobblestoned alleys, then snap a signature photo at the Queen Wilhelmina Park’s giant Curaçao and Dushi signs. The neighborhood gets extra lively during the free Punda Vibes event every Thursday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., featuring an outdoor market, live music, and local folkloric dancing.
Hanchi Snoa
A block-long bright yellow building standing almost fortress-like above the surrounding streets in Willemstad, the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue bears testament to the long history of Judaism in the Americas. Built in 1730, it is the oldest continuously operating synagogue in the western hemisphere. Its most notable feature is the sand floor. While there are several different explanations for it, the sand is not a nod to the Caribbean location. The most common theory is that it was created to continue a tradition from Spain and Portugal where, when Jews were prohibited from practicing their religion openly and met in private homes, sand was used to muffle the sounds of worshippers.

Don’t miss the small museum across from the front entrance to the synagogue. Its artifacts and photographs record how Curaçao‘s Jewish community has survived and thrived over the centuries.
Ramble down this scenic Punda road, and you’ll soon encounter two of the island’s most renowned art galleries. Serena Art Shop is famous for its handpainted Curaçao Chichi figure, while visitors can’t get enough of the Nena Sanchez Gallery’s striking island-themed paintings and giclées (prints). On the next street over, SilvanyRoss, a charming shop, features one-of-a-kind souvenirs sourced from local entrepreneurs and artists, from wood-carved coasters to oil paintings and handmade purses. Get to Windstraat on the early side; most of its stores and galleries close up by 5 p.m.
Bitterstraat, Willemstad, Curaçao
Cross Punda’s Queen Wilhelmina Bridge, and bam! You’re in Scharloo, Willemstad’s youngest colonial district. Known for baroque mansions once inhabited by the island’s wealthiest merchants, this historical neighborhood is also a hipster haven. Thanks to Street Art Skálo, a group of up-and-coming local artists, you can admire life-size murals on Bitterstraat and Parke Leyba from Curaçao masters like Francis Sling and Garrick Marchena. Afterwards, grab coffee on Beyglz’s colonial terrace and shop for 100-percent-handmade bath and body products at Integra Natural.
Landhuis Savonet, Weg Naar Westpunt, Curaçao
It gets so hot in Curaçao that you’re not even allowed to hike the island’s highest peak—1,239-foot-high Mount Christoffel—after 11 a.m. But you can explore seven other walking paths in the surrounding park, or follow a marked trail to take in the island’s diverse flora and fauna. Rent a mountain bike, sign up for an affordable sunrise or sunset safari, or roam the park by yourself, wild and free. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot the native and endangered Curaçao white-tailed deer. Not a nature enthusiast? History nerds can tour the Savonet Museum, a former plantation now dedicated to artifacts that reveal how the people of Curaçao used to live.
Sabana Westpunt, Curaçao
Smart tourists shamelessly copy locals. Westpunt, or Bándabou in Papiamento, is the Curaçao native’s go-to beach escape. Follow the road lined with giant cacti to the turquoise waters that are the turquoise-iest you have ever seen. (Beaches this beautiful warrant the making up of new words.) Playa Kenepa, also known as Kleine Knip, is probably the most stunning of the beaches: Its natural beauty is totally untouched, except for a few mobile vendors selling fried pastechi stuffed with Gouda cheese. Head to the cove at Playa Lagun to check out the coral reef, and get ready to don geeky snorkeling gear at Playa PortoMari.
They say you haven’t really been to Curaçao until you’ve jumped off this 40-foot cliff on the Westpunt side of the island. Located near the edge of the Restaurant Playa Forti, this spectacular site has seen many a visitor perched for minutes...and minutes...while contemplating the leap into the sapphire water below. (Some jumpers have reported seeing birds fly by—not exactly comforting!) Head here at sunset on weekends when it’s at its busiest to study how the locals do it, or psych yourself up with a few YouTube videos before you go.
Pletterijweg Willemstad, Parera Curaçao, Pletterijweg, Willemstad, Curaçao
Thriving marine life and crystal-clear water make Curaçao an unforgettable snorkeling destination. At Tugboat Beach, you can head 17 feet below the surface to explore a sunken vessel. Mushroom Forest is known for its hard corals and cute (creepy?) critters. And at Playa Grandi, you can watch turtles glide close to shore while fishermen clean catch every afternoon. Dance with the fish along PortoMari beach, or plunge deeper to explore its double reef system. Dive shops abound for PADI classes or equipment rentals—get ready to merge with Mother Nature.
Saliña Ariba, Willemstad Elias R. A. Moreno Boulevard, Willemstad, Curaçao
The nation’s signature blue curaçao liqueur is made on this former plantation house (landhuis) turned distillery. The fragrant oils in the peels of the island’s oranges—originally brought here by the Spaniards, and then abandoned as a crop when the fruit turned bitter in the island’s soil—serve as the base of this aromatic drink. (It also comes in red, green, and clear.) Hop on a one-hour guided tour for a better overview of Curaçao’s plantation history, the liqueur-making process, and, of course, a cocktail. Tastings are free on self-guided visits; try your favorite flavor over the house gelato. And avoid days when cruise ships are in port if you want to keep your sanity.
Sha Caprileskade
Near the pontoon bridge in Handelskade in Willemstad, wooden boats from Venezuela dock alongside the canal, and vendors here sell just-caught fish and tropical fruits and vegetables (plantains, citrus, papayas, avocados) directly from the quay under the shade of tents. Mornings are the best time to visit, for the finest selection of produce, the cooler temperatures before the midday sun shines, and the pleasant ambience of the hours before the crowds arrive.

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