Outside of Willemstad, there is plenty more to see, do, and explore on the island. Shore excursions are the best way to see what Curaçao has to offer, from high-energy adventures to leisurely sightseeing tours. Driving on the island is easy and on the right.
Along the coasts, blue waters frame 38 beaches ranging from small inlets shielded by craggy cliffs to long expanses of sparkling sand. Along the southern coast, it tends to be rocky in the shallow water, so reef shoes are recommended. The west coast affords more stretches of smooth shoreline. There are snack bars and restrooms on most of the bigger beaches, but the smaller ones offer a better chance of finding tranquility, especially during the week when there are multiple cruise ships in port.
From Willemstad, head north to explore an uninhabited coast. The landscape is dotted with 10-foot-tall cacti and characteristic landhuizen (land houses)—former mansions of plantation owners. The flat but rugged terrain is ideal for cycling or hiking past the intriguing flora, which includes the famous divi-divi trees. Due to a weak bark, the branches of the tree are bent to the southwest, the direction of the prevailing trade winds. Bird-watchers should be on the lookout for any of the 160 species spotted on the island.
A gently sloping reef composed of magnificent coral formations surrounds the island, with much of it protected as an underwater park. About 40 dive zones cover more than 65 individual sites, some of which can be reached from shore.
Just north of Willemstad, the Hato Caves have often served a useful purpose. The ancient Arawaks first used them for shelter, and runaway slaves hid in them during colonial times. These days, tour guides lead groups past the pools and waterfalls and point out the 1,500-year-old cave paintings, all the while relating the legends and history of this mysterious underground world.
Farther north is Shete Boka National Park, home to the natural marvel Boka Tabla. Sit by the edge of the surf and watch huge waves thunder into an underground cavern that was carved out of the limestone by constantly pounding breakers. The views were are incredible, so bring a camera to document the spectacle.
Much of northern Curaçao is part of Christoffel National Park, a 4,450-acre wildlife preserve where white-tailed deer, barn owls, neon-blue iguanas, and rare wild orchids flourish. Eight hiking trails wind through the park, the most challenging of which leads to the top of the 1,230-foot-high Mount Christoffel. On clear days, the views from the peak can stretch as far as Venezuela.
Visit the historic Curaçao Winery, the Caribbean’s first vineyard, and enjoy a wine-tasting experience featuring locally produced vintages. Discover the unique differences between European and Caribbean vineyards with an experienced guide, followed by a scenic stop at the Rif Fort.
Board a trolley for a historical tour through Willemstad. Start at Fort Amsterdam, then see Scharloo’s picturesque homes built during the 1880s. Continue to the Mikve Israel Emmanuel Synagogue, the oldest in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere.
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