7 Great Things To Do In Curacao

7 Great Things To Do In Curacao
The beautiful Caribbean island of Curacao is located just 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela. The island is a popular port on Southern Caribbean cruise itineraries, welcoming hundreds of thousands of cruise passengers each year. It’s no wonder that cruise ships flock to this multicultural destination. Curacao is renowned for its colorful centuries-old buildings with distinctive architecture, stunning natural beauty, exceptional water sports, and superb weather year-round.

Cruise ships dock in Willemstad, Curacao’s capital and its only major city. First settled in 1634, Willemstad contains a wide array of attractions that travelers will enjoy. Heading across the Queen Emma Bridge is an adventure in itself. Dubbed the “Swinging Old Lady,” this floating pontoon bridge links Willemstad’s Punda and Otrobanda districts. The bridge opens and closes periodically to accommodate ship traffic. At the nearby Floating Market, vendors in small boats sell a variety of fresh fish and produce brought from Venezuela.

Visitors to Curacao should make a beeline for the Marshe Bieuw marketplace to try some of the island’s food specialties, including delicious pumpkin pancakes. Shoppers at the local handicraft market can uncover enticing souvenirs to take back home from their cruise. Dutch, Papiamentu and English are Curacao’s official languages, but Spanish is commonly spoken as well.

Willemstad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a number of historic areas for travelers to explore. One of Curacao’s most visited sites is Mikvé Israel-Emmanual Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere. History buffs also enjoy visiting Fort Amsterdam, built in 1635 and situated at the entrance to Willemstad’s harbor. Make sure to look for the cannonball fired by Captain Bligh’s troops that is lodged in the fort’s southwest wall.

If you’re planning to visit Curacao, here are seven top things to do during your stay:

1. Go on an Exciting Off-Road Adventure. Get away from the crowds and see some of Curacao’s most spectacular scenery on a Jeep or Land Cruiser tour. These excursions take guests to places like Shete Boca National Park to see Boca Tabla underground cave and some of the island’s stunning rock formations. Another popular spot on these trips is Hato, with its desert terraces that are home to a number of exotic bird species. Off-road tours often spend time traveling along Curacao’s coast, spending time at one or more of the island’s gorgeous beaches. Some excursions also visit Chirstoffel National Park, Curacao’s largest national park. This area is rich in natural beauty, offering visitors a wealth of history, wildlife and extraordinary vista views.

2. Relax on Curacao’s Beautiful Beaches. Curacao is known for its beaches with over 35 lovely strands on the island to explore. For cruise guests seeking the ultimate in postcard-perfect scenery, Grote Knip is particularly stunning. Cas Abou Beach and Playa Lagun are lovely as well. Those wishing to spend time snorkeling with sea turtles may want to visit Fishermans Beach at Westpoint. Paradise Beach is another popular spot for snorkelers. Sea Aquarium Beach is a good choice for cruising families, combining a visit to the popular Sea Aquarium with a few hours of fun in the sun. Jan Thiel Beach is another good choice for those with children. It has a partially enclosed wading area that’s great for kids and it even has a small waterpark. Some cruise guests who truly want to get away take catamaran trips to Klein Curacao, a small island with lovely beaches and great snorkeling.

3. Take an Island Tour. There’s much to see in Curacao. Many cruise guests opt to see Curacao’s highlights on a half- or full-day island tour. Full day island tours visit both the east and west sides of the island. On the east side, tours usually spend time at the Curacao Liquor Factory, which produces the popular Blue Curacao liquor. Other island tour highlights often include Fort Nassau, Curacao’s landmark bridges including the Queen Juliana Bridge, Fort Nassau, the Kura Hulanda Museum, and some of Curacao’s most beautiful natural sites including Boca Tabla Cave, Grote Knip beach, and the Salt Ponds of Jan Kok where pink flamingos can often be seen. Those wishing to take a more private sightseeing tour on their own can take a one-hour tuk-tuk tour of Willemstad with a local guide.

4. Experience a Bit of South Africa at the Curacao Ostrich Farm. Children and adults alike will be fascinated by a visit to Curacao’s Ostrich Farm, one of the largest ostrich breeding farms outside of Africa. While touring the ostrich farm, travelers will learn more about these fascinating creatures and will have the chance to feed and interact with them. Adventurous guests can even ride an ostrich as well. Safari tours are offered every hour between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily. Families in particular enjoy visiting the Curacao Ostrich Farm. Kids will enjoy watching the intricate performance of the “ostrich warning dance,” standing on an ostrich egg, and seeing other farm inhabitants including emus, crocodiles, parrots, potbellied pigs and more. Don’t forget to visit the Zambezi restaurant and the gift shop while you’re there. Both are excellent.

5. Explore the Hato Caves. Located north of Willemstad, Curacao’s Hato Caves contain beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, limestone formations, ancient cave paintings, pools and even a waterfall. The Hato Cave, which is Curacao’s largest cave, has been officially open to the public since 1991. Dramatic lighting illuminates many of the large chambers. The Hato Caves are over 300,000 years old and are home to a colony of long nosed fruit bats. Guided tours of the limestone caves provide visitors with a look back at Curacao’s history and culture. Hiking trails are also located in the area. There are about 50 steps to enter the Hato Caves, which tend to be warm and humid rather than cool. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and be aware that photography is limited to one area inside the cave. Many cruise guests enjoy exploring the cave, but visits are not appropriate for individuals with mobility issues or children who are afraid of the dark. Shore excursions that visit the Hato Caves are often combined with some time at a local beach as well.

6. Kayak Through the Spanish Waters. Curacao is famous for its wide variety of watersports and adventurous experiences. On this tour, guests will be taken to Jan Sofat to receive instruction on safety and how to paddle their kayak before launching. The trip takes participants through the Storm Plas, an area where the outgoing and incoming tides converge. Paddling through this section is challenging and exhilarating. After crossing the Storm Plas, guests pull their kayaks up onto a lovely beach where they can swim, snorkel and relax before heading back to Jan Sofat. Since this is somewhat challenging excursion, all participants must be 12 years of age or older and no more than 220 pounds in weight. Active travelers and groups will enjoy this kayaking experience. It’s a special kind of bonding adventure that keeps vacationers coming back for more.

7. Visit the Curacao Sea Aquarium. Launched in 1984, this Sea Aquarium offers a wide variety of marine-related experiences. The complex’s unique open water design enables all of the aquarium’s habitats to be in contact with the sea. A number of shows, tours, attractions and programs are covered in the Sea Aquarium’s admission price. These include sea lion shows, stingray encounters, flamingo and lobster feeding programs, aquarium tours, touch tanks, and more. The Sea Aquarium’s “Ocean Lens Curacao” underwater observatory and the park’s “Curasub” underwater submarine also allow visitors to see sharks, stingrays, turtles and colorful fish without getting wet. In addition to the Sea Aquarium’s activities, guests can also purchase and take part in additional experiences provided by independent companies operating at the Sea Aquarium.

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