Okay so the first question from everyone has been, “why Curacao?” and I simply say, why not? And then the second question is, “can you tell me how to plan a trip there?” And why yes, yes, I can.
We chose Curacao for a little something different. It had been a few years since we’d been to the Caribbean and we knew a few friends who had been there on a cruise or stayed at a resort near Willemstad, but our mission was to have some adventures, explore the island and find a terrain that didn’t feel like Florida. And we certainly succeeded in that. Curacao was unique, beautiful, rough, hot, and utterly amazing. We researched lots of Caribbean islands and Curacao just kept coming to the forefront. The flights were nonstop and reasonable from Miami, so we drove from Jacksonville. The rental options were numerous with a wide range of prices and the island itself was both big enough to not feel stranded and small enough to explore thoroughly. We rented a car right there at the airport and it was super reasonable. Reserve your car ahead of time though, we saw a few people trying to rent a car once they landed, without a reservation, and it seemed like they were going to be out of luck. Any car will do, we didn’t need 4WD anywhere we went.
After looking at lots and lots…and lots of rental properties, we settled on a house with a private pool in the community of Coral Estates. And after driving around and seeing a lot of the properties I had considered; I really think Coral Estates was the absolute best location. It was central to the things we wanted to check out and about 25 minutes from the airport. It’s gated with numerous types of accommodations including houses, condos, duplex style homes and more hotel/resort style rooms at the main compound. We stayed just up the hill and had a beautiful view of the ocean, hills, and golden sunsets.
Keep in mind that many of the rentals on the island won’t have central air conditioning. Ours had units inside the bedrooms which kept us cool and comfortable at night, but the home itself had an open-air layout and stayed warm, even with the welcomed breezes. We stayed in the pool and pretty much lived in our bathing suits. You really don’t need to bring many clothes, just a lot of bathing suits and quick drying cover ups. We were thankful for our private pool, with how much we were in and out of it. It would have been a pain to constantly walk or drive to the resort pool.
Our first day we did some exploring, went to the grocery store (I recommend the Centrum Supermarket near the airport) and hit the nearby Daaibooi Beach. We loved this beach and went back several times over our stay, and it’s a quick 5-minute drive from Coral Estates. They even have some water trampolines and fun blow up toys for the kiddos. I believe it was supposed to cost a few dollars to use, but nobody was ever there to collect during our stay. This is also a free beach; you’ll find a few beaches along the island will charge for entry. But it’s no more than a few bucks. Another charge you’ll find at all beaches is a charge to use chairs and umbrellas. Some will even give you half your money back if you bring the chair back when you’re finished. So that’s a little annoying but also eliminated people from trying to save chairs wherever they go. We found that whenever we wanted to rent one, they were available. And again, it’s only a few bucks. But I recommend having cash on hand, most will also take cards.
Coral Estates beach isn’t quite an actual beach, at least not by Florida’s standards. It’s very rocky and you’ll get in the water by ladder instead of soft sand. But the water is clear and beautiful and there is a platform for jumping off and a roped off area for swimmers and snorkeling. We saw countless beautiful fish right there off the shore! And we even made friends with a few friendly and curious octopus. The sunset each evening was unreal, and we tried to make sure we saw every single one during our stay. Chairs, umbrellas, and cabanas are all free for resort guests. We ate at the restaurant right on the water one evening and it was delicious. There were also a few other places to eat at the waterfront that we didn’t try out. We were mostly grab and go on this trip. But all food options looked delicious.
One of our favorite days was when we reserved an all-day excursion through Blue Finn Charters to the uninhabited island of Klein Curacao. This was an incredible, relaxing & picturesque day. I am talking about the stuff dreams are made of, the videos you drool over on Instagram kind of day. The boat trip itself takes about 2 hours each way, as the ride is slow and leisurely. You’ll get on the boat just south of Willemstad at 8:30 in the morning and return around 5:00. The charter includes a BBQ lunch on the boat, which wildly exceeded our expectations and included: steaks, chicken, fruits, salads, bread, pasta, and unlimited drinks (both alcoholic and non). It was very yummy, and all members of the family were fed and happy. I do recommend packing some snacks if you have kids though, lunch is at 12:30 and nothing is offered before then. So, if you have boys who are constantly starving, like mine, throw some crackers in your bag.
The island itself has the most beautiful, white, soft sand I’ve ever seen and there’s plenty of snorkeling right off the beach. If you have your own masks, bring them. If not, the boat will provide some for you. We brought our masks everywhere with us since you can snorkel off every beach. And the water is so calm we never needed to rent fins. The island also has some cool (and very hot) paths and an old lighthouse you can explore. There’s also an old shipwreck on the north part of the shore that we waved to from a distance but didn’t feel the need to walk to. It was very very cool, and also ridiculously hot. The cool, calm, crystal clear water was our friend on this trip. The kids loved jumping off the side of the boat and snorkeling through large schools of fish.
There were plenty of people burning to a crisp so if you do this trip, be sure you not only have sunscreen but some UPF shirts, hats, etc. you can wear while on the boat trip to and from the island. I know some of these people had to be in major pain the next day. Ouch! Thankfully there is aloe growing all over the island.
If you are into riding cool stuff like us (clears throat while holding up Sublime Rides logo), you’ll want to check out Eric’s ATV adventures. There are a few ATV companies on the island, but we went with this one because we were able to have a private trip with just us 4. Captain Angelo was our leader for the day, and he was awesome. We had the best time with him and rode all over the island and even up and down some super rocky, super sketchy cliffs. We swung by an ostrich farm, explored a cave, did a little hiking, and then took the ATVs to Tugboat Beach where we got to snorkel around the tugboat wreck. It was a short swim from shore and man was it breathtaking. There were so many fish around the wreck, lots of eels, octopus, squid, and freaky sea creatures to explore.
Eric’s ATV adventures is located pretty close to Willemstad so we chose that morning to explore Willemstad before we headed off into the sunset on our ATVs. The town was charming, beautiful, clean, and peaceful. There were no cruises in port during our entire stay (something you might want to check in advance), so we didn’t have to battle any crowds of tourists. We did a little sightseeing, enjoyed popping in some shops, walking along the swinging bridge, and grabbing a bite. We had a great morning in town, and really that was plenty of time to see everything we wanted to see. If you’re looking for more nightlife, you might want to spend a bit more time on this part of the island.
One of those core memories that get locked inside our brains also happened on this trip and I think it’s something our kids will never forget. We’ve been lucky enough to swim with sea turtles before, being Floridians and all, but not like this. Never like this. These sea turtles were magnificent and plentiful. We swam with them by the dozens, and it was magic. Be sure to take a trip to Playa Piskado and you’ll see what I mean. The beach itself isn’t much, this is more of a fisherman hang out, which is why the sea turtles have started gathering here for their scraps. But you won’t be lounging on this beach and it’s hard to pull yourself from the water once you’ve grown tired and wrinkly. Wade into the water around the pier and not even a few minutes will pass before you see your first turtle.
I could go on and on and on about the beaches on this island. I mean there are SO many! And each one is a little different and has it’s own personality, yet they’re all absolutely gorgeous with the most beautiful water you’ll ever see and reefs right off of the sand. We were able to snorkel just feet away from the beach and ooh and aww over the reef and all of its’ tropical inhabitants.
But two more beaches did stand out to us and those were Playa Cas Abao and Grote Knip. Playa Cas Abao has a formation called the flying rock that was stunning. I must have taken 3 dozen pictures of this damn rock, who knows what I’ll do with them, but I have plenty, if anyone wants a picture of a beautiful floating rock kissing the Caribbean Sea (DM me)! We arrived early at this beach and reserved some chairs, we probably spent the longest amount of time on this beach, it was just so beautiful, and the snorkeling was excellent. There were also lots of kitty cats on this beach, the only place we ever saw any! The kids got a kick out of the lazy beach cats.
Grote Knip was also a great beach, and here is where we found the perfect jumping rock. You can climb down to it from it from the wall area above the beach, near the parking area. We also came here quite early, before most people arrived and enjoyed jumping in peace before it got too crowded. We attempted to go to this beach the day before, on a Sunday, and it was absolutely packed. We couldn’t even find parking, so we abandoned the attempt that day and instead went back the next morning and it was much more peaceful.
Overall, this trip was one for the books. We’re already talking about planning our next trip there, sans kids, so we can do some proper diving and put our certification to good use. The beaches are unlike any you’ll see in the US, there are pups all over the island as well as treasures of sea glass by the handful, sunken ships, amazing sea life and reef, a hot desert wonderland of rock formations, cactus, and bizarre trees. Adorable birds chirping you awake each morning, crystal clear water welcoming you each day and enough adventure to be had to make each day and every moment memorable.
Top 10 things to pack for your trip to Curacao:
- Waterproof camera or phone case. You will 100% want to be able to take videos of your snorkeling adventures!
- Lots of bathing suits, UPF cover ups, hats, and quick dry clothes. You will be wet (or hot) most of the time.
- Sneakers & flip fops (even water shoes on some of the sharper rocks would be very helpful). If you plan to do any ATVing, hiking or cave exploring, sneakers are required.
- Snorkel masks. You will want to bring your own and snorkel on every single beach you go to. You can also rent them on some beaches, but we are so glad we brought our own.
- Cash. We found some gas stations only took cash, there are ATMs usually at the gas station too, but the fees are high. Just be prepared with some US dollars ahead of time, almost everyone on the island accepts it.
- Medicine. This is a weird one, but we had a hard time finding things like Advil, Pepto for upset tummies, etc. There are some pharmacies around, but all their medicines are behind a booth, so you’ll need someone to get them for you, and they are pricey! So just bring your own stash just in case. A first aid kit is even better.
- Water bottles. It’s hot. Really hot. So, you’ll be thirsty all the time and water won’t be readily available for you wherever you go so you’ll want to fill up your bottles (the tap water is perfectly fine to drink) before you leave for the day.
- Travel backpack that is also water resistant. If you plan to do any boat tours, ATV trips, hiking, etc. you’re going to want a good backpack. You’ll also want a nice tote bag for the beach. Check out ours!
- Rash guards & sand toys. You’ll be in the water most of the time and you’re going to want to protect your skin or at least your kids’ skin, so be sure to pack rash guards! Also if you have any easily packed shovels or sand toys for the kids, they’ll enjoy bringing them to the beaches. Pack your Sublime Rides rash guards!
- Books, kindles, etc. You’ll have time to relax at all the stunning beaches, so pack your straw hat, a good book, and enjoy the sounds of the ocean. You deserve this.