Where to stay in Curaçao, the land of pristine sand
What is formally known as the Country of Curacao is a Lesser Antilles island in the South Caribbean Sea. It sits just north of the Venezuelan coast and functions as an autonomous country as part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Curacao is a major cruise destination and is heavily investing in becoming an international crossroads in the region.
Since Curacao is a small island, wherever you choose to stay, you won’t be far off from other attractions. Although the main attraction will be the harbor capital Willemstad, there are areas both to the north and south of the island worth seeing. To make the list, we used the following criteria:
- Activities in the area
- Public transportation
- Cultural significance
Here’s the list of our top areas:
|Best for first-timers||Marie Pampoen|
|Best for nightlife||Otrobanda|
Transportation, getting around Curacao
There are only two major bus stations (in Punda and Otrobanda) and serve to access other areas of the island. This is why our recommended areas are at or near these stops.
The recommended public transportation in Curacao is either by car rental or taxi, depending on how much you want to travel.
Some recommended taxi companies:
- Friendly Taxi Curaçao – +(5999) 692 4561 – call or WhatsApp message
- Dushi Taxi – +(5999) 516 8863 – call or WhatsApp message
Where to stay for first-timers – Marie Pampoen
The reason why we chose the area of Marie Pampoen is that it’s a nice residential area, close to everything you need but less noisy overall. It’s also close to some of the nicest beaches in Curacao.
What to see and do in Marie Pampoen?
The slogan of the beach is “Where urban meets the sea” and it’s a good indicator of what to expect. This beach is a popular tourist area because it has lots of things to do both during the day and into the night. Apart from swimming and snorkeling, you can relax, grab a drink or some food in many of the surrounding beach bars and restaurants. Return at night for some cocktails and open-air beach parties.
Curacao Sea Aquarium
This amazing facility is not just a tourist attraction, but an important research facility that’s both as informative, as it is beautiful. The unique thing about this aquarium is, it’s not a bunch of big water tanks made to simulate a home for its inhabitants – no – it’s an open-air, open-water system that’s connected to the sea and constantly pumping in fresh seawater. You can enjoy displays such as dolphin shows, shark feeding, up-close interactions with sea lions and many more activities for all ages.
Whether you choose to get PADI certified at one of the many professional dive shops, or you bought some snorkeling gear in some beach shop, exploring the waters of Curacao is a must-do activity. The island is surrounded by the continental shelf known as the Blue Edge. This, in turn, means that a good amount of popular snorkeling and diving spots are shallow enough to be reached without a boat. In other words, you can swim out and enjoy the coral reefs with the safety of being close to the surface. For those more daring, “dropping off” the Blue Edge in full scuba gear under professional guidance may be the most fun activity you do in Curacao.
Where to stay in Marie Pampoen, our top AirBnB’s
Affordable price range: Studio 1 with Seaview – nice apartment with a view of Marie Pampoen beach.
Moderate price range: La Vida Local – Colorful bungalow with a nice back yard, close to Marie Pampoen beach and marketplace.
Luxury price range: La Privada Luxury Home – entire, spacious house close to the beach, residential pool in the area and beautiful backyard for relaxing
Where to stay for the nightlife – Otrobanda
Guarding the entrance to the port is Otrobanda, one of the liveliest neighborhoods Willemstad. A place where both locals and tourists come to enjoy a night out. This area also has a rich history and is very colorful, making it a standout place to visit.
What to see and do in Otrobanda?
Enjoy a night out
If we recommend an area for its nightlife, it’s the first thing we talk about. Walking around and exploring at night can be an attraction in itself, as the area is bright and colorful. There are plenty of bars, restaurants, and clubs to choose from both in Otrobanda and within walking distance in the nearby areas.
Walk across the Queen Emma Bridge
Also known as the “Swinging Old Lady”, the bridge connects the area of Otrobanda with the equally entertaining Punda. The unique aspect of the bridge is the fact it’s a motorized pontoon bridge that moves when a ship is coming in our out of the city docks. You may find yourself in the middle of the bridge, as it starts to move and let huge ships pass by you. Make sure to visit the bridge when on your night out, as it gets lit up and is full of people.
Visit the Rif Fort
The Rif Fort (translated meaning reef fort) is a fortification in the Otrabanda neighborhood, built to guard the entrance of Sint Anna Bay. While serving its military purpose, the fort was armed with 56 cannons and was known to be bombardment-proof. It also served as a placeholder for government institutions and a police station. Nowadays, it serves as a tourist attraction, where you can walk around its walls and enjoy panoramic views of the city and the sea. The fort and area around it now serves as a major shopping and entertainment district.
Where to stay in Otrobanda, our top AirBnB’s
Affordable price range: Cozy Leaf Apartment – a modern apartment near the bay
Moderate price range: Top 1-bedroom apartment – a nice apartment with a balcony and shared residential pool
Luxury price range: Historic House Otrobanda – entire house in the central area
Where to stay, artistic/bohemian edition – Punda
Right across the nightlife district of Otrobanda is the eerily similar Punda. This area has a historic landmarks, art galleries, and artsy cafes all packed into one.
What to see and do in Punda?
Curacao Maritime Museum
One of the must-see cultural attractions in Curacao. The museum offers 500 years of the island’s history through its displays of authentic relics from the past. You will see things like model ships, authentic naval maps, and historic tools and equipment. Apart from the regular exhibitions and the regular museum tour, they offer two more exclusive tours: one of the oil industry in the area and a ferry tour of the harbor.
This group of buildings built around fort Amsterdam served numerous roles throughout the history of Curacao. The fort itself, overlooking the bay, dates back to the early-mid 17th century. Preserved maps of the area indicate that a small church was present inside the fort, and by the 1750s a large church, like the one seen today, was built. Today, the area houses the church, seat of the government and governor’s house, as well as a small museum.
The Blue Curacao Experience
This is a must-see “behind the scenes” of the famous Blue Curacao Liqueur and its production. The tour takes you on an interactive tour of “Senior & Co.”, from the family history to the company’s inception and craftsmanship of processing liqueur. They even have the option to make a personalized bottle to take home with you.
Where to stay in Punda, our top AirBnB’s
Affordable price range: Artist Residency – small, artistic house
Moderate price range: Pietermaai Caribbean Apartment – Amazing vintage apartment with Caribbean vibes
Luxury price range: Punda City Penthouse – Gorgeous penthouse in a premium location