Curacao's Tourist HotspotsCuracao's Tourist Hotspots

Visiting the island's most lauded sites from sand to sea

The largest of the ABC islands of the Leeward Antilles, Curacao offers a unique tourist experience for travelers with its mix of Old European accents and ancient tropical charm. Stretching across 171 square miles, Curacao allows visitors to take advantage of the island's space, offering a diverse range of activities that appeal to everyone from the leisurely curious to the experienced adventure junkie.

Curacao Historical Sites

History buffs will appreciate Curacao's idiosyncratic culture, as the island boasts a decidedly European feel to its architecture and community spaces against a Caribbean backdrop. The island's Dutch roots are perhaps most apparent in the capital city of Willemstad, a popular tourist destination for sightseeing and shopping. Willemstad is divided into two parts, Punda and Otrobanda, which are connected by the famed Queen Emma Bridge. Measuring 548 feet long across St. Anna Bay, Queen Emma Bridge was built in 1888 and is one of the world's most notable pontoon bridges - or "bridge of boats" - meaning it is free standing and supported by floating vessels. The bridge was most recently restored in 2006 and remains a popular tourist attraction over a century after it was originally built.

Once across the bridge, tourists can enjoy Willemstad's unique points of interest including the Dutch-inspired buildings which many visitors have likened to the cityscape of Amsterdam. Popular structures include the Kura Hulanda Museum, and hotel of the same name. For retail enthusiasts, Willemstad has several pedestrian shopping districts, including Heerenstraat and Madurostraat located on the Punda side in the oldest part of the city. Shoppers can also visit the Otrobanda shops on Breedestraat and Rodeweg Streets to buy everything from jewelry to local spices.

Curacao Snorkeling & Diving

Ocean lovers will want to take advantage of Curacao's snorkeling and diving opportunities, as the island is perhaps best-known for its oceanic attractions. Curacao's water temperature hovers around 80 degrees and has an average visibility of 115 feet year-round, making it the perfect for divers and snorkelers at every experience level. One of the most popular destinations for all water adventurers is the Curacao Underwater Marine Park, which is located on the southeast tip of the island and is home to the famous Tugboat. Accessible by shore or boat, the Tugboat is a sunken vessel that sits in just 30 feet of water, making it a convenient destination for both snorkelers and divers to enjoy its coral-crusted exterior and many tropical fish that inhabit its submerged skeleton.

On the northwest side of the island, divers can enjoy one of Curacao's most famous dive sites: Mushroom Forest. The site gets its name from the grouping of hard coral deposits that inhabit the area and have eroded over time to resemble mushrooms (worn away at the bottom and middle, but flourishing at the top). In addition to the coral, species including parrotfish, porcupine fish, turtles and lobster flourish at this dive site. The weak current, clear visibility and moderate depth (averaged at 45 feet) make Mushroom Forest an ideal spot for divers of all levels to enjoy.

For the more experienced diver, the site of the Superior Producer's demise is a must-see. The ship - a cargo freighter measuring 200 feet long - sank over 30 years ago immediately following debarkation from St. Anna Bay, falling vastly short of completing its Venezuela-bound voyage. Sitting upright in over 100 feet of water, the strong currents and array of unusual sea creatures (including manta rays, eels and barracuda) make the Superior Producer a hot spot for seasoned divers.

Curacao Adventures on Land

Catering to the adventurous explorers who prefer dry land, Curacao has a tourist treasure in its Hato Caves, which are limestone caves that are over 1500 years old. Formed before the Ice Age, the caves were once inhabited by the Amerindian Arawak Indians, whose ancient drawings still adorn the cave walls today. On the northwestern side of the island, the Boca Tabla tunnel draws visitors with its near-magical entry points: one side opens to dry land, while the opposite end empties into the ocean.

Curacao Beaches

Though not known for its beaches, Curacao has nearly 40 sandy stretches to relax on. Playa Groot Kip and Blue Bay are two of the island's largest and most popular beaches. Beachgoers looking for a more dynamic sunning landscape might visit Westpunt Beach at the northeast tip of the island, known for the huge cliffs that surround it, or Playa Kenepa which is nestled between two scenic coves.

From diving areas to Dutch accents, Curacao has not shortage of tempting tourist sites, containing the perfect activities for leisure lovers adventure advocates alike.
by Erin Keaveney
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Erin Keaveney writes articles about Curacao travel for the Marriott Resorts.
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