Where to Stay in Curacao

SD › Best Places to Stay in Curacao
Updated: January 5, 2023
By Santorini Dave

Our Favorite Curacao Hotels

• 5-Star Hotel: Renaissance Wind Creek
• Boutique Hotel: Bayside
• Cheap Hotel: Hibiscus Beach House
• Family Hotel: Curacao Marriott
• All-Inclusive: Sandals Royal Curacao
• Best Pool: Renaissance Wind Creek
• Near Airport: Curacao Airport Hotel

Best luxury hotel in Curacao.

The Renaissance Wind Creek Hotel in Willemstad, Curacao.

The Best Area to Stay in Curacao

Long overshadowed by its neighbor Aruba, the former Dutch colony of Curacao is becoming just as popular, with nonstop flights from North America making it an accessible and enticing target for a beach vacation. Basking in the southern Caribbean, just off the coast of Venezuela, Curacao is pitted with unspoiled bays and coves featuring an array of small but tempting beaches. It also boasts amazing diving and snorkeling opportunities, as well as an interesting cultural mix that blends colonial Dutch, indigenous, and African influences – most locals speak Papiamentu, a primarily Portuguese creole (with some African, Dutch, and Spanish words). Though the Netherlands still has a say in defense and foreign policy, Curacao has been self-governing and essentially independent since 2010.

It’s a relatively small island (some 38 miles/60km long by just over 7 miles/11km wide), and easily explored by rental car – your biggest decision will be where to stay. Though much of the island’s accommodation lies along the shore, not all hotels have access to a beach – there are also some excellent boutiques inland. Your main decision will be whether to stay at a resort with a beach (in which case you won’t necessarily need transport), or to stay elsewhere, rent a car, and explore the island’s full range of beaches and cultural attractions on day trips.

You’ll want to spend some time in Willemstad, the island’s capital, which contains the best restaurants, shopping, bars, and museums. (Most of the accommodation is located in and around the town anyway.) The old center is fun place to explore on foot, with its colorful Dutch architecture and European-style cafes. Not far away is the coastal enclave of Bapor Kibrá, best known for the Sea Aquarium and a series of large, family-friendly beach resorts. Further east, the Jan Thiel district is best known for its unspoiled beaches and several good hotels – a good base for visitors who are primarily interested in sun and sea. To the west of Willemstad lies Sint Michiel, a slightly quieter and more atmospheric place to stay, but without many beaches. The far west of the island – Westpunt– is a dry, hilly region that contains several fascinating historic sights and numerous unspoiled beaches. Most visitors visit the area by car on day trips from elsewhere, but there are a few places to stay here for a more tranquil vacation (though not many restaurants or nightlife).

Curacao Travel Tips

  • Curacao International Airport, aka Hato International Airport, is the island’s only international gateway. It’s located on the north coast of Curacao, some 7.5 miles (12km) from Willemstad. Many hotels offer transfers, otherwise take a taxi or rent a car here.
  • Unless you intend to spend most of your time at your hotel, renting a car is the best way to make the most of Curacao. All the major car rental companies operate on the island, and your hotel should also be able to recommend local outfits. There is a basic system of public buses and minivans but it’s limited and not especially convenient for visitors. Taxis are safe but quite expensive in Curacao – OK for a couple of trips (or a day tour), but it will be cheaper to rent a car otherwise. There are no ride-sharing services (Uber etc) on the island.
  • Curacao currency is the Antillean Guilder (ANG), also known as “the Florin”, but because the US$ exchange rate is fixed (at US$1=ANG1.80), most places will accept US dollars (albeit at US$1 to ANG1.75, with change given in guilders). Other international currencies are not accepted. Credit cards are widely used and accepted everywhere.
  • The Curacao Carnival starts a few days after the new year, but the main parades occur in the last 10 days before Ash Wednesday (Feb/March) – it’s one of the biggest carnivals in the Caribbean, so book well ahead if you visit at this time. In April there’s usually the Curacao International Film Festival Rotterdam; in August there’s the Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival.
  • February through June is the driest period in Curacao, with the wettest months October, November, and December, though there’s no real rainy season and the island remains relatively sunny and dry year-round.

The Best Places to Stay in Curacao

Best Districts in Curacao for…

  • Best Place to Stay for Beaches: Westpunt or Jan Thiel
    Westpunt – the northwestern half of the island – is studded with gorgeous beaches, most of them small strips of sand tucked away in coves or narrow bays. Playa Knip (aka Kleine Knip) is one of the best for lounging and swimming, with beach chairs to rent, drink stalls, and free parking. Just to the south, Playa Lagun lies at the end of a narrow bay with excellent hotels on either side: Lagun Blou and Lagoon Ocean Resort. It’s the best beach for snorkeling, with crystal-clear waters making it easy to spy the offshore reefs and marine life. Continuing south, the best beaches overall are Cas Abao and neighboring Playa Porto Marie, relatively long (by Curacao standards) strips of sand, with food stalls and beach loungers to rent. Porto Marie also boasts a short pier offering sensational views of the coastline. Jan Thiel Beach is more conveniently located near several major hotels (and the capital Willemstad), comprising a narrow strip of sand facing a calm bay, lined with restaurants and bars – it’s also the best place to catch the sunset.
  • Best Place to Stay for Diving: Westpunt or Jan Thiel
    The coast just off Westpunt features some of Curacao’s best reef and wreck dive sites, including the Watamula coral fields, the Mushroom Forest, and the Blue Room Cave. Major dive outfits are located here, such as Go West Diving at Playa Kalki, Bahia Diving at Playa Lagu, B Diving & Watersports at Cas Abao, Porto Mari Sports and Divers Republic. Many of the hotels here are specifically targeted at divers: Marazul Dive Resort, All West Apartments & Diving, Bahia Apartments & Diving, and many others. Jan Thiel is also a hub for divers: Jan Thiel Diving, Curious 2 Dive, Center Scuba Do, Dive Charter Curacao, and Fun Diving are all based here.
  • Most Romantic Destination: Willemstad or Wespunt
    Curacao is a popular destination for couples, with the main choice between the more isolated hotels in Westpunt (where diving or just lounging on the beach is the main activity), and the chic boutiques of the capital Willemstad, where you’ll have access to romantic restaurants, bars, and the pretty colonial streets of the historic Punda district. In addition to classic beach resorts such as Avila Beach Hotel and the Curacao Marriott, there are several enticing boutique properties in Willemstad: slick modern hotels like BOHO Bohemian and Terra Boutique Hotel, and Dutch colonial gems such as the Kas di Laman and Landhuis Bona Vista. For dinner, check out the amazing sunset views from Fort Nassau, high-end Caribbean food at Rozendaels, or spectacular ocean views at Restaurant Nultwintig.
  • Best Place for Nightlife: Willemstad and Bapor Kibrá
    Unsurprisingly, the capital Willemstad is the best place to go for a night out in Curacao – in much of the rest of the island, nightlife is low key and confined to hotel bars and restaurants. In the center there’s Noir Cocktail Bar and Netto Bar, open since 1954 and home of the “famous” green rum. Over in trendy Pietermaai, highlights include the excellent Ochenta Cocktail Bar, Mosa/Caña Bar & Kitchen, and the beachside Schooner Bar at the Avila Beach Hotel. Just a little further along the coast, the entertainment and resort hub of Bapor Kibrá is another great spot for a night (or day) out, with a series of beach clubs and bars lining Mambo Beach and open till the early hours; Wet & Wild Beach Club; local favorite Chill Beach Bar & Grill; Bonita Beach Club; and Hemingway.
    • The drinking age in Curacao is 18 years.
    • Curacao is a very-open minded island, and LGBTQ+ life flourishes here. Curacao Pride Week runs annually in late September.
  • Best Place for Shopping: Willemstad
    The capital is your best bet when it comes to shopping for Curacao gifts and products, with stylish stores lining Heerenstraat and Breedestraat in the historic Punda district. In addition to touristy stores like Jo Ann’s Souvenirs, this is where you can pick up the usual electronics, watches, cosmetics, and designer clothes and perfumes, all sold duty-free. Over in Otrabanda (across Queen Emma Bridge) you’ll find the Rif Fort shopping mall containing major brand stores from Hilfiger and Mango to Swarovski and Montblanc. The popular “chichi” figurines you’ll find in many gift shops are made at Serena’s Art Factory on the outskirts of town – visit in person for tours and the best prices. Bottles of aloe vera, once a major export for Curacao, are also sold everywhere, but you can buy at source at the Aloe Vera Farm down the road from Serena’s. The famous Curacao Blue liqueur is another popular gift (it’s flavored with the dried peel of the bitter oranges grown here, the blue coloring is added); you can buy this direct from the distillery at Landhuis Chobolobo, a couple of miles or so from Punda.
  • Safety in Curacao
    Curacao is generally quite safe for tourists, though the usual precautions should be taken at night. Petty theft and street crime does occur, though rarely in tourist areas; never leave anything of value in your car or on the beach unattended.

The 6 Best Places in Curacao for Tourists

1. Willemstad

The capital of Curacao is the island’s only major settlement and commercial center. As the cultural, culinary and shopping hub of the island it’s likely you’ll want to spend at least some time here, and much of the island’s accommodation lies in or around the center. Downtown is divided into two by Sint Annabaai (St Anna Bay), a shipping channel traversed by the floating Queen Emma Bridge. On the calmer east side lies the historic center, known as Punda (Point), its mainly pedestrianized streets and lanes lined with Caribbean and charming Dutch-style colonial architecture, cafés, and shops. Scenic highlights include the Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, founded way back in 1732 with its sand floors (still in use today) and associated Jewish Cultural Historical Museum; the Marché Bieu or Old Market food court, loaded with local snack stalls; the circular Ronde markt (main market) and nearby Drijvende markt (floating market) along the Waaigat canal (on Sha Caprileskade), lined with souvenir stalls and Venezuelan fishing boats selling all sorts of South American produce and fish; the Fortchurch Museum, built in 1769 as part of Fort Amsterdam; and the Curacao Maritime Museum on Sint Annabaai itself.

On the west side of the channel lies Otrobanda (“Other Side”), the cruise dock, and the Renaissance Wind Creek Resort (known for its man-made beach and Rif Fort shopping mall). On this side you’ll be able to take the best photos of the Handelskade, the row of beautiful buildings on the Punda waterfront. Also on this side is the Kurá Hulanda Museum, a section of preserved lanes and historic colonial homes, with exhibits chronicling the slave trade; and the Curacao Museum, which covers the history of the island.

The up-and-coming neighborhood of Pietermaai Smal, just southeast of Punda along the coast, is where you’ll find boutique hotels, hip restaurants, bars, and shops. It’s also a popular nightlife area. On the outskirts of the city you’ll find the Hato Cave, Curacao Zoo & Botanical Garden, the Aloe Vera Farm, and the Landhuis Bloemhof cultural center, set in an 18th century Dutch mansion.

• Central Willemstad is best explored on foot, but you’ll need a car to see the outer attractions.

• Staying here is a good idea – you’ll have access to the main sights, restaurants, and bars, but be within a short drive of the best beaches. Many hotels are located on the coast (like Avila Beach Hotel), within walking distance of both the beach and the center.

2. Bapor Kibrá

Some 3 miles (5km) along the southeast coast from Willemstad lies Bapor Kibrá, a small district of beach resorts and family-friendly attractions. It lacks the character of the capital, but the hotels here offer comfort and luxury, access to tranquil (manmade) Mambo Beach (lined with beach clubs, restaurants and bars), the Mambo Beach Boulevard shopping mall,and the wildly popular Curacao Sea Aquarium, known for its Animal Encounters Lagoon, where you can feed lemon and nurse sharks, stingrays and other predatory fish. Nearby, the Dolphin Academy Curacao offers the chance to meet, swim, or dive with dolphins. You can also take a mini-submarine ride with Substation, go diving, or visit one of the hotel spas.

3. Jan Thiel

The district of Jan Thiel lies another mile or so east along the coast from Bapor Kibrá, a similar development of condos and resorts arranged around popular Jan Thiel Beach. It’s bit more upscale than Bapor Kibrá, and a bit quieter, with a selection of chic restaurants along the waterfront, plenty of watersports and diving on offer, and a spread of popular hotels. For divers there’s Beacon Point, known for its 100-foot (30m) vertical wall and one of the largest pillar coral formations in the Caribbean.

Jan Thiel is also an embarkation point for numerous boat trips and cruises, including the Mermaid Boat Trip to Klein Curacao, a pristine coral island 15 miles (24km) offshore. Nearby stands Fort Beekenburg, a ruined Dutch fortification from the 18th century.

4. Sint Michiel

The old fishing village of Sint Michiel lies around 6 miles (10km) northwest of Willemstad, its cluster of hotels and resorts making for a low-key alternative to Jan Thiel and Bapor Kibrá, with the added attraction of easier access to Westpunt. Blue Bay Beach is the main cove of sand here, with the Blue Bay Golf & Beach Resort the main attraction. Boka Sint Michiel, by the old village itself, is a rockier beach best for snorkeling. Other attractions include the Blue Bay Sculpture Garden (on the resort grounds), the Battle Station Blaauw WWII Museum, which highlights the lesser-known role of the Caribbean in World War II, and the ruins of Fort Sint Michiel, an 18th-century Dutch battery. Just to the north, St. Michiel Bay is one of the best places to spot Curacao’s famous flamingos.

• Beyond the hotels and resorts, there are few restaurants here and no nightlife – it makes for a more tranquil experience but you are likely to need a car.

• Our favorite restaurant here is Bohémi Resort’s upscale Restaurant X, helmed by chef Gabriel Fleijsman.

5. Westpunt

The thinly populated northwestern half of Curacao is known as Westpunt (or “Banda Abou”). You’ll need a car to explore (or stay) here, but there’s a lot to see – you’ll only appreciate Curacao’s true natural beauty and culture by spending time here. Much of the appeal lies on the coast or underwater. Curaçao’s northwest offers some stunning reef and wreck dives, including the Watamula coral fields, “Elvin’s Plane Wreck” (the remains of a Fokker Fairchild 27 that was sunk here on purpose), the Mushroom Forest (where coral formations resemble giant mushrooms), wreck diving off Boca Santu Pretu (Black Sand Beach), and the Blue Room Cave, also ideal for snorkeling. There are also a number of gorgeous beaches and coves along the coast ideal for swimming and snorkeling including Cas Abao, Playa Forti, Playa Piskádo, Grote Knip and Kleine Knip. At Playa Kalki you’ll find Go West Diving, a lovely coral beach and the spectacular “Alice in Wonderland” dive site just offshore, as well as the underwater “chichi” sculpture by Serena’s Art Factory.

On land, historic attractions include Landhuis Knip, once the wealthiest plantation on Curacao and now an enlightening museum; and the Kunuku House (aka Museum Kas Di Pal’i Maishi), a traditional straw-thatched hut where ancestors of the island’s enslaved population highlight traditional culture. Natural attractions include Shete Boka National Park and adjoining Christoffel National Park, which preserve sections of rugged coastline as well as the interior hills, laced with trails frequented by all sorts of birds and white-tailed deer. Climb to the summit of Christoffelberg (1,230ft/375m) for sensational views. Finally, you should be able to spy flamingos at Santa Martha Bay.

• No surprise that most accommodation in Westpunt caters to scuba divers – beyond the hotels there’s not much in the way of nightlife, though you’ll find some interesting places to eat; Shelterrock Paradise, the seafood at Restaurant Playa Forti and Cactus Café in Westpunt village, and family-style Restaurant Komedor Krioyoamong them. Jaanchie’s Restaurant has been an institution since the 1930s (think goat and beef stew or fresh grouper).

6. East End

The largely uninhabited far East End (“Banda Ariba”) of Curacao is another area popular with scuba divers, but there are also a few sights on land worth seeking out. Dinah’s Botanic and Historic Garden Den Paradera is a favorite pit-stop, created by traditional local healer Dinah Veeris in 1991. She sells her herbal and natural remedies here, and you can stroll her lush herb and plant gardens. Not far away is Serena’s Art Factory, where the island’s beloved chichi sculptures are created, and Curacao Ostrich Farm, one of the largest outside Africa. Santa Barbara Beach is broad and flat, and protected by a wooden walkway; it’s one of the island’s best beaches for kids. The rest of the interior is wild and scrubby, most of it inaccessible – the best way to experience it is on tour with ATV & Buggy Tours. Divers are spoiled for choice: the Eastpoint dive site (only accessible by boat) features the most pristine reef on the island, with a natural bridge frequented by tarpon.

• There are no hotels in the East End – explore the area by car on day trips from other parts of the island.

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About Santorini Dave

Santorini Dave Author Bio. Santorini Dave was started in 2011 by a guy who loved Greece, travel, and great hotels. We're now a small team of writers and researchers on a mission to deliver the most helpful travel content on the internet. We specialize in Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, and Greece and recommend the best hotels, best neighborhoods, and best family hotels in top destinations around the world. We also make hotel maps and travel videos. I can be contacted at dave@santorinidave.com.