Long a hidden gem in the Caribbean, Curacao has come out of hiding and risen to the top of many divers lists. Curacao offers a little bit of everything, underwater and topside. Underwater, you'll find pristine reefs, wrapped in year-round clear water, with world-class wrecks, like the 70-meter/230-foot Superior Producer and a host of tugboats, sloping walls and astounding macro worlds. As a desert island, there's little run-off to affect visibility. As wonderful as the diving is, the diversity in culture and topside offerings is what sets this one-time Dutch island apart. You can have bright-lights, city escape with a vivid restaurant, music and nightlife scene by staying near the town of Willemstad, or head to the West End and lounge in the beach and nature life. Both ends offer incredible diving, so a dive holiday with stays at both ends would be the ideal scenario. Plus, Willemstad is a World Heritage site with a bay lined with classic and quite photogenic Dutch Colonial buildings and forts.
When to go:
Enjoying temperate weather year-round (and out of the way of the hurricane belt), Curacao is diver-friendly all the time. Tradewinds from January to April can cause rougher water, with the calmest diving from September to December.
When to Get the Best Deals:
May to October
What to Pack:
3/2 mm wetsuit, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, sturdy shoes that can get wet for hiking, DAN card.
Seasonal averages: 25°C/78°F in winter and 27°C/82°F in summer.
Seasonal averages: 28°C/84°F in winter and 31°C/89°F in summer.
Netherlands Antillean Guilder (ANG). US currency and credit cards are accepted almost everywhere.
Valid passport; check with local immigration office for visa requirements.
Included in your airfare.
What to Eat:
Curaçao's immigrants brought a variety of culinary styles to the island with them, which makes your dining choices vast. You'll find lots of seafood and the local food (krioyo) is all about the spice that makes creole cooking so delicious. Try some interesting specialties like iguana soup (yuana) or sopi di banana (plantain soup with beef or goat and vegetables), and keshi yena (seasoned meat wrapped in cheese and baked). If you get the chance, enjoy the rich, dark fruit cake known as bolo pretu.
What to Drink:
The famous Curaçao liqueur is made using Laraha oranges that grow on Curaçao. It comes in various colors - green, orange, red or blue - and adds not only color, but flavor to many popular cocktails. Amstel Bright, a pale light is the beer brewed by the local Amstel Brewery.
Eric's ATV; Angelique's Kitchen; hiking Mount Christoffel; cliff jumping at Playa Grand Knip; salsa dancing at Landhuis Brakkeput Mei Mei, live music all over the island; ostrich farm, Hato Caves; touring the UNESCO World Heritage architecture of Willemstad.
Customs and Culture:
Curacao is very laid-back.
Carnival season, January/February.
Electricity and Internet:
127 volts at 50hz; Internet is widely available.
Drink the water?
Water is safe to drink.
Dutch is the official language. Papiamentu, Spanish and English are widely spoken.
Amazing Marine Life
Orange Elephant Ear Sponges:
Huge sponges, bright orange under a dive light, make for dramatic images for photographers.
Colonies of this hard coral form massive boulder-like formations that sculpt the underwater landscape of Curacao's reefs.
Found, that is if you can find them, mostly on the west end reefs.
With their curling tails and iconic chess-piece profiles, seahorses are not prolific, but can be spotted by the watchful diver.
True to its name, the tube sponge spouts clusters of tubes in vivid colors. At deeper locations where colors have been filtered out by the water above you, shine a dive light on a sponge to see its brilliant purple or brown.
These shrimp burrow almost perfectly round holes in the sand and wait for passing marine life that have little chance against these lightning fast predators.
Spiny Caribbean Lobster:
Also known as rock lobsters, these crustaceans sport brown or orange shells, often colorfully dappled with yellow, blue, or green
Hawksbill, loggerhead, and green turtles can be found swimming in leisurely fashion or napping under ledges on most reefs.
These predatory pelagic fish are often seen on the reefs. They can swim at incredible speeds and can grow up to two meters/six feet in length.
Most often found in holes, caves, and wrecks, the several species of eels that inhabit Curaçao reefs are frequently seen on the hunt, both day and night.
Top Dive Spots
Playa Kalki (Alice in Wonderland):
Among the mushroom-shaped coral formation that give this site it's "wonderland" name, look for green moray eels, lobsters, star coral formations, and a wide array of colorful reef fish.
Mushroom Forest & the Blue Cave:
Star coral formations at this site have been undercut by the actions of boring clams and sponges, given the coral heads their mushroom-like shapes. Look for intriguing invertebrates hiding on the formations, and keep an eye out for the occasional nurse shark. Highlights include flower corals, giant brain corals, anemones, turtles, porcupinefish, smooth trunkfish, yellowtail snapper, parrotfish, grouper, spotted drums, spotted morays, green morays, lobster and conch.
Porto Marie (The Valley):
Among the abundant coral formations, you will find a variety of marine life - angelfish, parrotfish, groupers, brown chromis, yellowtail snapper, triggerfish trumpetfish, cornetfish, sea turtles, lobsters and stingrays.
This deep wreck, resting between 24 to 30 meters/80 to 100 feet, hosts corals and anemones, as well as frequent visits from large grouper, barracuda, and other pelagic fish.
Tugboat at Caracasbaii:
This site combines wreck-dive with wall-dive; the sunken tugboat rests in fairly shallow water (5 meters/17 feet), with a steep wall (dropping to 30 meters/100 feet) nearby. The boat hosts morays, trumpetfish, angelfish and tube coral, while the wall boasts morays, scorpionfish and lobsters, and many invertebrates. Be cautious of the current along the wall.
Also known as Punt'i Sanchi, this site features dense corals with clear visibility. Watch for sharks and stingrays.
True to its name, this sloping wall holds a brilliant kaleidoscope of sponges.
A shallow basin framed with striking coral heads and clusters of sea fans, this plateau stretches out from a lagoon to a coral-covered wall.
Barracuda Point / Punt'i Piku:
This site in a large protected bay is, as it name suggests, a gathering spot for large barracuda.
As you swim along this steep wall where the deep meets the reef, look for seahorses, pillar coral, and both colorful reef fish and larger pelagic fish.
Blue Bay Gardens:
This shallow site, suitable for snorkelers as well as divers, features box crabs, octopus, brain and star corals, and sea fans. Look for cleaning stations, as well as southern rays and eagle rays.