Willemstad – Curacao

lagoon-911963_640

Willemstad is the capital of the Dutch Caribbean island, Curacao and the beauty of the island hits you as soon as your ship pulls into port. The island is known for its pastel-colored town square as vibrant as tropical flora.

Unique to Willemstad is the floating pedestrian bridge that spans the deep and narrow channel splitting the city’s two districts.

In Willemstad you will find a fun and lively small city with people who are as colorful as the surrounding buildings.

Currency: As a Dutch island the official currency is the Antillean Florin, though most vendors and retailers will accept U.S. dollars. There are several ATM’s, banks, and money exchanges available in Willemstad.

Languages: Like many of the nearby islands, the local language is Papiamento. However, most people are fluent in and will speak English, Spanish, or Dutch.

Where You Dock in Willemstad – Curacao

Cruise ships pull into the Santa Anna Bay, a narrow and very deep channel. The bay separates the two main districts of Willemstad, Punda to the east and Otrobanda to the west. 

Smaller cruise ships dock at the Curacao Cruise Terminal while larger ships which cannot travel under the Queen Juliana Bridge dock at the Mega Pier.

Regardless of where your ship docks, both are only a few minutes’ walk from downtown as well as the Queen Emma Bridge which connects the two districts.

Port Facilities:

Port facilities in Willemstad feature ATMs, currency exchanges, taxi stands, and onsite port guides.

Getting Around Willemstad – Curacao

Crossing the channel

One of the first things cruise ship passengers will learn about visiting Willemstad is how to use the pedestrian Queen Emma Bridge. This pedestrian bridge is designed so that when ships are coming through port the bridge will open. Due to the frequency which the bridge opens during the day, free passenger ferries are provided to cross the channel while the bridge is open for ships.

Taxis:

Taxi stands will be located at both ports.

Unlike many islands, taxi destination costs on Curacao are not predetermined based on the destination. So, it’s important that you agree on a fare with the driver prior to getting in a taxi. Though, if you are considering hiring a taxi for sightseeing (recommended) the cost is about $20 USD per hour.

Buses:

Bus travel is common on the island with fares around $2 USD. Bus schedules and routes are found within the city and at both ports. Transportation called “collective” cars and vans are easy to catch to bus you around the island, however it is important to make sure the license plates for these vehicles says “bus” on them.

Vehicle Rental:

Willemstad has several car rental locations at and near the ports with prices starting around $35 USD per day and up. Vehicle travel is on the right-hand side of the road so for most North American travelers you won’t need to get your feet wet trying to drive on the other side of the road.

The only requirements to drive in Curacao is that you have a current driver’s license and an international credit card.

Trolley:  

Unique to Willemstad is the trolley which provides a 75-minute tour of the city’s main sites. You can catch the beginning of the trolley tour at the historic Fort Amsterdam. Keep in mind that the trolley won’t allow you to hop on and off, so if you are planning on the tour be prepared to stay the entire 75 minutes.

Shopping In Willemstad – Curacao

Willemstad is truly a shopping experience. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the walk from the ports to downtown is lined with cafes, fun museums, and shopping.

Most of the shopping is found in the Punda District where you will find clothing, souvenirs, Dutch cheeses and delicacies.

The floating market also offers a variety of fresh foods and local crafts.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Look at this breathtaking view from the top of the Fort Church tower in Punda! ⛪️☀️ Can you see the Pontjesbrug? #pundalovesyou #view #pontjesbrug

A post shared by Punda Loves You (@pundalovesyou) on

Renaissance Mall and Rif Fort is the merger of old and new. This shopping mall has about 50 stores and eateries built within Willemstad’s water-lined fort built in 1828/29.

Dining In Willemstad – Curacao

You won’t go wrong by taking a trip down the Handelskade where you’ll find several places to eat. If you are interested in really exploring the island history a must would be Penha & Sons which is the oldest building in Willemstad built in 1708.

Cuisine on the island ranges from common fare such as burgers and chicken to local seafood, Caribbean, Hispanic, and of course Dutch cuisine.

Wherever you go, it’ll be hard to stay away from cocktails poured with famous Curacao liqueur.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Good view, good food and good wine. Now we’re talking. #wine #19crimes #19crimeswine #view #bestview #dinner #food #romantic #delicious #curacao #korsou #otrobanda

A post shared by Restaurant de Gouverneur (@gouverneurderouville) on

Things To Do in Willemstad – Curacao

Traveling by cruise ship through the Caribbean is ideal because if you don’t, you’ll become well versed in the term “ship day.” Many islands shut down when ships aren’t in port and on Curacao this can also be true of Sundays when many stores are traditionally shut down. If your ship does happen to come in on a Sunday, don’t worry too much as many stores and activities will open on those occasions to help bring in the tourism.

Curacao is stunning from the colorful port city to the stunning beaches. Within the city of Willemstad you can spend days exploring everything from the floating market along the water’s edge, to Fort Amsterdam, the shopping, and other historic locations.

The island has a rich history, much of it focused on plantations and the slave trade. The Kura Hulanda museum explores the dark history of Curacao’s involvement in African slavery in the Caribbean. The Savonet Museum covers 4,000 years of the island’s history with much of its focus on plantation life. The museum is located on the grounds of the Landhuis plantation and its restored and partially restored buildings.

Curacao’s Sea Aquarium is fed by nearby sea water and displays much of the marine life found around the island including dolphins, sea lions, and sharks.

Golf:

It would be hard to mention Curacao activities without the Old Quarry Golf Course which has one the Best Golf Course in the Caribbean by USA Today in both 2018 and 2019. The course is 6,920 yards from the championship tees and offers an 8,000 sq. ft. clubhouse with golf shop, locker rooms, lounge, and restaurant.

The Blue Bay Golf and Beach Resort is located on the sea with amazing views from wherever you stand on the course.

The Curacao Golf and Squash Club is a private 600-member club with a par-70 18-hole course. The setting is spa-like located among the quiet tranquility of the island.   

Beaches

Curacao is known for its crystalline hues of blue waters. Each of the dozens of beaches on the island have their own unique personality from powdery white sand beaches and rolling hills to seductive privacy and rocky shorelines. Here are three of our favorites.

Playa Knip

Playa Knip is both a favorite for locals and tourists. This award-winning beach is known for its turquoise waters and coastal rocky landscape hiding away soft white sand. Its free to park and stay, and you can even find batidos stands which offer cool refreshments.

Playa Lagun

If you love your Instagram, Playa Lagun is known as one of the most picturesque beaches on the island. In addition to the above ground beauty, the beach is also well known for its snorkeling reefs and clear waters.

Avilla Beach

Avilla Beach is a private beach run by the Avilla Beach Hotel, but if you have a little extra cash this is the place to be. The resort has plenty of places to shade yourself from the sun while still enjoying the surrounding beauty. You’ll also have the luxury of Schooner’s Beach Bar offering drinks and food.

Check out these excursions in Curacao.

Top Tours & Excursions In Willemstad – Curacao

Photo credit: roger4336 / Foter / CC BY-SA

Curacao Complete Island Tour In this jam-packed tour, you’ll see all Curacao has to offer. On the east side of the island you’ll see the main attractions and on the west side, you’ll find gorgeous landscapes and charming villages....

Duration: 6 hours Activity Level: Easy Wheelchair Accessibility: No
Photo credit: Loren Sztajer / Foter / CC BY-ND

Kayak and Snorkeling Tour Kayak along the turquoise waters of Caracas Bay, admiring the coast of Curacao, to a deserted stretch of sand for snorkeling,where you’ll see coral and home to colorful fish. A great way to escape the crowds!...

Duration: 4 hours Activity Level: High Note: snack, beverages provided
Photo credit: DoNotLick / Foter / CC BY

Exclusive Wonderful World of Water Eco Jeep Tour Climb aboard an open air jeep for an excursion which provides a personalized tour of the island. It combines nature, an off-road adventure and beach time at Lagun beach....

Duration: 7 hours Activity Level: Moderate Note: includes picnic lunch