Last Updated on January 10, 2022 by Nellie Huang
Looking to kick back in the Dutch Caribbean? Follow me as I show you the best beaches of Curacao!
The Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao prides itself on many things: well-preserved colonial architecture, thriving art scene, lush greenery, and rugged mountains.
But most of all, it’s the beaches of Curacao that draws people to its shores. The island is home to some of the best beaches I’ve ever seen — powdery sugar-white sand, clear-as-glass spearmint waters, cacti-studded sandstone cliffs that tumble down to the water’s edge.
What’s more, these beaches are rarely overcrowded, as Curacao has many thriving industries beyond tourism. Plus, its southerly location in the Lesser Antilles just 40 miles off the Venezuelan coast means it’s rarely hit by hurricanes. Having just returned from two weeks in Curacao, we were very privileged to travel Curacao without the crowds, and explore some of the best beaches in Curacao.
Table of Contents
- Best Beaches in Curacao
- Things to Know about Curacao Beaches
- Best Beach in Curacao Overall: Grote Knip
- Best Beach to Swim with Turtles: Playa Piskado
- Best Beach to Dive off Cliffs: Playa Forti
- Best Beach for Photography: Cas Abao
- Best Beach for Something Different: Playa Porto Mari
- Best Beach for Snorkeling: Tugboat Beach
- Best Beach for Families: Jan Thiel Beach
- Best Beach for Water Sports: Blue Bay Beach
- Best Free Beach: Kokomo Beach
- Best Beach for Cocktails and Sunset: Mambo Beach
- Best Beach in Willemstad: Avila Beach
- Best Beach for Remote Seclusion: Klein Curacao
- How to Get Visit the Best Beaches in Curacao
- Where to Stay in Curacao
- Budget: De Plantage Boutique Hotel
- Mid Range: Landhuis Klein Santa Martha
- Mid Range: Scuba Lodge & Suites
- Luxury: Avila Beach Hotel
- Curacao Travel Requirements in 2021
- Plan Your Trip to Curacao
Best Beaches in Curacao
Because of the geography of Curacao, you won’t find mile-long stretches of beaches in Curacao — instead the island has plenty of hidden coves and small beaches tucked amidst rocky sandstone cliffs.
The best beaches lie along the northwest coast, the most rugged and rural part of Curacao. To get to some of these beaches, be prepared to drive on unpaved mountain roads. The westernmost tip is just a 30-45 minute drive from Willemstad, the capital city of Curacao.
The best beaches closest to Willemstad are Jan Thiel and Mambo Beach, though they are not quite as nice as the ones in the northwestern part of the island.
Things to Know about Curacao Beaches
- Most beaches in Curacao are private beaches i.e. there’s a fee to pay to visit each beach (from $6 t0 15 per person).
- All private beaches have well-maintained beach benches for rent, as well as snack bars, toilets, and showers. Many of them also have dive shops where you can book a shore dive or rent a kayak.
- Public beaches are few and far between. They’re free to visit, but aren’t the best. Check out Playa Forti and Marie Pampoen Beach. Most public beaches have picnic tables and palapa (shade with thatched roof).
- Almost every beach in Curacao is great for snorkeling! Bring your mask and fins to see the vibrant marine life here.
- You’ll need a car to get to the best beaches in Curacao, otherwise you’ll can book a day tour.
- Free parking at almost every beach in Curacao.
Best Beach in Curacao Overall: Grote Knip
Grote Knip is lauded by many (including myself!) as the best beach on Curacao. If you’ve got limited time and can visit only one beach, make it this beach. The sand is white as sugar, the water is spearmint blue and the beach is flanked by rocky cliffs. Before going down to the water’s edge, be sure to stop at the cliffs by the entrance to admire this postcard-perfect Caribbean image.
The beach has a newly renovated carpark with plenty of parking space. There’s also a simple snack bar, toilets, and water sports shop where you can rent glass-bottomed kayaks. Next to the Grote Knip is Klein Knip, a smaller version of it.
Price: 12.50 ANG (US$7) for entry and beach bench per adult.
Best Beach to Swim with Turtles: Playa Piskado
Just a 10-minute drive from Grote Knip is the Playa Piskado (or Kenepa Grandi), most famous for the turtles that live in the area. Playa Piskado is more of a fishermen’s wharf than beach as fishermen fish in the area and clean up their catch here. Turtles hang around the beach because they feed on the scrapes that fishermen toss back into the sea.
So is it ethical to swim with turtles here? I think there’s nothing wrong as long as we respect the turtles, give them space and not overcrowd them. What the fishermen do seems like a natural process to me. Instead of throwing the fish remains into the trash, they’re returning them into the sea.
It is such an incredible experience to swim with turtles. We’ve swam with turtles in Borneo, Fiji and Australia, but we’ve never had turtles get this close to us before. They’re used to human beings here and aren’t afraid to get close!
Price: 10 ANG (US$11) for entry + rental of bench per adult.
Best Beach to Dive off Cliffs: Playa Forti
A few minutes’ drive from Playa Piskado, you’ll reach Playa Forti at the bottom of the rocky cliffs. It’s a free beach that locals living in the area love to swim at. It’s less touristy than the rest, though not as well-preserved and clean. There are no beach benches for hire.
There are ragged sandstone cliffs along the whole northwestern coast, but the ones overlooking Playa Forti are the best for diving. If you’ve got the guts, walk out to the ledge of Restaurant Playa Forti, and take a leap into the clear turquoise sea. It’s about a 15m jump.
Price: FREE entry and no beach bench.
Best Beach for Photography: Cas Abao
About a 30-minute drive south of Playa Forti is the photogenic Cas Abao (also spelled as Cas Abou). Getting there is quite an adventure as the access road is unpaved and it feels like a mountain trail. But once you’re there, it’s easy to see why this beach wins our vote as one of the best beaches in Curacao.
The wide sandy beach has powdery sand as fine as sugar and turquoise waters so clear you can see down to the depths — but most of all, it’s flanked by sandstone cliffs and rock formations that jut out into the sea. The rock formations make excellent backdrop for photos. Plus they are home to all kinds of small creatures like hermit crabs, sea snails and slugs. My daughter had a great time exploring in this tiny nook.
Price: 10 ANG (US$6) per car and 5 ANG ($3) per beach bench.
Best Beach for Something Different: Playa Porto Mari
Just next to Cas Abou, you’ll find the spectacular beach Playa Porto Mari. It’s most famous for the two feral pigs that hang around here: Willy and Woody. They’re often hanging out at the beach, sniffing at your food and snooping in people’s bags. If you’re lucky, you might even see them swimming! When we were there, they were lounging in the mud and snoozing away.
There’s a small observation deck at the carpark where you can get a fantastic view of the beach and surroundings. This is also the starting point of the Seru Mateo hiking trail. Read more about the trail here.
Price: 12 ANG (US$6) for entry + rental of beach bench per person.
Best Beach for Snorkeling: Tugboat Beach
On the east coast of Curacao, you’ll find the best spot for snorkeling: the Tugboat. A sunken tugboat lies in a sheltered and shallow bay covered by corals, sponges and sea fans. After having been submerged for 30 years, the wreck has become a part of the underwater world.
The wreck is home to a variety of reef fish like grunt, parrotfish, and butterfly fish. The moderate depth (less than 5 meters of water) and the good underwater visibility makes it an easy spot to snorkel.
Price: FREE entry to beach.
Best Beach for Families: Jan Thiel Beach
Also in the eastern part of the island, Jan Thiel is an up-and-coming beach town popular with families and young travelers. It’s quite a trendy spot, with cool beach bars, surfer shops, dive operators, and restaurants.
Just a 13-minute drive from the capital city Willemstad, Jan Thiel Beach is a commercial beach (i.e. the beach is lined with beach bars, benches and shops), but it does have clear waters and family-friendly features that are great for kids. You’ll also find the most concentration of AirBnBs and boutique hotels in Jan Thiel.
Price: 9 ANG (US$5) for entry + rental of bench per adult.
Best Beach for Water Sports: Blue Bay Beach
Located in the Piscadera area about a 25-minute drive from Willemstad, Blue Bay (Blauwbaai) is a massive residential estate with luxury apartments, villas and a golf course. The beach is open to the public though (and the upscale restaurant), but entry is expensive.
Blue Bay Beach is fantastic as they’ve made extra efforts to take care of the marine life. You can just snorkel off the beach to see colorful parrotfish, trumpet fish and angel fish swimming around the rocks and pier on the left end.
There’s a dive operator and water sports center right on the beach, offering shore dives, fishing, and catamaran sailing. It’s one of the very few places in Curacao that offer glass-bottom kayaks for rent.
Price: 15 ANG ($7.50) per person + free beach bench.
Best Free Beach: Kokomo Beach
Not too far from Blue Bay is Kokomo Beach, a secluded cove in Vaersenbaai. The low-key beach doesn’t have the clear-as-glass waters and powdery sand that beaches in the western tip have. But it does have an iconic swing perched in the sea — perfect for kids and photos.
My daughter loved climbing up to the swing and she could stay there all day. But most people come here for that Instagram shot. It’s also a popular sunset spot, though the beach closes at 6pm.
Price: FREE entry to beach but 7 ANG ($3.50) for rental of beach bench.
Best Beach for Cocktails and Sunset: Mambo Beach
In Curacao, you can see the sun set almost everywhere along the island’s west coast. But the best place to sip a cocktail and watch the sun disappear over the horizon is Mambo Beach, the nearest beach to Willemstad.
It’s quite a commercial beach, but it’s got a few fantastic beach bars — including the legendary Chill Beach Bar (with lots of hammocks and driftwood signs). The Mambo Beach Boulevard, a modern mall overlooking the beach, also offers nice sunset views at its roof terrace.
Price: 13 ANG (US$7) per adult + rental of beach bench.
Best Beach in Willemstad: Avila Beach
If you prefer to stay around the capital city, you’ll be thrilled to know there are a few private beaches in the resorts of Willemstad. In the city itself, there aren’t any beaches at all (save for a few rocky areas along Pietermaai road which aren’t suitable for swimming) — but some hotels have got private beaches that are excellent.
Avila Beach Hotel has the best private beach in Willemstad, with calm waves and shallow clear waters. At just a 15-minute walk from the city center, the resort is a landmark hotel and known as one of the best places to stay in Curacao.
Even if you’re not staying here, you can still visit the private beach as a day guest. It costs 18 ANG (US$10) for a day pass and that includes the use of a beach bench. The resort has a cool watch tower that you can climb to get a panoramic view of the beach at sunset!
Price: 18 ANG (US$10) per adult + rental of beach bench.
Best Beach for Remote Seclusion: Klein Curacao
The most popular day tour from Curacao is the trip to Klein Curacao (“Small Curacao” in Dutch). Klein Curaçao is an uninhabited island lying 15 miles (10km) south-east of Curacao. It’s said to have the best beaches in Curacao.
The only way to get to Klein Curacao is by boat. It’s about a 2-hour choppy boat ride from Curacao, and day tours cost around $100 per person. Miss Ann Boat Trips run day trips on their private yachts every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
How to Get Visit the Best Beaches in Curacao
The best way to explore Curacao beaches is definitely by car rental, as public transport is few and far between. You can walk around Willemstad, but you definitely need to rent a car if you want to explore outside of the city.
We booked our car on Discover Cars before our trip. They’ve consistently given us the best prices and service. Car rentals in Curacao are affordable, at around US$25-30 per day. We spent around $400 for our 2-week car rental.
It’s easy to drive in Curacao as it’s a small island with few roads. Roads aren’t in great conditions, with pot holes and some parts are unpaved. But most car rentals have automatic transmissions and there are road signs everywhere.
Where to Stay in Curacao
The best beaches in Curacao are concentrated along the northwestern coast of the island, but that is also the most rural and rugged part of Curacao and accommodation is limited in the area.
I recommend staying in the capital city, Willemstad, where there are plenty of well-priced hotels and restaurants. The western tip is just a 30-45 minute drive away and you’ve got all the coolest cultural spots and restaurants at your doorstep. Alternatively, Jan Thiel is another great residential area within easy access from Willemstad.
Budget: De Plantage Boutique Hotel
We stayed at this spacious Airbnb located in Jan Thiel and found it suitable for families like ours. Only some of the apartments are renovated though — definitely ask for the ones by the pool. Check rates here.
Mid Range: Landhuis Klein Santa Martha
A small, intimate boutique hotel converted from a historical plantation estate, located in the northwest near the best beaches in Curacao. Check rates here.
Mid Range: Scuba Lodge & Suites
Located in Willemstad overlooking the sea, Scuba Lodge (pictured left) is a stylish boutique hotel and iconic landmark in Curacao. It’s housed in one of the pastel-colored Dutch colonial buildings in Pietermaai overlooking the sea. Our 2-bedroom apartment was huge and stylishly decorated, with sweeping sea views. My review will be up soon! Check rates here.
Luxury: Avila Beach Hotel
Another hotel with a great location in Willemstad, this resort (pictured right) has two private beaches and modern five-star hotel facilities. It’s one of the oldest historic hotels in Curacao, but all rooms have been renovated and given a fresh new look. Look out for my review. Check room rates.
Curacao Travel Requirements in 2021
The island reopened to the world on January 1st 2021 and flights have resumed. To enter Curacao, all visitors must follow these 3 mandatory steps:
- Complete this digital immigration card online before departure.
- Within 48 hours before departure, you need to fill out the online Passenger Locator Card (PLC) and carry a printed document of proof with you.
- Show a negative result from a certified COVID-19 PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before departure (NOTE: Only deep pharyngeal nose and throat swab PCR tests are accepted.) Children 6 years and below are not required to take a PCR test.
Plan Your Trip to Curacao
Curacao is such a naturally stunning island, plus there are so many things to do in Curacao you’ll be spoiled for choice. Have a dushi time in Curacao! Here are more articles on Curacao to help you plan your trip:
- 24 Fun Things to Do in Curacao
- A Complete Curacao Travel Guide 2021
- Where to Stay in Curacao
- Staying at the Avila Beach Hotel in Curacao
- Staying at Scuba Lodge, Curacao
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments field below.
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