Curaçao travel guide
The southern Caribbean island of Curaçao boasts a vibrant cultural mix, from the colonial architecture of the Dutch to the mouth-watering cuisine of the Creole. This combined with the natural beauty of the island makes it a real gem worthy of discovery. Think rolling desert plains concealing rocky coves trimmed by massive cliffs, to long sandy beaches flanked by clear blue-green water, while leafy nature trails offer quiet seclusion – you’ll find them crisscrossing much of the island. Wander past landhuizen, which means ‘land houses’, and old plantations juxtaposed near cacti clusters and desert shrubbery.
The island’s handsome UNESCO heritage capital of Willemstad offers visitors a window into the past with its pastel-coloured houses and cobblestone plazas. For the commercially minded, music-filled malls bustle with bag-laden shoppers and cut-price deals.
Situated on the outer fringe of the hurricane belt, Curaçao weathers a strong breeze that lessens the intensity of the Caribbean sun. It also makes Curaçao ideal for water sports, while the island’s stunning coral reef draws divers from across the globe.
If it’s the coastline you’ve come for, you won’t be disappointed. There are some 40 beaches, some of them several kilometres long, with powdery sand that looks from a distance like blankets of silk. You’ll also find a number of small coves; often you can claim them for yourself.
Although for much of the year Curaçao is tranquil and sleepy, carnival is perhaps the best time to visit. A huge party engulfs the island, and more revellers are flocking here to take part in the festivities every year – part of what makes carnival so compelling here is the multicultural vibes of the inhabitants.
So whether you want to lounge on a beach, explore rugged nature, wander colonial architecture or party until dawn, Curaçao will not disappoint.
444 sq km (171 sq miles).
158,635 (UN estimate 2016).
334.4 per sq km.
Automous within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
King Willem-Alexander since 2013, represented by Governor Lucille George-Wout since 2013.
Prime Minister Gilmar Pisas since March 2017.
120/127 volts AC, 50Hz. American-style plugs with two flat pins (with or without round grounding pin) are used.
Last updated: 15 February 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Most visits to Curaçao are trouble-free. However, petty theft and street crime is a concern. There is violent crime among members of the illegal drugs world, but this rarely affects tourists. The main tourist areas are generally safe, but you should take normal precautions. Avoid remote areas at night. Don’t take valuables to the beach. Make sure purses and handbags are closed and not easy to snatch.
The islands of the Dutch Caribbean continue to be used to smuggle illegal drugs from South America to Europe and North America. You should have a heightened sense of awareness of this problem and never leave bags unattended. Under no circumstances should you discuss or agree to carry a package for anyone. Some airports have installed body scanners and it is possible you may be required to have a scan. Dutch authorities generally screen all baggage and passengers from the Dutch Caribbean.
When taking a taxi, always check that it is a registered one and negotiate the price before taking the ride. Most taxis do not have meters.
Traffic drives on the right-hand side. Main road conditions are relatively good, but roads can become slippery when wet.
You can find a list of recent incidents and accidents on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unsafe.
Safety concerns have been raised about INSEL Air. The US and Netherlands authorities have prohibited their staff from using the airline while safety checks are being carried out. UK government officials have been told to do the same as a precaution.
Curaçao is now an autonomous country within Kingdom of the Netherlands, together with Aruba and St. Maarten. It has a separate government, and currently shares a central bank with St. Maarten. The island lies within 50 miles of Venezuela.