Things to know and ideas for your own excursion on Curacao
- Regular berth: Mega Cruise Terminal
- Regular berth: Mathey Wharf
- Regular berth: New Wharf
- Regular berth: Motet Wharf
- Regular berth: Groote Wharf
- Harbour shuttle: not available/necessary
- Taxis: usually available at the jetty
- Buses: well-developed bus network
- Rental car*: Avis, Plaza Brion
- Rental car*: Budget, Governor van Slobbeweg
- Rental car*: Europcar, Way Naar Westpunt bij Juan Domingo
- Rental car*: Hertz, at the airport
- Post office: in the Breedestraat
- Tourist information: Pietermaai 19 and an office at Fort Amsterdam
- Banks and ATMs: sporadically in the shopping centres and in the shopping streets
- Cruise Ship Berths
Willemstad has several berths close to the city. Normally, large cruisers are moored at the Mega Cruise Terminal. Although there is no real terminal building here, you will still find the usual suspects such as a tourist information booth, toilets, free Wi-Fi, souvenirs, various tour operators and taxis. Medium-sized cruise ships can also dock at Mathey Wharf, which is not far away and later becomes New and Motet Wharf, offering additional space. Except for free wifi, the services are similar. If everything is occupied/reserved, the opposite side at Fort Nassauweg with the Groote Wharf is also used as an alternative site. Papiamentu and Dutch are officially spoken on Curacao and the ABC islands. However, many locals can also speak English well and the US dollar is accepted as a means of payment in most cases. It makes sense to have a smaller denomination with you, as 50 and 100 US dollar notes are sometimes not accepted.
- Bridges at the Harbour Entrance
Access to the extensive port facilities of Willemstad is exclusively via St Anna Bay (Sint Annabaai). Thus, even quite large freighters push their way through the narrow entrance, which can be crossed by the city's residents and visitors with the help of the Queen Emma Bridge. The bridge was built as early as 1888, renovated several times and connects the districts of Punda and Otrobanda. It is constructed purely as a pontoon bridge and accordingly floats on the surface of the water and is swung to the side for shipping traffic. This happens quite often on some days. When the bridge is open, you can use the free passenger ferries to get to the other side. The highest bridge in the Caribbean very impressively spans the important waterway a few metres further on. In 1974, the eye-catching Queen Juliana Bridge was opened with a height of 56 metres and four lanes. If you cross slowly, you get a good view of the surrounding area. Cyclists and pedestrians are not allowed to use this bridge.
- Public Buses
Autobusbedrijf Curacao N.V. (ABC) buses operate in the city and on the island, connecting Willemstad with other places on the island. The two bus stations, Bus Station Otrabanda and Bus Station Punda, are not far from the moorings and are the central points of contact for the various lines. Since Curacao is divided into three tariff zones, the corresponding travel costs vary depending on the chosen destination. Journeys in the city area and in the second zone cost 1.70 ANG (Antillean guilder) each. A journey within and to the third zone, which covers the western part of the island, is slightly more expensive at 2.20 ANG. You pay the bus driver in cash. In addition to the regular buses (convoy), there are also minibuses/vans on the road, which are marked "BUS" on the number plate and operate outside the standard timetables.
Taxis are usually available at the pier after a cruise ship arrives. The official vehicles are marked with "TX" on the number plate and have a taxi sign. In addition, the drivers can identify themselves by means of an ID card. Since the use of taximeters, which are sometimes available, is unusual, it is imperative to clarify the cost of the ride with the driver before the journey. For island tours, 50 US dollars per hour is normally charged. The tuk-tuks (auto rickshaws), which are also widespread, get their passengers from A to B somewhat more cheaply.
- Shopping Opportunities
You don't have to walk very far to go shopping in Willemstad. In the Otrabanda district, for example, a wide variety of shops and eateries are located in the Renaissance Shopping Mall and others in Breedestraat. More shops and cafés can be found in the neighbouring district of Punda on the harbour promenade Handelskade, which lies directly on St Anna Bay. Behind it, there are other small shopping streets that are also ideal for strolling.
On Sha Caprileskade Street, the Floating Market takes place daily from 06:00-19:00. Various traders from Venezuela and local fishermen moor their boats there and sell their goods directly on the spot. A little further on, in the direction of the Queen Wilhelmina Bridge, you will come across an eye-catching round building that houses the New Market/Plasa Rondo. Among other things, all kinds of fresh produce and various souvenirs, often handmade, are sold there. A little further away, there is the Old Market/Plasa Bieu where you can get an insight into the local culinary arts. The rich meals on offer can be eaten Monday to Saturday from 10:00-15:00. At lunchtime, many locals also like to eat here and the available seats are quickly taken.
- Curacao Shipping Museum
Not far from the Floating Market is the Curacao Maritime Museum. The maritime museum gives visitors an understanding of the maritime history of Curacao. The permanent exhibition shows various exhibits and illustrations from more than 500 years of island history and is open Monday to Saturday from 09:00-16:00. In addition, admission is granted at the same times from November to April. Regular admission costs USD 6.50 each for adults. Children between the ages of 6 and 11 are charged USD 3. The guided tours and demonstrations offered must be booked in advance and incur additional costs.
- Yotin Korta Money Museum
Free admission is available a few streets away at Scharlooweg 11, at the Yotin Korta Money Museum, which is run by the Central Bank of Curacao. The museum mainly exhibits historical coins and banknotes of the former Dutch Antilles. But visitors are also presented with older pieces that were used, for example, after the discovery of the island by the Spanish. The museum is open Monday to Friday from 08:30-11:30 and from 12:30-16:00.
- Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue
Also in the Punda district, at 29 Hanchi di Snoa Street, is the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue. It was built from 1730-1732, making it the oldest synagogue in the western world. While the interior was stylishly lined with dark mahogany wood, the choice of flooring was rather unusual. Finest sand was chosen, which is now well distributed in the building, dampens the impact sound and is supposed to remind of the Sinai desert. The building complex also includes the Jewish Cultural Historical Museum, which provides information about the life of the Jews on Curacao. A visit to the museum and the synagogue costs 10 US dollars per person and is possible Monday to Friday from 09:00-16:30.
- Fort Amsterdam
The construction of the largest fortification on the island began in 1634. Fort Amsterdam, located to the west of the synagogue, was completed in 1641 and from then on served for the defence of the important harbour access. It was steadily expanded and in 1769 also received an integrated church, which houses a small museum. A cannonball that is still clearly visible in the masonry of the building is a testimony to troubled times. Today, the area is largely used by Curacao's administration and can therefore only be visited to a limited extent. The two gates to the east and west provide access to the site. The church and museum can be visited from Monday to Friday in the morning hours from 09:00-12:00. The entrance fee is 4 USD per person. The Willemstad Trolley Tour, a small tourist train, also starts at the fortifications. The route takes you through the old town past some sights and costs 15.90 Naf per person.
- Waterfort and Rif Fort
When Fort Amsterdam was built, the walls of Waterfort, which was situated directly on the sea, were also built. In the course of constant expansion, the additional fortifications, together with the Rif Fort built later on the other side of the Sint Annabaai, became more and more important. If necessary, chains and nets were stretched between the two fortifications to prevent enemies from entering the harbour. Today, a wide variety of nice restaurants and cafés can be found in, at and around these fortifications.
- Dushi Curacao
Right next to the historic Fort Amsterdam is the central Wilhelmina Park, where a number of restaurants have settled. The oversized lettering "DUSHI" and "CURACAO" are particularly popular with tourists as photo motifs. The word Dushi comes from the local language Papiamentu and means delightful, charming, enchanting and/or friendly. It is very common on the island and is often used in a variety of situations. The locals like to greet their guests with a friendly "Bon Bini", which means nothing else than "Welcome".
- Kura Hulanda Museum
In the Otrabanda district, at Klipstraat 9, is the Kura Hulanda Museum, which deals impressively with the history of slavery. For centuries, Curacao was an important transhipment point for slaves from Africa for the Netherlands. It was not until 1863 that the dark chapter was ended and slavery abolished. The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 09:30-16:30 and the entrance fee for adults is 10 US dollars. Children up to the age of 12 are charged 7 USD.
- Curacao Museum
Another interesting museum is located on Van Leeuwenhoekstraat. The historic building was constructed in 1853 and then used as a military hospital. The Curacao Museum has been housed there since 1948. It is mainly concerned with the island's history, and displays exhibits from the 18th to the 21st century. Among them is the front part of the first Aeroplane that reached Curacao after crossing the Atlantic. It is open Tuesday to Friday from 08:30-16:30 and on Saturday from 10:00-16:00. Sunday and Monday is closed.
- Sea Aquarium
A sea aquarium was constructed to the south-east of the berths in 1984 and has been steadily expanded to this day. The large tanks of the Curacao Sea Aquarium are partly constructed in such a way that they are directly connected to the adjacent sea, and thus have an excellent fresh water supply. This is also the case for the other aquariums inside, which are supplied with fresh water by a pumping system. In addition to the exhibition, visitors are also offered various shows and feedings, which are included in the entrance fee of 21 US dollars. Children from 5 to 12 years and adults over 60 pay 11 USD each. Proof of age is required at the ticket office. Not included in the price, however, are the additional activities offered by external providers, such as dolphin swimming. The Curacao Sea Aquarium opens daily at 08:00 and closes at 17:00. It is about 7.5 kilometres from the berths and can be reached by taxi or rental car in 15 to 20 minutes.
- Mambo Beach
A fine sandy beach is located in the immediate vicinity of the Curacao Sea Aquarium. Mambo Beach, also called Sea Aquarium Beach, can thus also be reached by motorised vehicle in 15-20 minutes and is very well developed for tourism. You can park your rental car* for USD 3 in the large, guarded car park in front of the beach. In addition to many shops, restaurants and bars, which offer a wide range of products, there are also many sunbeds and parasols for rent (depending on location and size, 3-10 USD per day). Due to the high density of sunbeds, the number of free places for bath towels is somewhat smaller than on other beaches. This eases somewhat in an easterly direction towards the Sea Aquarium. Numerous palm trees also provide some shade. ATMs, toilets and showers are also available. A fee of US$3.50 per person is charged for access to the beach itself.
- Jan Thiel Beach
A little further to the southeast is the shallow-sloping Jan Thiel Beach. This section of beach is quite small, but offers visitors several different restaurants with Mediterranean, international and Argentinian cuisine. In addition, another restaurant covers the fast food area. An entrance fee of USD 3.50 per person is charged, the available sunbeds also cost USD 3.50 per day and are quite close together. On some days, the place is also quite crowded. It can get crowded. WCs, showers and changing rooms are available. The distance of about 12 kilometres from the berth of the cruise ship is about 20 minutes by taxi or rental car.
- Cas Abao Beach
The tenth season of "Deutschland sucht den Superstar" was filmed on Curacao in 2013. More precisely, on Cas Abao Beach, about 30 kilometres away. It is accessible daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., offers shady palm trees and palapas, sun loungers for 5 naf including a chip for the shower, a diving and snorkelling shop, toilets, changing rooms and a beach restaurant with snacks. Massages, canoes and small inflatable boats are also available. Access to the fine sandy beach is subject to a fee and is charged per vehicle (maximum 4 persons). Thus, from Monday to Saturday, the cost is 10 Naf (6 USD). On Sundays and public holidays, 12.50 Naf is charged. Each additional person pays another 2.50 Naf. From the berth, you can take a taxi or hire car for about 40 minutes. The taxi fare is about 50 USD each way.
- Playa Porto Mari
Another popular beach is Playa Porto Mari, south of Cas Abao Beach. DSDS has also been a guest here, and you also have to pay to use this beach. A fee of 5 naf or 3 US dollars per person is charged. Children up to the age of 12 are admitted free of charge to the beach section, which is open daily from 09:30-18:30 and also has toilets and showers. A variety of food and drinks are available at the beach bar. Snorkelling and diving equipment, sunbeds (6 Naf / 3.50 USD each) and parasols can be rented on site. As the water is usually very clear and the underwater world worth seeing due to the nearby double reef, there are often many divers and snorkellers. Porto Mari is around 26 kilometres from the moorings and can be expected to take around 35 minutes by rental car* or taxi.
- The Big and the Little Knip
Free access to the Caribbean Sea is offered by Grote Knip beach, located in the northwest. The Great Knip is also called Playa Abou or Playa Kenepa Grandi and its sides are good for snorkelling. There are palm-leaf covered umbrellas on the fine white sand and a beach bar offers snacks and a variety of drinks. Sun loungers are also available for rent. At the large car park, a rocky outcrop juts out into the sea, on which a viewing platform has been installed. This offers great views of the beach. The Little Knip, south of the Great Knip, is particularly popular with the locals. This beach is also freely accessible. However, the on-site beach bar is only in operation at weekends. The two beaches are quite far from the jetty, at around 42 kilometres. A car journey takes 50-55 minutes in each direction and is quite expensive by taxi at around 90 USD.
- Little Curacao
A very beautiful and long stretch of beach can be found on the otherwise barren island of Little Curacao. Located in the southeast of Curacao, the island is uninhabited and can only be reached by boat. Depending on the provider, the boat and the departure point, a crossing takes 45 to 120 minutes, whereby the shorter time can only be managed with a speed boat. Most tours start from the marinas of Spanish Water (Jan Thiel). The 8-10 hour excursions often include food and drinks and you can budget about USD 100 per person for the trip.
The excursions to Little Curacao are very popular and rarely bookable at short notice or on site. The tour providers are also happy to pick up their guests from the berth of the respective cruise ship. However, this usually costs a small surcharge. On the approach, the silhouette of the lighthouse, which stands almost in the middle, is clearly visible from afar. Today only a ruin, it used to serve as an orientation point for many ships. However, it is not advisable to visit the inside because of the dilapidated state of the building.
A little further along the east coast, the remains of the tanker Maria Bianca Guidesman, which sank in 1986, can be seen. A circumnavigation of the island is easily doable and takes about an hour. Snorkelling and diving are quite popular there. It is not uncommon to see sea turtles. Shady trees are a rarity on Little Curacao.
- Hato Caves
In the immediate vicinity of the Curacao airport, on the Franklin D. Rooseveltweg, the access gate of the Hato Caves welcomes its visitors with a friendly Bon Bini. The approximately 4900 square metre area was largely created by ocean currents and rose out of the sea along with the island thousands of years ago. A part of the cave formation worth seeing can be visited and impresses with partly bizarre stone formations that are sometimes mystically illuminated.
Rare bats live in the dark part of the caves and flash photography is only allowed in a few places. Warm clothing is not necessary as the air temperature inside the caves is often higher than the outside temperature. Adults pay 9 USD per person and children from 4 to 11 years pay 7 USD each. During the daily opening hours of 09:00-17:00, multilingual guided tours take place every hour on the hour. The Hato Caves are a good 10 kilometres away from the moorings and can be reached by rental car* in about 15 minutes.
- Excursion Portals and Excursion Providers
Through the tour and excursion providers GetYourGuide*, Meine Landausflüge* and Viator*, you can book various excursions, activities, tours, tickets and entrance fees on Curacao, which are often offered at much lower prices than comparable excursions by the shipping companies. Thus, if you book in time, you can realise a variety of excursions on your own.
A small pre-selection of shipping company-independent excursion offers
for, in and around Willemstad,
we have put together for you here.
- Cruises and Special Offers
If you haven't booked a Caribbean cruise yet, but would like to get to know Curacao personally and go on excursions on your own, you will find great offers with the major cruise operators in the German-speaking world. Aida*, Costa* and Tui Cruises - Mein Schiff* offer charming itineraries with their modern cruise ships, along with other interesting destinations. Book your next dream holiday directly with your favourite cruise line at fair conditions.
All ocean and river cruises can also be booked conveniently and inexpensively online with the cruise specialist Kreuzfahrten-Zentrale Astoria*. You can choose from a wide range of daily offers from various shipping companies. These include AIDA Cruises, Carnival, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean and TUI Cruises. The popular special offers are also attractive, with which you can travel particularly cheaply and possibly also get a great bargain.
- Post office opening hours: Monday to Friday from 07:30-16:30
- Opening hours of the banks: Monday to Friday from 08:00-15:30
- Opening hours of the tourist information: Monday to Friday from 09:00-17:00
- Shop opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 09:00-18:00. Some shopping centres are also open longer.
- Country code: +599-9
- Taxi: Tel. 8690747 / 8690752 (Taxi hoofdkantoor)
- Police: Tel. 911
- Emergency doctor: Tel. 912
- Vaccination advice: Tropical Institute Curacao
- Buses: Autobusbedrijf
- Bus tariff zones: Autobusbedrijf
- Bus routes: Autobusbedrijf
- City map: Willemstad Map
- Climate table: Curacao climate
- Port occupancy: Cruise ships in Willemstad
- Local currency: Antillean guilder, 1 ANG (NAf) = 100 cents
More port information of popular cruise destinations in the Caribbean