Curacao is full of color above and below the water, from the colorful European buildings to the vibrant coral reefs. This makes Curacao beaches some of the most unique beaches in the Caribbean. You can actually find some of the best diving locations in the world right off the shores of Curacao.
Since my road trip through Mexico, I have become especially interested in free diving and snorkeling. Curacao pops up quite a bit throughout my research of some of the best places to snorkel. This is because of their coral reef rehabilitation efforts, superbly clear blue waters, and the diversity of marine life. It definitely puts it at the top of my list of places to visit.
There are amazing diving and snorkeling beaches in Curacao and some beautiful coastal views with sea cliffs and white sands. Today I’ll go over ten of the best beaches in Curacao for your next Caribbean vacation.
My Favorite Beaches Up Front
I am an adventure seeker at heart, and if you’re looking into Curacao, you most likely are as well. That being said, my favorite beach on this list is Directors Bay Beach, or Tugboat Beach, because of the sunken ship that is shallow enough to snorkel around. I would also love to learn to kite surf at Sint Joris Bay. For the one or two days I want to relax, I’ll check out Playa Kenepa, also known as Grote Knip.
Things to Know About Curacao Beaches
While Curacao may offer some extraordinarily blue water and fantastic snorkeling, there are a few things that make Curacao beaches unique in their particular way. This isn’t to deter you from visiting, but if you expect to be lounging on large beaches your entire vacation, read this first.
A Lot of Them Are Private
Any beach that will be lounge-able, super clean from rocks and ocean junk, and large enough to spread out is most likely private. It is not expensive to visit these private beaches, with admission costing anywhere from $3 to $11. With most of these fees, you also get access to restrooms, live music, pools, and/or equipment rentals.
All of the Beaches Are Rocky
The island of Curacao is one large sea cliff surrounded by reefs, meaning there are tons of rocks or hard coral on these beaches. There isn’t a single beach in Curacao that is 100% free from stones, but there are some places where you can avoid the rocks. However, you wouldn’t have the Curacao charm without some rocky texture.
There Aren’t Any Super Large Beaches
Due to the number of sea cliffs, the beaches in Curacao are neither long nor wide. This can make it difficult to spread out from others, but luckily, there are quite a few beaches that people do not frequent or are unknown to the general masses. The longest beach you will find in Curacao is a secluded island.
How I Chose These Beaches
Choosing the best beaches in Curacao was a bit of a trick for me because I would usually base it on ease of access and the least amount of ocean junk. However, the island being surrounded by reefs and most beaches being below sea cliffs made these criteria hard to follow. Below are the requirements I’ve made for Curacao beaches:
Not Too Rocky
Some beaches in Curacao are less rocky than others, but no beaches are entirely free from rocks. I hate accidentally stepping on sharp rocks while trudging through the ocean. I equivalate it to stepping on a lego. There are a few beaches listed that are quite a bit rocky, but the beaches I chose meant for lounging and relaxing are the least rocky.
I love having a beach all to myself. Luckily, quite a few beaches in Curacao are pretty secluded. You will have to rent a car to get to many of these beaches, but if no crowds are a priority, it is definitely worth it.
Something for Everyone
If you choose Curacao as your beach destination, you most likely love to snorkel or scuba dive. Although, I know these activities are not for everyone, and you may be just getting dragged there by your fellow underwater lover. Don’t worry! There are plenty of other beaches for multiple activities, from relaxing with a pina colada in hand to kite surfing with sea turtles.
As mentioned above, many Curacao beaches are located below sea cliffs, so you’ll have to take some stairs to many of them. I’ve included quite a few options that do not have stairs, and all of the beaches have a parking area right on the beach. If you have to walk down a flight of stairs, you shouldn’t have to hike from the parking lot.
10 Best Beaches in Curacao
Most Picturesque: Playa Kenepa
This beach also goes by Grote Knip and is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. It has soft snowy white sands and clear aquamarine waters, and there isn’t much development surrounding it. There are also some aesthetically pleasing boulders and sea cliffs that scream Curacao. You can also get a panoramic view of the beach from an overlook on the sea cliffs.
Surprisingly, Playa Kenepa is free to access! However, they make up for that free admission by charging more than usual for loungers, umbrellas, and restroom use. You’ll probably spend as much at this beach as if you did pay admission to another beach.
- Fantastic white sands and aquamarine waters
- Aesthetically pleasing beach boulders and sea cliffs
- Beautiful lookout over the beach from the sea cliffs
- Soft sands compared to other beaches
- Free to access and park
- Loungers and facilities are slightly expensive to use
Best for Entertainment: Mambo Beach
Mambo Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Curacao, with its fantastic location just outside Willemstad and all the fun stuff they have to do in the area. There’s a shopping mall next to the beach, a play area for kids, tons of bars and restaurants, and even a stage where they put on live music sometimes.
It is also one of the most well-maintained beaches on Curacao, with super soft sands that don’t have many rocks and crystal clear waters. Due to this, it tends to get pretty crowded quickly, so make sure you get there early if you want a lounger and umbrella.
- Tons of stuff to do and see here, from concerts to shopping
- Some of the whitest sands on the island and bluest waters
- There are wave breakers, making the water super calm
- Shallow waters, great for kids
- Super soft sands
- It can get pretty crowded
Best to See Turtles: Playa Piskado
Piskado means fisher, which makes sense for this beach because this is where all the fishermen go to clean their catch of the day. That’s where the sea turtles come in. Sea turtles find these fishy leftovers to be a delicious treat, so they swarm the area while fishermen dump their chum into the ocean. As long as you are there in the morning when the fishermen are, you are sure to get to swim with a few sea turtles.
Just remember to try not to disturb the sea turtles by touching them. That doesn’t mean they won’t come up and try to touch you. These sea creatures are pretty friendly and are most likely just looking for a tasty handout. If you miss turtle time, there isn’t much else to do on this beach because the sand is relatively rocky.
- Sea turtles come to this area every morning
- The water is super clear, so you can see to the bottom when snorkeling
- Free beach access and parking
- Some picturesque fishing boats throughout the water
- It’s a somewhat rocky beach, so wear water shoes
Best for Snorkelers: Directors Bay Beach
I have always wanted to snorkel around a shipwreck, and you don’t often come across one that isn’t on land or too deep to snorkel. Directors Bay Beach, or Tugboat Beach, is one of the few beaches that have a shipwreck shallow enough that you can snorkel around it. Plus, it has built up quite a bit of coral over the years, making it a great home to reef fish.
As if a coral-covered tugboat was not enough, the Directors Bay is also located in Curacao’s National Marine park, meaning all of the marine life is protected and thriving. It is also a location for Curacao’s coral restoration, where they have planted thousands of new coral. Access to this beach is free, so if you have snorkel gear, you may not have to pay anything to enjoy this snorkel haven.
- There’s a shipwreck right offshore, shallow enough to snorkel around
- Located in Curacao’s National Marine Park
- It’s a coral restoration site, where they plant thousands of new corals
- Free access to the beach
- Not a good beach for lounging because of all the rocks
Best for Diving: Playa Kalki
This beach is located near one of Curacao’s most popular diving sites and one of the only ones you can access right from shore. There is a significant drop-off at this beach where the Alice in Wonderland Coral reef is located, and you can see tons of coral, reef fish, sea turtles, eels, and more here. If you’re new to diving, there’s a diving school on this beach where they teach you how to dive right off their dock.
You can also snorkel if you are not into diving (it can feel quite claustrophobic). The water is super clear, so you can see pretty far down. However, this isn’t a great beach to swim around because the reefs’ ocean floor is pretty rocky.
- Alice in Wonderland reef is located at the drop-off of this beach
- There is a dive shop located at the pier
- White sands and crystal clear water
- One of the less crowded beaches
- Free access and no parking fees
- Not great for beach wading because of the rocky beach floor
Best for Kite Surfers: Sint Joris Bay Beach
Sint Joris Bay is not for everyone, but it is the best place (probably the only place) for kite surfing in Curacao. It is on the island’s eastern side, so the bay is directly in line with the Eastern Trade Winds, making for some consistently good kite surfing winds. It is also an excellent place for beginners as the waters are pretty shallow, there aren’t crazy waves, and there is a kite surfing school on-site.
If you aren’t someone who isn’t into kite surfing, there isn’t much else here for you to enjoy. It is a deep bay, so it seems like a lake and does not have sandy shores. However, if you tag along with others wanting to kite surf, you may see some sea turtles pop their heads out of the water.
- A kite surfing school is located on this beach
- The Eastern Trade Winds come through this area
- Free access and parking
- Super secluded area
- You may see some turtles
- There’s not much to say about this beach unless you’re here for the kite surfing
Most Pristine: Klein Curacao
Klein Curacao beach is a remote island known as Little Curacao. Nobody lives on this island, and the only facilities you’ll find are palapas and beach chairs offered by some tour companies. You can also find an old abandoned lighthouse on the island that you can go inside and a few ships wrecked on shore.
The only way to get to this island is by taking a boat tour that takes you to the island. This makes it one of the least crowded beaches in all of Curacao. On top of that, it has some of the prettiest sands and waters, and it’s the longest beach in Curacao.
- It’s an uninhabited island
- One of the least crowded beaches in Curacoa
- The longest beach in Curacao
- There’s an old abandoned lighthouse you can explore
- There are a few shipwrecks you can check out
- It takes a two-hour boat ride each way to get here
Most Unique: Playa Porto Mari
I added Porto Mari to this list because of the wild boars that sometimes visit this beach. They are untamed, so there’s no guarantee that they will be there when you are, but they are pretty friendly and like to lay on the beach waiting for snacks to be given. Not only that, but it is one of the more picturesque beaches.
This is a private beach, so there’s an entrance fee, but you can also rent snorkeling gear, a beach chair, an umbrella, or get a massage. It does get a little crowded, probably because of the unique beach pigs, even though it is still one of the more laid-back beaches on the island.
- There are beach pigs!
- There’s plenty to do with chair rentals, snorkeling, and massages
- Super white sands and turquoise waters
- A calmer, more relaxing beach
- It gets a little crowded compared to other beaches
Where Locals Go: Playa Forti
Tourists often overlook this beach because of the stairs you have to take to get to the beach, and the amount of coral washed up, but it has one of the best views. You can see the entire coastline from the Playa Forti restaurant, with a view of all the cliffside housing and blue waters.
If you’re looking for more excitement, you can cliff dive off a 40-foot jump here and then swim back to the beach. Make sure you are jumping in feet first with your arms crossed because a 40-foot jump can hurt you unless you’re some sort of professional diver. Make sure to catch a sunset at this beach as well.
- There is cliff diving
- Free access and parking
- Beautiful view down the cliffy coastline
- No crowds; it’s primarily locals here
- There’s quite a bit of coral on the beach, making it hard to walk on, but fun to beach comb
- You have to walk down some stairs to get to the beach
Most Secluded: Playa Jeremi
For those of you that want a beach experience that is absent of the crowds, buildings, and tourist traps, go to Playa Jeremi. There is quite literally nothing here other than the beach, sea cliffs, and a few locals. Even though it is a somewhat secluded beach, it is easy to access with a small, free parking lot at the top of the carved stone stairs.
This is a relatively small beach, but I don’t find this a huge deal because of the lack of crowds. There is plenty to do here, with some snorkeling along the cliff walls where you can see fish and corals. It also has cool beach boulders that add to the remote vibe.
- Not many people know about this beach
- Free access and no parking fees
- A more natural setting with sea cliffs and beach boulders
- There is some snorkeling along the sea cliffs
- Have to walk down a few steps carved into the cliff
- Very small
Question: What side of Curacao has the best beaches?
Answer: The West side of Curacao has the best beaches. This is where all the coral reefs, the most transparent waters, and the best conditions are. You won’t find too many beaches on the island’s East side because of the rocky coats and the Eastern Trade Winds.
Question: What is the best time to visit Curacao?
Answer: The best weather in Curacoa is from December to April. There is less rainfall, and you’re outside of hurricane season. However, this is when all the tourists go to Curacao, so the prices go up, and everything is more crowded. I recommend visiting in November when the wet season is basically over and the tourist season hasn’t hit yet.
Question: Are Curacao beaches free?
Answer: Not all of the beaches in Curacao are free. There are a few free beaches, but they don’t have any facilities unless you’re willing to pay to use them. You can expect to pay $3 USD to $11 USD to access one of the many private beaches. Free beaches typically have a flight of stairs to access, rockier sand, and aren’t maintained as frequently.
Question: How many days do I need in Curacao?
Answer: Curacao is a relatively small island, and the main thing to do here is snorkeling or diving. If you are solely looking to spend most of your time under the water, a week will be plenty to hit all the best spots and have a couple of relaxing days. For a more in-depth exploration of the island, you could spend up to two weeks.
Question: How warm is the water in Curacao?
Answer: The water around Curacao is pretty warm, with the average temperature around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It can warm up to 85 degrees, making it feel like a cool bath. It’s the perfect temperature to cool off in the sun without feeling like you’re freezing.
Which Beach is Right for You?
Suppose you are visiting Curacao for one of its most notable features (diving and snorkeling). In that case, the obvious answer is Directors Bay Beach and Playa Kalki. These two beaches have fascinating underwater landscapes and marine life from the shoreline. You don’t even have to pay anybody for a tour if you have your own gear because both beaches have free access.
You could probably rotate to a different beach activity every day with the various beaches in Curacao. So It’s important to figure out what beach activities are most important to you before choosing the beaches you’ll visit on the island. Hopefully, this list of the best beaches in Curacao has made it easier for you to decide.