Let’s be real. You came to Curaçao for the beach. But what kind of beach? With more than 30 all over the island, there are a lot of choices.
This is by no means a definitive guide, but it should help you get started – at least until a local can guide you to their favorite!
Playa Lagun is a cozy beach tucked away between high cliffs on the western end of the island, a bit off the beaten path (read: fewer tourists). It’s great for seeing sea turtles or to use as a jumping off point for snorkeling and scuba diving – there’s a dive shop (Bahia Apartments & Diving) at the top. You can often see local fishermen chopping their catch at the table near the beach entrance.
You’re not here for the beach – although if you think Santa Cruz isn’t gorgeous, Curaçao has already spoiled you. You’re here because it’s the jumping off point for exploring the Blue Room, a cave a 10-minute boat ride from shore. Captain Goodlife, a true character whose restaurant is here on the beach, will hook you up with snorkeling gear and a ride out (for about $25, but this price seems to be pretty variable), and if you’re lucky, his adorable children will come along to guide you into the cave. He’ll drop you off just outside the cave entrance, and it’s a brief dunk underwater to get into the cave, a cavernous room that glows blue because all the light filters in underwater.
Cas Abou Beach
Cas Abou Beach, with its smooth sand and shallow swimming area, is great for families with kids. It’s a private beach, meaning you have to pay a fee to enter (about $5) – but that also means it’s never too crowded. Be sure to stop and chat with the friendly attendants at the toll booth – they’re from all over the Caribbean and love to talk. They also love it if you bring them a cold Bright.
The snack bar on the beach has great bitterballen (Dutch meatballs) and you can even get massages, right there on the beach.
On the far western end of the island, Playa Forti is a great spot if you want to give cliff diving a try. Pull into the parking lot of the beach restaurant, then walk around the back, between the banister of the restaurant and the cliff edge. You’ll come up on a little concrete platform that someone put there to help you clear the rocks on the way down. It’s an exhilarating 40-foot fall down to the water. (If you’re crazy, just jump off of any part of the cliff edge.)
Playa Forti is also a popular launch spot for diving and for seeing sea turtles.
Grote Knip and Kleine Knip (aka Kenepa)
Another favorite on the western side of the island, this duo of beaches (Grote Knip is the larger of the two) is free and gets crowded on the weekends. By midday there’s sure to be music, either recorded or live. There’s a salt marsh that’s cool to explore and bomb batidos (fruit milkshakes) made with fresh, not frozen, fruit at the stand on the beach. There’s cliff diving here, too, but it’s quite a bit higher than at Playa Forti, so it’s not for the faint of heart.
St. Joris Baai
This isn’t really a beach – it’s a sheltered lagoon on the eastern end of the island that’s a mecca for all things active. You can take an ATV or mountain bike out on the trails, windsurf, or kitesurf (or just, you know, swim). Old School Windsurfing is a local favorite for getting all set up. There’s a black sand beach on the outer edge of the lagoon that’s nice for taking a breather, although it won’t hold a candle to those above.