Curaçao is a small island—just 40 miles long and 3-8 miles wide—but it’s got enough natural, cultural, and culinary adventures to keep you busy for weeks. Our favorite thing, though, is that it’s just a 2.5 hour flight from Miami, so it’s perfect for a weekend getaway. Here’s how we would spend 36 hours in Curaçao.
Chances are you’re taking an after work flight out of MIA, so Friday’s a short night on this itinerary. Stop at a watering hole on the way to the hotel and have your first of many “Brights” (aka an Amstel Bright, the island go-to).
Then you’ll be headed to home base for the weekend, the Hilton Hotel Curaçao. If you’re not yawning yet, grab a welcome drink at the hotel bar, buffeted by a warm ocean breeze. We recommend getting into the spirit with a cocktail that includes Blue Curaçao, the country’s signature liqueur.
You’re going to pack in a lot of exploring today, so get breakfast on the run at a “snek” stand – Curaçao’s version of the ventanita. The capital of Willemstad is full of these little streetside cafes to get quick coffees, pastries, and sandwiches. Chat with the friendly staff while you wait for your order—we even started an early-morning Beyoncé karaoke session at one.
Next you’re hitting the road for the best drive on the island. You’ll drive north out of the city before heading west on Weg Naar Westpunt (say that three times fast). Hang a left toward the village of Sint Willibrordus, and stop at Jan Kok, the oldest former plantation on the island, for some history and art. Don’t linger too long, though – the beaches of Curaçao are next.
None of the beaches are that far from each other. Use our guide to the beaches to choose which ones you’ll hit (all of them are on the west side but one) – you can snorkel and dive, swim with sea turtles, or cliff dive.
You’ll hit up Jaanchie’s for a late lunch. There’s no actual menu, just the adorable owner drawing a “menu” at your table. Iguana, in stewed or soup form, is the go-to here.
Before heading back to Willemstad, drive to the westernmost point of the island, West Point, for a spectacular view of the Caribbean. Then it’s back to base at the Hilton to rest up before your night out.
We recommend starting your night at Luke’s, an inventive cocktail bar that takes advantage of the island’s plentiful fresh fruit. But if you can’t stand the idea of a sunset without an ocean view, head to St. Tropez, which has a spectacular back patio overlooking the water that will make you feel totally VIP.
Fishalicious is where you should head for dinner. It’s a bit of a splurge, but worth it. The seafood is fresh and fantastic.
Cap off the evening with drinks at Mundo Bizarro, where live music and salsa dancing kicks off on Saturdays around 10 p.m., and Miles Jazz Cafe next door, which has quality jazz on weekend nights. If you’re up for a musical nightcap, walk down the street to Happy Bar for some rousing, so-bad-it’s-good karaoke.
Start your day with breakfast at Hofi Cas Cora, which is bringing the eat local, farm-to-table movement to Curaçao via this former plantation that husband and wife Joshua and Femi are restoring. The main house has been turned into a bright, open restaurant with views of the farmland around it. They serve excellent coffees, plus juices and meals inspired by seasonal produce on the island.
Once you’re full and caffeinated, head down to Punda, the waterfront of downtown Willemstad. Wander the cobblestone streets and admire the brightly painted Dutch-style houses. Hang around long enough to catch the floating bridge in action (the entire bridge swings out, rather than opening up, to let ships in. It’s pretty cool).
Then check out the floating market, a collection of boats and stalls selling produce from Venezuela, which is only 40 miles away, before heading to the Scharloo neighborhood, a budding arts district with great street art.
If you’ve got time before lunch, make a stop at Kura Hulanda, a history museum and restored neighborhood that provides an impressively candid look at how the slave trade formed Curaçao into the country it is today.
For lunch, you have a choice between Purunchi Koredor or Plaza Bieu. Purunchi’s is a bomb sit-down fish restaurant that feels like you got invited over to someone’s house for a meal (you kind of did, the owners live upstairs), while Plaza Bieu is a food hall where you can try all the local delicacies (the sweet potato pancake is a must).
Unfortunately, it’s time to head to the airport and conclude your 36 hours in Curaçao. Stop at one of the island’s many batido stands on your way. We recommend the watermelon or, if you’re feeling adventurous, the mispel.
Been to Curaçao already? Using our itinerary to shape your own? We want to hear about it. Let us know in the comments, and have an awesome trip.