Experience Curacao Island Happiness…
How could I possibly have more to write about the Caribbean island of Curaçao, given that this is now my SEVENTH article from my epic Curaçao trip?
Ooh, trust me — there are ostriches and edible iguanas that still need discussing, and photos too beautiful to keep hidden. Let’s go!
Because I need to move on with my life and start writing about other places, this will be the last post in this Curaçao series (unless I do a return trip, of course…), so this is when all the lesser-known gems are revealed.
Whether or not you’re planning Curaçao island travel soon, sit back and enjoy a scroll through these luscious views while we dive into what to do in Curaçao for maximum delight…
1. Spot the little yellow birds!
The Venezuelan troupial — a species of New World oriole — is the national bird of Curaçao, and geez is it ever lovely. You will find flocks of these wee, golden cuties serenading strangers, showing off their jolly feathers, and adorning street art.
Are you getting hungry already, imagining those little wings flapping? Let’s lunch…
2. Eat at Plasa Bieu.
I had fabulous food in Curaçao, but my favorite meal of all was the home-style cooking found at Yvonne’s in Plasa Bieu: a large cafeteria-style hall in Willemstad that is wildly popular with locals and tourists alike.
Below, see my “stoba” stew (the meat was so tender it melted off the bone!), plantains, rice, and funchi: a sort of corn polenta with similarities to African dishes like ugali, banku, or my #1 dish from Ghana: fufu.
Isn’t it delicious how Curaçao is a blend of European, African, Caribbean, and other flavors???
Now that we’ve eaten, let’s see some history next…
3. See the oldest surviving synagogue in the Americas.
Continuing the theme of Curaçao’s wonderful cultural diversity, Willemstad’s Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue dates back to 1674, and is nestled (in gold) artfully between green, red, and yellow buildings, as you can see below.
Especially given my DNA results, it was a thrill to be near this important Jewish history. Next, let’s drive a few minutes outside the city for an epic attraction…
4. Tour a giant ostrich farm!
The Curaçao Ostrich Farm — one of the biggest outside of Africa — is just 15 minutes east of Willemstad, and offers a great educational “safari” truck tour with the most adept trilingual guide I’ve ever seen.
You can even RIDE the ostriches… but as our guide explained (in English, Spanish, and Papiamento, no less), “Most people are so terrified from the experience that they beg it to stop, run away in terror, and never, ever do it again.”
Ok, in an awkward twist, I am refusing to include my ostrich photos to accompany this tip, despite having snapped hundreds during my tour. Why? To be honest, the ostriches were, um… not the most attractive models.
Sorry! I don’t want to offend ostrich lovers, but my aim with this blog is to share beauty and happiness, and those photos just instill… gasps.
In lieu of scowling, scraggly ostrich faces, therefore, I shall give you instead a breathtaking photo I took of a teal parrot that was hanging out at the entrance to the farm. Isn’t she stunning? Gaze, then let’s head back to Willemstad.
5. Dig the Dutch-Caribbean architecture.
Mix the triangles and loops of Amsterdam’s edifices with the pulsing colors of the Caribbean, and you’ve got Willemstad. You can spend a whole day just wandering the town and smiling at the hues and shapes.
Have you heard the story of why Willemstad is rainbow painted? Legend has it that in the early 1800s, all the buildings were painted white, which gave the governor of Curaçao island, Albert Kikkert, major migraines when the sun ricocheted off.
To ease his throbbing noggin, the story goes that Kikkert ordered all buildings in town to be colored all shades possible.
Now here’s the sneaky twist: It turns out that Kikkert was an investor in the only paint factory on the island, meaning this colored paint order led to quite a profit in his pockets!
Corruption or no, the colors of Curaçao’s capital have sure paid off in making visitors and photographers like me turn euphoric.
For more on the architecture of specific areas in Willemstad, check out my pieces on the Pietermaai District (a crumbling area which is now half rebuilt through eye-popping art) and Scharloo (the former Jewish merchant neighborhood in which the buildings look like wedding cakes).
Now let’s mosey to the internationally-infused waterfront!
6. Explore the floating market (if it still exists).
Because Curaçao is less than 40 miles north of Venezuela’s coast, fishermen from the South American country have brought their fresh catches to Willemstad’s market each day for over a century.
I took these photos several months ago, but double check that the market is still around before heading there, as politics in Venezuela have caused supply and commerce problems, and my current research suggests this historic institution is on pause.
I love the sparkle in this fisherman’s eyes, below, and truly hope the fishermen are still in business.
Though Curaçao island is most famous for is multi-colored bay (pictured in the first photo in this article), I was deeply moved by the beauty of this quiet waterway behind the floating market. Just drink in those shimmering colors!
For our next stop, let’s turn away from the water and towards the stalls that line it, and the large, round market nearby: Ronde Markt.
7. Go shopping.
I’m not a big souvenir person, but I have to admit that Curaçao has some of the most unique goodies a shopper can snap up. Take these unique medicinal oils from Ronde Markt, pictured below, for example. Shark (“Tribon”) Oil?! Whoa!
You will also find a fun mix of clothing in Willemstad that reflects the diversity of Curaçao’s cultures. I loved seeing the signs in Dutch, and learning that “Uitverkoop” means “Sale.”
Never would have guessed that one! I would have thought that word meant “Unseating a government via a coup undertaken through underwear.”
Meanwhile, along the water, there are colorful stalls staffed by people who have come from all over the Caribbean and beyond. Rainbow colored iguana statue, anyone?
8. Swim in amazing beaches.
Well, this one is obvious. Curaçao has some of the most beautiful ocean swimming in the world, as you can see from my article about touring the best beaches of Curaçao.
If you’d rather stay in Willemstad, however, don’t be sad that it doesn’t have natural beaches — the great hotel where I stayed (affiliate: easy link for hotel info here) offers a human-made “infinity beach” two stories above the ocean, and you can visit for a day rate, even if you’re not staying there!
9. Feast on iguana and tutu.
Whilst touring the heavenly beaches around Curaçao, stop for a meal in the north of the island at Jaanchies: one of the most relaxing, welcoming, delightful places I’ve ever eaten.
This homey restaurant has an open wall overlooking an enchanting bird garden. I could have gazed at those opera-singing troupials for hours!
For food, my dear hosts urged me to try the… iguana stew as an appetizer! It was not as confusing a taste as I expected — just somewhat boney, and with the odd effect of conjuring visions of skittering green animals cavorting through my belly.
I am not including the iguana stew photo for similar reasons to my ostrich pic abstention: the experience was better than the visuals! I have a meal I DO want to show you, though, so I can explain what it is:
The plate shown above was our entree from Jaanchies, and, though you may recognize fish in the middle (Curaçao is, after all, an island, and offers excellent seafood), you may be confused about the logs on either side.
Those food logs are called tutu, and are similar to the funchi explained earlier, except in addition to the cornmeal, mashed black-eyed peas are added. Truly yummy and filling! Let’s head back to the city now…
10. Embrace the rainbow art of Willemstad!
Beyond the architecture itself, Curaçao’s capital brims with vibrant street art. You know you want to pose between the wings on this mural…
Inside buildings, too, decor is creative and fun. Ogle this atrium from the waterfront restaurant, Gouverneur, where I ate the first night:
People watching in Willemstad is also world-class. It made me smile to see so many beautiful families, couples, and humans in general strolling by the multi-colored walls.
Enjoy Your Curacao Vacation!
So there you have it: my LAST Curaçao article (until the next trip??) of the seven in this year-long series about the island. I suddenly feel strangely at sea, not having thousands of beautiful Caribbean photos on my computer, begging to be placed in an article, anymore…
I guess I’ll just have to head out on the next adventure! Good thing my suitcase is already packed, because I head out tomorrow. Stay tuned to find out where!
So what about YOU? What are your thoughts and experiences around Curaçao, the ABC Islands, and these photos and tips?
I was a guest of the Curaçao Tourist Board, but all opinions and ostrich judgements are my own.
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!
Thursday 9th of July 2020
Hey loving your articles on Curacao. I'm currently living in Tobago with my family and we have a small vacation apartment business. This year has made us realise how blessed we are to live on this amazing island but also the need to venture out and explore the other islands that are so close to us while living here. Curacao is now on our travel bucket list.
Saturday 11th of July 2020
I'm so curious about Tobago, too -- I've heard so many good things!
Friday 26th of April 2019
Do u recommend renting a car?
Monday 29th of April 2019
Hi Tony, I think you could have a great trip with or without a car. If you did rent a car, you could explore all of the wonderful beaches (both big and hidden) around the island, but if you didn't rent one, distances are short enough that it could be potentially affordable to hire someone or do a taxi. That said, I didn't try that second option, so I can't speak to pricing, but perhaps another reader could chime in about this. Have a great trip!
Sunday 10th of March 2019
Lillie, Do they allow you to pay in USA currency/cash? Was the food expensive? On most menus I see the nafl price? Is this the same as us? Also, was the sun extremely strong since Curacao is much closer to the equator?
Sunday 10th of March 2019
Thank you for your useful questions. Answers:
1. I was able to use a mix of US Dollars, guilder, and Visa credit card. I assume this is still the same, though my visit was in 2017.
2. Food prices were a big range, which is good because it means you can find meals to fit most budgets.
3. Indeed, the sun can be stronger close to the equator, but I packed a big hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses, and was fine. That said, I do try to limit sun exposure in general, so I'm not sure how my precautions would work for direct and sustained sunbathing.
Hope this helps!
Saturday 5th of January 2019
I think I've read all of your awesome Curacao articles now. My wife and I spent Christmas in Curacao. This was our first trip, and we had an all-day private tour of the island for our first full day, Sunday the 23rd. Unfortunately we both had sinus/allergy flare-ups at home in Tennessee, and those came to Curacao with us. So when we arose on the 23rd, we both were coughing like crazy and sounded like death warmed over. We had to cancel the tour, and the way the island celebrates Christmas on the 24th, 25th and 26th, there wasn't another date we could reschedule the tour since we flew back out on the 27th. The solution is easy - simply go back to Curacao another time! We stayed at the Sunscape and did head off the resort on the 24th into Punda (and Otrobanda) for about 5 hours, but we realize that was just a small slice of the island. The Caribbean is absolutely beautiful but I do wish we could have seem other beaches since there are so many beautiful ones on the island. Again - another reason to return! I can definitely recommend Curacao to any Caribbean traveler as a destination not to be missed!
Sunday 6th of January 2019
Wow! Thank you for this note, and I'm so sorry you got sick! But you're right -- the way to solve it is to go back. Have a wonderful future trip, and keep us posted on the latest tips!
Monday 30th of July 2018
All your photos make Curacao look so colorful and beautiful! I loved reading through your experience. I was especially curious about those edible iguanas!
Tuesday 31st of July 2018
Hah! Hope you get to try one soon!