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Port Review: Curacao, Netherlands Antilles

Joanna Hall

Curacao is the largest island in the Netherlands Antilles, and part of the Dutch Leeward Islands, and if it’s on your itinerary you will be in for a treat. Here’s why.

The Facts

Location: The Dutch Leeward Islands in the Caribbean.

Language: Dutch, English and Spanish.

Currency: Netherlands Antilles Guilder or Florin (NAG).

Docking/Anchoring: Ships dock at one of two terminals in the port of Willemstad. There’s the Curacao Mega Pier for big ships which can’t fit under the city’s Juliana Bridge, while smaller ships dock at the Curacao Cruise Terminal.

Transport: There’s a taxi stand at both ports and the town centre is walking distance from both terminals.


Curacao is located around 65 kilometres east of Aruba, and is part of what is commonly called the “ABC” islands which also includes Aruba and Bonaire. Willemstad is its capital, where cruise ships stop, and it is a port famous for many things including brightly coloured, Dutch-style houses, which date back to the 16th century and are a trademark of the Southern Caribbean island. It’s also one of the best shopping destinations in the Caribbean, blessed with around 35 lovely beaches. Curacao was discovered by Spaniards in 1499 and taken over in 1634 by the Dutch. Willemstad was originally a naval base, drawing Dutch and Jewish merchants, and there's still a distinctly Dutch feel in the old heritage buildings which line the waterfront. Willemstad is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city which is walkable and always cooled by breezy trade winds. It’s also a city is split into two districts by a deep channel and connected by floating pedestrian bridge.

Don’t Miss

St Christoffel National Park occupies the most northwestern part of the island and is a nature reserve dominated by the mountain of the same name. There are several caves decorated with Arawak Indian paintings, some unusual rock formations and fine views across the countryside.

The Queen Emma Bridge is a landmark pontoon bridge which spans St Anna Bay and it connects Punda with the capital city Willemstad. It shuttles back and forward to give way to the huge ships that pass through here and you could easily spend a couple of hours watching the whole process.

Museum Kura Hulanda is rated as one of the best museums in the Caribbean and it captures the story of how the forced relocation of Africans to the Americas and Caribbean changed the face of this region. 

Best Photo Op

Along Willemstad’s waterfront there’s a slew of multicoloured 16th century buildings which perfectly captures the historical past of this fascinating island. 


The New Market in the centre of the Willemstad sells cheap local produce, household goods and snacks, and it is a fun way to spend an hour or two browsing or shopping. There’s also a floating market in Punda which also features an array of colourful local produce. The best souvenirs are a bottle of Curacao liqueur, as well as handmade local crafts including painted wooden boxes or ceramics.

Food And Drink

The downtown district has a good collection of restaurants and bars serving local food which captures the cultural diversity of its history. Jaanchies Restaurant in Westpunt is one of the most popular Krioyo (local food) joints and for an authentic experience try the Sea Side Terrace (next to Breezes Hotel) where you can get good fresh fish at an inexpensive price right on the Caribbean. If you are keen to try a Curacao cocktail, order a Blue Lagoon, Zombie, Bleeding Heart or a Fuzzy Pirate.

Pick of the Excursions

One of the most popular tours takes in the colourful sights of Willemstad, the Curacao Museum and the Hato Caves which is a complex series of fascinating caves originally used by runaway slaves to hide.

If your ship is in port late or overnight, a sunset cruise is a relaxing way to experience Curacao. Most of them usually take you to Barbara Beach which is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island for the end of day. 

Some cruise lines offer a tour which combines a visit to an ostrich farm, which claims to be the largest outside of Africa, while taking in some iconic sights such as the Emma Bridge, and Riffort Village.


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  1. Posted by on 9th Jan 2020 Verified Customer

    Looks Colourful 3 Star Review

    I've heard of the ABC islands and they look like great fun but it's so expensive to get there to cruise. Not to mention the cruises cost a lot more when you have to buy them in Oz....just saying.