There are several nice beaches on Curaçao. The northwest coast is rugged and rough for swimming, but the southwest coast offers some sheltered bays and beaches with excellent swimming and snorkelling. Windsurfing, waterskiing, yachting and fishing are available at resorts. Many of the beaches are private and make a charge per car (amount depends on day of the week and popularity, US$3-6) but in return you usually get some changing facilities, toilets and refreshments.
Public beaches are free but most have no facilities and some are rather dirty and smelly round the edges. Topless sunbathing is not recommended on public beaches but is tolerated on private beaches.
Heading south out of Willemstad are the two small, artificial beaches at the Avila Beach Hotel, where non-residents pay an entrance fee. The sand is imported and the sea is not calm enough to see much if you snorkel but the breakwaters make it pleasant for swimming. You can get to the beach at Piscadera Bay near the Sheraton hotel by catching one of their shuttle buses from beside the Rif Fort in Otrabanda. Southeast of Willemstad, by the Princess Beach Hotel, the Lions Dive Hotel and the Seaquarium (see Diving & Marine Life), is a 450 m, man-made beach and marina with all watersports available. It can be crowded and noisy with music; motorized watersports are all down one end. 0830-1800. Entrance to the beach is US$2.25. Showers and toilets. Mambo Beach Club for night-time entertainment. Past the Seaquarium is a residential area and private beach on Jan Thiel Bay, good swimming and snorkelling, entrance NAf6 per car, changing facilities, drinks and snacks. Santa Barbara located at the mouth of Spanish Water Bay on the Mining Company property, is a favourite with locals. Open 0800-1800. Entrance US$2.25 per person. Changing rooms, toilets and snack bars. You can take a bus from the post office, get off at the Mining Company gate and hitchhike down to the beach, or take a taxi, it is too far to walk. Across the bay, which is one of the island’s beauty spots, is the Curaçao Yacht Club, with a pleasant bar. There are four yacht clubs in Spanish Water.
Travelling northwest from Willemstad heading towards Westpoint, there are lots of coves and beaches worth exploring. A left turn soon after leaving town will take you to Blauw Bay, good for snorkelling but a Curasol development is under construction and the beach is now closed, or to St Michiel’s Bay, a fishing village and tanker clearing harbour (free). Daaibooibaai, south of St Willibrordus is a public beach and gets very crowded on a Sunday. Further up the coast, Port Marie (private, charge per car) is sandy but there is no shade. There is a little restaurant and dive area to change, rinse off equipment etc. Cas Abao beach has pretty with good snorkelling and diving from shore in beautiful clear water. Changing facilities, showers, shade huts, lounge chairs cost US$3, US$3 per car per day, US$5 at weekends and holidays, snacks and beverages. San Juan, a private beach with lots of coral is off to the left of the main Westpoint road down a poor track, entrance fee charged. Boca Sta Martha, where the Coral Cliff Resort is located, is quiet with nice sea. Beach entrance US$4.50 for non-residents, no pets or food allowed on the beach, some shade provided. Lagun is a lovely secluded beach in a small cove with cliffs surrounding it and small fishing boats pulled up on the sand. It is safe for children and good for snorkelling. There are facilities and some shade from trees. Some buses pass only 50 m from the beach. Jeremi, a public beach with no charge, is of the same design, slightly larger sandy beach with a steep drop to deep water and boats moored here, protected by the cliffs. Further up the coast, Knip is a more open, larger, sandy beach again with cliffs at either end. Many people rate this the best beach on the island, but the stairway down to the beach was destroyed by the storms of 1999. There are some facilities here and it is very popular at weekends when there is loud music and it gets crowded and noisy. Playa Abau is big, sandy, with beautiful clear water, surrounded by cliffs. Some shade provided, toilets, well organized, popular at weekends and busy. Nearing the west tip, Playa Forti has dark sand and good swimming. There is a restaurant on the cliff top overlooking the sea which gets very busy at weekend lunchtimes. The beach at Westpoint below the church is stoney and littered, the only shade comes from the poisonous manchineel trees. Fishing boats tie up at the pier but bathers prefer to go to Playa Forti. Beyond Westpoint is Kalki beach which is good for snorkelling and diving as well as bathing. Westpoint is the end of the road, about 45 minutes by car or one hour by bus from Otrabanda, US$1.
Many charter boats and diving operators go to Klein Curaçao, a small, uninhabited island off East Point which has sandy beaches and is good for snorkelling and scuba diving, a nice day trip with lunch provided. The most popular charter boat is Waterworld which leaves at 0900 from the Seaquarium Marina for Klein Curaçao day trips (US$18) and to Banda Abou, sunset, snorkelling or party trips on request; motor boat takes 100 passengers and departures sometimes depend on whether there is a cruise ship in port, T4656042.
Other companies include Mermaid, T5601530, Second Chance, T7671579, Miss Ann, T7671579 and Bounty, T5601887. There are snorkel, snorkel-picnic and sunset trips with the Vira Cocha daily from the Seaquarium marina, maximum 22 passengers, T5600292. There are also day sailing trips from Willemstad up the coast with barbecue lunches at, for example, Port Marie, for about US$55, to the East End with lunch at Santa Barbara, and weekend sailing trips to Bonaire, accommodation on board, for about US$225. One such sailing ship is the 120 ft Insulinde, T5601340, shore T8688710, F4616633, beautiful trip, including lunch but not drinks. Deep sea fishing charters can be booked with Second Chance T7671579, Curaçao Seascape T4625000, Speedy T7675195 and Hemingway T5620086.
The Curaçao International Sailing Regatta is held in January with competitions in three categories, short distance (windsurfers, hobie cats, sunfish etc), long distance (yachts race 112 km to Klein Curaçao and back) and open boat (trimarans, catamarans etc race 32 km to Spanish Water and back), all starting from the Santa Barbara Beach Resort. For details, contact the Lion’s Dive Hotel, T4618100. The Sami Sail Regatta in April is organized by the fishing village of Boca St Michiel. The International Blue Marlin tournament is held in March. The Yacht Club is at Brakkeput Ariba, z/n, T7673038 or contact Mr B van Eerten, T7675275. Sail Curaçao has sailing courses, rentals and boat trips, also surfing lessons, T7676003