Curacao has a pervasive sense of local culture, thanks to a diverse heritage — Dutch, English, Spanish, and African. It's apparent in everything from the language (Papiamento) to the architecture and cuisine. Though both the historic centers of Willemstad — Punda and Otrobanda — are within walking distance of the cruise port, you can book tours to explore the arid landscapes farther inland.
What We Love
Marsche Bieuw: This Old Market is where the locals lunch (at local prices) along communal tables, peer into the pots on stovetops, and order a bowl of goat stew or cactus soup, fried fish with peas and rice, or pumpkin pancakes.
Pastel-Hued Architecture: With its gabled buildings, Willemstad could be a town in the Netherlands — except that its buildings are painted in postcard-worthy pastels.
Best Known For
Diving: Along the west coast, waters are clear, coral reefs are colorful, and fish are abundant.
Blue Curacao: Made from a variety of Valencia oranges, the sweet liquor also comes in green and yellow. Swing by the Landhuis Chobolobo, a factory built into an old plantation house, to see how it’s produced.
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Who It's Best For
Culture Lovers: It’s not just beaches, blasting music, and tacky souvenir shops. This island does more than cater to cruise ships.
Foodies: Restaurants here span every cuisine, and they beat cruise ship buffets. Try some of the island’s specialties, such as keshi yena, a recipe for Gouda or Edam cheese stuffed with spiced meat that dates back to the Dutch Empire.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Beaches Aren’t the Best: Many beaches are narrow and rocky or man-made, a contrast to the white-sand stunners on other islands.
Locals Are Truly on Island Time: Though much of this isle has a European feel, it’s still the Caribbean. Leave extra time to get back to your ship.
Lisa Cheng is a New York-based writer for ShermansCruise who also writes for Travel + Leisure.