48 Hours: Dutch Caribbean Curaçao offers unique ocean dive experiences

Posted October 4, 2021


WILLEMSTAD, Curaçao — Tucked away in the southwestern part of the Caribbean, located right near Venezuela, is the small island of Curaçao. The island is a melting pot of Dutch and Caribbean cultures, there is something for everyone. The capital Willemstad stands proudly on the southwest part of Curaçao, bringing in massive cruise ships and tourists. The city is nothing short of offering colorful architecture, brilliant yellow and red tulips, crystal clear waters, an expansive animal habitats and melodic steel-pan drumming emanating from every corner. Look out to the bright blue ocean and under the sea, in almost every direction offshore, people are diving. The brilliantly inhabited reefs attract divers to explore the beautiful underwater world. Schools of tropical fish darting in every direction, enormous colorful reef structures and cascades of bubbles are what possess the water. There is a whole ecosystem and economy within each reef. It is quiet underneath, the only sounds near are of each breath taken by divers as they submerge under the azure waters.


2 p.m. Check into Bed & Bike Hostel

De Heeren at Sea provides the best spot in town for dinner and a sun set view (Photos by Isabella Popadiuk).

The locals welcome you with a hearty smile and a friendly wave as they say, Bon Bini! Travelers start their journey by checking in to the Bed & Bike Hostel in the neighborhood of Pietermaai in Willemstad. There is another location of Bed & Bike in Jan Thiel Beach, which is further from the downtown area in the capital, for those who prefer to be closer to the calming blue waters. Bed & Bike has many budget-savvy options for guests, including a stay in a shared room or a charming private room during. The hostel has a very welcoming and intimate environment, with bright and colorful walls, a shared common area, kitchen and beautiful balcony with tables and chairs overlooking the busy street. The staff welcomes travelers with bright smiles and lots of advice on how to enjoy all the sites. Those looking for some transportation, do not forget, as in the name Bed & Bike, there are bikes available, painted bright teal, to rent throughout the day and use as primary transportation in and around the city center. The Bed & Bike staff will answer all your questions.

3 p.m. Curaçao Liqueur Distillery

The Curaçao Liqueur Distillery in Willemstad is the perfect place to sample and stock up on the infamous Blue Curaçao liquor. The island is probably most well-known for this product, which is sold all over the world. When travelers arrive at the distillery, they can grab some drinks with drink vouchers from the bar. The atmosphere has island vibes, with music playing and an array of tables under the shade to enjoy the cold hand-crafted cocktails. The tour of the distillery has three different ticket levels: tour and one drink, tour, two drinks and ice cream, and lastly a private tour with a make-your-own drink bartending session afterwards. Visitors can get behind the bar and mix their own specialty drinks. At the end of the tour visitors are invited to explore the wide variety of souvenirs in the gift shop and bring home a bottle of their own Blue Curaçao.

7 p.m. De Heeren at Sea Scuba Lodge

At this restaurant Dutch speakers can be found in the majority. But do not fret, menus are available in English. The food at De Heeren at Sea is authentic cuisine and the menu features an abundance of unique cocktails. The smell of fresh seafood and spices waft throughout the restaurant patio and onto the street, tempting people to come in and eat. The dinner menu consists of an abundance of delicious and fresh meats, sea food, salads and pastas. The oceanfront view is unbeatable, whether eating breakfast, lunch or dinner, the ocean waves are a few feet down and away. If it is dinner time, one might even catch a nighttime scuba dive right off the shore. Floating heads bob in the water and slowly submerge underneath, where all that becomes visible is the flashlights guiding divers along the reef.


10 a.m. Fun Diving Curaçao at Jan Thiel Beach

Dive down into Curaçao’s underwater reefs at Fun Diving Curaçao.

Curaçao is one of the ABC islands, part of the Leeward Antilles in the Caribbean. All three of these islands are popular tourist destinations for snorkelers and divers. The dive shops are filled with multicolored masks, snorkels, fins, stickers and other equipment and souvenirs. Fun Diving Curaçao is located right on the beach with bright beige sand. For all levels of experience, Fun Diving Curaçao offers dive sessions and lessons to take a trip under the sea. If it is your first-time scuba diving, the discovery diving class does not require any previous scuba certification. When going out for a dive, there is no need to take a boat, just swim a few minutes offshore under the water and the reefs appear. It is an indescribable experience breathing artificial air underwater when one goes scuba diving for the first time. There is a new sensation running through the lungs and it takes mental relaxation and calmness to accept the feeling.

1 p.m. Bonita and Chill Beach Bar at Mambo Beach

Relax outside with a cold drink from Chill Beach at Mambo Beach right on the water. 

Mambo Beach is one of the most popular tourist spots in Willemstad, where the area is surrounded by quaint shops, bars, restaurants with every cuisine imaginable and a host of activities centered on the beachfront. Bonita is a beautiful, tiki style covered restaurant located smack dab on the beach by the water. At Bonita we find a brilliant mashup of many delightful cuisines for tourists and locals. If after lunch you are looking to relax, the man-made beach at Mambo, has loungers and cabanas to enjoy in the beaming hot Caribbean sun. The crystal blue water is barricaded from the ocean by large rock structures that people swim out to and climb up on. While standing on these majestic rocks, the ocean extends out farther than the eye can see. The sunshine casts light and dark shades into the blue waters, creating a perfect mix in harmony with the sky. Still thirsty after spending time in the sun and sand, the punky Chill Beach Bar is right on the water awaiting adventurers. Grab a lawn chair, order a drink, then cool down with toes in the sand while getting splashed by the small waves coming to shore.

8 p.m. Ginger

For a delicious and unique cultural blend of Asian, Indian and Caribbean food, travelers can wine and dine at Ginger. The restaurant is outdoors and located walking distance from the city center Punda in Willemstad. Start the fine dining experience with a drink from the cocktail menu and wine card, as the smells of the spices and fresh ingredients waft through the restaurant. For dinner, those who are curious to have a little taste of everything, the ginger tasting platter on the menu is the best option. Ginger also has an extensive dessert menu with special coffee and sweet drinks. The end of this unforgettable meal will have customers full and satiated by the exotic foods and drinks.


8 a.m. Bike to Starbucks

In the more touristy part of downtown, there are many American chains such as Subway, KFC and Starbucks. The Starbucks location is conveniently located only about a mile from the Bed & Bike Hostel; one quick and effortless bike ride to get your morning joe. This Starbucks offers options unique to the island, very much in style with its Dutch and Caribbean influence. Make sure when renting a bike through the hostel, you leave adequate time to fill out all the paperwork necessary. Then off you go. Be aware, the hostel will put a $100 hold on your bank card or account when you rent. The downtown area is fairly simple to navigate around the cute winding roads and pathways. Very easy to find that special place you are looking for.

10 a.m. Hato Caves

Hato Caves have a unique natural interior structure of rocks and minerals. 

Within walking distance to the airport in Curaçao are the Hato Caves, which are rich with history of centuries ago. When walking through the caves, there is only the light of one flashlight and the sound of the tour guide speaking. It is secluded from the outside world. The cave is so exclusive and protected visitors are not allowed to take photos except in one spot at the end of the cave tour. One of the main reasons for no photography is to preserve the rocks and plants inside the cave, for example algae is black until it is exposed to light, then it turns green. If tourists were taking flash photography inside the caves, this could alter the color and composition of the algae growing on the rocks and change the way the cave’s interior looks.

If You Go 

Curaçao Liqueur Distillery— 129 Schottegatweg Oost, Willemstad, Curaçao, Weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Closed weekends.

De Heeren at Sea— 104 Pietermaai, Willemstad, Curaçao, Open seven days a week 8 a.m. to 12 a.m.

Mambo Beach— Bapor Kibrá, Willemstad, Curaçao, +599 9 461 0616.

Fun Diving Curaçao— Papagayo Beach Hotel, +599 9 523 9220, Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Jan Thiel Beach, Willemstad, +599 9 747 0633

Hato Caves— Franklin D. Rooseveltweg, Willemstad, Curaçao, Open daily 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ginger— Nieuwstraat 32 Pietermaai, Willemstad Curaçao, Open daily 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.