Curaçao makes up the “C” in the trio of islands often referred to as the ABC Islands — Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao — located off the northern coast of Venezuela. As a Caribbean island, Curaçao has the sunshine and crystal-clear waters you’d expect, but if you want more from your vacation than a perfect tan, the island is also loaded with adrenaline-pumping activities that you won’t find anywhere else.
1. Embark on a deep-dive submarine.
Descend 1,000 feet below sea level for a look at the dark underworld of the ocean — as well as some of the predatory sharks of the Caribbean. Substation Curaçao has a shark-centered deep-dive excursion that is dedicated to spotting local shark species, including big-eyed Cuban dog sharks, sevengill sharks, and green murray sharks. Travelers will embark upon their undersea journeys in the Curasub, a certified mini-submarine, which allows you to explore depths that are unreachable even to scuba divers.
2. Ride an ostrich at the ostrich farm.
For a mini safari involving up-close encounters with six- to nine-foot flightless African birds without actually going to Africa, check out the Curaçao Ostrich Farm. The Curaçao Ostrich Farm even offers the chance to ride an ostrich; you’ll find hourly rides through acres of land occupied by ostriches, emus, and crocodiles. When you’re done, order an omelet or ostrich steak at the on-site Zambezi restaurant — one ostrich egg provides the equivalent of 80 to 100 chicken eggs.
3. Cliff dive at Playa Forti.
In Playa Forti, brave cliff divers can access a diving platform by walking along a narrow path next to Restaurant Forti (built in 1958 on the ruins of an English fortress) where a 40-foot plunge into the clear waters below awaits. Standing on the edge, divers can see as far as Playa Piskado, where small fishing boats are docked in the harbor.
4. Swim with sea turtles in the wild.
Sea life is abundant in Curaçao, especially at Playa Piskado, a pristine cove that has become famous for its free-swimming population of sea turtles. Playa Piskado is a spot where fishermen dock and cast off their scraps; the sea turtles quickly found out about the free meal and warm, shallow waters and decided to take up residence. Now, divers and swimmers can enjoy frolicking with the turtles as they lazily lunch on whatever leftovers the fishermen toss them in their natural habitat.
5. Have a bite of iguana.
If you want to walk out on a culinary limb and channel your inner Andrew Zimmern, there’s an abundance of places in Curaçao that will serve you iguana in all its forms — it’s a popular dish on the island, and with the right seasoning, it’s not bad. Check out hole-in-the-wall Jaanchie’s in Westpunt for an authentic experience.
6. Climb through sea caves.
At the western end of Curaçao, Westpunt beaches are striking in their dramatic landscapes. At Shete Boka National Park, you can even crawl through caves carved from limestone over the years and marvel at the power and force of the ocean as large waves crash in and out of the rocky outcroppings, creating gigantic sea sprays and a marvelous display of nature.
7. See legendary performers at the Curaçao North Sea Jazz Festival.
The Curaçao North Sea Jazz Festival is one of the best-kept secrets of the Caribbean. The three-night festival is a wild celebration of both jazz legends and hit artists of recent years. For example, this year’s lineup included acts as varied as Patti LaBelle, Daddy Yankee, Burt Bacharach, KC and the Sunshine Band, Christina Aguilera, Jason Derulo, Spyro Gyra, Damian Marley, Sting and Shaggy, Grace Jones, CeeLo Green, and more. Schedule your trip to coincide with this annual music festival for a memorable musical experience.
8. Learn to kiteboard.
Consistent tradewinds in Sint Joris Baai (on the northeastern side of Curaçao) make it one of the most ideal places to learn to kiteboard, and instructors at Nix Kite School offer kiteboarding lessons for all skill levels. It generally takes three classes or a full-day lesson before novice kiteboarders are ready to stand up on the board, but on occasion, the instructors will allow smaller guests to take a “monkey ride” on their back across the lake.
9. Tour an aloe plantation.
Curaçao’s warm, dry climate makes it a prolific breeding ground for aloe vera plants, which grow in abundance at the Curaloe® plantation in Willemstad. Curaloe®’s aloe vera products are sourced from the plantation’s 100,000 plants and distributed worldwide. Visitors can learn all about the natural healing benefits of the aloe vera plant and even take a bite of fresh aloe vera gel straight from a stalk of one of the plants. The gift shop has everything from cosmetic products to aloe vera juices, which carry a wide range of benefits from gut health to immune boosts to cardiovascular support.
10. Hike up Mt. Christoffel.
Located within the largest national park in Curaçao, Mt. Christoffel reaches a height of 1,230 feet, making it the tallest peak on the island. There are eight hiking trails around Mt. Christoffel, so visitors have several route options, ranging from an easy stroll to a more challenging hour-long hike to the top. The park also offers epic experiences like mountain biking, full moon hikes, cave excursions, and safaris.
11. Hunt for lionfish and save the Caribbean.
Lionfish are infiltrating the Caribbean as an invasive species and destroying the delicate balance of the marine ecosystem, so you can feel good about doing your part to eradicate lionfish populations. Aspiring conservationists can book a lionfish hunt with CURious 2 Dive, which departs weekly to East Point, a reef on the island’s eastern tip that’s also home to schools of tarpon, sharks, eagle rays, barracuda, and turtles. Once the divers resurface with their catches, the guides will teach participants how to clean the fish and then provide a chance to sample them at The Pier, a restaurant in the Jan Thiel area.