9 Cool things to do on the island of Curaçao – The Traveling Island Girl
Curaçao was part of my travel itinerary twice last year and even though it is where I was born and raised, each time I visit I experience something new.
The island is so different than when I used to call it home. The street art scene for example, is beyond what I could explain in mere mortal words.
Curaçao is so much more than just pretty colorful buildings and beautiful beaches. Take the culture of the island for instance, it is alive and as bright as any of those beautiful murals I wrote about recently. It’s an island filled with history, beautiful people and great adventures.
So, if Curaçao is on your bucket list, as it well damn should, make sure you make time for one or all of my suggestions below.
Like I wrote in one of my recent blog posts about Curaçao’s street art scene, it is up and coming and has been quite present for a while. Events are being organized to make neighborhoods more colorful and to get the public more involved in the art scene. Murals are appearing everywhere on the island. One more beautiful, inspiring and colorful than the next. Some with political messages, while others just tell a story. Local artists such as Francis Sling and Garrick Marchena are making quite a name for themselves through their art works and more importantly, are getting the island’s youth to appreciate art again.
Visit the Museum di Ka’i Orgel
First you need to understand what a “Ka’i Orgel” is. It’s a music box or Cylinder Piano originating in the 1800’s. Mister Serapia Pinedo is the genius behind the Curaçao music box and has made 63 boxes in his 93 years on this earth. This is quite a lot if you take into consideration how much time actually goes into building just one.
He first fell in love with the box when he laid eyes on it for the first time at the early age of 8 and was not able to let it go until 35 years later, when he built his first Ka’i Orgel.
I was taken here by my very good friend, fellow world traveler and now Curaçao guide Elton Sint Jago. At first I was not really interested in this or any other museum for that matter. I thought I knew all I wanted to know about this popular Curaçao instrument. How wrong I was. The visit to this museum turned out to be the highlight of my Curaçao trip. What an unexpected delight it was to find out about the history and the future of such an iconic part of the Curaçao culture. Having the living legend himself, Mister Pinedo teach us about this instrument was definitely the most amazing part of our visit to the Museo di Ka’i Orgel.
Swim with the turtles at Playa Piskadó
It seems like you cannot open your Instagram account these days without seeing at least one or two photos of people swimming with turtles. In Curaçao it has become quite the trend as well. Playa Piskadó or Playa Grandi is a small beach used mainly by local fishermen. Growing up in Curaçao, this was the beach we used to avoid because it wasn’t quite as beautiful as its neighbor beaches and also, it was where the fishermen would clean their daily catch. I know right? Yuck.
Now, fast forward to a few years ago when someone posted a picture of himself swimming with the turtles and voilá, you have yourself an Insta-Famous beach that has surpassed the popularity of the prettier beaches on either side of it, Playa Kalki and Playa Fortí. Apparently the turtles have been at this beach for years. They follow the boats in and await at the bottom for scraps thrown into the water. Who would have guessed that the one reason I didn’t like this beach for, was the one thing that would cause the attraction in the first place?
Remember though to be a responsible traveler. It is not allowed to touch or hold the turtles.
Eat fresh fish at Purunchi
Since we’re on the subject of fish… If fresh fish is your thing you must visit Kas di Piskadó Purunchi. Purunchi is the name of a fish that is quite common in the waters surrounding Curaçao and it so happens to be the name of one of the best fish shacks on the island as well.
The place is tiny and I highly suggest you make a reservation. There are only a few tables available but what Purunchi lacks in space it definitely makes up for in great taste and a “chillaxing” atmosphere sea-side. Kas di Piskadó means Home of the Fisherman and Koredor, where the restaurant is located is a street with fishermen shacks lined up on one side and the wall of the desalination plant on the other. You sit by the water while the fisherman cleans the fish right next to you. Talk about from the sea straight onto your plate.
Williwood is the nickname of the village of Sint Willibrordus. Actually the name of the town was officially changed in 2011 to Williwood. The villagers apparently were tired of being an ignored little village, or so the story goes, and so they erected a Hollywood type sign to show visitors and locals alike that they can be cool too. And you know what? It’s a true cool spot. It is also the only village surrounded by hills. It’s original claim to fame is the old church, dating back sometime in the 1800’s.
Grab a local beer, either a Brion or a DiNos at the Toko Williwood, which is located right across the popular sign. The sign sits on a cliff above a soccer field and next to the salt pans, which so happens to be the preferred hangout spot of Flamingos. Didn’t I tell you this town is cool?
While at Toko Williwood, order their famous WilliBurger or goat burger. I gave up meat a long time ago and goats are one of my favorite cuddle animals but I must say, Marva, the owner knows how to set her business apart. Marva is a Williwood native. She was actually born right across forrothe famous old church and has recently bought the Toko over from those who originally bought it from her family. Take it from me and from Marva, this is one cool spot you don’t want to miss while on Curaçao.
Must visit: the Santa Martha Bay and Landhuis Groot Santa Martha
Near the village of Soto you will find the Santa Martha Bay. If you take the road past “Landhuis Groot Santa Martha” you will find yourself at a lookout point where you can stand on a cliff overlooking the beautiful bay. It’s a quiet place that not many tourists know about and it is my absolute favorite spot on the island. Definitely worth a visit.
“Landhuis Groot Santa Martha” is one of the oldest plantation homes on the island. Nowadays it’s a care facility and workplace for people with disabilities. It is one of the few, if not the only plantation manor built in a U-shape. It is open to visitors and items made by those trained in the atelier can be purchased.
Hike in Ascension
Enter Ascension Park and head to Boka Ascension or the Ascension Cove. It’s a beautiful water inlet from where you can take several different hiking trails. The Ascension Park also features the Ascension Plantation Manor. These manors were where the slave owners took up residence back in that dark part of the island’s history.
The park is free to the public. When at the cove, look out for turtles which are frequently seen from on top of the cliffs surrounding the cove.
Breakfast at Landhuis Misje
If you want a traditional Curaçao breakfast, head on over to Landhuis Misje. Misje may look like one of the manors scattered all over the island, but it actually is not. What it is is a restaurant that serves delicious local dishes. Deborah, the owner is such a nice [person and will gladly take the time to explain the options available. There is no menu for breakfast. It’s whatever is available but do ask her for Pan Será, a local favorite, which is one of the traditional breads made on the island. Deborah’s pumpkin soup was also to die for. Landhuis Misje is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday of the week, except on Tuesdays when they only open half day.
Bonus tip: Landhuis Misje is only a stone’s throw away from Playa Piskadó where you can swim with the turtles.
Get hooked on Noosh
If you follow anything I post on social media, you know I’m all about the empowerment of Caribbean business women. One such woman got me hooked on her product Noosh Superfoods.
As a traveler I am not always able or willing to purchase snacks at the airport but since I discovered Noosh, I make sure to travel with a bag or two. Also, not being a meat eater can sometimes be a bit difficult when it comes to eating on the go. Noosh offers a variety of different on-the-go healthy snacks like dried pineapple, almonds and green beans or veggie chips and dried mango. Each pack is made of rice paper, so it is good for the environment as well. So, why am I including this in my Curaçao Recommendations List? Because you can only get your hands on Noosh Superfood snacks in Curaçao and at one particular store so far on Aruba.
No, I was not paid to add Noosh to this list. It is honestly my current favorite travel snacks and if we island girls do not support other local “Fempreneurs”, then who will?
Like I mentioned in the beginning of this post, every time I visit Curaçao, I am amazed to discover something new. So, do not be surprised if this post is followed by a part 2 and even a part 3.