Things To Do In Willemstad
Willemstad, the exuberant capital of Curacao is an inviting and hip travel destination lined with the most beautiful beaches, busiest ports, a unique bridge, national parks with several inlets, underwater marine parks, cultural museums, and a wide variety of water sports to enjoy with family and friends. The best part of visiting Willemstad is the opportunity of meeting well-trained dolphins, stingrays, giant turtles, to feed sharks and be with the pelicans at the Curacao Dolphin Academy. You can play, swim, kiss and do tricks with the cute dolphins. It is fun for both kids and adults, a bit scary but an awesome experience to try when in Willemstad, Curacao.
When To Go:
Willemstad weather has a sunny and welcoming atmosphere all throughout the year that encourages every traveler to discover. Its tourism statistics reaches its peak during the summer season, mostly by European tourists who wants to escape the biting cold of the winter season in their country. The beaches get easily populated by eager visitors who are curious to discover everything that Willemstad has to offer. Typhoons and heavy downpour seasons are very uncommon in this city, it has occasional rains in between the winter months but it is not enough to drench anyone’s desire to know and discover the interesting features of Willemstad City.
The normal range of temperature usually stays from eighty to ninety degrees Fahrenheit all year round. The changing seasons shifts the temperature from hot to cold in a tolerable manner. Spring time is cold especially towards the evening. The rainy season with intermittent shower conditions begins from October until the middle of February. The sunny days occur for the rest of the year and if you schedule or plan any adventure or holiday in Willemstad, there is an assurance that you will enjoy a good vacation with clear skies and warm temperature.
Enumerated below are the fascinating attractions and the best things to do when in Willemstad City.
Kenepa Beach is one of Curacao's most loved beaches that is open to the public. It has clear water and many fish at the rock walls and lots of dining places to enjoy grilled food. The only disadvantage that comes with it is that there are no huts or parasols that you can rent. But it has clean toilets with shower rooms provided. There are plenty of bins and it is reasonably clean, safe and well preserved. Scuba diving and snorkeling can be excellent here. The blue water is incredible and there is a great diversity of fish to discover.
It is nice at the end of the afternoon to linger on weekend days because many locals come here and hang out on its cozy atmosphere. This beach does not have much infrastructure but it has lots of trees that give good shade.
The gazebo is sensational with its extremely clear water. You can see the fish even without goggles and on weekdays it is very quiet but you need to arrive early to get a good shade on the beach. There is ample parking space and a small bar with a great variety of cocktails and beer to offer. Since it is one of the best public beaches, it gets easily crowded so it is best to come in early to enjoy the irresistible charm of Kenepa Beach.
Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge
The Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge is an ancient marvel of engineering that is beautiful to view both day and night. By day, it provides great photos of the city and at night, once illuminated it becomes one of the most stunning postcards of Curacao. You have to sit in front of it to see how the mechanism open and close. Sometimes, when large vessels pass, it is wide open too long. This floating bridge connects the two sides of the center of Curacao; Otrabanda and Willestand. When any vessel wish to go through the channel, a siren sounds, the traffic on the bridge is halted and it makes a pendulum motion while opening the passage for the vessel. The bridge has no fixed time to open or close and its movement is based on the arrival of the cargo ships that will pass its waters.
The Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge is one of those bridges with terraces to make good photographs. It was constructed since 1888 and it is recognized as one of the largest floating bridge in the Caribbean and its main feature is to swing open to allow ships to enter the harbor. They also call it "the swinging old lady”. In 1974, it was opened on Queen Juliana Bridge for motor traffic and this has remained the only pedestrian bridge that was restored in 1939 and until now is very functional and safe to use.
Curacao Dolphin Academy
The Curacao Dolphin Academy is an unforgettable visit for children. The attraction is open daily from 8:00 am to 17:00 pm and located beside the Mambo Beach. If you want to visit the Dolphin without making any program with the dolphins you must pay $ 21 adults and $ 11 children under 12 years, with taxes already included. The admission fee always vary depending on the activity.
There is also the Swimming with Dolphins tour priced at $ 174 per person and free diving with dolphins for $184 per person, in this case it is necessary to know how to swim and use well the snorkeling gear because the activity happens below the surface at the meeting with the dolphins during diving. Participants have to be divers with or without certification to enjoy the diving with the dolphin’s experience. In addition to these programs there is a really cool show with dolphins and also educational activities that teach about feeding and caring for the marine animals.
Playa Kenepa Chiki
The Playa Kenepa Chiki is the beach of stunning colors in Willemstad. This deserted and quiet beach with transparent and indescribable blue waters is ideal for diving; you can use snorkel or cylinder to explore its rich waters and beautiful coral reefs. Since there is no local market, it is important to bring your own food and drinks. Entrance here is also free and it is more frequented by locals besides tourists.
The Playa is a beautiful bay of Curacao. The water is clear and calm and even under water, there is plenty to see. There are lots of things to do and if you want to snorkel most of the reefs are located on the left side of the playa. The beach itself is clean and there is a fairly easy entry into the water. At some places you have to walk over the coral reefs, but there are also plenty of places where you can get in the water and enjoy a dive into the ocean floor. If you are looking for a quiet beach with beautiful clear water and a lovely relaxed atmosphere, then the Playa Kenepa Chiki is entirely suitable and the best way to enjoy the calm waters of Willemstad.
Shete Boka National Park
The Shete Boka National Park stands on the edge of the island. There are vantage points for anyone who wants to see the natural size and "mouths" formed by the rocks that hit the waters of this park with natural inlets. Take the opportunity to visit the park which is located near the beaches of Forti and Kalki. Although the infrastructure of the park is so simple, the rock formations are impressive and really worth a visit. In 45 minutes you can visit the whole park with ease and leave the place impressed by its stunning waters.
It is a cool place to see the scenery on the other side of the island, where instead of calm beaches you will find rock walls with the sea pounding hard on its cliffs. It has a cave carved by the sea, a natural bridge, some rocky beaches, cliffs, and the prominent part of the island called Boca Pistol. It is here where you can see how the force of the sea can shape the rocky walls of the island, creating natural stone bridges, caves and a "boka" where the waves crash and splash too high upwards.
The neighborhood of Punda is the most beautiful part of Willemstad. Punda is also the busiest commercial center with a wide array of; boutiques, clothing stores, shoes, perfumes, electronics and souvenir shops to choose from. Everything is concentrated on the two streets; Heerenstraat and Madurostraat, a pedestrian only area. Punda is a place full of restaurants, including some of the shops that faces the floating bridge, which is a very beautiful view both day and night. You have to walk on foot to see the old houses that is still preserved and well painted. It is a historic reminder that this city was once a colony of the Netherlands.
One you are in Punda, it is best to explore all your options and enjoy the architectural ensemble of Punda and Otrobanda which were both declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With any luck you'll see the Pontoon Bridge opening up to make way for a freight ship. Punda combines hopping and Heritage in the same place, be sure not to miss this enchanting town in Willemstad.
Kura Hulanda Museum
The Kura Hulanda Museum shows the history of Curacao African culture when it was still engage into slave trade, which was the strong point of Curacao’s history. It is a museum that gives a perfect idea of how they traveled to get to Curacao in ships and the kind of life the slaves led. It is all well conducted and clearly presented. There is the option to rent an audio guide or be guided by flyers that are distributed at the entrance. There is also an option of availing the services of a local guide.
The museum is housed in a wonderful Villa that is easily accessible from the city center. Walk inside and there you will find a plaza with restaurant and every night offers Happy Hour between 18:20 pm complete with live music. A wonderful, family and super romantic spot. It provides another view of the history of African slavery and you will recognize this as you go around its interesting and organized rooms. The highlight of the museum is to be able to see in the middle of a slave ship built in one of the rooms. It is a remarkable experience besides learning a lot about the rich history of the country. The museum opens from Monday to Saturday, from 09:30 am to 16:30 pm. It is closed on Sundays.
The Handelskade is the most charming and photogenic street of Curaçao lined with bars and restaurants and an ideal atmosphere that is great for a late and relaxing afternoon walk. Considered as the “postcard” side of Curacao, Handelskade is a very friendly place that yields good photos and worth the walk from one neighborhood to another. The colorful houses are beautiful and lend an air of mystique and elegance to the very charming town.
The best angle to photograph is at the Otrobanda which is located right next to the famous Pontoon Bridge. The trick is to cross the Emma Bridge and take pictures at will! After a photo shoot you can head right in front and check out the set of bars and restaurants, with large tables, cold beer, and beautiful view of the canal.
Rif Fort Village
The Rif Fort Village was built in 1828 to protect St. Anna Bay from foreign invasions. Now, after being completely restored, it became a meet up point, a place full of restaurants, some shops, and at night it become a venue for live concerts. Inside there is also a large casino and art galleries to visit. There are good restaurants on the site, especially those who are on the upper floors that has the advantage of having a full view of the entire city. It is next to the Renaissance Mall, a shopping mall with lots of designer shops and signature brands to choose from. It is an outdoor shopping mall incorporated within the structures of an ancient and historic fort.
Queen Juliana Bridge
The Queen Juliana Bridge is a work of engineering that looks more like a work of art. The bridge is a part of the charm to the architecture of the island. It connects the two main parts of the island; Punda and Otrobanda, you will be impressed with the height and grandeur of this attraction. Tip: cross the bridge at sunset, the view is amazing. This bridge does not have the charm and beauty of the floating bridge, but has its functionality. The Queen Juliana Bridge is a 56.4 meter high bridge built over St. Anna Bay.
It is one of the highest bridges in the world that allow ships to pass underneath. It was inaugurated on the feast of Regina in April 30, 1974. It is built just for private vehicles only and consists of a four-lane highway. From the top you can have a magnificent view of the city of Willemstad, with its colorful houses, red roofs, the entrance to the port and another famous bridge: the floating pedestrian bridge that opens for passing boats in the harbor; the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge.
Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue
The Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue is one of the oldest synagogues in North America that is worth knowing. The synagogue is also famous for its sand floor. It only opens from Monday to Friday. It has a small museum attached, but unfortunately it is not allowed to take pictures. A visit is highly recommended regardless of the religion you are in to. This is the only city in the Caribbean where the Jews were not condemned in the early times. It's always good to know the history and religious importance of this place while in Willemstad.
Curacao Maritime Museum
The Curacao Maritime Museum is very easy to find because it is located near the Floating Market. To find it just cross the little bridge that gives access to the Scharloo neighborhood. The Museum has three floors and tells the story of Curacao with emphasis on the seaward side and navigation. It has several "thumbnail" and ship models, and moreover, it has the story of the construction of the floating bridge. It is a very informative place that is well maintained. It has a small shop where you can buy Curacao souvenirs and maritime books. To enter the museum, you need to shell out a little more than 10 Guilders per person.
Willemstad is the ideal city to visit to have a better understanding of Curacao’s history, the Dutch colonization, and the Caribbean as a whole. Aside from the wealth of natural attractions to see and knowing the historic points of interests of a once colonized country; roam the narrow streets and observe or interact with the locals, it is an alternative social tourism activity that can equally be interesting. The people here are very friendly and it is always fun to know the character behind the warm smiles that are also worth capturing in one click.