One day Curacao itinerary (with map) – for cruise passengers
Traveling to Curacao on a cruise and no idea yet on how to spend the day? Luckily for you, I got you covered! The beautiful island offers many amazing things to do! So many things, it can be hard to choose what to do if you only have one day in Curacao.
I have stayed many weeks in Curacao this year and I know all the best spots! As an avid cruiser, I know that not every itinerary fits in with your schedule, so I have prepared multiple options for a one day in Curacao itinerary here in this post! Let’s dive in!
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Table of Contents
- About the Curacao Cruise Port
- Basic info about Curacao
- Important words in Papiamentu
- What to do in Curacao in one day – possible itineraries
- 1. Best excursions and day trips in Curacao
- 2. Get a rental car and explore the island
- 3. Explore Willemstad
- 4. Spend a day at the beach or at a hotel (day pass)
- FAQ: One day in Curacao itinerary
About the Curacao Cruise Port
Cruise ships that dock in Curacao will arrive on one of two major cruise ship terminals in Willemstad. They either dock on the Mega Pier Cruise Terminal or the Mathey Wharf.
On days where only one cruise ship docks in Curacao, the Mega Pier Terminal is used. The Mega Pier has an open air terminal with all kinds of amenities next to it. Find information booths, restrooms and a taxi
If you walk outside of the Mega Pier Terminal you will immediately pass through the Renaissance Resort with the Rif Fort Mall. Find all kinds of shops and cafes there. There is also a Budget Car Rental, an ATM and some good restaurants.
The Mathey Wharf is the other possible docking pier for cruise ships in curacao. It has a capacity for as many as 4 ships. It is located next to Queen Juliana Bridge across the St. Anna Bay. Nowadays, only smaller ships dock here.
Same as at the Mega Pier, you can find an information booth, restrooms, and a Taxi stand. There is also a stand for independent tour operators, and souvenirs shops.
Basic info about Curacao
- Languages spoken in Curacao: Dutch, Papiamentu, Spanish, and English.
- Currency: Netherlands-Antillean Guilder (shortly NAFl, ANG, or f). USD usually accepted!
- The tap water is safe to drink
- The word Curaçao is pronounced as “Cure-ah-souw”
- Curacao is part of the ABC island chain, together with Aruba and Bonaire
- The name Curacao comes from the Portuguese word “coracao”- which translates to “heart”
- The city of Willemstad is a UNESCO world heritage site
- Population: 160.000
- For restaurant recommendations head over here
- Read my Ultimate Curacao Travel Guide for more info!
Important words in Papiamentu
Bon Bini na Korsou – Welcome to Curacao
Bon dia – Good morning
Bon nochi – Good evening
Kon ta bai? – How are you?
Hopi bon! – Really good!
Mi ta bon, kon ta ku bo? – I am fine, how are you?
Mi tin un pregunta – I have a question
Por fabor – Please
Masha danke – Thank you very much!
Ayo – Goodbye
Dushi – everything is simply dushi (:
What to do in Curacao in one day – possible itineraries
The island of Curacao is pretty big, and you can’t possibly see everything amazing in one day. If you arrive with a cruise ship in Curacao, you have a couple of different options to pick from. I will explain all the possible options in more detail later in this post.
You can either:
- rent a car and explore the island by yourself
- book an excursion or a day trip
- explore Willemstad by foot
- Go to the beach
1. Best excursions and day trips in Curacao
The easiest way to explore Curacao is with an excursion or a day trip. I suggest not booking them with the cruise company – because they are usually much more expensive.
Make sure to book you tours with a trusted operator, like VIATOR. They offer free cancellations, in case the cruise ship is delayed.
Personally, this is my preferred option to explore Curacao in just one day. Most trips usually include pick-up at the ship and you don’t have the hassle of arranging any more things for yourself.
Here are my favorite day trips and excursions in Curacao:
- Day trip to Klein Curacao with a Catamaran or speed boat! Klein Curacao is a small, uninhabited island off the coast of Curacao. It is the most wholesome and special experience you can have. The boat ride is about an hour long. Then, you can enjoy the pristine white sandy beach and have lunch on your vessel. Cost: about 130 USD
- Snorkeling with sea turtles – half day guided tour. Cost: about 85 USD
- AQUAFARI: Explore the marine life in a very special way, with a big helmet and a water scooter! So much fun – and no experience necessary! Cost: about 145 USD
- Small group island tour: Shete Boka, Landhuis Chobolobo, Kenepa beach and much more! Cost: about 110 USD
- ATV adventure tour
- Head over here for more day trips and curacao excursion ideas!
2. Get a rental car and explore the island
Willemstad is in walking distance of the cruise port. If you are mainly interested in checking out the city, you won’t need a car.
If you want to see more of the island, I suggest booking a rental car. I prefer booking via this website in advance.
Parking is free almost everywhere on the island, and fuel is not too expensive in Curacao. Most gas stations have a weird prepaid system in place! This requires you to walk up and pay an amount of your choice with your credit card. If you fail to use all of it, you have to ask back the remaining money! You can also ask for a full tank and pay after filling up. Do check at the pump how much you have to pay and in which currency to avoid getting scammed.
There are many accidents on the road and traffic is really bad at certain times. Be careful on the road. Many locals do not exactly stick to all the traffic rules.
It takes about an hour to drive from Willemstad all the way out to the west. Make sure to account for that when picking your activities – many people underestimate driving times on the island.
Places of interest with a car in Curacao
- Go to the beach: there are 39 amazing beaches in Curacao. If you enjoy serviced beaches, I suggest Jan Thiel beach, Mambo beach, Cas Abao Beach, Kokomo Beach or Playa Porto Mari. For more info about Curacao’s beaches head over here.
- Snorkeling or diving: Curacao has amazing marine life. Many beaches have snorkel and dive shops where you can rent gear for your underwater adventure. The most interesting beaches for snorkeling and diving are Tugboat Beach, Playa Lagun (sea turtles), Daaibooibay and Playa Kalki. Head over here for more info.
- Hiking and adventures: Shete Boka National Park, Christoffel National Park, Hato caves or the Tafelberg are great places for your trip.
- Museums and history: Savonet Museum, Mongui Maduro Museum, Jewish cultural historical museum, Jewish cultural historical museum
- Art lovers: Check out the chichis at Serenas factory, see the street art in Willemstad, participate in a Driftwood painting workshop at Tugboat beach or Playa Porto Mari
- Animal and nature highlights: Aloe Vera factory, Dolphin Academy, Ostrich farm, Flamingo area
- Landhuis Chobolobo – home of the Blue Curacao liquor: join a cocktail workshop, tour the museum and buy great souveniers
- Explore the secret beach of Curacao – Playa Gipy
3. Explore Willemstad
There are many amazing and exciting things cruise ship passengers can do in Willemstad. Cruise guests will love the proximity of the Willemstad Cruise Port to the inner city. It is really only a couple of minutes of walking.
Visiting Willemstad on your cruise is a great idea for everyone interested in culture and shopping. It is also ideal for cruise guests that don’t want to book excursions or drive around on the island.
Check out my in depth Willemstad guide for more info about the city!
Otrobanda is the district to the west of Sint Anna Bay, where the cruise ship is most likely docked. Taking a walk around the scenic district will offer cultural insight and amazing photo spots. There is much street art in this district.
The former fort “Rif Fort” is a waterfront mall with a courtyard, stores & bars as well as cafes. This is a great place to get some shopping in or simply sip a coffee in a relaxed atmosphere.The wall of the fort offers a great view over the bay and the Handelskade.
Queen Emma bridge
The Queen Emma bridge is a floating pontoon bridge. It connects the two districts Otrobanda and Punda. From the Queen Emma bridge you can see the famous Juliana bridge.
After crossing the Queen Emma bridge, you can see the famous Handelskade. The row of colorful houses is an amazing picture spot in Willemstad. There are many fabulous stores and cafes in Punda. You can also find lovely street art here.
A great spot to visit is the Plasa Bieu (Old Market) in Punda. Try local dishes there, like cactus soup or goat stew. Also check out the floating market. You can buy souvenirs and local arts and crafts there. The historical Fort Amsterdam is worth a visit.
Curacao has one of the oldest harbors in the Caribbean. The Curacao Maritime museum in Scharloo will show you all 500 years of harbor history.
The Pietermaai district is famous for being the SoHo of Willemstad. The vibrant and colorful part of town is home to many restaurants, ocean clubs, and hip bars. Check out Saint Tropez Ocean Club for a dip in the pool and some nice lunch.
There are loads of cute, colorful buildings. This place is ideal for young people. It is very Instagram-worthy, so make sure to check it out before heading back to the Willemstad Cruise Port.
4. Spend a day at the beach or at a hotel (day pass)
Another great and relaxing way to experience Curacao is catching a cab and driving to a beach. There are quite a few amazing spots close by, so it will not cost too much money to go there.
Check out the 247taxi app or grab a cab at the cruise port. Make sure to agree on the price in advance. Many people try to scam tourists this way.
Great beaches in the area of Willemstad are:
- Mambo Beach Boulevard
- Blue Bay Beach
- Kokomo Beach
You can buy a day pass (around 100 USD) for following hotels close by the port:
- Renaissance Hotel Curacao
- Baoase Hotel Curacao
- Marriott Beach Resort Curacao
FAQ: One day in Curacao itinerary
Yes, especially during day times Curacao is very safe. Willemstad is a great place to explore and I have not ever felt unsafe there.
Many things are quite expensive in Curacao. Especially in Willemstad, many shops raise their prices for cruise ship guests. Be aware of this!
Adrienne | Destinations & Desserts
Great post! It really highlights how to make the most of one day in Curacao.
Thank you so much (:
Wow this was an amazing over view of Curacao! I had no idea that they spoke Papiamentu and I love that you include important phrases to know. I am considering Curacao for my honeymoon and will be saving this!
Oh really? This is the perfect place for a honeymoon! Let me know if you need any help planning, i spent half of last year there (:
Curacao looks like a lovely place to visit. I’ll admit, I’ve actually never heard of it before. I adore all the different colour houses, so pretty! This is a really good, in-depth guide.
Oh so glad I could show you something new then (:
Wow love this guide ! Especially the facts and the quick word language guide !!! Those are really helpful to have 🙂
Oh thank you so much, glad to hear!
I had never heard of Curacao, but it looks gorgeous! Seems like there’s lots to do and explore! Thanks for the guide!
So glad to be able to show you something new (: