Exploring the west side of the island in one day is a pretty ambitious task but if you are just going to be on the island for one day or just have a rental car for one day, this is an excellent way to explore the beauty of Curacao.
For those of you that arrive on a cruise ship and like to explore Curacao on their own rather than with an organized tour, make sure that you reserve a rental car up front.
Avis Car Rental rents cars at the port for one day. You will have to make an upfront reservation, though because they will have an appropriate number of cars available for reservations and a few for walk ins. If you have a reservation you should have a car. The cars for walk ins usually sell out quickly.
Purchase a GPS with your car rental, or download a GPS map, or Google maps on your smartphone to not to get lost. See our blog post 9 Great apps for the best vacation in Curacao for a GPS app.
Bring water, comfortable shoes and flip flops, lots of sunscreens, a snack, and of course your swimsuit and snorkels. If you have sensitive feet, you might want to bring water shoes as well.
Shete Boka National Park
Get on the main road from Willemstad towards Westpunt. Follow this road until you see the Shete Boka National Park sign along the road. It's quite a long way (26 miles), but you'll see some great scenery as you go, including Mt. Christoffel.
Shete Boka National Park is located on Curacao's north coast. It's an absolutely amazing place with breathtaking views.
There's a small fee to enter the park (US$ 5.50 p.p.) but it is well worth it. You can also buy a brochure with a map. The three bokas (coves) to visit are the sea cave at Boka Tabla, Boka Pistol with its crashing powerful waves, and Boka Wandomi with its very impressive landscape.
You'll want to carry water with you as you explore the area as there is little shelter from the sun.
When you leave Shete Boka, turn right out of the exit. Follow the road until you see signs for Playa Kenepa, also known as Grote Knip and Playa Abou. It's a free public beach. The overlook is breathtaking, and the water calm and clear.
If you are adventurous, there are a couple of spots to jump off the stone cliffs. Just be careful! The best snorkeling is at the wall on the left side. There's also Landhuis Knip to visit if time and interest allow.
For lunch, you can backtrack a little on the main road, watch closely for signs to Lodge Kura Hulanda right after you pass through the wooded valley area, and then turn left at the ball field to find your way to Sol Food. You'll get a great lunch and some friendly local advice from Sunshine. They're only open Friday-Sunday.
If you're there on another weekday, try Restaurant Landhuis Misje. They are open from noon to 8:00 pm, except on Tuesday. It's a small restaurant serving traditional Caribbean comfort food.
After lunch head back towards Knip Beach and look for signs for Lagun Beach, which is a smaller beach but a great spot to snorkel. If you be there between 4:00 and 5:00 PM there is a great chance that you see turtles. Around this time the fishermen return and they always feed their leftovers to the turtles.
If you still have some time left, as you head back towards Willemstad watch for signs to Jan Kok or St. Willibrordus. Here there is an old salt plantation along the road and most of the time there are a lot of Flamingos feeding in the salt ponds. See as well our blog post Flamingos, Curacao's exotic bright pink birds.
Photo by: Anji Barton (see: https://www.flickr.com/photos/anjibarton/4506351748)
Drive back to Willemstad and return your rental car. Depending on your energy level and on how long you have on the island, you may still have some time left to explore Willemstad.
Cross the Queen Emma Bridge, one of the oldest pontoon bridges around, to get to Punda. You may like to take a drink at the waterfront Iguana Cafe, and watch the ships enter Willemstad's harbor. They get impressively close and it is always a miracle to see how they manoeuvre in and out.
If it isn't too late you may want to walk north along the water around the corner to see the floating market and try some of the local fruit. Alternatively, you may like to enter Fort Amsterdam, the large yellow historic building south of Iguana Cafe, site of the Governor's Palace and the 1769 Dutch Reformed Church.
For dinner, we suggest Restaurant De Gouveneur at the Otrobanda side, or go to one of the many restaurants at the Pietermaai District.
If you go to De Gouveneur make sure that you have upfront reservations for the 'gallery', which has the best views of the harbor. One of their best dishes is the banana soup.
An area frequently missed by tourists is the Pietermaai area. Many of the run-down buildings have been totally restored over the last six years and turned into colorful apartments, boutique hotels, restaurants, and trendy bars. Mundo Bizarro is a cool restaurant with Cuban decor, daily happy hour from 5:30 to 6:30 pm, and live music every Saturday.
A few doors down, you will find Miles Jazz Cafe. They offer a selection of cigars, board games and, of course, the music of jazz legend Miles Davis on vinyl, or live music.
Other restaurants in Pietermaai are 27 Bar & Teras, oceanfront restaurant Bijblauw, Blue Bird Cafe for bites and drinks, and many more. For more information on restaurants bars and events, see Pietermaai District's website.
I am sure you want to come back to Curacao after visiting our adventurous and beautiful island! If you are interested in staying with us? Contact us for information about our oceanfront villa, one of the nicest Curacao vacation rentals.
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