Welcome to Curacao cruise port! (Post updated: October 2023)
Located in the Lesser Antilles, in the southern Caribbean Sea, 65 km/40 miles north of the Venezuelan coast, Curacao island forms the group of the ABC Islands together with Aruba and Bonaire. The island of Curacao is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and is the largest island of all three. Known for its picturesque capital, rich cultural heritage, gorgeous beaches and abundant marine world, Curacao is a frequent stop in Caribbean cruise itineraries. In this article, read about:
- Curacao cruise port (Curacao cruise terminal, getting around, helpful tips)
- Top 7 things to do in Curacao and best Curacao shore excursions
Curacao Cruise Port Info
The port of Curacao is located in Willemstad, the island’s capital, and consists of two cruise terminals: Mega Pier cruise terminal, situated a 10-15 minute walking distance from the city center, and Mathey Wharf terminal, situated closer to the downtown.
Note: To better understand the position of the terminals, you should know that Willemstad is divided into two parts: Otrobanda (meaning “the other side”), and Punda, where the main Willemstad attractions are. The two parts of the city are divided by St Anna Bay (Sint Annabaai) and connected to each other via Queen Emma Bridge, the pedestrian pontoon bridge and a popular city landmark. The Queen Juliana Bridge is another bridge that connects the two parts of the city, built for automobile traffic in 1974.
The Mega Pier cruise terminal is situated in Otrobanda and consists of Mega Pier 1 and Mega Pier 2 which can accommodate large cruise ships of all sizes. This is where the major cruise lines and the large cruise ships dock. These open-air piers are equipped with several facilities, such as a tourist information desk, taxi rank, tour operator stands, restrooms, wheelchair assistance, and ECV rental for guests with mobility issues. See Mega Pier cruise terminal on Google Maps
The city center is situated within a 10-15 minute walking distance from the Mega Pier cruise terminal and is easy to reach. Once you exit the terminal area, keep following the path to the famous Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino where you’ll find shopping malls with upscale stores and free Wi-Fi connection.
After you pass through the Renaissance Resort, you’ll reach Rif Fort village, an unusual, seafront shopping complex housed in a restored 19th-century fort. This is a famous tourist area where you’ll find many shops, ATMs, several restaurants, and tour operator booths offering trolley train rides, car rentals, bike rentals, and more. Less than a 5-minute walk from there you’ll reach the Queen Emma Bridge and the Punda side, where you can explore the main Willemstad highlights and historical landmarks. There is the main bus station as well, however, the buses don’t run regularly and I wouldn’t recommend you use them.
Mathey Wharf is another docking location that consists of four piers. It is located in St Anna Bay and occupies the old wharves of Otrobanda and Punda next to the Queen Juliana Bridge. This terminal is usually used if the Mega Piers 1 and 2 are too busy, and this is where smaller cruise ships normally dock (those that can pass under Queen Juliana Bridge. The bridge is 56.4 m (185 ft) high). Mathey Wharf dock is located a 5-10 minute walk from the Willemstad city center and features facilities such as a tourist information desk, a taxi rank, tour booths, souvenir shops, and restrooms. See Mathey Wharf cruise terminal on Google Maps
- The port area and Willemstad downtown are flat and suitable for wheelchair users/people with walking difficulties.
- The port and tourist areas in Curacao are safe to move around.
- The currency in Curacao is the Antillean guilder (ANG). 1 USD equals approximately 1.79 ANG. Credit cards and US dollars are widely accepted, so there may not be a need to change the money. ATMs are available in the town.
- You can explore all Willemstad attractions on foot. However, if you decide to go around the island, the best way to do it is by car, on a guided shore excursion, or by taxi or bus. Keep in mind that public buses are not recommended if you’re staying on the island only for a day, because they don’t run as frequently. You can find taxis in the port and town. Roads in Curacao are well-maintained and clearly marked, so rent-a-car is a good option, too. Check out Curacao rent-a-car deals and prices
- Willemstad doesn’t have a city beach. The nearest beach to the cruise port is Mambo Beach, a gorgeous sandy beach located around a 10-15 minute drive from the port.
- Curacao’s climate is tropical semi-arid and hot all year round. The ABC islands sit outside the hurricane belt, so there’s very little threat of tropical storms and rains in general. The peak season is from December through mid-April. Get useful packing tips in my article What to Pack for a Cruise – Top 60 Cruise Essentials
- Curaçao International Airport is the main Curacao airport and is located on the island’s north coast, around 11 km/7 miles (a 15-20 minute drive) from the port of Curacao.
- Explore Curacao tours and activities
- Search the best Caribbean cruise deals
Watch my YouTube video on Curacao cruise port and the top things to do in Willemstad!
Top 7 Things to Do in Curacao Cruise Port
Located in the southwest of Curacao, the Willemstad historic center and the harbor have been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as they boast marvelous and diverse architecture. There are several attractions you can visit during your exploration of this picturesque city.
- Rif Fort village – You can’t miss this spot as you pass through it on the way to Willemstad downtown from the Mega Pier cruise terminal. Rif Fort village is situated in the Otrobanda quarter, by the entrance to St Anna Bay and less than a 5-minute walk from the Queen Emma Bridge. It is a unique shopping complex housed in a former defense fort, offering beautiful sea and Punda quarter views. You can browse a large number of shops housed in old, colorful buildings, climb the fort, or try some local delicacies in one of the bars and restaurants. It is a very touristy place, so you should expect higher prices and a lot of crowds.
- Brion Square – Once you exit the Rif Fort village, you’ll find yourself on a large square filled with several shops and cafes, as well as a few local vendors selling tours. From the square, you can marvel at the Queen Emma Bridge and the colorful Dutch buildings in the Punda district.
- Queen Emma Bridge – Constructed across St Anna Bay, this pedestrian floating bridge constructed in 1888 and renovated multiple times connects Otrobanda and Punda districts. The bridge is also called “Swinging Old Lady” by the locals and regularly opens to enable the passage of larger vessels.
- Dutch colonial buildings – As soon as you exit the Rif Fort village, you’ll see the Queen Emma Bridge and the line of colorful Dutch buildings. These typically Dutch buildings feature magnificent colonial architecture and are best seen from the pontoon bridge. Once you cross the bridge, you’ll see several waterfront cafes, restaurants, tour agencies, jewelry, perfume, clothing, and other duty-free shops housed in the buildings.
- Fort Amsterdam – Less than a 5-minute walk from the pontoon bridge, in the Punda quarter, you’ll come across one of the major historic landmarks – the 17th-century Fort Amsterdam. Today, the fort serves as the seat of the government of Curacao, the governor, and the government officials.
- Fort Church – Featuring a beautiful yellow façade and a picturesque clock tower, the 18th century Fort Church is the oldest church in Curacao, situated within the walls of Fort Amsterdam. It is simply decorated inside and also houses a Fort Church Museum where you can learn about the island’s culture and the history of the Protestant community of Curacao.
- Queen Wilhelmina Park (Koningin Wilhelminapark) – Tucked behind the Fort Amsterdam complex, this green area features the Queen Wilhelmina statue, a few shaded cafes, and two popular signs offering great photo opportunities: Curacao and Dushi signs (“dushi” means “sweet, nice, dear”).
- Breedestraat – This is the main shopping street in Willemstad that starts right after you cross Queen Emma Bridge. Here you’ll find a large number of duty-free shops, clothing and souvenir stores, and brands like Swarovski, Cariloha and Del Sol, Diamond International, Penha, and others.
- Mikvé-Israel-Emanuel Synagogue – Situated only one block away from Queen Wilhelmina Park, the 18th-century Curacao synagogue is the oldest continually used synagogue in the Western Hemisphere housed in an imposing, yellow-façade building. It also houses a Jewish Historical Museum.
- Curacao markets – Floating Market, the New Market, and the Old Market can be found within a 5-minute walk from the main street and the Synagogue, alongside the canal by the Queen Wilhelmina Bridge. Here you can buy fresh goods from the locals, and get some delicious, authentic Curacao dishes such as iguana stew in the rustic Old Market, offering live cooking shows and a unique ambiance.
- Maritime Museum – Once you cross a typically Dutch, Queen Wilhelmina Bridge, you’ll come across the Maritime Museum, offering exhibits on more than 500 years of Curacao’s maritime history, as well as guided tours of the museum and harbor.
2. Blue Curacao Liqueur Factory
Have you ever heard of Blue Curacao Liquor? Located a 10-minute drive (5.5 km/ 3.4 miles) from the Curacao cruise port, the Curacao Liqueur Distillery at Landhuis Chobolobo is one of the most unique places to visit in Curacao! The home of the original Curacao liqueur which has been produced here since 1896, the distillery offers guided tasting tours where you’ll learn about the distillation process of the Blue Curacao liqueur and various types of this renowned Curacao alcohol.
3. Curacao Beaches
The island of Curacao boasts lush nature and breathtaking beaches that definitely deserve a place on your Curacao bucket list. The majority of the beaches are located on the west coast of Curacao, where there are no strong winds and the sea is calm. Here is my list of the best beaches in Curacao:
- Mambo Beach – Many cruise guests take a trip to Mambo Beach, one of the island’s most beautiful beaches and the closest one to the cruise port. Mambo Beach is located a 10-15 minute drive from the port of Curacao (around 7 km/4.3 miles) and to get there you can book a shore excursion, take a taxi, or take a public bus from the Willemstad downtown. The beach has a long stretch of powdery sands and crystal clear turquoise water, several beach bars, restaurants, plenty of gift shops, cabanas, sunbeds and umbrella rentals, and an aqua park. Some areas of the beach are more crowded, while some are more peaceful. There is a small entrance fee to the complex. Those of you who seek a more active holiday can visit Chichi Jetski Tours for a nice jetski ride as the departure point for the tours is only 5 minutes away from the beach.
- Blue Bay Beach Resort – Blue Bay Beach Resort is situated a 15-20 minute drive from the Curacao port (around 10 km/6 miles) and ranks among the most beautiful beaches on the island. The beach is part of the private resort featuring beach and golf courses, luxury villas, several bars and restaurants, and a stunning private beach tucked in a bay named after its blue azure waters. The beach is sandy with some rocky parts, not too long, and has both shallow and deep parts. Blue Bay Beach boasts amenities such as bars, restaurants, sunbeds, umbrella rentals, water sports activities, showers, changing rooms, massages, and a playground for kids. There is an entrance fee to pay and it can get crowded. The best way to get to Blue Bay beach is on a tour, or by taxi.
- Kleine Knip (Kenepa Beach) – Surrounded by cliffs and dense tropical forests, this beach is a dreamy place hidden in the lagoon far from the hustle and bustle of civilization. It is located a 50-minute drive (40 km/25 miles) north of Willemstad and you can best reach it on a tour, via taxi or public bus from Willemstad. Kleine Knip is a small, intimate beach with a lot of natural shade and very limited facilities. There is no entrance fee, no wristbands – just several beach chairs and umbrellas to rent, picnic tables, and a small place to buy refreshments. It is a sandy public beach with some rocks and coral pieces on the waterline, so make sure you bring water shoes. Also bring snorkel gear, because snorkeling is amazing. Explore the best Kenepa Beach excursions
- Grote Knip – Kleine Knip’s older sister, Grote Knip is another hidden gem set in gorgeous natural surroundings. Situated north of Kleine Knip, around a 50-minute drive from the Curacao cruise port, Grote Knip is a secluded beach tucked in a lagoon in a high rock cove offering fantastic snorkeling and beautiful, clear water. There are amenities such as beach chair and umbrella rentals, a parking lot, and a small kiosk where you can get snacks and refreshments. Check out Grote Knip tours and activities
- Cas Abao Beach – This secluded piece of heaven lies on the northwestern coast like all other beaches and is located less than a 40-minute drive (29 km/18 miles) from the port of Willemstad. The road is bumpy and curvy, and there is a small entrance fee for the parking that you pay on-site. It is a long sandy beach offering great snorkeling, watersport activities (snorkel, kayaks, banana boat ride rentals), beach chair and umbrella rentals, a bar, a restaurant, showers, and lockers. Cas Abao Beach is surrounded by lush nature, which makes it a perfect beach escape for those who seek the peace and silence of nature. Explore Cas Abao beach tours
- Playa Porto Mari – In the bay next to Cas Abao Beach, there is another pearl waiting for you – Playa Porto Marie, a sugar-white, sandy beach offering amazing snorkeling, a beach chair and umbrella rentals, restrooms, showers, and a bar restaurant. The beach is a frequent stop on Curacao snorkeling tours.
- Playa Lagun – This beach is another hidden gem located around 40 minutes’ drive from the cruise port, south of Kleine Knip. Surrounded by cliffs and hilltop hotel resorts, Playa Lagun is an intimate beach cove offering great snorkeling and diving. There are a few beach bars nearby and you can rent beach chairs and umbrellas. There is free parking on-site. See the list of Playa Lagun tours
- Playa Kalki – The beach is located in the north of the island, around a 1-hour drive from the Curacao port. It is a laid-back, small sandy cove with a snack bar, and chair rental facilities, best known for diving and snorkeling. See the list of Playa Kalki tours
- Playa Piskado (Playa Grandi) – Located south of Playa Kalki, in the north of Curacao, a 45-minute drive from Mega Pier Cruise Terminal, Playa Piskado is one of the most famous beaches for turtle spotting! You can often swim with these friendly sea creatures in the shallow, clear water of this small beach. Turtles often come to the shore, so you can swim directly from the beach. Explore Playa Piskado tours
- Tugboat Beach – This beach is situated around a 25-minute drive southwest (13 km/8 miles) from the cruise port, in the famous Caracas Bay, known as a great snorkeling and diving site. This rocky pebble beach is famous for the tugboat wreck that sank several years ago and has become a popular underwater attraction ever since. The wreck lies only 5 m (16 ft) below the water’s surface and can be easily reached from the shore. See Tugboat Beach and snorkel tours
4. Shete Boka National Park
One of the major island’s natural attractions, Shete Boka Park sits at the foot of Christoffel National Park and the mountain featuring the highest peak of Curacao – Christoffelberg, with an altitude of 372 m/1.220 ft.
Located around 40 minutes’ drive (38 km/24 miles) from the Curacao cruise port, Shete Boka Park was named after the “seven bokas”, or seven inlets where three endangered species of sea turtles are known to lay their eggs. The national park spreads over 10 km/6 miles of Curacao’s north shore known for its rugged coastline and dramatic cliffs hanging over the series of caves. The most famous inlets include Boka Tabla, Boka Pistol, Boka Kalki and Boka Wandomi. There is free parking at Boka Tabla, and the inlets are connected via walking trails and relatively close to each other.
5. Hato Caves
Located in the north of the island, a 10-minute walk from the Curacao International Airport, and a 15-minute drive (around 10 km/6 miles) from Curacao cruise port, the famous Hato Caves rank among the most visited attractions in Curacao.
Get ready to explore the island’s 300.000 years old past as you walk through the impressive coral limestone formations that you’ll find inside the cave: stalactites, stalagmites, a romantic water pool, the Virgin Mary statue, and other geological shapes whose mysterious beauty will blow your mind away! This fascinating cave system is home to two types of rare bats: the Long-Tongued Bat and the Long-Nosed Bat, and you’ll find these interesting creatures hanging from the cave’s ceilings.
Once you finish the tour of the cave, you can take a self-guided walk along the Indian Trail set in the lush vegetation, and see the Indian paintings and carvings made by Caiquetio Indians more than 1500 years ago. You can also visit the cactus garden featuring hundreds of different cacti species, home to rare birds and friendly Green iguanas.
6. Snorkel and Diving at Caracas Bay and Klein Curacao
The island of Curacao is an ideal diving and snorkeling site as the whole island is surrounded by a fringing reef. While the east coast is known for its strong winds and forceful waves, the west coast of Curacao boasts calm, turquoise waters hiding fascinating underwater wildlife. There are several great locations for snorkeling (I’ve mentioned a few beaches above), however, the ultimate snorkeling and diving experience awaits you at two popular sites: Klein Curacao and Caracas Bay.
Klein Curacao – A small, inhabited island (“Klein” means “little”) of Klein Curacao lies about 10 km/6 miles southeast of Curacao and is one of the most famous snorkeling and diving spots for turtle spotting. Hawksbill, loggerhead, and green sea turtles lay their eggs on the island’s beaches, and you can often spot them swimming in their wild, natural habitat.
Caracas Bay is part of the Curacao Marine National Park and is located only a 20-minute drive south-east of the Mega Pier cruise terminal (around 12 km/7.5 miles), and if you want to snorkel or dive there, the best way is to book a shore excursion.
The most famous attraction here is the legendary Tugboat shipwreck, lying 5 m (16.4 ft.) under the water’s surface, in the shallow, pristine waters of the bay. You can swim to the boat directly from Tugboat Beach, and explore its beautiful marine life. Caracas Bay is a dynamic place packed with restaurants, bars, hotels, and recreational areas. Another popular snorkeling spot is the Director’s Bay, located next to Caracas Bay, famous for its vibrant marine life teeming with corals, sponges, sea horses, frogfish, eels, octopus, sea snails, and other tropical fish.
7. Off-road Curacao Exploration
Curacao is known for its dramatic landscapes, rugged terrain, and awe-inspiring natural attractions. For thrill-seekers, exploring the island in a 4×4 vehicle is the most exciting way to see its highlights and its nature. Go wild through the sandy plains filled with giant cacti trees, iguanas, lizards, and other wildlife, visit the Curacao Ostrich Farm and zoo on the east coast (a 25-minute drive from the cruise port), or Koral Tabaak nature reserve‘s famous historic cave offering spectacular views of the north coast!
Drive through the contrasting landscapes of the northwest lush forests of Christoffel mountain and the red sands of the San Pedro plateau. Explore the rural areas of Curacao as you pass by Sint Willibrordus, Flamingos Sanctuary, and Curacao’s plantation houses. There are many options, including Curacao ATV tours, jeep safari excursions, and more.
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