close
Curaçao, Lesser Antilles, Dutch Caribbean Region – Scuba Diving

Curaçao, Lesser Antilles, Dutch Caribbean Region

Curaçao’s unspoiled reefs, pearl-white beaches, and year-round warm climate and water temperatures make it a premium diving destination in the Dutch Caribbean region.

Geography of Curaçao

Curaçao is one of the Lesser Antilles islands in the Dutch Caribbean Region. Situated approximately 65 km north of Venezuela, its neighbors are Aruba and Bonaire. Together, they form the ABC islands. These islands boast some of the world’s most biodiverse coral reefs and Curaçao, in particular, is renowned as a world-class diving destination.

Southwest Coast of Curaçao

The most popular Curacao scuba diving sites are on the sheltered southwest coast. Its waters are friendlier for less experienced divers without falling short on adventure.

Shipwreck Point

If you’re in Curaçao for its sunken gems, Shipwreck Point is a great place to start. It’s only 450 feet from the Otrobanda Coast, so diving in by boat or from the shore is fairly easy. The star of the show is the 160-foot coral and sponge-wrapped wreck of the Superior Producer, which sank in 1977. Keep your eyes peeled for massive tarpons, barracuda, angelfish, and sergeant majors hovering about and guarding the wreck.

Eel Valley, Newport

On the east side of Santa Barbara, just off the coast of Newport is a veritable diver’s paradise. Steep drop-offs between big rock coral formations abound, where you might chance upon stingrays and little critters hiding in the reef’s nooks and crannies. You might even spot snake eels with their heads sticking out of the sand.

Vaersenbaai

A relaxed site suitable for boat, shore, and night dives, Vaersenbaai offers a breathtaking glimpse into the island’s marine biodiversity. Calm conditions and excellent visibility make this site a joy for both beginner and experienced Curacao diving enthusiasts. Be ready to see tons of car wrecks and tugboats overgrown with colorful corals and polyps on the seabed.

CRF Curaçao Nursery

Recreational and professional divers looking to give back to Curaçao’s reef can join local CRF (Coral Restoration Foundation) initiatives. Local divers may enroll in a PADI coral restoration specialty course so that they can outplant corals themselves, while visitors can join a guided nursery dive and work on the coral trees.

North of Curaçao

Advanced scuba divers, or those wanting a different experience from the island’s calm western sites, can head up north for more challenging descents and traverses. Visit these sites to go deeper into Curacao’s magical marine abyss:

Mushroom Forest and The Blue Room

Dive between towers of star corals rising from a sandy plateau at Mushroom Forest. This storied dive spot is only accessible by boat or kayak. After traversing the site, divers would usually surface in the Blue Room cave for a unique experience.

The Blue Room is a cave bathed in blue light, hence the name. Catch the magical display of different shades of blue and moving silhouettes of marine life. The natural grotto’s shallower depths make it ideal for casual diving and snorkeling.

Watamula

At the northwest-end shore of Curaçao lies Watamula, a favorite spot among locals and tourists for long and exhilarating dives. Here, current direction varies, so drift diving is the preferred technique to explore its over 100 feet of pristine corals and abundant marine life. Sometimes, divers would take days to fully navigate the site. Then they’d cap off the trip at the Watamula blowhole at Sabana Westpunt.

Beacon Point

An intermediate or advanced dive at the western tip of Caracas Bay, this spot hosts the most impressive pillar collar formation in all of the Caribbean. There’s a chance to swim with reef sharks and stingrays, but the site is more famous for its exciting drop-offs and currents that offer a magic carpet ride for drift divers.

Far-Flung Spots

Curaçao is also home to some lesser known gems. From tiny, uninhabited islands boasting rich reef systems and marine life to challenging dive spots, the intrepid explorer will be richly rewarded.

Eastpoint

Nothing beats swimming with wildlife in the ocean’s sunlit zone. Diving at Eastpoint (Oostpunt) takes you up close and personal with turtles, eagle rays, and barracuda, and if you’re lucky, you might spot sharks too. Located at the eastern tip of the island, this windswept area boasts rugged coasts and a fringing reef system where myriad sea creatures thrive. Its inland bays also serve as a nursery for important species of reef fish

Smokey/Punti Sanchi

Smokey or Punti Sanchi’s reef rivals that of Belize with its untouched and impressive underwater scenery. It’s located southwest of Newport but in a more remote area. A rugged, shallow terrace fringes the cape so the only entrance to the dive site is by boat. The seas can be rough but the pristine seascape, sharp drop-offs, and dense coral overhangs make up for it. Plus, it becomes a drift dive east from Smokey that ends in another immaculate dive spot called Kathy’s Paradise.

Klein Curaçao

Klein Curaçao is a tiny, uninhabited satellite island southeast of the mainland. After you step out of your 1.5-hour boat ride, all you’ll see is a patch of desert, a few huts, an abandoned lighthouse, and a shipwreck beached on the rocky shore. But below the ocean’s surface, circling the island, is an underwater wonderland. You can either dive in the protected southern reef from the shore or the windward side by boat. Arrange a trip with your dive operator or take a boat charter and enjoy a day marooned on a beautiful island with amazing dives.

Marine Life

Curaçao boasts the highest reef diversity and one of the healthiest marine ecosystems in the Caribbean. It’s a hotspot for the following rare and endemic species:
  • Crinoids - These marine animals have been around for over 480 million years. They float like lilies through the reefs and burst in myriad colors.
  • Green moray eels - Some of the largest moray eels can be found in Curaçao’s numerous dive sites.
  • Hawksbill turtle - These critically endangered sea turtles are widespread across Curaçao. They can be found foraging on the reefs and gliding through sandy channels.
  • Red sea star - Eastpoint’s inland and outer bays are critical habitats for these vibrant sea stars, among other important aquatic animals.
  • Sharks - There are several species of sharks that you’ll encounter while diving in the Dutch Antilles. These include the leopard shark, Caribbean reef shark, tiger shark, and the blacktip reef shark.
The island’s dense reefs and seabeds also give you the chance to spot seahorses, gobies, ocellated frogfish, flameback angelfish, barracudas, parrotfish, blue tang, queen conch, and much more. Elusive mammals like humpback and sperm whales, as well as bottlenose and spinner dolphins, also swim through the Dutch Antilles waters during the breeding season, from December to June. Not surprisingly, Curaçao’s waters are home to dense gardens of hard and soft coral. Over 658 species of coral rock and living coral have been identified. Diversity increases at steep drop-offs between 4- to 12-meter depths.

Other Attractions

  • Willemstad & Queen Emma Bridge - Catch rows upon rows of Dutch colonial buildings lining the natural harbor at Willemstad. As Curaçao’s capital, it’s where most of the tourist and local action is. It also has some of the best spots for après-dive dinner and drinks.
  • Grote Knip Beach - The island has no shortage of sun-drenched white beaches, but Grote Knip is among the best. The strand has the perfect curve with verdant hills in the background, pearl-white sand, and azure waters.
  • Floating Market - Shop for fresh fruit and vegetables from a fleet of wooden boats stationed along the banks of the Waaigat. The produce arrives here every day from nearby Venezuela.

How to Get to Curaçao

Curaçao is generally accessible to anyone with a passport. Visas are only required for very specific countries. Here are your travel options:

By Air
Hato International Airport (CUR), which can accommodate large commercial jets, is served by many air carriers like American Airlines, US Airways, KLM, Air Canada, WestJet, Avianca, and Jet Blue. Connecting flights are available but you can only fly directly from Miami, Newark, Caracas, and Amsterdam.

By Sea
Curaçao is along the route of several major European and American cruise lines. Large ships can dock at Mega Pier, whereas smaller vessels can dock at the various cruise terminals within the harbor, such as Mathey Wharf. Owners of private boats or yachts are also welcome to dock in Curaçao.

Best Time to Visit Curaçao

There are a few buses going around town and to the east side of the island, but they are pretty rare. It’s easier to hire a taxi or rent a car (just don’t forget to bring your license with you). You may have to take additional insurance coverage, but renting a car lets you explore uninhabited regions where some of the best dive sites can be found.

Required Trainings & Certifications

There are a number of technical diving certification agencies, like the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and Scuba Schools International (SSI). Card-carrying divers of all skill levels have unlimited access to the island’s undersea adventures. If you’re a beginner and need to refresh your skills, you can take short dive courses online or in select hotels to ensure a safe and comfortable dive. If you’re going to Curaçao to learn and get certified, a little pre-planning is essential. Take online courses beforehand and get certified in any dive shop on the island when you arrive to speed up the process.

Miscellaneous Information

Currency
Curaçao’s national currency is the Netherlands Antillean guilder, also known as the florin. The abbreviations are ANG and NAFI. The exchange rate to the US Dollar is at a stable rate of US$ 1 = NAFl. 1.77 for cash and 1.78 for traveler's checks. Keep in mind that rates may vary slightly across stores and hotels, and that larger dollar or guilder bills are harder to cash. But traveler’s checks and Visa and Mastercard credit cards are accepted at most establishments.

Language
Papiamentu, a Portuguese creole, is the most widely spoken language in Curaçao. Dutch is the sole language for legal and administrative matters, while English is also widely spoken.

Time Zone
Curaçao observes Atlantic Standard Time (AST) all year and does not use Daylight Saving Time.

Driving Side
Driving is done on the right-hand side of the road, so tourists from mainland Europe and North America won’t have a hard time adjusting to the flow of traffic.

Calling Code
The country code is +599.

ISO 3166 code
As a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Curaçao is assigned the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code “CW”.

Internet TLD
.cw is the Internet country code top-level domain for Curaçao.