If you want to snorkel most of the spots on the island, choosing your Curacao snorkeling accommodations in a central area or at least west of downtown Willemstad is a good idea.
The very best snorkeling areas for both fish and healthy reef are on the east side of Willemstad. But most of the nice beaches that have decent snorkeling are on the west end of the island. You will be doing some driving if you intend to snorkel all or most of the spots, so a rental car is a must.
Here are some areas to stay along with the benefits and drawbacks of staying in the area for snorkeling.
Our highest ranked snorkel locations are east of the city. If you want great snorkeling and don't care as much about pretty sandy beaches, this is a good place to stay. You are close to restaurants and grocery stores, and would have a short drive to the great snorkel spots. The drawbacks of this choice are that most of the snorkel spots are not picturesque beaches and it is a long drive to the beautiful beaches on the west end of the island.
Jan Thiel is the closest resort area to our highest ranked spots. Chogogo Resort, Livingstone Jan Thiel Resort, Papagayo Beach Resort and Morena Resort are all near Jan Thiel Beach and have free entrance to the beach with your stay. There are both villas and apartments for rent in this area as well.
There are also numerous resorts in the Sea Aquarium Beach zone. We do not recommend this beach for snorkeling nor do we think staying here is a good idea because it is a bit of a drive to anywhere with good snorkeling. The main resorts in this area are: Lions Dive Beach Resort, Royal Sea Aquarium Resort, Van der Valk Kontiki Beach Resort, Sunscape Curacao Resort Spa & Casino and Bon Bini Seaside Resort. A little to the west is the Baoase Luxury Resort, and even further west than that is Avila Beach Hotel. (A site visitor recommends this hotel to snorkelers.) There are many other hotels and apartments in this east area of Willemstad as well.
This is a better area to stay for snorkeling because you are somewhat centrally located. There is less city driving to get to the west end beaches and it is not too long to the great spots in the east. It is not perfect though because there is only one decent snorkel spot nearby. You have good access to restaurants and groceries from this area.
Two resorts in or near the city are Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino and Holiday Beach Hotel & Casino. But farther west is a resort area that includes the currently closed Marriot, Floris Suite Hotel, and Hilton Curacao.
A little farther west of the city is the Blue Bay Curacao Golf & Beach Resort. This area also has many apartment options, and is a nice compromise location for exploring the whole island.
From the middle of the island west to Santa Martha, there are not a lot of accommodation options. If you found something it would be a decent option as you would be fairly close to the beaches of the west end, but not too far from the east end spots either. The Coral Estate has some vacation rentals but you are very secluded there. There are also other bed & breakfasts like Landhuis Daniel. You may also be able to find an apartment for rent.
If you only care about snorkeling from the pretty beaches, staying in Lagun or Westpunt is a decent choice. But, if you want to do the best snorkeling on the island you will have a long drive down the island to get to it. Also there are only a few restaurants and no major grocery stores in Westpunt and Lagun. It is a 30-45 minute drive back to Willemstad area for more options.
There are some resorts on this end of the island like Kura Hulanda Lodge & Beach Club, Marazul Dive Resort, Rancho El Sobrino, and Lagun Blou Resort. There are also numerous bungalow, apartment and vacation rental options in these villages.
If like us you prefer a condo or apartment with a kitchen, there are many options, and this is the most affordable way to spend some time on Curacao. We discovered that on Curacao they often call “vacation condos/vacation rentals” simply “apartments”. So when you are searching the internet for this type of accommodation use that term instead. This link has a good list of apartment options and is a great place to start.
Probably because the rental rates are fairly low on apartments, most of them charge separately for metered water and electricity. These charges are not high, but make sure and allow for them in your budget. Also, you will need to supply your own basics, like toilet paper and cleaning supplies.
Individuals have accommodations that they rent out themselves on Curacao, as well. You can check out some vacation rental listings on TripAdvisor here.