We really enjoyed Curacao snorkeling. There are some great spots with healthy reefs and good spots from gorgeous beaches.
Does the snorkeling in Curacao compare to Bonaire? Underwater, not quite. The waters are not as protected legally, so there are less fish, particularly larger fish.
But for beach lovers, those less sure on their feet, and less experienced snorkelers, we believe Curacao will be much more enjoyable than Bonaire.
That's because Curacao's many beautiful beaches make entering and exiting super easy compared to Bonaire's ankle twisting iron shores. Better yet, spend a week on both islands.
Still, Curacao snorkeling is not without challenges. Like Bonaire, some beach reefs have suffered storm damage. So having up-to-date information is important to find the best spots without wasting your vacation time. Oh, and did we mention Curacao doesn't believe in street signs?
Click on each location below, for full details and pictures. Also don't miss the movie, pictures and more about what you can expect farther down the page.
Curacao Snorkeling Guide eBook - The sample locations below are just a few from our popular eBook guide. You get:
Tugboat - Likely the most visited and well-known snorkel location on Curacao, Tugboat is has good snorkeling. If you book a boat tour, this is where they will probably take you. But you need not pay to access this spot unless you love a boat trip, because it's accessible by car.
Little Knip Beach - If you are looking for a gorgeous west end Curacao beach with good snorkeling, look no further. You will swim with fish and explore live coral reef. And you could be lucky enough to see a school of squid, catch a glimpse of an octopus hiding in a hole, or see a baby sea turtle, like we did.
Klein Curacao - Another good snorkel spot available from Curacao is on this small
island. Klein Curacao lies six miles (9.7 kilometers) southeast of the main island. Of
course you must take a boat to the island, but it makes for a great day
to a beautiful destination.
Check out our gallery page for snorkeling pictures from Curacao for 37 more images of what you could see on your adventure.
Also play our Curacao snorkeling movie below. It will give you a good sense of what to expect and is from all over the island.
1. Beautiful Beaches Galore
Curacao has a myriad of beautiful sandy beaches. Most of the beaches are relatively small intimate spots that are out in the boonies. Many of them don’t even have any resorts or even houses near them. It can be easy to find a beach almost to yourself.
2. Lots of Free Shore Access
There are eight snorkeling spots in our guide that charge for access to the beach. The remaining 18 are completely free. While so many snorkeling destinations require boat trips out to barrier reefs, almost all of the snorkeling on Curacao is easily accessed from beaches. One notable exception is the boat trip out to Klein Curacao, which is an island 6 miles (9.7 km) offshore to the southeast. The most popular snorkeling boat trip takes you to Tugboat. The thing is, Tugboat is also reachable from shore for free on your own.
3. Excellent Snorkeling Depths
The vast majority of the beach snorkeling on Curacao is in ideal water depths for snorkelers. Very often you will be snorkeling alongside the rocky cliffs described below, exploring the sea life that grows on the sides. The sea floor does not often get much deeper than 20 feet (6 meters) close to shore.
4. Interesting Shoreline Cliff Structures
At most beaches the sides of the bay are short cliffs made of limestone or fossilized coral formations. You will often find that the ocean has undercut these cliffs, making shallow cave formations all along the shoreline. Seeing the old corals in the cliffs above the water, and checking out the cut away areas underneath is very interesting. Fish love to hang out in these shaded areas. Just be very cautious that you don’t get caught under these cliffs when a wave raises you up.
5. Wonderful Underwater Sights
There are some great snorkeling opportunities in Curacao, where you will encounter many fish and find some nice coral reefs. While it is true that at most of the beaches on the west end the underwater life is a little more sparse, it makes you pay attention to the smaller stuff. We have found many beautiful and interesting sponges along the cliff walls in Curacao. And one of the eastern spots rivals anywhere else in the Caribbean for diverse, healthy reef and sea life.
4. Very Warm Water
Curacao is close to the equator, and the water stays very warm. Generally, the winter water temperature can get down to 79°F (26.1°C), and it can get as high as 84°F (28.9°C) in the summer.
5. Parking Lot Guards
Even though the beaches are often in rural undeveloped areas, Curacao puts out efforts to reduce theft. Many snorkeling beach parking lots have security guards. So you have some peace of mind about getting things stolen from your car. We really appreciated that.
Snorkel the West Side of Things
If you check out the snorkel map below you will see that all the spots are on the southwest to northwest shore of the island. There are essentially no beaches on the opposite shore and no snorkel spots. The east shore takes the brunt of the trade winds and waves and the shoreline is full of bluffs and cliffs. Generally speaking you should not consider getting in the water on the windward side of the island.
Protected From Trade Winds
The trade winds in Curacao normally blow from the east. So even when the winds are blowing strongly you can expect to find lots of calm snorkeling spots. Because of this you can commonly get in more snorkeling during a trip compared to islands that are more exposed to the winds and weather. You still have to be careful though; wind conditions can change and even switch directions.
Open Ocean Exposure
Although the leeward side of the island is protected from most of the trade winds, the snorkeling is all fairly exposed to the open ocean. There are many small bays and coves that you snorkel from. These provide some additional protection from waves, but to access the better sea life at those locations you often have to swim outside the bays around the points. And some locations require you to swim over the reef drop-off which is deep exposed ocean. So, just be aware that on Curacao you won’t find any snorkeling spots that are fully protected behind a barrier reef.
At most of the spots we recommend in our guide we did not encounter strong ocean currents. As you get close to the tips of the island, up west at Playa Kalki and down east at Directors Bay you are more likely to encounter currents. Also at the spot on Klein Curacao that we recommend there are some strong currents. But generally speaking we encountered very few currents we needed to battle. The normal current moves in a WNW direction.
This is not an easy question to answer, particularly because the weather patterns in recent years have been less predictable. There are three factors to consider when planning a snorkeling trip, water temperatures, wind, and rain. Hurricanes and tropical storm season along with tourist seasons are other things to consider.
The water temperatures in Curacao are comfortable for snorkeling for us year round. You can see a chart of water temps on this website. We find that we are comfortable in only a rash guard in temps above 80°F (26.7°C), and the lowest water temps of the year are in February and March at 79°F (26.1°C).
Wind & Rain
Wind is the number one thing that makes it too rough for safe snorkeling. It is good to try to plan for low winds if you can. The lowest wind times in Curacao are September, October, and November, and the highest winds are from February through July, see these wind statistics.
Rain can be a bummer on a vacation, but it also can affect visibility in the water while snorkeling. Plus, rainy season usually means there are more mosquitoes. The rainiest months October, November, and December; see this rainfall chart.
Year round air temperatures in Curacao average a daily high of 82-88°F (27.8-31.1°C), and a nightly low of 75-79°F (23.9-26.1°C), which is comfortable for year round snorkeling.
The ABC islands are not in the typical hurricane belt because the storms tend to follow a path that moves away from the equator. They do occasionally get tropical storms though, and the season for these is June through November.
High tourist season is December through April, if you want to avoid larger crowds.
We have visited in April and October. We definitely had more trouble with wind in April than October. We also had a bit of rain in both months, and the mosquitoes to go with them. That said, we got in the water as much as we wanted to in April and October. It is hard to recommend a certain time of year. Mother nature will do what she wants and you just have to plan around it in the moment.
Curacao is located in the southeastern Caribbean between Aruba and Bonaire just north of Venezuela. Flights from Holland are common but flights from North American cities are more limited. This page on the Curacao airport website lists the airlines serving the airport and what cities they connect with.
If your goal is to snorkel all or most of the spots on the island, you will need to rent a car. It is easy on the island with many major companies to choose from.
You have many options for accommodations on Curacao: resorts, hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, and vacation rentals. Read our Curacao accommodations page for help choosing.
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