By PalmettoStateMan – (Greenville, NC USA)
We just returned from two weeks snorkeling Curacao. We really enjoyed our first trip and we did an awful lot of snorkeling. We want to thank tropicalsnorkeling.com for their outstanding guide book which we purchased and referred to often during our trip. While we all have our own individual likes it truly is a great resource and we recommend it.
Playa Kalki – It is a beach mainly known for the number of fish you’ll see. When we arrived it was obvious that the wind was causing a strong current up the coast to the western tip of the island. We got in at the Go West Diving dock and went west along the buoy line. We saw some fish, a school of about 12 mackerel-looking fish, a school of trumpetfish and a few coral heads. The current kicked up the sandy floor and made the water a little cloudy.
After a hard swim back into the current we made it to the dock and were just about to get out when the captain of a diving boat told us to stay put and he would show us where an octopus lived. While we waited we got to watch Captain Jack take his 30+ foot boat out and moor it on a buoy by himself; it gives one an appreciation of these men of the sea.
Following that display he dives into the ocean and swims like a fish over to us and dives to the bottom reaches into a hole in the coral looks up and gives two thumbs up. OK, that was crazy! Good thing there was not an eel in there. Mrs. PSM did dive down to confirm that it was indeed an octopus. Quite an interesting addition to our visit.
Playa Grandi – We wanted to watch sea turtles. Our friends at Tropical Snorkeling don’t recommend going to this beach because of the fishing boats that are moored there and sometimes coming and going. We got in on the far right side and snorkeled along the cliff wall. Lots of fish, eels, squid and soft corals. Pretty decent overall.
Next we went in among the moored boats with a half dozen other snorkelers. It was late afternoon so I think the boats were all in place (anchored and unoccupied) and we did not see any boats moving in or out of the area. We felt safe but still kept an eye out.
If you want to see turtles this is the place! There are six or so resident turtles, small to very large hanging out right in the middle of the fishing boats. They seem to like being next to the mooring ballast on the bottom. This was a nice cap to our snorkeling day and if you can go later in the day and pay attention to your surface surroundings we recommend this spot.
Playa Santa Pretu to Playa Santa Cruz – We parked outside the gate to Lets Go Watersports. The first 30 yards or so of the hike are very steep but doable. From there stay on the main trail, there are a few offshoot trails and one is marked with a red ribbon which was a little confusing. Watch for thorny brush and rocks in the path. The trail comes out at the black sand beach; it’s not as black as the one on Maui but cool nonetheless.
We were all alone on the beach, just how we like it. We entered on the right side and continued up the right side wall, we had planned on going across the bay to the left side as described by Tropical Snorkeling but we forgot and continued up the right side. The water was pretty clear and we saw a good number of fish and some squid but nothing that we had not seen so far on the trip. The corals appeared to be healthy, both soft and hard.
We continued out to the right side point and the water was very clear. We decided to continue around to Playa Santa Cruz, leaving Playa Santa Pretu and the hike back in the heat behind us. Conditions continued to be good all the way to Santa Cruz along the left cliff wall toward Lets Go Watersports.
About halfway to shore the water started to become cloudy. The strong wind was churning up the sandy bottom greatly reducing our visibility. We thought we would try the right side and kicked across the bay. The right side was slightly better and we continued away from shore along the cliff wall. At about the point the water cleared and we continued around the point for 10 minutes or so before heading back in. On our way to shore we went over a huge school of silversides. It is neat to see how the school moves in unison.
Playa Kenepa Chiki – We started out on the left side and immediately we noticed that the water was very clear and we slowly continued along the cliff wall, never more than 15 feet or so from the cliffs, all the way around the point to about halfway to Playa Jeremi.
The fish and coral were beautiful, the best coral we had seen so far. There was a good quantity of fish, eels and maybe an octopus (it was 10 feet down and did not move so it was hard to tell). About 20-40 feet away from the cliff there are a number of large boulders on the ocean floor in about 20-25 feet of depth. We followed this line of boulders all the way back into shore. We did not snorkel the right side of the cove.
Daaibooi Beach – We entered on the far left side of the beach where there is an easy sandy entry. Like Tropical Snorkeling said, the water is cloudy at first but clears about 50 yards off shore. There are a good number of fish and there appears to be new coral formations starting. We swam out past the left point and then over to the right side.
Once on the right side the fun began. We saw a couple of eels and then we saw a large stingray about three feet across; it moved so gracefully along the ocean floor. We started back to shore along the right side and we ended up seeing not one but two turtles. Awesome! We weren’t even expecting to see turtles at this beach. This was a better than expected swim.
Tugboat – The dive shop was open and there were plenty of people around. We followed the snorkeling instructions laid out in the Tropical Snorkeling guide book. We entered next to the dock and explored around there before moving toward the large mooring piers. There is a lot of sea life around the piers and some corals also. Swimming toward the tugboat you will notice a fantastic drop-off to your right, we could see a few divers well below us.
Tugboat is all it’s said to be. There are lots of corals growing on it and lots of fish. Possibly the only negative is that the fish have obviously been fed because they came to greet us. I have never had a parrotfish swim up to me with such vigor.
Moving beyond the tugboat there are large coral fields with plenty of fish all the way to Directors Bay. We stopped a little short of the bay because there was a group of men fishing from the cliff. We don’t like to snorkel where folks are casting fishing lines. On the way back we focused on some of the shallow areas. We saw lots of fish, healthy corals, eels, octopus and a few other unusual things we don’t know the names of. The tugboat area is well worth the trip.
Playa Largu – The good news is that since Tropical Snorkeling did their review of this location the gravel road to the beach has been widened and appears to be under better maintenance. The cost per car has doubled but is only $6 US. When Mrs. PSM and I arrived at the beach we were the only ones there. It is very remote so we were actually glad that we paid the security guy and that gave us some sense of safety.
Tropical Snorkeling nailed this location! Right from the entry, just to the left of where you leave the car to snorkel heading to the left, there you’ll find the largest bed of Elkhorn Coral that I have ever seen, the base of which is almost two feet in diameter. Along with that there are a good number of fish in amongst the coral heads.
We swam to the left for 500 meters or so to the really nice stairs coming down from a house. We came back to our entry point along the edge of the drop-off where there are some good coral heads and some that are in disrepair. The exit was a little hard because there are large rocks and old coral right up to the shore and the day we were there the waves were rolling in, so let’s just say that my exit was not as graceful as I had imagined. We liked this location and would recommend it if you’re in the area.
Playa Piscadera – We snorkeled here the following day. We parked in the free lot next to the Aquifari and entered the water next to the restaurant. We swam across the channel to the point and headed northwest along the coast. The winds were high and the sea was pretty heavy so we could not get too close to the the cliffs. We were able to swim over to the cove and back along the coral field.
There was a nice amount of healthy coral although we could see plenty of old dead or destroyed coral. The amount of fish and sea life was good. We saw our first lobster and it was huge. Lots of parrotfish, some flounder and about six or eight barracuda. Even though the conditions were rough we made the best of it and had a good time.
Jan Thiel – We snorkeled the large coral band that is outside the man-made cove. We started as far east as we could get just past the last resort’s pool. There were men working on a platform that had stairs but the stairs were not in good repair so we went to the small beach adjacent to the platform to enter. The entrance was on a large flat rock to a small shallow sandy spot that you can step into. Be careful stepping here because there are rocks on both sides of the sandy location.
The winds were high and the waves were running east to west pretty strongly so we were not able to snorkel in the shallower areas. We did snorkel in about 7-10 feet of water and went from the far east side the whole way past the cove inlet through the western coral area.
During this long snorkel we saw really nice patches of coral: Elkhorn, Staghorn, Pillar, all types of fan corals and rod corals. We saw all the different and common varieties of fish for the island plus grouper and three sea turtles. We took about an hour and 45 minutes to complete this large area which includes a strong swim against the current back into the cove. If you are planning to snorkel this area outside the manmade cove pay attention to the weather conditions, especially winds and current.
Comments Moved From Previous System
Nicole & Galen – May 24, 2018 – Thank You for Your Report
Hello PSM, thank you for this detailed report. We are so glad you found our Curacao Snorkeling Guide so useful for your trip. It is good to hear about Playa Grandi and that there was an improvement to the state of the road to Playa Largu.
Sounds like you had a fantastic snorkeling trip!
Kathy Miller – Jun 6, 2018 – Curacao
We loved snorkeling Curacao also. Tugboat was great. We did most of our snorkeling around our condo room, at Playa Lagun. This was the first time I had seen Sharptail Eel, like a snake feeding on the bottom. We were interested to see so many Dutch residents there, but should not have been surprised, since it was a Dutch colony. The city of Willemstad was also interesting. Thanks for your report!
Nicole & Galen – May 31, 2020 – Updates
We revisited Curacao in 2019 and have released a second edition of the snorkeling guide linked to above. We snorkeled Playa Grandi and include our full description in there.