Our Snorkel Trip to Curacao

Many Christmas Tree Worms on coral Tugboat Curacao
Christmas Tree Worms at Tugboat

by Doug & Amy – (Houston, TX)
We had a great time snorkeling Curacao in August 2013, thanks in no small part to another of Galen and Nicole’s always helpful guides. We ignored their recommendation for what area to stay, however, because we’d heard that the Avila Hotel, just mile or so down the coast from the infamous pedestrian bridge in Willemstad, had very good snorkeling right from their little beach. It did not disappoint!

Water conditions were perfect for the first few days but winds from the south later in the week brought swells that rendered some spots unsafe and most of the rest quite murky. We still managed to snorkel two locations extensively almost every day and never failed to find something worth seeing. Favorite sightings included our first and second Flying Gurnards, three octopuses including a small resident just 10 feet from the beach at the Avila nearly every time we were in the water there, reef squid including several juveniles, several varieties of eels, numerous incredibly cute juvenile trunkfish, a Balloonfish and on and on.

Flying Gurnard with wings out, over sand at Playa Jeremi Curacao
Flying Gurnard at Playa Jeremi

Our favorite snorkel destination was Tugboat, which we visited three times. There is an amazing variety of things to see between the entry and the tugboat itself (and beyond). Also don’t miss the pier pilings to the right of the entry beach. Directors Bay was also great but the surf was booming by the morning we tried Jan Thiel so we never did get to appreciate it fully.

It was a much longer drive from Willemstad to the west side snorkel spots but they were well worth the effort to get there. We hit Playas Kenepa Chiki, Santa Cruz, Daai Booi, and Jeremi. The water was pretty churned up both days we ventured up that way but the shape of the coves kept the water much smoother than at the more exposed spots in the east. Out of the water, the west end is much prettier than the east, though if you’re looking for the stereotypical Caribbean beach experience Curacao would not be our first recommendation anyway.

Sand Diver, covered in sand, looking head on in Curacao
Sand Diver
School of Silversides under coral head in Curacao
School of Silversides

Back at the Avila Hotel, when the waves weren’t rolling straight into the little manmade cove right in front of our room, the snorkeling was as good as or better than many of the better known sites. I’m not sure how long ago the breakwaters outlining their coves were built but their outer slopes are home to some of the largest Elkhorn Corals I’ve ever seen. Also lots of Brain Coral, sponges and a vast assortment of fish, some of which we saw nowhere else.

We didn’t spend much time doing anything else on the island, as reflected in our photos which are 95% underwater! See our album on Flickr.

Next up, the Florida Keys!

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Nicole & Galen – Feb 17, 2014 – Wonderful Pictures and Report!

Doug & Amy, thanks for your great post. Nice to know about the Avila Hotel. We have added that info to the Curacao accommodations page.

Your pictures are wonderful. You saw many cool creatures.

Interesting about the south winds. It is good to be able to plan snorkeling around the current weather conditions.

Glad you had a good experience and we are happy you found the Curacao Snorkeling Guide eBook useful!

Joan – Feb 17, 2014 – Camera Question

Love your photos. Curious to know what camera you used?

Doug – Feb 17, 2014 – Camera

Thanks! I’ve been using a Canon S95 in a Canon WP-DC38 underwater housing for a few years now. It’s underwater setting is quite good, though I still do some post-processing to get the colors better.

Galen & Nicole – Feb 18, 2014 – Canon S90

We also used the Canon S90, which is essentially the same camera as the S95 to take all the pictures on our Curacao page.

You probably can’t find one new though. Both cameras are getting old. We have updated snorkeling camera recommendations on this page.

Joan – Feb 18, 2014 – Curacao

Thank you for all the camera info. My husband and I are going on a liveaboard Indonesia snorkel trip and keeping our eyes out for some new-to-us underwater cameras. We’ve been using the Canon D10 which we like for ease of use and pretty decent pics so will definitely take at least one of those with us. Galen & Nicole — love your Curacao pics too particularly the two squid and the school of squid. While we’ve come across three or four squid at a time snorkeling in Hawaii we’ve yet to see a large school! Curacao is now on our bucket list for the future.

Jeanette – Jul 17, 2014 – Amazing Photos

Thanks so much for sharing your fabulous photos. We would love to return to Curacao to snorkel new locations and will use your information to help plan that trip.

Gwen – Oct 14, 2014 – Thrilling!

Thank you for posting these pictures. I love the blennies and squid in Curacao and you captured them in wonderful shots!

Wishing you fog-free masks and clear waters…

Nicole & Galen – May 31, 2020 – Updates

We revisited Curacao in 2019 and snorkeled in front of Avila Hotel. It was good snorkeling, but exposed and the wind and waves need to be respected. We wrote a full description in our second edition of the Curacao Snorkeling Guide eBook, linked to above.

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