I decided to go to Curacao in July 2023 with family for some relaxing right off the beach snorkeling and a slower paced vacation than the typical Caribbean islands. Full details below, but overall we had an enjoyable trip snorkeling Avila Beach Hotel, with a lot to see in the water, very accessible for beginner swimmers, but the reef health isn’t great and, at least in off-season, the hotel doesn’t quite fully deliver. Since we were traveling with both a young kid and older grandparents, we wanted a place with easy access to calm waters right from the resort, and this hotel fit the bill in that regard perfectly.
There are two coves with sandy beaches leading into the water, a fairly shallow area along the edge, and deepening to about 10-15 feet at the center of the cove before reaching the rock-wall outer barrier. The water within the coves is very calm, fairly warm (from constantly baking in the sun and not as much current/water exchange), and visibility is great.
What We Saw While Snorkeling Avila Beach Hotel
Now, here are the important details… what’s underwater! There’s some smaller fish near the sandy beach that little kids can see just standing there and putting their face underwater, and the shallow area along the rock walls are full of smaller life, including hermit crabs, urchins, lots of lizardfish, basslets, and blennies. There’s quite a few needlefish swimming around in the coves, larger ones being about 2-3 feet long. Along the rock wall and near the opening of the coves there are larger species, including several species of parrotfish, sergeant majors, squirrelfish, and wrasses. There’s a large school of Blue Tangs that swim in and out of the cove, and several large queen conchs at the bottom.
There’s no real coral to speak of within the bays. A few brain coral dotted here and there, but otherwise all sand and rock.
The waves outside of the cove were consistently rough the entire week we were there due to tides and wind, but still manageable for intermediate to strong swimmers. Swimming outside the cove, the water gets immediately cooler (but still bearable in just a rash guard), but the variety of fish and coral increase greatly.
Right past the mouth of the bay there are healthy colonies of sea fans, sea rods, staghorns, and large elkhorn, with schools of fish darting in and out. There is a bit of a drift current, but very manageable even without fins on most days. In addition to the species found within the coves, there were also trumpetfish, triggerfish, and juvenile angelfish. I spent most of my time out there on the last few days of the trip.
Our Experience at Avila Beach Hotel
Moving on to the hotel itself, we stayed at the new beachfront apartments, which are newly renovated and come with everything you’d need, including dishwasher, washer and dryer, fridge with freezer and ice machine, electric stove, strong air-conditioning, and high speed internet.
The common areas of the hotel (restaurants, check-in, etc.) are not air-conditioned, but most days the fans and shade keep things comfortable enough. Of note, all the on-site dining options are open to the elements, so lunch on particularly hot humid days does get sticky.
The staff were all friendly, but we found that they lacked some training and polish. Wrong items served vs. what was ordered at the restaurant, slower service (15 min from ordering to receiving for an ice cream dessert, 20 min to get a check), housekeeping showed up at different times pretty much every day, and the beach hut for towels was unmanned 50% of the time.
Tips for Visiting Curacao
Getting around Curacao itself is probably best done with a rental car, as taxis are fairly expensive. From the airport to the hotel (20 min drive) is around $50 US, and to the nearby Tugboat Beach or Seaquarium is about $20 US for a 5-6 min drive. Roads are fairly easy to navigate, though speed limits are rarely enforced or obeyed.
Overall a relaxing experience, Curacao is a definite up-and-coming tourist destination in the Caribbean but doesn’t have the infrastructure or polish yet compared to the main islands.