Emergency measures in the wake of Covid-19:
The government of Curacao has updated COVID-19 information for travelers to Curaçao. Also see notices of recent precautionary measures.
This arid island off the northern coast of Venezuela is best known for casinos and duty-free shopping, but it is also the first place in the Caribbean to heartily market itself to gay travelers. Curaçao is a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage is legal, and prostitution is tolerated and regulated, much as in Amsterdam. There are about a dozen gambling casinos among the resorts of Caraçao, with slot machines, roulette and card tables. Among the Dutch tourists women often go topless on certain beaches, but locals tend to be more modest.
Many local hotels have joined IGLTA, the International Gay and Lesbian Tourism Association, to declare their welcome to gay and lesbian visitors - "Biba i laga Biba" or "Live and let live" is the general sentiment. The annual Gay Pride weekend takes place over 5 days in late September - something that's missing in many Caribbean islands, so people come from all around. There is no huge gay scene here, but easy-going, gay-welcoming smiles are found everywhere. See GayCaracao for an overview, upcoming gay events, their PinkCaraçao listings, and a dozen contacts for planning a gay wedding.
For scuba diving and snorkeling in local coral reefs, the beaches on the south side are particularly popular. The sea floor drops steeply (the "blue edge") near the shoreline, meaning the reef can easily be reached without use of a boat. The north coast is rockier, with more turbulent waters. There are over 35 beaches ranging from rocky coves surrounded by high cliffs to long sandy beaches, secluded or bustling with activities - all alongside clear, turquoise, Caribbean waters.
Besides the many international restaurants to sample, many others serve Kriyoyo local food, not unlike other nearby Caribbean and Latin American cuisines. Among favorites are: Stobá, with papaya and meat; Guiambo, okra and seafood; soups made with cactus, intestines, or funchi (cornmeal polenta); plus lots of fish and other seafood, fried plantain and bread rolls Portuguese-style. Snèks serve local food and alcohol in much the same way as English pubs. Pastechi, fried pastry cheese, tuna, ham, or ground meat turnovers, are popular breakfast fare.
Tourism, never the sole focus of the Curaçao economy, is important nonetheless. US, Canadian and EU citizens with proper travel/ID documents may visit for up to 90 days without special permission. Salt mining, the slave trade and piracy were important to the island's early economy after the arrival of Europeans, shifting more recently to oil refining, transhipment (with good location and a deep natural harbor), and financial services.
Papiamentu, Dutch, and English are the three official languages. The first is the home language for most people, but English-speakers from other islands and Dutch expats and pensioners also make their homes here. In government, commerce and tourism - or in preparation for free university educations in the Netherlands - Dutch and English are necessary. Spanish is also widely spoken, and many people speak all four tongues.
Curaçao International Airport is painted a sunny yellow that says bon bini (“welcome). During the season, Westjet runs Sunday weekly nonstop flights from Toronto’s Pearson Airport. JetBlue has Monday, Wednesday and Saturday flights from JFK New York City to Curaçao, and there are two daily direct flights from Miami to Curaçao with American Airlines. It takes about 20 minutes to reach the main town of Willemstad by taxi. Several major U.S. and European lines put in at either of two cruise terminals in the Otrabanda section of Willemstad.
Public transportation is limited. Large yellow or blue ‘Konvooi’ busses cover most parts of the island, from Punda and Otrobanda to beaches, shopping areas, and parks. For getting around most urban streets look for collective cars or vans with ‘bus’ on their registration plates.
You can rent a car to explore the island or find that stretch of sand that you’ll have all to yourself. Alternately, Eric's ATV Adventures provides guided tours to some of the most beautiful areas. For dune buggy or scooter rentals, see Scooby Tours at Curacao Buggy Adventures. With bike tours or rentals Wanna Bike in Jan Thiel Beach will get you around town, or to those hard-to-reach no-car places along back-country trails.
What to do
Willemstad, the main town, has many interesting museums, some lovely bridges, and the oldest continuously operating synagogue in the western hemisphere.
Don’t miss the Kura Hulanda Museum, for a look at the island’s anthropologic past. The Curacao Sea Aquarium and Curacao Dolphin Academy provide shows and interaction with the marine animals.
Jan Theil Beach, is one of the busiest on the island. By Zanzibar restaurant on this rocky coast there are small sandy spots to stretch out, listen to the music, and watch all the social life going on all around, especially on Sundays.
Currency & Money
Curaçao’s currency the Netherlands Antillean guilder, also called the florin is pegged to the US dollar at US$1 = NAFL1.77 for cash transactions. US dollars are widely accepted too, as are credit cards. Old 5 and new 50-cent coins are unusual for being square.
Media & Resources
Pink Curacao is a full LGBT guide to this island with events and venue listings, plus resource links to other sites.
The tourism board’s dedicated gay web site Gaycuracao.com even has a bulletin board to facilitate meeting up with other gay tourists and locals.
Curaçao Pride events take place across five days in late September 2018, at Wilhelmina Park and several clubs and resorts.
The Curacao Tourist Board and TurismCaracao are useful websites with restarant and nightclub listings, plus the many ways to get out into and onto local waters, with or without the company of a dolphin.
See the CuraçaoArt website for area news, artists, galleries and events listings. Intervention Magazine "Intervening daily Caribbean life with contemporary art" is published by the Instituto Buena Bista, the Curaçao Center for Contemporary Art.
For mainstream party events, see the Curaçao Party Guide.
For map locations and website links to area businesses of interest, see our gay Curaçao listings pages with some hotel/resort and restaurant/cafe suggestions.
Cabana on the Beach (Seaquarium Beach, Bapor Kibra), beautiful beach, blue waters, palm trees, buffets, drinks, music.
Chin Chin Lounge Bar (Santa Rosaweg 54D, Willemstad), mixed gay-friendly restaurant, cafe/bar cocktails, snacks and dinner; Pride events.
Club Spoonz (Lindberghweg 32-34, Saliñas/Willemstad), dance club/ lounge, Urban/ Hip Hop/ RnB/ Latin music, Ritmo Kombina DJ sets, locals/tourists mix; Pride events.
Gallery Lounge (Keukenplein 8, Wilemstad) - CLOSED? - lounge bar, dance club, LGBT events, men/women and local/tourist mix, male stripper nights.
Grand Café De Heeren (Zuikertuintjeweg, Willemstad), gay-friendly restaurant and bar, live music entertainment.
Jacob's Bar & Terrace (Langestraat 8, Willemstadt), breakfast, lunch, dinner, early crowd cocktail lounge, tapas with eclectic twists; Sandton Kurá Hulanda Hotel & Spa.
Mambo Beach (Sea Aquarium Beach, Bapor Kibra), seafood restaurant and beach club, pool, DJ dance mix, live music concerts.
Moomba Beach Club (Piscadera Bay), LGBT-welcoming beach resort, breakfast/lunch, cocktails, live music, lounger rentals, apartments.
Omundo (Zuikertuin Mall, Willemstad), lunch/dinner, gay-friendly mix, cocktail lounge, piano entertainment, Salsa dancing.
Rainbow Lounge, & Sjalotte Restaurant at the Floris Suite Hotel (Piscadera Bay, Willemstad), gay and adult-only hotel resort cocktail lounge, restaurant, pool, LGBT special events, Pride celebrations.
St Tropez Ocean Club (Pietermaai 152, Pietermaai/ Punda), private cabanas, sunset cocktails, dinner, infinity pool, jazz and Latino lounge music.
Tutu Tango Grand Cafe & Restaurant (Punda, Willemstad), Tuesday-Saturday lunch/dinner, bar, Wednesday women's night, also piano and Latin nights.
Water Club at the Floris Suite Hotel (Piscadera Bay, Willemstad), pool, sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi, massage services; LGBTpool parties.
Wet & Wild Beach Club (Sea Aquarium Beach, Marina Bapor Kibra), Sunday gay/straight beach-party dancing, BBQ snacks.
Zanzibar Beach & Restaurant (Jan Thiel Beach), daily from 8am breakfast, lunch, dinner; all-day juice and cocktails bar, beach lounger rentals, live music.
Club Vanilla and The Hangover Party Bar are also listed by the Pink Curacao and Pride websites as late-night gay-friendly Willemstad dance options.
For a night at the movies, check out what's on at The Cinemas Curaçao (Baden Powellweg 1), Cinemark Sambil (Sambi Shopping Center, Weg Naar Westpunt), and The Movies Curacao (Plaza Mundo Merced, Willemstad). Each cineplex screens 10-12 films on any given day - mostly in English OV, sometimes with Dutch or Spanish subtitles.