Impressions of Curacao from a First Time Visitor


Call us crazy, but whenever we visit a new place we always find ourselves asking, Could we live here? It’s fun, we think, to try to imagine life as a local, not a tourist, even if we might never actually do that.

So, after a weekend in the country and a day in Willemstad, here are our initial impressions of Curacao. Could we live here? Could you?

Places where you can stay

First impressions of Curacao’s people

Maybe it was a fluke, but our positive impressions of Curacao were helped by the fact that we didn’t encounter a single surly person while we were there. Everyone was kind and friendly. Every. Single. One. Their accent is easy to understand and their love for Curacao showed in their eagerness to help us enjoy our stay.

Further, they are obviously a very well educated people. (Even our taxi drivers spoke 4 languages!) The country has 3 national languages, Dutch, English, and Papiamentu, and Spanish is also common, as Curacao is not far from Venezuela.

We were totally amazed by the ease with which everyone switched from one language to another. Foreign visitors should check any We’re #1 arrogance at the airport.

This smiling woman, holding a Heineken box behind a table, left us with good impressions of Curacao

Curacao’s climate is a surprise

If you travel to Curacao with the expectation that you will enjoy a tropical rainforest, you’ll be sorely disappointed. This has been called “a tropical island without weather forecasts” and most of what you’ll see will be cacti and other plants suitable for xeriscaping.

When I learned that Curacao gets only about 570 mm (22 inches) of rain a year, this little fact totally devastated my long-held assumption that all Caribbean islands are lush, tropical gardens.

Pathway along a dry and rocky coastline shows the arid climate in Curacao

The upside of this is that you’ll have sunny, clear skies every day. In other words, you will have plenty of opportunities to work on your tan and enjoy Curacao’s many beautiful white sand beaches.

Another thing is this Caribbean island lies outside of the “hurricane belt,” so no worries there, either!

White sand beach with thatched umbrellas over lounge chairs at Hilton Willemstad

Curacao is a pretty country, both above and below water level

If you’re a photographer, Willemstad won’t disappoint with so many distinctive bridges, many-hued historical buildings and cobbled pedestrian streets. Its people are just as colorful as its buildings. While there’s never a shortage of interesting sights in the capital, it can be fun to sit at a waterfront bar with a cocktail while watching the sunset, or riding Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge as she opens and closes for the ships that pass her way.

Curacao pontoon bridge at sunset
Our first impression of Willemstad is that its waterfront has bars and beautiful buildings,

Judging from our short snorkeling experience around the hotel, the SCUBA diving in that clear azure water must be as spectacular as the brochures promise.

Rocky coastline in foreground, clear water and diving platform in front of mountains and blue sky in the background.

Impressions of the food in Curacao

We found a wide variety of goods in both local markets and supermarkets, though many items are imported and pricey.

That said, Curacao is an island nation. So seafood lovers might wonder if they had landed in heaven. Non-fish lovers will be happy to know that we found plenty of cuisines to choose from, both spicy and not. And there is no shortage of tropical fruits!

Unfortunately, my excessively salty dinner proved that not all chefs are created equal, even on an island with such a a small population. (There are just over 150,000 people in Curacao.)

Sidewalk market in Willemstad

What we loved

  • The sunny climate.
  • The colorful buildings.
  • The Dutch architecture.
  • The excellent infrastructure.
  • Pedestrian shopping areas.
  • The cobbled streets.
  • The pontoon bridge.
  • The street market stalls.
  • The people are incredibly friendly.
  • Hearing them switch easily from one language to another.
  • Snorkeling in the clear water and seeing all the tropical fish.
  • Sleeping on the beach.
  • No hurricanes.
Pedestrian street in willemstad

What we didn’t like

  • The prices, because so much is imported.
  • The poor soil.
  • The country has to rely on desalinization for its water supply.
  • My salty dinner.
  • Being sick for half of my time there.

Is Curacao worth a return visit?

Yes. Most definitely. Actually, it is one of the most romantic places we have been to so far, and we’ve not had a chance to see more than Willemstad. Based on what we learned from guidebooks, the country deserves a week or two of attention, at the least.

Late afternoon shot of Willemstad from across the water

Would we live in Curacao?

We might consider living in Curacao for a short while, but we’d live in or near Willemstad because we like cities best. It’s a small island, with a small population that relies on tourism. Plus, there’s a lot to do outside of the capital city that doesn’t require spending money or eating.

But long-term? Not for us. On our livability scale of 0 to 5, we’d give it a 3.

What about you?

Willemstad after dark

Plan your trip

Getting around Curacao

Transportation:This website shows how to get anywhere by plane, train, bus, ferry and car.

Where to stay in Curacao

We stayed at the Hilton Curacao. Since then, it has been reflagged and is now known as Dreams Curacao Resort, Spa & Casino.

Book a tour

If you’d like a local to show you around, Get Your Guide offers lots of affordable, custom activities and tours in Curacao. Click here to see them all.

Curacao - a beautiful island in the south Caribbean - is full of colorful buildings and friendly people.

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to around 60 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages has inspired her to create As We Saw It with her husband Dan, a professional photographer. Her goal is to make travel easier for others and to offer a brief escape to another land.

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9 thoughts on “Impressions of Curacao from a First Time Visitor”

  1. Sounds like a beyond awesome place for a short term stay Linda. Beautiful people, so kind, smart as whips too; I am still working on mastering English LOL. Same deal on long term though. I love creature comforts and yep, some hefty convenience worked into different cultures. I think that’s why I love the villages outside of Chiang Mai so much. You can live like a Thai in a sleepy village for however long you want, then a 5 minute motorbike ride away you have movies, malls, anything you could want.


    • Yep, Curacao sounds great for short term. Not long term for us, though. Like you, we tend to choose our apartments and countries based on the proximity to creature comforts. Bonus points if restaurants are within walking distance.

  2. Thank you for this post and different perspective. I am researching to visit the Caribbean for the first time and I have always Curacao was one of the top islands… I think that your post proves just that. 🙂

  3. Love this post! We have been to Curacao 2,5 years ago. My husband had a job interview there, so we also tried to imagine living there. We decided not to do it. In July and August it gets so hot there and the mosquitos are annoying. Also, there is lots of air pollution due to the refinery. Other than that, it is an amazing country for holidays!

  4. Fantastic post. The photos are gorgeous and want me to just pack up my stuff and go there for a trip. Would love to bring my scuba gear to take a couple of dives in the water. Thanks for sharing!


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