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Destination: Curaçao – Marine Facilities and Activities

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Location is everything. While not as recognized for cruising as the Leeward Islands like the Virgins, St. Maarten/St. Martin and Antigua, or the Windwards such as St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada, the southernmost Netherlands Antilles or ABC islands – Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, have the advantage of lying south of the hurricane belt. That’s huge, especially when it comes to late summer and fall cruising. Also, taking the course less cruised opens the door to experiencing a whole other world of the Caribbean. It’s no wonder that Curacao especially, located 56 miles west of Bonaire and 74 miles to the east of Aruba, is especially becoming a popular destination for cruising and chartered yachts alike. One of many reasons is that Curacao is the largest of the ABC islands and thus has much to offer. 

Curacao Bay

“Given Curaçao’s natural harbors and ideal location outside of the hurricane belt, it’s no wonder the island has become somewhat of a Mecca for boating enthusiasts in the Caribbean. With over 35 captivating cove-like beaches varying from untamed coast to tranquil inlets, there’s plenty to explore by boat,” says Raul Manotas, chief communications officer for the Curaçao Ports Authority. “Plus, From Willemstad’s marinas, boaters can enjoy Otrobanda’s street art, shops and restaurants, the engineering marvel that is the Queen Emma Bridge, Punda’s colored European architecture, and Plasa Bieu, a market serving local dishes like arepa di pampuna and keshi yenà. Then from exploring the white sand beaches and world-class diving and snorkeling to venturing into the Hato Caves or climbing Mr. Christoffel, there are several fun days all at yachtsmen’s’ fingertips.”

Willemstad at night


There are two main ports, Willemstad and Spanish Waters, where boaters can find supplies, complete repairs, and locate a wide range of facilities and services. In Willemstad, the island’s capital city and main port, it may be possible to dock at Handelskade or Mathey Wharf, but this depends on permission from the harbormaster. Anchoring here, too, requires an official okay, and there is a charge to do so. This area, around Willemstad’s huge natural Schottegat harbor – the largest in the Caribbean, is home to the Curaçao Marine. In 2021, Curaçao Marine is set to expand its slips from 40 to 62. The company also offers 140-plus dry berths, a variety of repair services and the ability to do slipway towing with its 60-ton hydraulic Roodberg trailer. 

Six nautical miles to the southeast is Spanish Water, a large, protected bay. Because there’s less commercial traffic here, many like to dock here and go by car or taxi to clear customs in Willemstad. Spanish Water is home to the Curaçao Yacht Club, where there is fuel available, a bar and restaurant, and dockage with utilities like water and electricity for an added charge. There’s also Kima Kalki Marina, which offers dockage for yachts up to 60’ LOA with a 9-foot draft or less. The Jan Sofat Marina and Palapa Beach Resort and Marina are associated with residential and resort properties.  

Spanish Water—The Floating Town of Curaçao

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“From several locations in Spanish Water there is free daily transport to supermarkets and the Budget Marine chandlery,” says Roeland van Bijnen, general manager of the St. Maarten-headquartered chandlery’s Curacao location. “Curaçao has an extensive range of shopping options. In general, we are looking forward to welcoming more visiting yachts. The Curacao Cruisers net is on VHF channel 72 starting at 7:30 a.m. On Thursdays, starting at 5 p.m. weekly, there is a cruisers diner and Happy Hour at the Pier (restaurant, located at the end of the Caracasbaaiweg, near the Palapa Beach Resort). This is very well visited, and COVID-19 rules are in place.”

North of Willemstad, in Piscadera Bay, Royal Marine Services Curacao offers berths, yard storage, a lift and maintenance and repair services. There’s also a fuel dock, restroom and showers, and chandlery. 

There are anchorages at several beaches around the island including Santa Cruz, Groot Knip and Playa Forti. Anchorage is also available at the nearby island of Klein Curaçao, a local-favorite spot for uncrowded beaches and excellent snorkeling. Moorings are available at Willemstad and St Michiel’s Bay. For overnighting, Willemstad and Spanish Waters are the best, but Piscadera Bay and St Michiel’s Bay offer more secluded options.

Curaçao Cas Abao Beach
Curaçao Cas Abao Beach


There’s a plan underway to revitalize the waterfront around the Sint Anna Bay area in Willemstad and develop businesses and commerce. The timeline includes upgrading the Arts & Craft District, water quality improvements, mixed-use developments and water quality improvements, along with trails and a zipline. 

“The new additions are expected to provide added options for yachting passengers, thus increasing maritime tourism in Curaçao’s capital. Plus, the Yachting Cruise Taskforce has prepared a 10-year strategic development plan for the yachting sector on the island, which has been approved by the Government of Curaçao,” says the Curaçao Ports Authority’s Manotas.

Beyond Willemstad, there are plenty of pristine beaches to explore, scuba diving over wrecks and reefs, and hiking in the Shete Boka National Park. Those looking for a walk on the wild side can tour the Hato Caves or visit the Flamingo Park or Ostrich Farm. 

The largest annual yachting event is the annual Blue Marlin Release Tournament, held by the Curaçao Yacht Club. Beyond the fishing tournament, annual regattas include the Sunfish Sail Races, typically held in January. CURsailing, the sailing federation of Curaçao, has been holding several smaller regattas as recently as October, after holding virtual regattas in the spring. Given the current travel situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, regatta dates for 2021 are still to be decided. Yet, thanks to the ‘below the hurricane belt’ location of Curacao, events can take place at any time of the year. 

Willemstad by night


The rules for entry by boat are the same as for entry by air – All travelers must complete three steps before their trip:

• Present proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken within 72 hours of traveling
• Complete a Digital Immigration Card at dicardcuracao.com and upload their negative results to the portal
• Fill out a Passenger Locator Card (PLC) online within 48 hours before departure

For more information, please visit: www.maritimecuracao.org or email: expertise@maritimecuracao.org


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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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