Curacao is a hilly desert island situated in the southwestern arc of the Lesser Antilles, only 37 miles north to South America. Together with Aruba and Bonaire, it forms a group of Dutch Caribbean islands referred to as the “ABC islands”. If Curacao is more renowned for its clear emerald water and its gorgeous beaches than for its underwater life, it remains a good snorkeling destination. Curacao southwestern coastline gives access to more or less a dozen of snorkeling spots, where you can explore coral reefs, seagrass beds visited by sea turtles, and captivating shipwrecks.

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All Curacao’s snorkeling spots are scattered along the southwestern side of the island, sheltered from trade winds. Here, the waters are safe, calm and crystal-clear, offering perfect conditions for snorkeling. The east side of Curacao, exposed to winds and strong waves, is not suitable for snorkeling. More than 350 species of fish and 65 species of hard and soft coral have been recorded on the fringing reefs of Curacao, and green sea turtles are common on some locations.

Curacao’s western coastline shelters over 35 beaches, but not all of them are suitable for snorkeling, especially when located close to mangroves areas (poor visibility). At some beaches, an admission fee is charged, sometimes including a beach chair. Car rental is by far the best option to reach the beaches, as the public transportation network is limited on the island. Boat tours, including snorkeling stops on several spots of the island, can be booked in Willemstad and most of hotels.

Curaçao snorkeling
Playa Lagun, Kleine Knip, and Knip Beach

The closest snorkeling beaches north to Willemstad are the photogenic Playa Porto Mari and Playa Cas Abao. They offer a decent snorkeling, with mostly sandy seabed interspersed with coral patches. Both of them have a beach admission fee. Up north, Playa Lagun, a narrow cove adorned by rocky cliffs, is definitely the best snorkeling spot in Curaçcao to swim with sea turtles, even if they are visiting the bay randomly.

3km south to Westpunt, do not miss the two “Knip” beaches. Grote Knip (also known as Knip Beach or Playa Kenepa Grandi), is widely recognized as Curacao’s most beautiful beach. The view from above the bay is right out of a postcard, with a panorama on the turquoise sea and the fishing boats. Kein Knip (Little Knip Beach, or Playa Kenepa Chiki), the second of the two coves, is located 1 mile south. It is one of the best snorkeling spots on the island’s west end, where you will swim above patches of elkhorn coral.

Around Westpunt, the twin beaches of Playa Grandi (nicknamed “Alice in Wonderland”) and Playa Forti, where it is sometimes possible to see sea turtles, are good snorkeling sites options, as well as Playa Kalki, the northernmost snorkeling spot in Curacao.

You will surely enjoy Curacao’s northwestern shore snorkeling. But whether you are a beginner or an advanced snorkeler, do not leave the island without a visit to the Tugboat. This spot, named after a shipwreck sitting in a shallow and sheltered bay, is definitely the most popular of Curacao.
When to go snorkeling in Curaçao?

Snorkeling can be enjoyed throughout the year in Curacao. The island has a warm, sunny and windy climate year round. Short, occasional showers characterize the rainy season, from October to February. The average air temperature is around 80°F/27°C, with an annual rainfall average of less than 600mm (23 inches).

Snorkeling Tugboat Curaçao

Where to spot them?

Green sea turtle

Frequent at Playa Lagun, often seen at Playa Grandi and Playa Forti

French angelfish

Uncommon in Curacao, try your luck at Klein Knip or Playa Porto Mari

Stoplight parrotfish

On all reef spots

Spotted trunkfish

On all spots

Banded butterflyfish

On all reef spots

Foureye butterflyfish

On all reef spots

Sergeant major

On all spots

Atlantic blue tang

On all reef spots

Doctorfish tang

On all reef spots

French grunt

On all reef spots

Flamingo tongue snail

On all spots with gorgonian

Scissortail damselfish

Numerous at Tugboat