Curacao is a hilly desert island situated in the southwestern arc of the Lesser Antilles, only 37 miles north to South America. 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 the captivating Tugboat wreck.
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.
Curacao’s western coastline shelters over 35 beaches, but not all of them have good snorkeling, especially when located close to mangroves areas, because of 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 the hotels.
The closest snorkeling beaches north to Willemstad are the photogenic Playa Porto Mari and Playa Cas Abao. They offer 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 Curacao main island to swim with sea turtles, even if they are not visiting the bay daily.
2 miles south of 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 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 having snorkeled the Tugboat. This spot, named after a shipwreck sitting in a shallow and sheltered bay, is definitely the most popular of Curacao.
The boat trip to Klein Curacao, a small coral island just 10 miles off the main island, is one of the most popular day tours around Curacao. The leeward side of the island, fringed by a half-a-mile long white sand beach, provides good snorkeling opportunities and is popular for sea turtle sightings.
More than 350 species of fish and 65 species of hard and soft coral have been recorded on the fringing reefs of Curacao. When snorkeling off the island’s beach, you may spot butterflyfish, angelfish, tang, small groupers, puffers, and a wide diversity of other reef fish. Green sea turtles are quite easy to spot in some locations, especially in Playa Lagun, Playa Forti, Playa Grandi, and Klein Curacao.
If you are planning to snorkel the ABC Islands, we recommend bringing with you the excellent Reef Fish Identification: Florida Caribbean Bahamas (also available in ebook), the reference guide to ID the fish you will encounter snorkeling the islands.
The very best 👇👇👇 of our snorkeling time in the ABC Islands. Exploring the islands of Curacao, Bonaire, and Aruba, trying to see as much sea life as we could!
These three islands are a coveted playground for snorkelers: calm and warm waters, shallow coral reefs, beautiful shipwrecks, and a myriad of sea life. The name of the snorkeling spot where the images have been shot is mentioned in each sequence.
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 January. The average air temperature is around 80°F/27°C, with an annual rainfall average of less than 600mm (23 inches).
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Frequently sighted at Playa Lagun and Klein Curacao; occasionally seen at Playa Grandi
Uncommon in Curacao’s shallow waters, try your luck at Klein Knip or Playa Porto Mari
Common on all reef spots
On all spots
On all reef spots
Common on all spots with sea fans
Large groups at the Tugboat
Wreck and coral reef with many fish
Level: Free shore access
Shallow sandy beds and deep coral reef
Sheltered rocky cove with seagrass beds and sea turtles
Level: Free shore access Resort nearby
Reef flat with sea turtles and colorful fish
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