Sep 23

September 2015 – Curacao Trip Report


After visiting Aruba during September 2014 (exactly a year ago), we finally made our way to one of the other islands of the Netherlands Antilles – Curacao. Curacao has the same dry, desert climate as Aruba but is a larger island. Similar to Aruba, it is outside the hurricane belt in the Caribbean and therefore a good place to visit throughout the year.

Our Itinerary:

  • Flight: Ontario – Phoenix – Miami – Curacao on US Airways/American Airlines
  • 4 Nights at Hilton Curacao
  • Flight: Curacao – Miami on American Airlines and then Fort Lauderdale – Los Angeles on Southwest Airlines

Day 1:

After a red-eye flight to Miami and then another flight to Curacao, we landed at Hato International Airport in Curacao around 2 PM. The immigration at the airport was a mess as there was a line about 120 people deep and it took us about 45 minutes to clear immigration. After researching Curacao Tripadvisor forums, we had booked a car from the highly recommended D&D Car rental, a local rental car agency in Curaco. After picking up our vehicle (got an upgrade to an SUV), we drove to our hotel.

After checking-in and freshening up we made a supplies run at Centrum Supermarket. Since we were traveling with only carry-ons, Karen needed to pick up some good sunscreen. One thing to remember is that American Express is not accepted at a vast number of merchants on this island.

After getting back to the hotel, we spent some time at the hotel beach and then the pool.

Hilton Curacao

Day 2:

After having breakfast at the hotel, we set out for Playa Lagun, a small beach located on the north-western part of the island.

Desert landscape with hills in Curacao

Curacao has a desert climate, not tropical  as one would expect in the Caribbean, and nothing makes it more obvious than when you are driving and see cactus all around. After driving for about 40 minutes we arrived at Playa Lagun.

Playa Lagun Beach – Curacao

The beach is right beside the parking lot, which had a sign indicating beach-beds for $5 USD which also entitles you to a fruit juice drink at the restaurant up the cliff.

Lots of Iguanas on the beach

The beach had a few Iguanas wandering around (some of them were pretty large).

Drinks, Restrooms up the staircase in Bahia Beach Bar

The beach was very calm because of being nestled in between two cliffs. The snorkeling at this beach is so fantastic you don’t  even  need  snorkeling  gear. We saw several different colored fish just putting our head down in the water at the shallow end of the beach.

Enjoying the warm waters in Playa Lagun Beach

I had read on Tripadvisor that there is a resident sea turtle that comes up close to the shore every day and we were lucky to encounter it during our stay. The snorkelers loved swimming beside it and taking pictures while it would bobbed its head up out of the water from time to time and was very friendly with everyone.

A nice visit by the local sea turtle

After spending about 3 hours at the beach, we were hungry for lunch. We had read about Trio Penotti and decided to drive there.

Trio Penotti Restaurant – Curacao

We sat outside on one of the wooden benches and both me and Karen ordered the fried fish sandwich. Here is my review of Trio Penotti on Tripadvisor.

Fish Sandwich @ Trio Penotti

Day 3:

After breakfast at our hotel, we decided to visit Cas Abao Beach. We had passed the entrance to this beach the previous day on our drive to Playa Lagun. Entrance fee to this beach is $6 USD/ 10 Netherlands Antilles Guilder. After paying the entrance fee at the gate you drive for 5 minutes on a dirt road and arrive at the beach parking lot.

This beach is much bigger than the Playa Lagun beach.

Casa Abao Beach – Curacao

We liked this beach because of the amenities. There are clean restrooms, lots of palapas throughout the beach. A beach bed is only $3.

Nice amenities in Casa Abao Beach

Casa Abao Beach – Curacao

One downside of this beach is the rocky nature of the shore. You should definitely pack water shoes to have a better experience at this beach. Also, this beach lacked the snorkeling attraction compared to Playa Lagun.

Water bottom by the shore is rocky. Water shoes recommended.

After spending about 3 hours on the beach, we were getting hungry. We decided to visit Willemstad for lunch. After dropping off our car at the car park next to Riffort mall, we took the complimentary ferry from Otrabunda to Punda across the channel.

On the Ferry from Otrabunda to Punda

Local market in Punda

Our hotel staff at Hilton Curacao had recommended the Plaza Bieu to try out the local flavors.

Plasa Bieu beside Punda Post Office

The Plasa Bieu looks like a small bus depot from outside. When you get inside, you see lots of locals enjoying their meals along with a few tourists.

Inside Plasa Bieu Restaurant

Grilled Red Snapper and fries

Goat Curry with Rice and Vegetables

Here is my review of Plaza Bieu on Tripadvisor.

Day 4:

This being our last day in Curacao and our flight leaving early next day, we decided to spend the rest of the day at the resort. We did drive back to Punda for lunch at the Plaza Bieu but after getting there realized that the entire area is pretty much closed on Sundays.

Enjoyed the pool @ Hilton Curacao

Private beach @ Hilton Curacao

The private beach at the Hilton, although small, is still very pretty. The shore is less rocky than the Cas Abao beach but still requires swim shoes.  The water however was a bit choppy.

Private beach @ Hilton Curacao

After spending the entire day at the resort, we left early next day for our flight back to Miami.

Cost (Total for 2 travelers):

  • Airfare, Hotel & Rental Car:
    • $289 + $5.6 for 2 one-way tickets on Southwest Airlines from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles,
    • $220 for 4 days at D&D Car Rental (with GPS)
  • Miscellaneous:
    • $18 gas for rental car

Miles/Points/Certificates Redeemed:

  • 35,000 American AAdvantage miles for 2 one-way tickets from Ontario – Curacao
  • 10,000 British Airways Avios points for 2 one-way tickets for Curacao – Miami
  • 120,000 Hilton HHonors points for 4 nights award booking at Hilton Curacao
  • Southwest Companion Pass for me for one-way flight from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles
  • 1325 Hertz Gold Rewards points for 1 day one-way rental from Los Angeles to home

Miles/Points/Cash-back Earned:

  • Cash purchases were done with cards earning Ultimate Rewards points and Membership Rewards points

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