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What To Do In Willemstad, Curacao From Cruise Ship


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Starlene Everitt



Willemstad, located on the island of Curacao in the Caribbean, is a vibrant and picturesque city that offers a myriad of attractions for cruise ship passengers. With its rich history, colorful architecture, and stunning beaches, Willemstad is a destination that should not be missed.


As soon as you step off the ship, you’ll be greeted by the warm Caribbean breeze and the iconic Handelskade waterfront. This UNESCO World Heritage site is known for its vibrant, pastel-colored colonial buildings and charming Dutch architecture.


While spending a day in Willemstad, there are plenty of activities to enjoy. Whether you’re interested in exploring the historic district, indulging in delicious local cuisine, or simply relaxing on the beach, Willemstad has something for everyone.


This article will guide you through the top things to do in Willemstad, Curacao, ensuring that your day spent in this tropical paradise is filled with unforgettable experiences and cherished memories.


Exploring the Historic District

One of the highlights of any visit to Willemstad is exploring its historic district, known as Punda and Otrobanda. As you wander through the charming streets, you’ll be surrounded by stunning colonial architecture, picturesque alleyways, and vibrant colors.


Start your exploration at the Queen Wilhelmina Park, where you can take in the beautiful sculptures and enjoy the lush greenery. From there, make your way to the famous Fort Amsterdam, a historic landmark that dates back to the 17th century. This well-preserved fort offers a fascinating glimpse into the island’s colonial history.


Next, head to the floating market, where you’ll find a lively scene of boats loaded with fresh fruits, vegetables, and seafood. This is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the local culture and sample some of the island’s delicious tropical produce.


As you continue your journey through the historic district, you’ll come across impressive landmarks such as the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere. The vibrant colors and intricate designs of the synagogue are truly mesmerizing.


Don’t forget to stroll along the famous Handelskade, the iconic waterfront street lined with colorful, gabled buildings. This picturesque location is a favorite among photographers and provides the perfect backdrop for capturing memorable moments.


During your exploration, take the time to visit the Curacao Maritime Museum, which showcases the island’s maritime history and features exhibits on shipbuilding, underwater archaeology, and more. The museum provides a fascinating glimpse into the island’s seafaring traditions.


Overall, exploring the historic district of Willemstad is a must-do activity for cruise ship passengers. Immerse yourself in the rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning architecture as you navigate the streets and discover all that this enchanting district has to offer.


Visiting the Floating Market

One of the most unique and vibrant experiences in Willemstad is a visit to the Floating Market. Located in the heart of the city, this bustling market is a must-see for cruise ship passengers looking to immerse themselves in the local culture.


The Floating Market is named as such because the vendors’ stalls are set up on boats docked along the waterfront. It’s a lively scene, with colorful boats filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, and even freshly caught seafood. As you stroll along the market, you’ll be enticed by the vibrant colors and the delicious scents of tropical produce.


This is the perfect opportunity to sample some of the exotic fruits that are abundant in the Caribbean. You can try juicy mangoes, sweet pineapples, refreshing watermelons, and many other tropical delights. The vendors are friendly and often offer samples, making it a fun and interactive experience.


Aside from fruits, you’ll also find a variety of vegetables and spices that are essential to Caribbean cuisine. The market is a great place to pick up ingredients for a delicious home-cooked meal or perhaps some local spices to bring back as souvenirs.


In addition to the food stalls, the Floating Market also offers a charming assortment of local handicrafts, souvenirs, and clothing. You can find everything from handmade jewelry and artwork to traditional Caribbean clothing and accessories. It’s the perfect place to pick up unique gifts for friends and family back home.


When visiting the Floating Market, take your time to stroll along the waterfront, chat with the friendly vendors, and soak in the vibrant atmosphere. It’s a quintessential Caribbean experience that will leave you with a true taste of local life in Willemstad.


Discovering the Queen Emma Bridge

A visit to Willemstad would not be complete without crossing the iconic Queen Emma Bridge, also known as the “Swinging Old Lady.” This unique floating pedestrian bridge connects the neighborhoods of Punda and Otrobanda and is a beloved landmark in the city.


What sets the Queen Emma Bridge apart is its distinct design. The bridge is hinged on one side and can swing open to allow tall ships to pass through the channel. When the bridge is open, small ferries known as “kiddie boats” transport pedestrians across the waterway.


Walking across the Queen Emma Bridge is an experience in itself. As you step onto the bridge, you’ll feel it gently sway beneath your feet, giving you a sense of adventure and excitement. From the bridge, you’ll have stunning panoramic views of the city’s waterfront, with its colorful buildings and picturesque Handelskade.


Once you reach the other side, explore the charming neighborhood of Otrobanda. This historic district is known for its vibrant culture, lively streets, and colorful houses. Visit local shops, cafes, and restaurants, and immerse yourself in the local atmosphere.


When the bridge is closed to pedestrian traffic, you can still admire its beauty from the waterfront. Many visitors enjoy sitting by the water and watching as the bridge swings open to allow ships to pass. It’s a spectacle not to be missed.


While crossing the Queen Emma Bridge, be sure to take your time and soak in the unique experience. Capture some memorable photos, feel the gentle sway beneath your feet, and appreciate the historical significance and engineering marvel of this iconic bridge.


Whether you’re crossing to explore the other side of the city or simply enjoying the view, the Queen Emma Bridge adds a touch of magic to your visit to Willemstad and is a true symbol of the city’s charm and character.


Snorkeling at Mambo Beach

For those seeking adventure and underwater exploration, a visit to Mambo Beach is a must-do activity in Willemstad. This stunning white sandy beach, located on the southwestern coast of the island, not only offers a relaxing tropical paradise but also provides an excellent opportunity for snorkeling.


Mambo Beach is known for its crystal-clear turquoise waters, which are teeming with colorful marine life and vibrant coral reefs. As you put on your snorkel gear and dip below the surface, you’ll enter a world of wonder and beauty.


Swim among schools of tropical fish, admire the intricate coral formations, and even spot the occasional sea turtle or stingray gliding gracefully through the water. The visibility at Mambo Beach is usually excellent, allowing you to fully appreciate the underwater ecosystem.


There are various rental shops and tour operators near Mambo Beach that offer snorkeling equipment and guided tours. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced snorkeler, the staff will ensure you have the proper gear and provide assistance if needed.


If you prefer a more relaxed experience, you can simply float on the water’s surface and enjoy the warmth of the Caribbean sun while gazing at the colorful fish below. The calm and gentle waves make it an ideal spot for snorkeling, even for those who are not strong swimmers.


After your snorkeling adventure, you can unwind on the soft sandy beach, perhaps sipping on a refreshing tropical drink from one of the beachfront bars or enjoying a delicious meal at the nearby restaurants. Mambo Beach also offers various water sports activities, such as paddleboarding and kayaking, for those who want to continue the aquatic fun.


Remember to take care of the marine environment while snorkeling at Mambo Beach. Respect the coral reefs, do not touch or step on them, and avoid using sunscreen that contains harmful chemicals that can damage the delicate ecosystem.


Whether you’re an avid snorkeler or a first-time adventurer, exploring the underwater wonders at Mambo Beach is an unforgettable experience that will leave you with lasting memories of Willemstad’s natural beauty.


Enjoying Mahi-Mahi at a Local Restaurant

When it comes to delectable seafood, Willemstad is the place to be. And one dish that you absolutely must try during your visit is the mouthwatering Mahi-Mahi. Known for its firm white flesh and mild, delicate flavor, Mahi-Mahi is a popular local specialty that will tantalize your taste buds.


There are several local restaurants in Willemstad that serve up delicious Mahi-Mahi dishes, prepared in a variety of ways to suit every palate. Whether you prefer it grilled, blackened, or even as ceviche, you’ll find a range of options to satisfy your seafood cravings.


For a truly authentic dining experience, head to one of the waterfront restaurants along Handelskade. These establishments not only offer stunning views of the city’s colorful architecture but also serve up delectable seafood dishes, including Mahi-Mahi prepared with local flavors and spices.


The beauty of Mahi-Mahi is its versatility, as it can be paired with a myriad of delicious side dishes. From steamed vegetables and coconut rice to plantains and crispy yuca fries, the local cuisine perfectly complements the flavors of this fresh catch of the day.


For those looking for a casual and laid-back atmosphere, the local beach bars and grills near Mambo Beach are also great options. These establishments often feature live music and a relaxing beachside ambiance, allowing you to savor your Mahi-Mahi while enjoying the sound of the waves.


Don’t forget to pair your Mahi-Mahi with a refreshing local beverage, such as a chilled Balashi beer or a fruity cocktail made with the island’s beloved Blue Curaçao liqueur. The tropical flavors and laid-back atmosphere will enhance your dining experience and transport you to paradise.


Whether you’re a seafood enthusiast or someone looking to try a mouthwatering local dish, enjoying Mahi-Mahi at a local restaurant is an absolute must in Willemstad. Embrace the island’s culinary delights, immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere, and savor every bite of this Caribbean delicacy.


Shopping for Souvenirs at Handelskade

When it comes to finding the perfect souvenirs to commemorate your visit to Willemstad, look no further than Handelskade. This picturesque waterfront street not only offers breathtaking views of the colorful Dutch colonial buildings but also boasts a wide array of shops where you can find unique and authentic treasures to take back home.


Handelskade is lined with a variety of boutique stores, art galleries, and souvenir shops, each offering its own distinct selection of items. From locally made handicrafts and artwork to Caribbean-themed clothing and accessories, you’re sure to find something that captures the essence of Willemstad.


One popular item to look for is the famous blue liqueur known as Blue Curaçao. Made from the peel of the laraha citrus fruit, which is unique to the island, this vibrant blue spirit is a beloved symbol of Curacao. Many shops along Handelskade carry bottles of Blue Curaçao, allowing you to bring a taste of the island’s culture and flavors back home.


For art enthusiasts, there are numerous art galleries along Handelskade showcasing the talent of local artists. From paintings and sculptures to handmade jewelry and ceramics, these galleries offer a chance to discover and support the thriving art scene in Willemstad.


Handelskade is also a great place to find traditional Caribbean handicrafts. Look for items such as woven baskets, hand-painted ceramics, colorful textiles, and wooden carvings. These unique and authentic pieces make for great decorative accents in your home or as one-of-a-kind gifts for your loved ones.


If you’re a fashion enthusiast, you’ll find boutique clothing stores offering a range of stylish Caribbean-inspired clothing and accessories. From vibrant tropical-print dresses and shirts to handmade jewelry and beachwear, you can find fashionable pieces that serve as a reminder of your time in Willemstad.


As you stroll along Handelskade, take your time to browse through the shops and interact with the friendly locals. Many shop owners are passionate about their craft and are happy to share stories and recommendations. Don’t be afraid to negotiate prices, as bargaining is a common practice in the Caribbean.


Shopping for souvenirs at Handelskade is not only a chance to bring home a piece of Willemstad but also an opportunity to support the local economy and artisans. Soak in the vibrant atmosphere, embrace the rich culture, and take home unique mementos that will transport you back to this colorful Caribbean destination.


Relaxing at the Blue Bay Beach

If you’re looking for a slice of paradise to unwind and soak up the Caribbean sun, look no further than Blue Bay Beach in Willemstad. This pristine stretch of sandy shoreline, nestled in a tranquil bay, offers the perfect setting for relaxation and rejuvenation.


Blue Bay Beach is known for its crystal-clear turquoise waters, soft white sand, and lush tropical surroundings. As you stroll along the beach, you’ll be enchanted by the stunning panoramic views of the azure sea and the vibrant green palm trees swaying gently in the breeze.


Find your perfect spot on the beach, whether it’s a sun lounger under a palm tree or a cozy spot on the sand, and settle in for a day of pure bliss. The calm waters of Blue Bay are ideal for swimming, allowing you to cool off and enjoy the refreshing Caribbean sea.


For those seeking a bit more adventure, Blue Bay Beach offers a range of water activities. Rent a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard and explore the coastline, or try your hand at snorkeling and discover the colorful marine life just beneath the surface.


If you prefer to simply bask in the sun, Blue Bay Beach is the perfect place to do so. The warm tropical climate, gentle sea breeze, and the sound of crashing waves create a serene atmosphere for ultimate relaxation.


As you unwind, take advantage of the beachside amenities offered at Blue Bay. There are beach bars and restaurants where you can savor delicious tropical cocktails and enjoy a variety of culinary delights, including fresh seafood and local specialties.


After a day of relaxation at Blue Bay Beach, be sure to catch the spectacular sunset. The sky transforms into a palette of vibrant colors, casting a golden glow over the water and creating a truly magical moment. It’s the perfect way to end a day in paradise.


Whether you’re seeking tranquility, aquatic adventures, or simply a place to soak up the sun, Blue Bay Beach is the ultimate destination for relaxation in Willemstad. Embrace the natural beauty, let go of all worries, and indulge in a blissful day by the turquoise waters of this tropical haven.


Taking a Scenic Drive to Shete Boka National Park

For nature lovers and adventure seekers, a scenic drive to Shete Boka National Park is a must-do experience during your visit to Willemstad. This pristine and rugged coastal park, located on the northern coast of the island, offers breathtaking views, dramatic landscapes, and a chance to witness the power of the Caribbean Sea.


Embark on a picturesque drive from Willemstad to Shete Boka National Park, taking in the stunning views of the Caribbean coastline along the way. The journey itself is part of the adventure, as you pass through quaint villages, rolling hills, and picturesque landscapes.


Once you arrive at Shete Boka National Park, you’ll be greeted by a rugged and untamed coastline. The park is home to several bays and inlets, each offering its own unique charm. Take a stroll along the well-marked trails that lead you to breathtaking viewpoints, allowing you to witness the power of the crashing waves against the rocky cliffs.


One of the park’s highlights is the Boka Tabla, a natural cave formed by the relentless pounding of the sea. Venture inside the cave and witness the mesmerizing spectacle as the waves crash against the walls, creating a symphony of sound and a display of raw, natural beauty.


Shete Boka National Park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including sea turtles, iguanas, and numerous bird species. Keep your eyes peeled as you explore the park, and you may be lucky enough to spot some of these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.


After your visit to the park, take a moment to relax and reflect at the Boka Pistol. This natural inlet is known for its powerful blowholes, where seawater shoots high into the air, resembling pistol shots. It’s a sight that will leave you in awe of nature’s incredible forces.


As you make your way back from Shete Boka National Park, don’t miss the opportunity to stop at one of the local roadside food stalls or restaurants. Indulge in some traditional Caribbean cuisine, such as fresh seafood, plantain dishes, or the local specialty, krioyo cuisine. This is the perfect way to savor the flavors of the island and refuel after your adventure.


A scenic drive to Shete Boka National Park provides a unique opportunity to witness the untouched beauty of Curacao’s northern coastline. Immerse yourself in nature, marvel at the power of the sea, and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Exploring the Museum Kura Hulanda

For history and culture enthusiasts, a visit to the Museum Kura Hulanda is a must when in Willemstad. Located in the heart of the city, this museum offers a comprehensive and captivating exploration of the history and heritage of Curacao and the African diaspora.


The Museum Kura Hulanda is housed in a beautifully restored 19th-century merchant’s house, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the island. As you step inside, you’ll be immersed in a world of exhibits and artifacts that tell the story of the transatlantic slave trade, the African diaspora, and the history of Curacao.


The museum provides a thought-provoking and educational experience, shedding light on the impact of slavery on the island and its people. Through the displays of artifacts, documents, and multimedia presentations, visitors gain a deep understanding of the historical and cultural significance of Curacao.


One of the highlights of the museum is its meticulous attention to detail in recreating the settings and experiences of the past. From life-size dioramas to interactive exhibits, every corner of the museum transports you to the time and place being depicted.


As you explore the museum, you’ll journey through the stories of African heritage, the struggles and triumphs of the enslaved, and the contributions of Afro-Curacaoans to the island’s culture. Gain insights into the traditions, customs, and rich artistic expressions of the African diaspora that continue to shape Curacao today.


In addition to its focus on slavery and African heritage, the Museum Kura Hulanda also includes exhibits on the indigenous Arawak people, the history of the local Jewish community, and the colonial era of Curacao. This comprehensive approach provides visitors with a holistic understanding of the island’s diverse history.


After immersing yourself in the exhibits, take a moment to relax in the museum’s courtyard, which features beautiful sculptures, fountains, and lush tropical greenery. This serene oasis is the perfect place to reflect on the powerful narratives and experiences encountered within the museum.


Whether you’re a history buff, a cultural enthusiast, or someone looking to deepen their understanding of Curacao, exploring the Museum Kura Hulanda is an eye-opening and enriching experience. The museum’s dedication to preserving and sharing the island’s history ensures that the voices and stories of the past are not forgotten.



Willemstad, Curacao, offers an array of experiences and attractions that make it an unforgettable destination for cruise ship passengers. From exploring the historic district with its colorful architecture and rich history to strolling along Handelskade and shopping for unique souvenirs, there is something for everyone in this vibrant city.


Snorkeling amidst the vibrant marine life at Mambo Beach and indulging in delicious Mahi-Mahi at a local restaurant provide opportunities to immerse yourself in the flavors and natural beauty of the Caribbean. And for those seeking adventure, a scenic drive to Shete Boka National Park allows you to witness the untamed coastline and the power of the sea.


But Willemstad is not just about the sights and activities; it’s about embracing the island’s laid-back and welcoming atmosphere. Whether you’re relaxing on the pristine Blue Bay Beach, taking in the views from the Queen Emma Bridge, or delving into the stories at the Museum Kura Hulanda, you’ll instantly feel the warmth and charm of Curacao’s culture.


As your cruise ship visits Willemstad, take the time to explore this captivating city and all that it has to offer. Immerse yourself in the history, culture, and natural beauty, and create lasting memories that will stay with you long after you leave the island.


From its historic charm and vibrant architecture to its stunning beaches and cultural attractions, Willemstad in Curacao is a destination that will enchant and captivate you. So, hop off the ship and dive into the wonders of this Caribbean gem. Your day in Willemstad will be filled with adventure, relaxation, and the discovery of a truly unforgettable destination.