Curacao Part 2: The Beaches

I love the sun, I love the heat (preferably between 80-95 degrees Fahrenheit please) and I love beaches. Well, I should say that I love beaches for the most part, because sand annoys me to no end. Sand is an annoyance I put up with for the sun, water, and golden brown tan.

In Northern California, some say that we have beaches, but I like to call it the coast, as it is usually very cold and windy, it has rough rocky sand and the water is freezing, so to me it’s unswimmable. I never enjoyed going to the coast/beach, in fact I refused, until I realized that not all beaches are the same. There are amazing beautiful beaches in this world, and Curacao has some of them.

I am not going to rate the beaches, because each person has a different desire for their beach time. I just want to give you my opinion and the facts on the beaches we visited and you can decide for yourself.

(Just a side note here, all the prices I am going to give are in US dollars, which every place on the island are equipped to use, but I would highly suggest getting and using their currency, the guilder, because often times we had people give us change in guilders for our US Dollars and had some people try to give us the incorrect change or exchange rates. The exchange rate is 1.75 to $1.)

Mambo Beach (Officially Sea Aquarium Beach)

The Entrance to Mambo Beach

The Entrance to Mambo Beach

This was the beach that we most frequented. Located just a five minute drive from our house, and next to the Sea Aquarium, it had ample parking and many different amenities. The $3 charge for adults to use the beach and facilities was well worth it, in my opinion. There was also a way onto the beach that was free, just go through the shopping area that is currently under construction if you want to skip the entrance fee. This beach had everything and the prices were reasonable. They have covered beach beds ($9, can fit many people on one covered bed) and lounge chairs ($3 each) for rent, although most days no one came up to ask us for payment and we used the lounge chairs for free the whole day. There are four or five different colors of chairs and each color has a person that comes and collects the money, it is hard to know who to pay, unless they come up and ask you for the money, so I didn’t feel like we were cheating anyone.

There are plenty of shady areas for those that do not enjoy direct sunlight and sun filled areas for those that don’t mind a little color (which for me at first was a garish lovely shade of brick red).

There are public restrooms near the entrance that are clean and well supplied.

Now to the really important amenities, the bars and food. There are three bars along the beach (which are all about a 1 minute walk apart). As far as I could tell, all the drinks at each bar are the same prices, cocktails $7 and beers $3-4. I honestly do not know the prices of the non-alcoholic drinks, but they must be less than the alcoholic ones right? The first bar as you come in the entrance is a large hut that has a real hippie feel to it. The lady bartenders that work there are the nicest and most helpful on the beach. They also make one delicious long island iced tea. They also have snacks such as nachos (like just chips with nacho cheese on them-not our amazing northern California taqueria nachos, don’t be fooled!) and chips and such.

The next bar along the beach is a modern looking all white bar that is next to a shallow swimming pool (for those that don’t want to go in the ocean 10 feet away) and plays european house music loudly all day. They also have an espresso machine and food such as sandwiches, hamburgers, fries, etc. I did not try their food or drinks, as they always seemed very busy with the single crowd and it kind of felt like a meat market to me.

The last bar on the beach looks like it was just quickly put up with Polar beer aluminum signs as half-walls and is pretty bare bones. The one time I tried to get a drink there, there was a unhelpful jerk gentlemen that was obviously experiencing short mans complex a rough day and I didn’t go back again after being treated disdainfully for having too large a bill for him to give change for. Chad ended up going there when there were different bartenders and his experience was fine.


We found the cheapest, yummiest food on the island at this beach! The Aloha Beach Bar served hamburgers, sandwiches, amazing beef and chicken satay, and some Dutch favorites that I can’t remember the names of, but they were delicious!

This beach has sand that was fine and fun to play in and didn’t stick too badly so I wasn’t horribly annoyed by it. Zoë loved playing in the sand and water. It was nice and clean, so I didn’t worry much about her digging and playing in the sand. She is definitely a little beach bum.

Lions Dive and Beach Resort Private Beach

This was a stolen beach for us. We didn’t plan on going to this beach, but after our long walk and getting lost for a bit on our second day on the island, we decided just to go for it. When we tried walking from our house to the beach this is the resort on the very end of the street. I went and asked for directions and was told that we could go through their resort to Mambo beach. On our way to Mambo beach, we saw that they had a beach side restaurant called Hemingway. With Chad being a writer and all, we had to eat there, and although I think that Hemingway is a flowery and overly-descriptive writer, this restaurant was a nice straight forward little place to have a snack.

Anyways, we decided to have a dip in the water on their beach (which I guess you can pay a nominal fee to use too) without asking and enjoyed ourselves immensely. The beach was clean and quiet. If I was to go back to Curacao, I would consider staying at Lions Dive Resort because of their beautiful beach a few steps from the rooms.

Cas Abou Beach

Zoë Loves to be Buried in the Sand

Zoë Loves to be Buried in the Sand

This is a beach that needs to be driven to no matter where you are staying, and it is worth the drive. Cas Abou beach is a pristine white sand beach where the sand is literally as fine as flour. It is absolutely wonderful sand to play in, the texture of it begs to be touched (even by me!), until you try to get it off of you. This is the beach that Zoë discovered the fun of being buried in the sand, and although the sand stayed on her, I looked past it. How can you stop an adorable little girl from doing something that makes her laugh so much? Luckily this beach has showers that you can use, you can buy a token for it at the bar I think. We didn’t end up using them because there were a bunch of bees wanting the fresh water, and me being a wuss cautious person, ran screaming like a little girl before we could use them.

This exquisite beach is toward Westpunt, which is northwest of Willemstad, and is well worth the drive. It costs $6 a car for the day to use the beach and $3 per lounge chair. The beach is nice enough to just lay on with a towel though if you do not want to use a chair. There is a bar/snack bar on the beach, as well as very nice public restrooms. I did not get a drink or food here, but it was nice to have the option.

We played on this beach for half a day and loved it. I would recommend that you get there early to take advantage of the whole day on this little piece of paradise. Also, just a note, you are able to bring your own food/drinks onto this beach (most of the beaches that is a big no no) so live it up and bring some eats!

Jan Thiel Beach

Jan Thiel Beach

Jan Thiel Beach

This was one of my least favorite beaches, well if you could really even call it a beach. It was a cemented area covered with rocky sand that was dirty and busy. It cost $4 a person to enter the beach.

This was a sun-bathers paradise though, with numerous lounge chairs for rent ($3 per chair) and a couple of bars/restaurants available for your enjoyment, but it was over-priced and if you want to play on the beach, this beach is not for you. It has a very small little beach area that is rocky and over-crowded. There is very little area for children to play in the sand, as most of the area is cement with what looks and feels like kitty litter laid shallowly over it. There is a staircase into the deep part of the ocean a little over from the beach as it seems that all people do here are sunbathe or snorkel.

In all honesty, I do not snorkel or dive, so this may be a great destination for those that do. Or for a couple/person without children. But for me, who wanted to play with my daughter in the sand and water, this is not the beach for me. Not only that but it was $15 for an appetizer at the restaurant which I believe was called Zanzibar. It all comes back to the food for me. The drinks, not even worth trying because I began to feel as though I was being ripped off.

All in all, if you have money to spend and feel like getting a great tan and maybe snorkeling or diving, this “beach” is for you.

 Caracasbaai Beach

The Huge Machine Thing

The Huge Machine Thing

This beach was a local beach that was marred by a huge piece of transformer looking machinery very close to the beach. It did have a lovely little local eatery that I thoroughly enjoyed (ham and cheese sandwich was very good and not as expensive as other places), except for the smell of oil in the air. This beach was a bit rocky, but it was free to use and had some public restrooms and a few tables and shaded areas for you to use (if you get there early enough to save them).

The water looks beautiful, but does smell like petrol. We chose not to not go in the water, but many others did it seemed. The overall smell in the air turned our stomachs and made it a bit uninhabitable. It also was a bit rocky instead of sandy as far as the beach went. I probably wouldn’t recommend this beach unless your olfactory senses arent working, then it might be a pleasant time.

Playa Lagun

This beach was one that we actually didn’t get to partake in, but we did stop and check it out on our last day on the island. This beach, near the town of Lagun on the northern tip of the island, is a hidden gem. I wish that we would have found it earlier in our trip. Playa Lagun (which must be reached by car-I think a taxi would have been EXPENSIVE) is a little cove. The walls are petrified coral that is very cool to explore. I think it would be amazing to snorkel or dive off of this beach, if my claustrophobia would let me wear a snorkel. Yes, I am that weird person that cannot wear snorkel goggles, its embarrassing but I am working on it.

Playa Lagun has white sand and the water is warm. The beach is free to use and you can rent beach chairs for $2. There are a couple of huts that give shade if you need it. This is a very small and secluded beach but it has a stairway to a restaurant and bar that seemed cool, too. I really wish I could have spent more time here. If you have been here or end up going here please leave a comment because I would love to know more about it.

Chad and I did not visit every beach on the island (there are so many), but I wanted to let you know about the ones that we did. If you have been here and want to tell about a beach you have been to thats not listed here, please leave a comment! I am sure other travelers would love to know!


Curacao Part One: The Island


Curacao is not what I had expected. I am not saying that in an entirely negative way, there are things that I have enjoyed and things that I wish I had known before coming here. Not much is written about this diverse and colorful island for the indie traveler. And that is why I write this blog, to not only keep in touch with all my family and friends throughout the world, but also to help fellow travelers along their journey.

There is not much written on Curacao as a vacation destination unless you are staying on a resort. Curacao is the largest island of the Dutch Antilles or the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao). The islands were originally “discovered” by the Spanish (there was a group of natives called the Arawaks that were here first) in the 1500’s and by 1815 belonged to the Dutch. The Dutch settled the island and started plantations, and the port of Willemstad became a stopping point for ships from all countries on their way to deliver their wares. You can still see this with all the many cruise ships (one or two a day) that stop here to drop off their guests on land for the day.


Cruise Ship in Willemstad Harbor

When we decided to go make this the first out of the USA stop on our long journey, it was because we were looking for beautiful beaches, good food, frosty drinks, and just an all around relaxing time. Also I love to be tan (yes, I do still use sunscreen, don’t worry) and wanted a fresh tan before we ventured on to Europe.

We felt there were three different choices for us: Curacao, Costa Rica, and Belize. Chad We looked at all the information available both online and in book form (I know, kicking it old school!). Our main desire was for beaches that were clean and accessible, where I could sunbathe and Chad and Zoë could swim and play in the water. I, of course, also looked into the food of the region, the shopping and other amenities (do you really want to see how long my underarm hair gets if I can’t get it waxed-not pretty to say the least).

We decided on Curacao, the beaches looked beautiful and easy to get to, the amenities and shopping all seemed good, as it looked like a resort-y sort of island. Belize was out because everything we read said their beaches weren’t really conducive to sunbathing or swimming. And Costa Rica was out because Chad had been there before and wanted to see somewhere new, and because the beach towns take buses to get to from the airport, and we just weren’t ready to put Zoë through long bus trips quite yet.

So we arrived at the tiny airport terminal in Curacao (finally! see my last post for story on flights) and were greeted by a taxi driver holding a sign with my name on it, it was very exciting, I felt like royalty. I know, it’s almost sad how easy it can be to make me excited. Our new landlord had arranged for a taxi for us. It was great, cost about $35 US dollars and gave us a chance to look around the island a little bit on our way to Willemstad, the capital city of Curacao, and the place we would be staying for the next couple weeks. I was enamored with the quaint little dutch colonial houses in all their bright colors, and was surprised to see, on the more inland area of Willemstad, huge oil refineries, with tall smoke stacks and oil tankers sitting in the bay. They don’t show you that in the tourism sites. It was visible but not too close to the main part of town though and was easy to forget about unless you were driving right past them.

We booked a house through, a two bedroom, one bathroom house with a full kitchen and a back yard area that looked, well…simply tropical. The house, owned by a local husband and wife team, was everything and more than we had imagined! Huge really, and clean and well stocked with linens and kitchen utensils. It had air-conditioning (only to be used through the night) and fans to keep us from getting too spoiled and to feel like real locals. And all of this for under $70 a night, I felt like we had won the lottery.


Zoë Checking Out Our New Place

After arriving to the house from the airport, getting settled in and trying to get used to the heat, 86 degrees and about 80% humidity-not bad really but it does take some adjusting, we decided to find something to eat. Lucille, the lady renting us the house, told us about all the “American” food places in the area, including McDonalds, (insert very sarcastic hooray here) when we got to the house. We decided to try the old Applebee’s that was now called “Larry’s”  right down the street from our new home, and it turned out to be just that, an Applebee’s. Not exactly the most exciting food, but not the worst either. This was the first time that we noticed that the prices of food here are relatively the same as the prices in northern California, about $10-15 a person, plus drinks.


Photo Taken by Chad R. Mitchell

Zoë Enjoying Some Stewed Fish at the Old Market            Photo Taken by Chad

(Are you surprised that I started with the food? I feel so predictable…oh well. )

I had thought from what I had read, that the food was going to be creole food, not one of my favorites, but something new and different so I was excited. This turned out to be hard to find. Local food for us foreigners is only easily available in the Old Market in the Punda area of Willemstad. Old Market is where locals and tourists can eat alike (although the tourists are charged much more, about $11 a plate). I fell in love with the stewed goat and stewed fish platters that included beans and rice, and savory plantains. Best food I have had on the island, hands down. There are many restaurants and eateries along the beaches and in town that offer other food, mostly Dutch, Chinese, or American dishes though. There are also a ton of rib places, one of them two doors down from our house, called The Rib Factory which we were very pleased to find out does have delicious ribs, tex-mex dishes, sides and cocktails.

Just a side note, there are many other restaurants that I have seen in the more locals areas, but for a tourist, there are not many that are accessible. So all in all, the food has been rather disappointing and expensive. Luckily we have our own kitchen, so we have been making most of our breakfasts and lunches at home. Which brings me to my next topic…shopping.


There is much shopping to do here, and for someone just coming for a vacation and heading back home, it would be fun. But for us, who us continuing on after this and already have 75 pounds of luggage to handle, shopping is not really smart or feasible.

There is a huge contrast in shopping here, next door to the United Colors of Benetton store is a mom and pop shop filled with cheap souvenirs and bottles of every color of curacao liqueur known to man for sale. There is a Victorias Secret and the next block over is a shop selling lingerie with Victoria Secret Bags in the window, so I guess we will think that store is the real Victorias Secret (I saw through their clever ruse though). They seem to all buy their souvenir wears from the same manufacturer so you could pretty much go into any store and find the same knick knacks and post cards. The clothing stores look like they have some cute clothing actually (in normal sizes even) so if I was here on vacation I probably would have done some clothes shopping.

Pretty much, the only type of shopping I have done while here, is grocery shopping. I know, even on a tropical island, I lead a very routine exciting life. We have a supermarket a block away from our house here, called Best Buy, which I have grown to dislike immensely. It’s a large, dark warehouse that smells a little like rotting meat. They have all the normal wares (although I stopped buying their produce because it was always rotten inside when I got home) and it was convenient and buying food to make is much cheaper than eating out every meal. Every time I would go into the store though, the ladies that work there were so rude (I think it was because they don’t speak English and maybe were nervous?) that I gave up. I stopped shopping at their mildly disgusting fine establishment and now make Chad drive me to a supermarket about 15 minutes away in a suburb of Willemstad.

And that is a good segue to my next topic…


I truly love to use public transportation as much as possible. Wait… let me rephrase that- I truly love to use public transportation as much as possible, except in California (most people I know would agree with me, California’s public transportation is severely lacking). In every other country I have visited, the buses, trains, subways, etc. were a great way to get where you were going while rubbing elbows (sometimes literally) with the locals and seeing parts of a place that you probably wouldn’t unless someone else was driving you.

I also love to walk (city walk that is, I’m definitely not a hiker), in fact my mother and I used to walk miles around our town just to get some exercise and visit. This is why I thought that we should be able to walk everywhere from our house in Curacao. The landlord had said in her description of the house we were subletting, that the beach was 10 minutes away, and so Chad and I decided that we would walk to the closest beach our second day here. Well, she must have meant by car, because it took much longer than 10 minutes.

We were pushing Zoë in a city stroller, not an off-road stroller, and it was very hot outside. I love heat, but direct sunlight while walking on pavement mixed with the exhaust from cars passing by, make for an uncomfortable walk. Not only that, but there were no sidewalks and pushing the stroller with a 26 pound toddler and all of our bags, made for a difficult slow pace. We kept thinking the beach was just over the next hill and pressed on. The whole time I was worried that Zoë, now sound asleep, was going to get sunburnt and be miserable so I kept reapplying sunscreen to her exposed knees (we had a light blanket shading the rest of her) and praying that the beach was close. About an hour later, we arrived at a resort called the Lions Dive and Beach Resort and stole our way onto their beach after having a snack at their beachfront restaurant, Hemingway’s. We finally were able to go in the beautiful aquamarine water! All three of us had a great time!

When it was time for us to leave the stolen beach, we quickly decided to take a taxi anywhere else we were going that day. Lucky for us there was a taxi stand about a 10 minute walk from the resort. Taxi’s here on the island do not have meters, they all give a set price for the place you want to go, for example, from Lions Dive Resort to downtown Willemstad (Punda) was $15 US (you can use either Dutch Guilders or US dollars for everything here, the conversion is 1.75 Guilders= $1) and there is no negotiation on the prices. After walking around Punda for a bit, we decided that we would need to rent a car. It was a tough decision because we really didn’t want to spend another big chunk of money, but figured that after using taxis every day, we would be spending around the same amount. Our house was not in walking range of any beaches, such a bummer. My advice, look at the map closely when choosing a place to stay, don’t take the owners word for it.

We rented a car from a car rental agency down the street from our house, Boric Car Rental. We were able to negotiate the price with the helpful gentleman there and left the parking lot with a very small economy car that suited our needs perfectly. (For those with children needing car seats, most car rental agencies will rent them to you.)

Only after we rented the car, did we notice all the signs on the side of the road saying “Bushalte”. They were everywhere and we learned they were the bus stops. We could have taken a cheap bus around the island…oops. On the bright side, we were now able to explore the island on our own terms and hopefully find some amazing beaches, which we did! I want to devote a whole article to the beaches that we have visited here, there is just too much to write about in this one. So stay tuned for next weeks post!



Our Place in Curacao

We rented a roomy house off of that we love, although the location is a bit out of the way. There were other houses nearer the beach (I assume) that were far more expensive. We chose this one for the size and price. We are quite happy with the house itself and love the people renting it to us (you can see where we stayed by clicking here). There are many resorts on the island that have beach fronts and seemed much more expensive when we were planning this part of our trip. I now realize that we probably would have spent near the same amount money if we had just stayed on a resort, after having to rent a car and paying to get on beaches and such.


So what are my thoughts on making Curacao a stop on your round the world trip? They are simply this: If you choose to come here, don’t try to be an indie traveler. Buy in, stay at a resort, and relax on a beach right outside your door. The island has some things to see outside of a resort, but there is not much in the way of cultural spots for a tourist to see that you can’t get to from a resort.

Also, make sure that your budget reflects that the prices here are similar, or sometimes more (they sell 7 ounce beers in restaurants here for $5!!!!) than they are in the some of the more expensive areas of the US.

All-in-all, I am happy that we have experienced the island of Curacao, mostly so that I can now share the information with all of you fellow travelers. And why not see every part of this amazing Earth we live on?

Stay tuned for next weeks post “Willemstad, Curacao Part Two-The Beaches!” You will want this information if you choose to come to Curacao!