For years, this southern Caribbean island remained anonymous to divers. The main port, the colorful Dutch colonial town of Willemstad (a UNESCO World Heritage site), bolstered the island's economy so that divers and even tourists weren't part of the agenda. The reefs, as a result, grew fat and happy and undiscovered. Then came a quiet revolution. About 10 years ago, divers started to take notice. The arid island has little runoff, so the water stays clear year-round. From the shore, the undersea slope drops off quickly from pale aqua to a kingly deep blue, making the island look as if it's a gift wrapped in colored cellophane ribbons. And it should be, because beneath its surface the sea offers some of the Caribbean's loveliest treasures. Massive orange elephant ear and purple stovepipe tube sponges pockmark the seascape, and hordes of brown chromis fill the water column like swirling autumn leaves. But once you get past the big stuff, and there's plenty, you won't go far. Every nook, cranny, shadow and crack is inhabited by marine life. Curaçao's macro world has become as famous as its wrecks. Yes, wrecks. The Tugboat wreck is popular and in shallow water, but it's the Superior Producer, a 230-foot merchant ship that sank just outside the harbor in 1977, that gives this island its wreck cred. The wreck has become a complete ecosystem, worthy of hundreds of dives to fully explore all the marine life that has taken up residence.
For traveling divers who crave excellence above and below water, Curaçao exceeds all expectations. The island is a cultural melting pot and offers a plethora of incredible restaurants, a music scene that's difficult to beat, opportunities for hiking and exploring, as much nightlife as you could want, shopping and quiet beaches.
AVERAGE WATER TEMP: 82ºF
WHAT TO WEAR: Diveskin or 3 mm fullsuit
AVERAGE VIZ: 60 feet
WHEN TO GO: Year-round
WHAT TO EXPECT: Wrecks and coral forests
LANGUAGE: Dutch (English widely spoken)
CURRENCY: Netherland Antilles guilder; exchange rate is fixed at US $1 = 1.77 ANG
TAXES: 7.84 percent hotel tax, 12 percent service charge
ELECTRICITY: 110-130V, 50 cycle (check with your resort )
TIME ZONE: Atlantic Standard Time (EST plus one hour)
AIRPORT/EXIT FEES: $22 KEY GIFT: Curaçao liqueur
DON'T FORGET: A camera, if only for Willemstad's Dutchcolonial architecture
THE VIBE: Charming blend of Caribbean and European history and culture
TOPSIDE: World-class restaurants, shopping, pristine beaches and a capital city that's part old country, part New World
Hike Christoffel Park; if you've got the energy, go to the top of 1,230-foot Mount Christoffel for the view. Explore Hato Caves. Shop and visit museums in Willemstad.
FOR MORE INFORMATION SPORTDIVER.COM/CURACAO