Diving in Curacao, Caribbean

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diving in Curacao, Caribbean
Photo by Emiel Molenaar on Unsplash

WHERE ARE WE GOING?

Today we are diving in Curacao (Curaçao), in the Caribbean!

Beautiful blue lagoon in curacao
Image by Michelle Maria on Pixabay

WHY ARE WE DIVING IN CURACAO?

Curacao is known for its colorful buildings that are now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also known for diving and its stunning conditions. Most of the diving is from shore and it is a great place to get your certification. The water is calm and crystal clear with visibility up to 30-40 meters. Don’t expect big things underwater, such as sharks and rays, but occasionally they are around. Curacao has (still) very colorful and healthy reefs full of marine life, which makes it very enjoyable to dive here.

The limit of recreational diving is 40 meters, but all over the country, you could reach 150+ meters. Some places even go to 400+ meters!

HOW TO GET TO CURACAO?

Curacao is the biggest island of the former Netherlands Antilles. It is about 65 km (40 mi) north of the Venezuelan coast. You will fly into Willemstad, the capital city of Curacao. Upon arrival, you could take a taxi to take you to a hotel or rent a car. The journey is quite easy to make. Direct flights are from Miami, Florida, Amsterdam or Germany.

Diving with an angelfish in curacao
Photo courtesy of Remy

WHICH DIVE SITES ARE MUST-SEE?

Curacao has about 80 dive sites and 90% is on the south coast. Some of the most popular dive sites are Marie Pampoen, Tug Boat, Directors Bay, Double Reef, Porto Marie, Playa Lagun and Superior Producer Wreck.

Tugboat

Tugboat is a small wreckage laying at 5 meters depth. The site is suitable for OW and AOW divers. You could even do an introduction or try dive here! It is also a great place to snorkel since the wreck is so shallow.

From the shore, you can start the dive and in about 15 minutes you will reach the wreck. Even with great visibility of 30 meters, you won’t be able to see the bottom. The conditions around Tugboat are superb: no currents or high waves are present on a regular day. There is a lot of marine life and the shallower, the better! Angelfish, moray eels, seahorses, Scorpionfish and occasionally Frogfishes and many more. After the wreckage, there is a dropoff with a sloping bottom that goes to at least 80 meters. If you are super lucky, you might be able to spot hammerhead sharks as they usually lurk in deeper waters here!

Directors Bay

Directors Bay is right next to Tugboat. From the parking area, you walk down some small steps to a stone beach. After entering the water, you go down next to a steep wall that starts at 6 meters. You also won’t be able to see the bottom here, but don’t worry. The wall is full of life and healthy corals. This dive site is suitable for any certification; as there is a lot to see all over the wall. Seahorses and frogfish can be found here, and there are often barracudas and angelfishes around. Usually, there will be no current here, but when there is a current, it usually means there is more activity here!

Double Reef

Double Reef is, like the name says, a double reef! There are two reefs that are parallel to each other. The first reef is at 4 meters with a maximum depth of 23 meters. Then you reach the second reef starting at 18 meters and that goes to more than 80 meters depth. With healthy corals and sometimes tricky conditions, this is one of the favorite dives in Curacao. Typically a hangout for green turtles and barracudas. If there is going to be a current, you will be flying through the water. In this case, you will end up going on a drift dive to the next dive site. Definitely an adventure! This dive site is recommended for AOW or higher, but OW divers can dive here too; just make sure you are experienced with drift diving.

Superior Producer Wreck

Superior Producer is the wreck of Curacao that sunk in 1977 with Christmas presents and liquor aboard, just a few weeks before Christmas. The ship is in an upright position and over 30 tarpons have made it their home. The 51-meter long ship is laying at the bottom at 32 meters, making it suitable for divers with an AOW or higher certification. Barracudas, snappers, and jacks like to hide at this ship in the shadows. In the past 40 years, a lot of coral has grown on this artificial reef, making the wreck and the dive site, spectacular.

Playa Piskado

Playa Piskado is also known as turtle beach or Playa Grandi. It is a small fisherman place, where the men come back to after being at sea and clean their catch of the day. Because of this, the green turtles started to hang around to get free food from the fishermen. There are about 10 of them, no deeper than 2 meters in depth. So this is also a great place for snorkeling and to enjoy the tropical Caribbean waters and see some turtles.

Divers will go further out to sea where the reef starts at 4 meters and continues to at least 60 meters with a sloping bottom. You will pass the statue of Neptune and follow the reef further. You can sometimes see a fishball hanging out near the statue. There are also a lot of critters, sea slugs and eels around. There is also an oceanic triggerfish present and a hawksbill turtle just chilling on the reef. The conditions are easy, so this dive site is perfect for all levels of divers.

TELL ME MORE

Boat diving might usually be the most popular way of diving and there are a few boats around. But diving in Curacao is all about shore diving. Through clear and calm waters, you can easily walk from the beach into the ocean. Typically the reefs aren’t far away from the coastline either. You can get to the dive site by bus from the dive center and the furthest dive site is about an hour away.

DO I NEED ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT?

As most of the dive sites are shore dives, we would recommend using booties and fins. The boots will help you navigate the rocky shore before putting your fins on in the water.

Every dive shop on the island will rent out any equipment you need. The temperature stays pretty much the same all year round, but it’s up to you how thick the neoprene you want to be. Most people dive in a 2.5 mm shorty and occasionally you see people running around in a 5 mm long suit. The temperature varies between 25 and 30° Celsius. But on average it’s a comfortable 28-29°C. There is no special equipment required to dive in Curacao.

Underwater turtle in curacao
Photo courtesy of Remy

WHAT LEVEL CERTIFICATION SHOULD I BE?

Diving here is quite easy. Only a few dive sites require you to have an advanced level. Even if you never dived before, you could take easy dive classes on Curacao and you’d have access to most dive sites. Many of the dive sites start at the reef at a depth of 5m, which allows you to follow the wall down to any depth you are certified for. Some walls go straight down, but most walls end in sloping bottoms.

WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS?

The country is known for its calm waters. There are barely any currents around strong enough to classify it as a drift dive. But I have experienced a few. I spend all year round diving here and conditions stay pretty much the same all year round. When winter is coming, the temperature drops a few degrees and in summer it’s nice and warm. Average visibility is 20-25 meters, though occasionally it can go up to 40 meters or down to about 15 meters.

The official rain season starts in October and lasts till February, but altogether it rains only a few weeks a year. I’d say the best time to go there is right after the rainy season and just before summer since the island gets packed with Dutch and Americans during their holidays.

Artificial reef in curacao
Photo courtesy of Remy

HOW MUCH WILL I SPEND?

If you plan on getting your Open Water certification when diving in Curacao, it will generally cost around 450 USD or 805 Netherlands Antillean guilder (ANG). However, if you bring your own equipment you will get a fair discount.

If you and your buddy are experienced enough to go on your own, and you know what to do to ensure your own responsibility, then you can rent the tanks and equipment and just go off the shore. Most dive sites are easy to navigate if you get a local orientation first. We recommend going with a dive guide for the first dive or asking for a detailed dive briefing from the dive center.

Most dive centers will do two dives in the morning. Prices will vary between dive centers. If you would like to dive multiple days, you can get a package deal as well.

WHAT TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION IS AVAILABLE?

There is a lot of accommodation around the island. There are a few hostels, but most are hotels and resorts. Some resorts are connected with dive centers and may offer you a discount if you’d stay there. You could also rent an apartment or villa.

WHERE DID YOU STAY?

I lived in Curacao for a while and rented an apartment in a nice neighborhood a bit further from the tourist hotspots.

It is a warm country so you can get basic accommodation where not every building is provided with a heater to get warm water. But it is generally not an issue on this Caribbean island!

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

The diving is very nice, and I highly recommend it. It is in fact one of the best shore-diving destinations in the world and great for every level of diver. This also makes the perfect place to practice your diving and get confident as a diver.

WHAT DO WE DO ON SURFACE INTERVALS?

There are a certain number of things you can do on your surface intervals. You can visit the sandy white beaches with its palm trees and crystal-clear water and go for a swim or snorkel. There are also other watersports such as sailing and kite surfing.

Or if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you could climb the Christoffel Mountain. The walk is not so hard and within an hour, you can reach the summit. This viewpoint allows you to see ocean to ocean.

You could also learn about the interesting history of Curacao and visit a museum about the slave trade, or where the liquor ‘Blue Curacao’ is made. I highly recommend trying some local food. There are a few markets where they prepare a delicious local meal for just a few guilders.

I would also suggest taking one day to visit ‘klein Curacao’ (Little Curacao). This is a small island off the coast with white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters inhabited by green turtles. Trips go by catamaran almost every day, and it’s a stunning day trip.

Remy is originally from The Netherlands, and lives in Curacao as a dive instructor. Most days I spend diving, whether it’s teaching or guiding divers. Even if I do 5 days straight of diving, I tend to go diving as well on my weekends! In my spare time I spend it with friends on a beach enjoying some drinks and sunsets, and sometimes at the local bar. From time to time it’s party-time!

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