Curacao scuba diving is some of the best in the Caribbean. The other two of the ABC Islands (Aruba and Bonaire) that lie just off the coast of Venezuela also have good diving and snorkeling, but this island has some unique features that make these activities superb. The main factor that makes Curacao diving so rewarding is the mass of coral reefs in close proximity to the shore and almost completely encircling the island. Additionally, the shelf of the sea floor (called the blue edge) drops off like a steep cliff only about 100 feet from shore, meaning you can access some of the best Curacao dive sites right from the island’s many beaches. As a bonus, the waters are an almost uniformly balmy 80 degrees Fahrenheit all year long.
The island is long and thin, about 40 miles by less than five miles, and its length runs almost on a north-south line. This means the almost constant Gulf winds from the east make the waters along its eastern length too rough for Curacao scuba diving during most of the year. All of the Curacao dive resorts are located along the western side—from its remote northern tip to its southern tip. The capital city of Willemstad is located along the southern coast, and even resorts and hotels within the city limits will be affiliated with PADI certified dive operators. While the Curacao diving from the small city beaches is not the best, snorkeling from them is superb. An example of this is the Marriott Resort, which is well within the city limits and has only a small, crescent-shaped private beach that is almost completely protected by a reef.
The Habitat Resort, located about fifteen miles north of Willemstad and just south of Playa Porto Mari, is one of the most prestigious dive resorts on the island. It actually boasts its own Curacao dive sites including what it calls its house reef right off its dock. Here, a guide rope is hooked up to the dock and leads down to 90 feet below the surface among stunning coral formations. Certified divers are allowed access to this reef 24 hours a day, but be sure to bring your PADI license with you if you want to experience this during the night. Nearby Playa Porto Mari (called The Valley because of its two parallel reefs) also has great diving.
There are more excellent shore accessible Curacao dive sites along the entire length of the island. Try Playa Kalki Beach, the most northern stretch of sand on the island. Whimsically nicknamed Alice in Wonderland, this lovely beach is excellent for day excursions. There are some vacations rentals and villas in the area, but the only resort is the Kura Hulanda Lodge, set on the cliffs above the beach. This lovely eco-friendly lodge is affiliated with the Kura Hulanda Hotel and its Museum Kura Hulanda in Willemstad. You can also find good Curacao scuba diving at several shipwrecks. The Superior Producer, a 240-foot long freighter that sank in 1978 just off Willemstad in only 80 feet of water, is one of the finest diving wrecks in the Caribbean. Not far away, but accessible only by boat, is the picturesque little 30-foot tugboat, almost completely intact and encrusted with coral.
For a more extensive Curacao diving excursion, you can book tours out to Klein Curacao, the tiny uninhabited island off the southern tip of the main island. Here you will find the ruins of an old lighthouse, some shipwrecks washed up on shore, a few thatched fishing shacks, and not much else except beautiful pristine beach. There are four good dive sites here, one of which is suitable for all skill levels and is just off the beach. The other three are suitable only for experienced divers.
Image: Curacao Tourist Board