Curacao

This isn’t Muck Diving!  True, but that doesn’t mean those in the Midwest cannot treat themselves to some of the more exotic diving experiences.  Because the traditional Muck Diver doesn’t dive in paradise everyday information on dive ops, hotels, what should I do and not do become essential when planning a trip to paradise.  Because of all these questions, we thought we would give everybody a one-stop place to go to learn about these places and hopefully help with planning your next trip.  Once again, the success of this relies upon those that have taken the journey.  So, please help out and tell us about your trips and what worked and what did not work.

9 Responses to “Curacao”

  1. snagel says:

    Curacao October 2014 – trip report
    Original Post by Rayaa3 on ScubaToys

    My wife daughter and I went down to Curacao for 6 nights, we dove 8 tanks over 5 days (yes, it would have been easy to do more, but with the wife and daughter 2 tanks a day is the limit). It was a great trip and wanted to put some details on paper for anyone who finds themselves considering a trip.

    The hotel:
    We stayed at the Hilton Curacao. I’m a diamond member with Hilton due to work travel, and I was able to get 2 adjoining rooms using points. I hesitate to use the word ‘free’ simply because of the cost of food at the hotel : )
    Looking at the hotel from the outside isn’t very impressive. It’s a very drab looking baby blue that could use a paint job in one of those bright primary colors in most famous photos of Curacao. However, the grounds were in good repair. The beach was small but comfortable for swimming, snorkeling, or sunning. They have plenty of pool space, and a lounge chair could always be found between beach or pool. The lobby, bar and eateries all look to be in fine shape for a 3 star ‘resort’. If you go expecting a Hilton 5 star building and food (which is common on their other properties) you will be disappointed. I would say it’s nice for what it is – just make sure your expectations are correct. Go look on trip advisor and you’ll find a lot of people picking it apart. It has flaws, just none of them the type I care about. The room was in excellent repair – nice paint, furniture, maybe the best dive vacation bed I’ve ever been on. We were on the 4th floor and the ocean view rooms have a beautiful view pretty steep green hillside making it’s way to limestone shorelines. There was a nice TV with at least 7 English speaking channels – as usual you can watch friends or big bang theory in English no matter where I the world you are. The carpet and hallways have décor that seems kind of 70’s…however, it’s all in fine repair. We had 2 adjoining rooms – 1 for wife and me, 1 for 15 year old daughter. We were very comfortable. Hot water was hot, water pressure was good – tap water was drinkable. There was one period for a few hours that AC was out in the room. However, this was something we were warned about the next day and was necessary for maintenance. We were out diving, so I didn’t mind. The rooms had a small fridge – which we used, see my next note below.
    Food – we ate a couple lunches at the hotel. Food is expensive. At the bar a burger + fries will cost you $22 USD before tax and tip. Soda would be $2-3. A cocktail would be almost $10. We knew this going…as a diamond member I get access to the executive lounge which has complimentary bottles of soda. Also in the morning the lounge has a small continental breakfast – pastries, boiled eggs, bacon, juices, toasts and spreads, cereals, yogurts – we ate that every day – the daily breakfast buffet is nearly $20 per person in the regular restaurant (but has many more choices). Since we would be diving, light breakfast was fine. We would go up in the AM get breakfast and take down a few sodas. We took a soft sided cooler which we would take to the beach or dive local with sodas and bottles of water. I don’t drink, but the wife bought a bottle of something that mixed well with sprite – and likely saved $100 in cocktails over the week.
    In fairness to the hotel, the food is expensive on the entire island. It’s simply MORE expensive in a tourist hotel like the Hilton. If I wanted I could have eaten fast food for about ½ of Hilton prices – but I don’t even like fast food at home.

    The diving –
    We did shore diving exclusively. We rented a truck for the week, from budget (the onsite rental at Hilton) booked and paid in advanced $290 for 5 days. Fuel was pricey, about $6 per gallon I would say – half a tank in a small Toyota pickup was $60 which is what I used for the week. We went from site to site, and used the onsite operator to rent tanks. Unlike Bonaire, the idea of a central dive shop where you buy a week’s worth of tanks is less common. This was easy. Many sites have onsite ops and if you rent tanks from them you can use their rinse tanks, showers, restroom, piers, etc. Paying for 3 divers this was the way to go. Tanks were typically $9, and weights were about $4 (yep, tanks don’t include weights) for 3 people to dive 2 tanks was pretty consistently about $63 total (including tax) only 1 shop charged an extra fee for cc usage. All shops were very friendly with giving a dive profile, a couple had diagrams of the reef, and instructions for compass headings from certain objects back to shore. The sites with shops were generally much safer to park your car at. 1 shop even had a security guy watching customer cars. Director’s Bay was the most remote we visited and didn’t have either – more on that in a minute. They also had lockers and would watch your stuff that you didn’t want to put in your car. We dove Playa Kaliki 2 days (4 tanks) – this was my favorite site. We dove Director’s bay 1 tank – this was a neat site in that it had a non existent swim to the reef. However it’s off the beaten path, good luck finding it without GPS coordinates. We dove Porto Marie 1 day (2 tanks), and Playa Lagus 1 day (1 tank). Playa Lagun had one of the prettiest reefs – but is a haul out to the reef, and there’s not much to look at until you are there. I don’t really mind the haul – my air consumption is really low and a 10 minute trip out to the reef can still give me at least 45minutes on the reef with plenty of air to make the 10 minute trip back. However, if long swims burn up your air or your patience better to skip this one. The boat diving, or guided diving was quite pricey. 2 tanks on a boat was anyplace between $90 and $100, and 1 tank guided shore was $55-$60. We didn’t feel it necessary to try either. I’m sure the dive prices have to do with the expense of food on the island – DM have to eat. The boat we saw coming in at Playa Kaliki looked very nice and had 6 divers or less on it.
    What we saw: trumpet fish. If I were in charge I would rename the entire island “Trumpet fish Island” Most times we were on the reef I had at least 1, and as many as 3-4 trumpet fish in my immediate field of vision. 5 minutes into our first dive we stopped pointing them out to each other because they were already so common. I saw big trumpet fish, little trumpet fish, red trumpet fish, yellowish trumpet fist. Plenty of schools of fish – not a lot of fish larger than say a dinner plate. So a lot of fish, just not really big ones. We saw several eels, though they were mostly quite shy. We only saw 1 turtle all week. No nurse sharks at all. 1 Octopus during the day. At playa Lagun while gearing up at the beach we saw dolphins playing at the surface quite a distance off shore. Didn’t see them on the dive, but I looked up at the surface a lot during that dive hoping : )

    What I learned: So our first day diving was at Director’s Bay. We picked up tanks at Curious2Dive, where Hans rented us tanks and gave us advice on our rental car “Open all your windows, leave everything in plane view, leave no valueables in the car.” I expected this – and had a plan. The car key had an alarm on it which had to remain dry – so I took a small dive light, took out batteries and bulb and used that as a waterproof container for keys and alarm FOB. Yes, it flooded, yes it sucked. After the dive it flooded, and made itself impossible to open (ironic as it flooded) I spend 30 minutes with a dive knife breaking the seal so I could get it open (and I tried a lot of other methods: including rocks, cement, cursing, etc). Once I got it open I realized even with the car key if the alarm is armed – you can’t start the car – so then called budget to see if they had a kill switch for the alarm I the cab – nope. Called roadside assistance: “where are you” “Director’s bay beach” “huh? Where is that?” “I’m a tourist, I can give you GPS coordinates but the last 6 roads I took to get here have no streetnames (common on the island)” “well, director’s bay beach means nothing to me” – after a few minutes of this I asked a local at the beach (we were the only divers there, mostly locals having a Sunday at the beach) – they told me “caracas bay” – which btw is a fairly big place to find a guy in a rental truck. Eventually I realized I had the dive shop phone number on my receipt, called the shop and had the shop give the roadside folks directions to the site. Curious2dive was great – they said “if they can’t find you they will stop by my shop and I’ll ride with them” – so roadside assistance showed up about 1 hour later. They had to tow us to the airport and I got a new truck. I had to pay $50 for the damaged fob. The real adventure was the tow. 3 people + 1 small Toyota to take to the airport – no problem, but he tow truck cab only has seating for driver plus 1. My daughter volunteered to ride with me in the towed vehicle. Yep – I got to see several miles of Curacao streets in reverse off the back of a towed vehicle…it was fun and thrilling. What I learned was: if using a site that doesn’t have onsite op – figure out where you are going to hide your key in the cab. If really worried – hide the alarm fob only, and dive with the key. Leave the windows down and unlocked. The rest of the week we dove with onsite shops and had lockers or other options for leaving our valuables (and safer lots in general).

    What else I learned: due to my reliance on automatic headlights I no longer remember to turn off headlights. I drained the battery overnight. This happened at the hotel – though no one at the hotel (including budget) had jumper cables so I had to call roadside assistance again. They came out with a jumper box that didn’t have enough juice in it to jump the little 4 banger diesel in the truck. So we tried a push start (at the suggestion of the roadside assistance guy) – no go. So he towed me into a jump start – that worked. Kind of a weird moment “hey you make sure you hit the break once it starts ok!” I remember thinking buddy, this was your idea, if I hit your tow truck I’m not paying for it, or my damages. However, we started it, and I didn’t hit the tow truck. At least that time it only took him 30 minutes to come to me at the hotel.
    Other than rental car woes, the trip was without incident and diving was great.
    Water conditions: in October coolest water temp was about 81. I saw a lot of full suits, but shorty worked fine for me, and I get chilly easy. Visibility was usually about 80ft on the reef…Playa Lagun had a few spots that were down to 20ft vis on the way out to the reef through the ‘channel’ to the beach. There was never any current and you could dive either direction on a wall and make an easy return. Only exception was that on some reefs if you wanted to go out deep and come back in less than 25 ft at the top of the reef, you might have a little – and I mean just a little, surge to deal with…it only happened once, but it did make me think if I was going to do that dive again I would have descended a bit more on the wall to get out of the surge during the return.
    Weather – we lucked out, it only rained one day, and was done by 11am. It ranged from hot to real hot all week. Temps were 80 at night, not bad with a breeze. During the day it would be 90 at the hottest time, about 2pm. October is the beginning of the ‘rainy season’ but I think simply lucked out.

    Driving on the island – getting to dive sites can be challenging. There is one major road that goes North/West where many sites are – and then you have to take a number of roads off of it to get to your site – the furthest sites were 45 minutes from the Hilton, but nothing was any closer than 25 minutes to the hotel. A site that was 3 miles down the beach might be 25minutes because of the 10 miles of odd roads you would have to take. So if you stopped some place and liked it, it was usually worth it to do 2 tanks. That was our plan after the first day. The only place we didn’t do 2 tanks was Playa Lagun, the wife just wasn’t up for another trip out to the reef. Since it takes so much time and trouble to get setup at another shop (25 minutes to drive there, 10minutes to rent tanks/fill out forms, 10 minutes to gear up, 1 hour dive) we just called it a day. Also we had a late start that day because someone (me) left lights on the car the night before and the battery was dead. So getting around is difficult at times. Directions were really easy. I found an android app that does turn by turn gps directions (https://play.google.com/store/apps/d…nia.bor3&hl=en) – but allows you to download the maps and works without any data connection (data would have been quite expensive in Curacao). So I downloaded curacao maps back home. I went to shorediving.com and got the gps coordinates for dive sites and saved them in the app. Then when we would pick a site I would just click on the site name in my saved list, it would pull up the coordinates and find me roads that got me there. Mostly the app worked great. There’s one round about in town that it would consistently tell me to exit the 2 turn on but it meant 3rd. If it did tell me to do something I couldn’t or was wrong, as soon as I was on the wrong road it would find a new path. I can’t imagine driving the island without that GPS. The drive up to the North/West dive sites is really picturesque and some of my favorite memories are going up there. The drives might be long, but at least some of it was pretty.

    It was a great trip. We have been to Cozumel, Belize, and Roatan. My wife said these were some of he favorite dives. Lack of current to contend with (nice on a shore dive) similar to Roatan, but with better fish/reef life. I still think my favorites are Cozumel and Belize – but without a doubt I could come back to Curacao and have a great time. However, with all the other places on the list, I doubt we’ll get back anytime soon.

  2. snagel says:

    Curacao December 10-17, 2011

    Overview: This was our first trip to Curacao with the objectives of shore diving and relaxing on a sunny beach. Traveling was two couples all divers. We have been to Mexico, Cozumel, Bonaire, and Roatan previously. Travel arrangements made by Joey at GOGO Travel joey@outdooradventuretravel.net (Joey did an excellent job with finding us a deal and handling all the reservations) I highly recommend contacting Joey for your travel arrangements. We could not have booked this trip ourselves cheaper than what Joey put together for us. We traveled from St. Louis, MO, connecting through Miami, FL and then onto Curacao via American Airlines.

    Accommodations: We stayed at the all-inclusive Breezes Resort. Prior to the trip we read many reviews about the resort with some saying it was run down, dirty, the help was rude and unaccommodating, the music was too loud often playing late into the night, and the food was terrible. Many also commented on the small glasses they use to serve drinks as a negative. What we experienced was a very nice, well-maintained resort. Everything was clean as well as the beach and pool areas were cleaned every morning. As I sat on our patio every morning watching the sun-rise workers were raking the beach and picking up any trash and reorganizing all the furniture on the beach. We did not experience any rude workers and everybody was very friendly. They all seemed to want to help us in any way they could and served us with a smile and a Hello. Many even went a little above that and engaged us with funny conversation making you feel like you were important to them. The beach had a lot to offer and was protected by a rock wall to keep waves from crashing onto the beach. Many spent the day swimming and snorkeling. On the beach is a rock-climbing wall and a trapeze…yes, I said trapeze. Both of these were monitored by the Entertainment Crew that would allow guests to try them out. During the day several kids worked on the trapeze with the crew and then on Friday nights they have a show where the kids showcased what they learned through the week. They called this the circus and was kind of fun. This was unusual and something to do, but really not a high-class circus act. All day there were activities planned on the pool deck and each night some sort of entertainment was offered from a sax player, 1-2 man bands, full bands, and one night native dancers demonstrated cultural dancing. There was always something going on to entertain guests.

    There are many reviews of the resort that mention the music. Starting in the morning they have activities on the pool deck with somebody always seeming to be talking on the PA. In the evening, music is playing. Mostly this is your typical island type music but they play a lot of what my generation grew up on 70’s and 80’s music. Our room was located near the pool and yes, the music could get a little overwhelming at times when we were trying talk on the patio of our room. I enjoyed the music, but they could have turned it down a notch at times. Usually, the music shut down at midnight and those wanting to continue could go to the disco. If you are the early to bed type and your room is close to the pool this could be an issue.

    The property has a workout room, computer area, gift shop, ping-pong and pool tables for guests to use. A gift shop, disco, and jewelry shop along with a casino are also on the property. The Casino is large and has a multitude of slot machines, black jack tables, and a craps table. We spend some time in the casino using the slots. The process is that you purchase a card and put money on the card and use this in the slots. When you return the card they reimburse you cost of the card and any “winnings” on the card. The slots were old and we had issues getting our cards out of the machines. A good pair of tweezers is needed for this. Several times, I won, but the machine failed to credit my card with the winnings. After this happening I turned in my card and never returned to the Casino.

    The resort does offer WiFi for a small fee or you can use the computer lab. I think the WiFi connection was $35 for the week. The only issue we found was that it could really only be accessed at the pool area. Even in our room we had very limited connectivity if any. We did have an issue with getting the wrong code for the first couple days, but once we got the correct code it worked fine at the pool deck area.

    I would say we had the best room on the property. We were a ocean front room on the ground level (3102 & 3103). Our patio faced the beach, which allowed us a place to hang out and watch what was happening on the beach. The rooms were clean and updated with great air conditioning. A programmable safe was provided in the room along with a flat screen TV, coffee maker, iron and ironing board. The room had a large shower area and no bathtub.

    Food: We have stayed at several all-inclusive resorts. First, let me say the food was good and for buffet style feeding hundreds of people it was very adequate. If you are looking for 5-star food at this or any all-inclusive we haven’t found it and I doubt you will find it anywhere. It was typical all-inclusive food with a emphasize on island food (seafood). But, they did have various forms of pork, chicken, beef, and pasta along with assorted salads and desserts. The resort offers buffet style breakfast, lunch, and dinner along with a late dinner we called “2nd Dinner”. Breakfast included a full omelet bar made to order along with traditional breakfast foods – the French Toast was awesome. All this was available in the Jimmy Buffet area and open to all guests. Three restaurants were available for dinner – Italian, Japanese, and BBQ. These you needed to have reservations for and should be made when you check-in. You can only make 3 reservations at a time to allow all guests the opportunity for the finer dining. Other nights you simply eat at the buffet. During the day in-between lunch and dinner food is available to order at the snack shack on the beach. Here you could get hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, etc. Complaints we heard and experienced is that they take an order cook it up and then move to the next customer. With many standing in line, it is a really slow process. Having finger food available at all times could be an improvement.

    We ate at all 3 restaurants and they all were good. Again, you are not going to get the fine dining food, but it was a good experience. The Japanese Grill was interesting and the cook really tried to give you Japanese Grill Experience, but his knife skills were not the greatest but he did have fun entertaining everybody by simply banging the utensils on the grill. Most comments following the meal centered around the fact each item; noodles, chicken, beef, and fish were all served separately after they were cooked. Most people would have liked to have it all served at once; rather than, eating each item separately. The Italian Restaurant was probably the most “fancy” and the food was good, but not your favorite Italian restaurant. The BBQ was limited, but the short ribs were very good. The BBQ restaurant is actually the beach snack shack converted for under the stars dining.

    Drinks: There were plenty of drinks to go around from your favorite island drink, beer, to any mixed drink you could think of. We are not huge drinkers, but from what I could see they did serve the higher end alcohol products and not the generic. Many comments have been made about the small glasses. Yes, they do only give small glasses, but if you bring your own they are happy to fill them up or you can get as many drinks at a time as you like. This wasn’t a huge issue with us, but since many have commented on this it is worth touching on. The only issue we found with drinks was the availability of ice. There never seemed to be ice available from the soda machine, but they did serve drinks from the bar with plenty of ice. I’m not exactly sure why they gave you ice bins in your room since finding ice was a challenge. I do have to comment on the coffee available in the rooms. I travel a lot in my work and stay in a lot of hotels. I will tell you that the coffee they provide in the rooms for your in room coffee pot was excellent, the best I’ve had. I guess being that close to South America has its benefits.

    Diving: We wanted the freedom of shore diving on this trip. Ocean Encounters had a small shop located on Breezes Resort with a much larger shop located at the next resort down the beach (Lions Dive Resort). First, let me say that everybody we talked to at Ocean Encounters were absolutely great people. Everybody we met were very friendly and we enjoyed talking to them and they seem very interested in how our dives were going and shared much information with us on what to dive and what not to. In general, we felt like we were long lost friends. As I said, we wanted the freedom of shore diving and seeing the island. To do this we needed tanks and weights. It was odd, but OE didn’t seem to be very organized to provide this service to us very easily. They much preferred that we pay for boat diving, but that is not what we wanted to do. After several discussions with the resort shop and several phone calls between the contacts at the resort shop and somebody, they finally put together a deal that would work for us. They would rent us tanks for $11, but we had to pick them up and drop them off at Lions Dive. They didn’t want us taking tanks from the resort shop. This meant we had to drive down to Lions Dive pick up tanks (8 of them) and then every morning make a trip down to Lions dive to replace any empty tanks. Not a huge issue and they made it accommodating with allowing us to drive behind the resort to the dive shop. We thought $11 for a tank was a little expensive and really not the deal they quoted us by email prior to our trip, but it was the best they could do. When we shore dived at other locations that had a dive shop on site, we compared prices and found we could rent tanks from other places for $7; so, we would leave our OE tanks in the truck when this happened. Our deal at Breezes provided for one free tank daily, but this tank had to be used only at Breezes resort and had to be used when the shop was open 8:30 am – 4:30 pm. They didn’t leave out any tanks for use after hours. So, to do night dives we had carry tanks from our truck down to the beach for use and then back to the truck. This was a real pain and an opportunity for improvement. Yes, we could have bought their night dive boat package, but that isn’t what we wanted to do. They did provide us with lockers and lock to store our gear and did have a room in back of the shop to hang up gear. The only issue with that was it was only open from 8:30am – 4:30 pm.

    Because of the driving situation and spending time trying to find dive sites, we really didn’t get as many dives in as we had hoped. I think we ended up with 12 dives for the week. Our first day of diving we attempted to find some of the sites using the local map we purchased and also received from a forum member prior to the trip. To us, these maps are virtually useless because none of the streets are marked. After spending the day getting lost we eventually ran into a dive site called Kokomo. It was a nice beach area located somewhere in the middle of nowhere. It appeared to be a party place with a bar and dive shop located onsite. They were in the process of tearing down a stage when we were there; so, I think they had a band their the night before. It didn’t cost anything to dive the site and the dive shop was very friendly with information. Nice dive, but I wouldn’t make it point to return. The next day we regrouped and rented a GPS from our car rental place. This was the trick and I highly recommend renting a GPS. Let me say that again, Get a GPS with local maps. We did bring a GPS with us, but was unable to find the correct maps for the island through Garmin. Long story, but it appears Garmin does not offer maps for the island, but they appear to be available because the GPS we rented had detailed maps loaded of the island. The next day we tried to dive Don’s Habitat, but it was closed for renovation, but the guard told us to go to Porto Marie just down the road. Awesome beach with a bar and dive shop. We pulled up and were allowed to drive down and unload our gear before parking in the parking lot. Even though we didn’t initially rent tanks from the dive shop they allowed us to use their gear benches and rinse tanks and even spent a few minutes explaining the dive. This was a great dive with a double reef system. We spent two days diving this coming back the 2nd day with our wives who had not been feeling well, but we knew they would love the easy diving it offered and the did. Entry fee was $2.50/person and then if you wanted to use a chair on the beach it was another $3 per person. Tank rental was $7. I highly recommend this site for the easy diving and double reef and the scenery on the beach isn’t bad either. Over the next days we found a site call Casa Abuo. It was a nice dive with a dive shop located on-site. Again, very pleasant people allowing us to use their facility with our own tanks at no charge. Nice beach and typical reef dive. We made our way little farther west and found a dive site called Playa Lagun. Again, we talked to the dive shop and they explained the dive. We had hoped to see some turtles here, but no luck. Kind of a strange dive. The beach was set inside a cove and the surge was very strong. We were told to surface swim out of the cove and then descend to a sand area. Follow a compassed reading across the sand to the reef and depending on the current go right or left returning on another compass heading to the bluffs and then follow the bluffs back to the cove. This all worked out fine, but kind of a boring dive and a lot of surge even at 60 feet. We wanted to dive the Superior Producer, but it is located in the pier where the cruise ships are docked and this never worked out for us because a cruise ship was always docked in the pier. They will not allow you to make the dive when a cruise ship is in port and was threatened with a rather hefty fine if we did. We did several dives on the house reef at Breezes (Car Pile) taking advantage of the free tank. The house reef is a nice dive with abundant coral and marine activity. We found the usual fish life along with squid, octopus, several puffer fish, eels, and also the dreaded Lion Fish. I wouldn’t say Lion Fish were everywhere, but there were plenty to see. Other dives we made were west of Williamsted. It appeared the better dive sites were located in the west, but this was a 45-minute trip for us and ate up a lot of time driving.

    Many ask us to compare diving in Curacao with Bonaire. Whoever said, “Divers go to Bonaire to vacation, and Vacationers go to Curacao to Dive” were absolutely correct. Diving in Bonaire is much easier because of two things, 1) Getting to the dive sites is so easy in Bonaire, drive down the road that runs along the shore and pull over and dive. In Curacao there are no roads that follow the coastline. You drive down a central main road and exit on paths taking you to the shore areas. These are not marked very good and you do spend a lot of time driving. 2) Bonaire seems to have it figured out with the unlimited diving packages. We really missed the ability to simply pull up, fill the truck full of tanks, and take off for the day. Curacao seems to concede the shore diving aspect to Bonaire and focus more on boat diving. We stayed away from the boat diving because of the added expense and we wanted the freedom of not having to meet a boat at a particular time. In general, if you are going on a dive trip with the focus to dive and don’t have non-divers I would recommend Bonaire. If you want more than just diving and want a family atmosphere than Curacao is the better choice. Curacao is a busy place around Williamsted, not like Bonaire that is rather sparse. Williamsted is a large city with a city feel to it. You don’t have this in Bonaire. Driving is a little crazy because you really don’t know where you are going and the horn is meant to get your attention not a sign of road rage…..they definitely use their horns. We spent a day in town shopping. I nice experience, but pretty much every shop was a clothes shop. They did have an open market where the fisherman brought in fresh fish. This took me back to when I lived in England.

    We are very happy with our trip and we will return. I’m not sure when because we really want to see the world and dive in as many locations as we can. We wish we could have visited more sites, but it took a while for us to figure out the driving and the locations. When we return we should do much better. If you haven’t been to Curacao, go even if you are thinking of Bonaire simply for the fact to say you have done it. We found ourselves frequently comparing Curacao with Bonaire. They both are different and offer different things.

  3. snagel says:

    Curacao Trip Report – October 2011
    Original Post by Clernix on ScubaToys

    I just got back from Curacao after a week. We stayed on the Westside of the island in the West End Bungalows. We dove with a local dive shop Discover Diving .

    We were very happy with West End Bungalows. They are run by a pretty nice local guy ,that was very willing to help with just about anything. There were a total of nine bungalows set in a garden area. There was no tv and no internet; took some getting used to but we managed.

    My son had his open water pretty fast and we were off to dive the local sites by car. The dive shops will try to sell boat dives but you can dive all but two dive sites from the shore. They would actually anchor and dive boat at the same sites we were diving from the shore.

    We dove Airplane, Alice in Wonderland, Kalki, Playa Laguna, Casa Abou and Porto Maria. The diving was great for my n00b son. There is no current and the dives are pretty shallow. The reefs have very nice formations but very little color and are not in the best of health. The locals are actively fishing right off the reef with nets. There are no large fish what so ever. I really missed the large grouper and snappers I was used to from Coz.

    I did enjoy grabbing tanks with my son ,planning our dives and picking the sites. I got a map off of Amazon.com before I left and it was plenty. The dive sites are marked with stones painted as dive flags, a lot if the sites have a scuba base and will rent tanks. Ocean Encounters is one of the few dive bases that actually take a fee to use the base most just let you use it and I dropped them a few Naf in the tip bucket.

    If you boat dive I think you are really missing out on the best part if diving in Curacao. Talking to the locals about the sites, meeting the dive masters in the different shops. So many of them are from Holland it was really fun. Getting tips on how to dive the reefs, most sites have a pretty nice beach too. You can drive from Williamstadt to Westpunkt in about 40 minutes and you pass a bunch of dive sites along the way. If you are staying around Williamstadt don’t forget the Off we met a German couple that was staying there and they were torn up.

    We had a great time and loved the island a lot . The tourism is small in Curacao. There aren’t any sales people on the beach and you never here “come in my shop and have a look”. Downtown is really cute; reminded me of my days running around in Amsterdam. There are little cafes right by the canal selling Amstel and tons of tables outside.

    On the boat vs shore diving there is also the price to take into account. I found the dive ops to be really expensive they offer a single day of diving for around $90 plus tax. Since I had my son I would be paying about $180 a day. My brand new pick up cost me $65 a day with all insurances including the extra $10 CDW waiver.

    The car made it possible to see the whole island and meet so many people and enjoy the beaches after the dives, try all the local places to eat. We tried iguana you would not believe how good it was and it did not taste like chicken actually more like beef

    we flew from CVG (Cincinnati) to Mia (Miami) Mia Cur ( Curacao) the Mia Cur was a sweet 2 hours and 15 mins. If your question was was from which airport in Curacao there is only one international airport and that is in Willemstadt. I would think your wife would have a great time. She could actually lay on the beach while you jump in and take a dive. Some ops complain about solo diving but if you bring your own tank most won’t care. I did have a run in with the Instructor at Ocean Encounters West.

    We were on our last dive a sunrise dive which I have never been able to do since no boat ops I have used ever offered one. My son took to little weight and could not submerge so had to go back to shore. (op was still closed) Well when I came out the instructor got all huffy saying they did not allow solo diving. I was quick to remind him he did not own the reef and there is no law not allowing solo diving in Curacao. He countered with were is my $10 well I told him I would give him his F-ing $10 if he would give me a chance to get out of my wetsuit. I have to admit I said a little more once the train starts rolling there is no getting off.

    Scubajane the OFF comment was in reference to mosquitoes. It seems in Willemstadt they are really bad we did not have any issues. Well we did have a few bites but it was nothing major.

  4. snagel says:

    CURACAO IS AWESOME DIVING BETTER THAN I EVER EXPECTED.
    Additional post from Budman September 2011 Trip

    I made 6 dives over 3 days as I was splitting my time with the family topside. dove my own gear with a 1 mm full suit and never got cold or even uncomfortable. all AL80 tanks I would have liked a little bigger tank but that’s what was available. 12 lbs of lead feel like I could have gone to 10 but it was ok.

    Saturday
    dive #1- dove with Mark from the Dive Bus on the house reef right across the road from the facility. you geared up and made a short walk across the road to a small cove and entered there descending to about 10 feet then headed out to the reef. Beautiful area lots of hard and soft corals, fish. saw barracuda,large tarpon,lionfish,lobster,file fish,scorpion fish and more than I list. vis was in the 50-60 ft range and temp was 84 degrees. maximum 60 ft depth

    dive #2 – same entry and exit but to a different area of the reef. have to say Mark was very good at finding critters. vis and temp same

    Sunday didn’t dive went on sailing excursion with the family around the island which I highly recommend. Snorkeled at the tugboat site.

    Monday made boat dive with OEW.

    dive #1- Redhio reef. water was choppy so the enty and exit were fun but no problems really for anyone and we had one very new diver and they were ok. saw a turtle couldn’t really get close but that was one of my goals so it was good and also saw sea horses. water was kicking up the bottom a little so vis was about 50 ft at 82 degree water temp.

    surface interval we snorkeled to the Blue Room which is a small cavern with open access to the ocean. You have to see this to believe it can’t really describe it but to say it’s beautiful and blue.

    dive #2-THE MUSHROOM FOREST. awesome dive this area is more protected from the waves and wind so the vis here was easily in the 100 ft range. saw squid,green moray, banded shrimp, lion fish, trunk fish and much more. hard to describe this dive but it’s AWESOME.

    Tuesday back with the Dive Bus.

    dive #1- dove Directors Cove which is a wall dive that is fantastic. hard to choose between this and the Mushroom Forest forest as to which was my favorite. vis was in the 100 ft range maximum depth for the dive was 71 ft. saw barracuda, lionfish,scorpionfish.

    dive #2- same Directors Cove but in the opposite direction. conditions were the same and once again a awesome dive.

    two items I would like to note about both dive ops.

    #1 they didn’t make a lot of rules. for example they were both ok with no snorkel

    #2. they didn’t try to overweight you with lead simply asked you how much you needed and then gave you that much.

    I’m going to try and post some pics but I’m still sorting through them right now.

    I’m only going to recommend three eating places as this is a diving forum not eating forum but these were so outstanding that they deseve mention.

    #1 Sol Food in Westpunt hand down the best pizza I’ve ever had. they have more than that but that’s what I had.

    #2.The Rib Factory best ribs I’ve had in a long time. ask for the garlic sauce and put some on the ribs. I know that sounds weird but it is great.

    #3 Chihauhau at the Rif Fort very,very good Mexican food different from here but very good.

    BTW the local beer is called Polar and comes in 8 oz bottle

  5. snagel says:

    Curacao trip September 23-29,2011
    Original Post by Budman on ScubaToys

    Got back from Curacao Thursday and wanted to report on this trip as I know a few others are going later in the year.

    I’ll start with the dive ops. Dove with two dive ops The Dive Bus and Ocean Encounters West.

    #1. The Dive Bus Mark and Suzy are the owners and are very warm and fun people to be around very accommodating. They are very knowledgeable about diving Curacao and Mark is very good to dive with. It has a real good feel to it and I felt very comfortable diving with them. All shore diving but very easy entry and exits and excellent dive sites.

    #2-Ocean Encounters West Bryan is the manager there and is very friendly very helpful.Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful very knowledgeable the facility is beautiful right on the Alice in Wonderland? reef. They are at the Westpunt area of the island and they have both shore and boat dives. Once again very comfortable to dive with nice boats excellent captain and DM. Prices at both ops were similar.

    I can’t say I preferred one over the other they were different but both excellent operations. I would recommend The Dive Bus and OEW to any level of diver.

  6. Snagel says:

    Sep. 2010 Curacao Trip Report
    Original Post by Rorschach on ScubaToys

    My wife completed her editing of her pics from our 2010 trip to Curacao. We spent two weeks at All West Apartments in Apartment E; Apartment F was vacant during our stay and we had a really relaxed, quiet, and peaceful time. Louis threw a BBQ one night while we were there for all of us tourists and some friendly locals and staff. I really like the almost-Texas-style BBQ pits there and cooked up 4 racks of pork loin back ribs during our 2 week stay. Louis got a birds-eye view of my techniques through the (new to us) security cameras and asked for more details before we left. We had no security issues or concerns during our trip. This is our fourth trip to Curacao and our second stay at All West.

    The highlight critter find for us this trip were copper lobsters on night dives on the AW house reef. We saw one flaming reef lobster on a night dive on the AW house reef but it crawfished too far back in the coral head for my wife to get a picture. The other pic my wife was especially proud of is the slender filefish with dewlap extended (this was at Pierbaai, house reef for The Dive Bus). On another AW house reef night dive, I found a juvenile beaded sea cucumber about the thickness of a pencil. Overall lots of fun. Spent one day at Porto Marie and one day at Cas Abao. I wish Cas Abao was open for night diving at least one night per week, but not yet anyway.

    Here’s the pics

    https://picasaweb.google.com/abrjwest/Curacao2010Sept#

    Louis Lopez Ramirez at All West was again a true pleasure to do business with, and Bryan at OEW got the 100 ft3 tanks filled as close to a 3300 PSI rated cold fill as possible for me. My wife and I spent two hours on one night dive on the house reef!

    Mark and Suzy were gracious hosts when we dove Pierbaai and visited their new location, coupled with a visit to the Seaquarium for us.

    Might return again but since Delta has cancelled service from Atlanta to Curacao it’s not as good as in the past as we have lots of Delta FF miles. Flew AA through Miami this trip and flights went smoothly.

  7. Snagel says:

    Habitat Dive Hotel – Closing (Press Release)

    “The Habitat Dive Hotel was taken over in 2008 and became a part of the Coral Estate Resort.

    The shareholders of the resort have subsequently plans prepared for the development of Habitat to a village centre for the entire Coral Estate Resort. At the same time the operation was revived and the Habitat Dive Resort was renamed to Coral Estate Seaside Hotel.

    Now we are 2 years later. The start of the renovation of the resort has been made. A new beach has constructed and the function of the resort as a meeting place and relaxation area for both guests and residents of Coral Estate has planned.

    The operation of the hotel has struggled with highly disappointing operating results the past 2 years. Also the rental of the apartments does not meet the expectations. The resort has situated perfectly for diving and for tourists who enjoy nature and tranquility, but the organization is unfortunately not been able to attract sufficient guests for equal balance exploitation.

    This is a situation where the shareholders lose suffering constantly and the apartment owners receive no rent for years. Continuation of this exploitation, without a realistic prospect of improvement in the operating result, has no meaning.

    Therefore the owners of the apartments have finally decided not to make their apartments available for rental to the current operator and to take the management and exploitation in own hand. Efforts will be made to create another formula with a significantly lower cost level. It is to be expected that more will be known in March.

    The shareholders will continue to focus on the implementation of their previous plans for the benefit of the entire Coral Estate Resort. Also about this subject, is to be expected more information in March.

    Shareholders and apartment owners will coordinate their interests in good harmony as always.”

  8. snagel says:

    Curacao
    (Original Post by BillSharp on ScubaToys (8/29/09)

    Up front travel tips:

    Make reservations before you go. The Marriott folks were touting a buy 3 get one free. We took two of those and discovered the 8 days were just about right to find our way around and get used to the place so by the end, we weren’t using a map and were coming up with short cuts to places.
    While on the island, were told it is one of the nicer places, with Hotel Kura Hulanda setting the standard. The beds are great and the middle managers want everything to be OK.

    Breakfasts were part of the deal. We booked in March, paid in April and used it in late July. It was a bargain then and it may get better . We ate a breakfast that lasted us all day. So, we had dinner out, early. They had fruit to take with us for snacks during the day.

    Get an island map, showing all the dive spots, which is $7 at the Marriott dive shop on the beach or free from the concierge upstairs.

    Snorkel the Marriott house reef. Left to right facing the water, both inside and out.

    Really, snorkel at the Marriott. No kiddin’. Consider it one of the good dives.

    Get a car here in the States, or, where ever you are before you go. Even the Curacao Budget folks were surprised at our $150 for seven days. We were never able to quite figure out the security alarm but we heard so many of them going off at various car parks, we decided we were just part of some sort of tourist rent-a-car sub-culture.

    A heads up. The rental car booth is in the other (read: old) building, next to the new one which is where you arrive. Personnel there seem not to know the rental car booths are next door.

    Without a car, the cab fare, just to the downtown and resort area ranges from $25 to $45. It’s about 6 miles. Get an agreement on the fare before you get in. Doubling up means nothing. Everyone pays. It seems the whole culture defers to the cabs.

    If you don’t get a car, there are lots of 9 passenger “vans” for locals. Just stand at the Bushalt (sp?).

    The nicest thing about Curacao is that diving is the 3rd most important income generator, lagging behind both the refinery and the port activity.
    As a result, a visitor (70% of whom are from the Netherlands) is not treated unusually or patronized, but rather, just becomes part of the social landscape and therefore almost invisible in the population. But, if you insist on wearing your stingray, skull & crossbones, dive Omaha tee shirt, you’re on your own.

    Bring both your camera and binoculars. 50 pounds in the second bag is lots of stuff.

    Now, about the diving:

    Get in touch with Suzy at the Dive Bus before anything else from here in the US. I cannot overemphasize this. Tell her Vic Lancing sent you. Use that code name.

    The Dive Bus – HOME

    They may well have the best operation and service of any I’ve seen in either the Caribbean or the FL Keys. They just care about their folks having a totally good visit.

    You can comfortably consider them as the web browser for diving and anything else in Curacao.

    Ask her about Miramar, the sushi place just up the street. Oh man! Talk with the owner/sushi meister when you go there. Find out where he’s from and what he’s done. Also, see the general rule we follow for what to eat under the “Eat at” section.

    Do the Dive Bus house reef dives for your checkout. That’s the Instructor in me talking.

    Lose yourself in the school of fish at the wave break.

    From there Suzy and Mark are happy to point you to or make accommodations for all your diving.

    The Dive Bus – HOME

    693-8305 when you get there.

    I carry my own weights in addition to my personal gear. Few do, but if you decide to, I suggest you carry the weights onto the plane to avoid the Homeland Security delays. (It’s one of those, “Ask me how I know.”). Just tell the the straight faced badges what they are. Everything else goes in the 3rd bag. I use a $90 Travel Pro bag that has wheels and is large enough for both Ann’s and my gear, including 30 inch fins, and is still under 50 lbs.

    91.5 is one radio station.

    Schedule at least one boat dive from the rubber boat with Niels and Kevin from Dive-Charter Curacao, (www.divechartercuracao .com) just for the training and experience. (529-3899). They can hook you up for a once in a lifetime helicopter launch.

    Dive the unnamed spot, reachable only by boat on the Eastern side at the end of the wind generators.
    Dive Watamala because of the coral and the surprise ending.
    Dive Playa Kalki/Alice in Wonderland.

    Eat at:

    Our standard action is, first, ask for the chef. Then, ask what she/he suggests, then order it.

    Eat next door to the Dive Bus at the Seaside Terrace, the place beside the Breezes. Did you see me write NEXT DOOR to the Dive Bus location? Sit down. Although it looks like a counter order place or a longish food trailer at a state fair, there’s wait staff. Bring your appetite as well as your taste buds. They may close at 7.

    Fishalicious ( 461-8844 ). Actually, go to Intermezzo ( 465-8700 ) and eat there first, right beside the Swiss embassy. Plenty ‘O parking across the street and easy to find. While you’re having wine and tapas (they’ll fill you), ask where Michelle is now (she used to own Intermezzo under another name until 4/09) so you can figure how to get to Fishalicious the next night. It’s tricky and best found by parking in the same spot as last nite and walking. Ask your waitress at Intermezzo where to dive. She’ll tell you site 65 for openers.

    Landhuis Daniel ( Landhuis daniel, 528-0008). Save it for the last night. An experience not to be missed. It’s unique. That simple.
    The “Supermarket,” left at the second light, going west, has a bunch of great red wines for 10.99 G. Cono Sur, a Pinot Noir with the bicycle on the label is our favorite there. Also, try the various crackers and snacks. They have great, light colored, hard cheeses. Be sure and buy a plastic grocery bag or two, pay the carry out guys and save the bags for shopping back home.

    Pop’s Place. Say hello to Shahirea Maktis and ask her what’s best today. Ask after her children and husband. Also, ask her for the home made garlic salad dressing and Tar-tar sauce. They do close at 7. At the other end of the beach, Carcasbaai, walking distance, is the Golden Sea Horse. Owned by the same guy who has and sits at the best table at Pop’s Place and reads the newspaper.

    Spend a day driving the West coast beaches and swim, snorkel or dive.
    Jump in at Grote Knip with the kids when you tour the NW coast.
    Stop by Jaanchie’s when you’re touring the top of the West coast. It’s a landmark. Open air with singing birds thru and all around as well as a noisy rooster out back. But first, check on the timeliness of the service with the pleasant owner who sits down at your table to verbalize the menu and take your order. We waited an hour for the food after we ordered and had a problem getting someone’s attention for a second glass of red during the wait. The stack of Dutch newspapers and magazines help pass the time or you can take a book.

    Hook’s Hut, down the road beside The Hilton or just up street from the Marriott (there’s a sign) is one evening’s must, just to get a tee shirt to wear back home. Parking is on the right.

    Spend your time in Punda, away from the stores.

    Here again, ask Suzy. She can suggest great places to go.
    Visit the slave museum (allow 3 hours, really).

    Here you’ll see the finest hotel on the island. It’s rated as one of the top 100 small hotels in the world.

    See Boka Wandomi, the national park on the NE coast – the rough coastline and the waves.

    See the resident pink flamingos, you’ve only ever seen them stuck in U. S. lawns, on the West side of the island and often missed.

    Pick up a team jersey from Dasia Wielersport ( http://www.asiacuracao.com ), the island’s leading cycling club shop.

    Hope this all helps the next person/s going to Curacao.

    Best,

    Ann & Bill,
    PADI OWSI 238458

  9. admin says:

    Original Post by Curacao Sunshine on ScubaToys

    We like the beaches, diving and snorkeling so much on the west end that we moved to Westpunt 2 years ago.

    Lodging on the west end:
    Habitat and various villas at St. Willibordus
    Sunset Waters and various villas at Santa Marta
    Lagun Blou, Bahia Inn, Dolphin Heart Heart House and other apartments in Lagun
    The Lodge Kura Hulanda, All West, Rancho Sobrino and of course us in Westpunt

    Recommended snorkeling:
    Tug Boat
    Marriott
    Porto Marie is very popular but not my favorite
    Cas Abou another beautiful beach like PM but again not high on my snorkel list
    Lagun is my favorite
    Jeremi
    Westpunt Bay
    Kalki

    Shore diving – everywhere
    West end air available at
    Habitat (Daibooi next door)
    Porto Marie
    Cas Abou
    Sunset Waters
    Lagun (Jeremi next door)
    Kalki (Westpunt Bay next door)
    2 of our favorite shore dives are at San Juan – Playa Largu and Shon Mosa – no facilities
    The wreck of the Superior Producer and not be done if there is a ship moored at the Mega Pier. Check with your hotel for a pier schedule.

    Boat dives:
    Watamula
    East Point
    Redhio

    If you want nightlife, casinos, fancy restaurants, stay in town. The new Renaissance by Marriott is pretty special and within walking distance to most of the museums, gyms, a spa, shopping, the floating bridge and restaurants galore.

    If you just want to dive and chill, consider staying on the west end.
    Either way, rent a car to see the whole island.

    Let me know if you have any specific questions.
    curacaosunshine@gmail.com

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