Curacao, The Best Caribbean Island for Diving and Activities in the Sun
Whether going to Curacao to dive or for the sun, Caribbean clear water, white sandy beaches, food, or culture, you picked the right place. From visiting an UNESCO city, swimming in the wild with the turtles to snorkeling with beautiful reef fish, or diving some of the top dive sites in the Caribbean, Curacao fits the bill! Find out why …
- Curacao, The Best Caribbean Island for Diving and Activities in the Sun
- Best Islands for Diving in the Caribbean
- Why Dive Curacao?
- Best Caribbean Diving in Curacao – Boat Dives
- Curacao Scuba Diving Sites – Shore Dives
- Specialty Dive and Snorkel Trips
- Curacao Dive Shops
- Curacao – the Best Caribbean Island for Diving and Adventure Seekers
Best Islands for Diving in the Caribbean
Trying to choose an ideal spot for diving? For years we tried to find the best Caribbean island for diving. We have been diving in the Caymans, Belize, Bahamas, Bonaire, Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos, Virgin Islands, East Coast of Florida, Cozumel, Rivera Maya, the Florida keys, and several places in Oceana. While we like to try new destinations, we love Curacao because it has some of the best places to scuba dive in the Caribbean, and offers so much more too.
If you have companions who don’t dive, Curacao is the best Caribbean island to choose; it has top chefs and restaurants, fantastic snorkeling, hiking, interesting culture and history, museums and beautiful beaches. For things to do beyond scuba diving on Curacao, check out these articles and podcast.
Why Dive Curacao?
From East to West, there are 40 different dive areas with 70 Curacao dive sites. These include some of the top dives in the Caribbean like the top 10 wreck dive, Superior Producer, and the Watamula dive site, a top reef dive in the Caribbean. This year was our 10th visit to Curacao and we still dove new sites. After 20+ years of scuba diving, we think Curacao is the best Caribbean island for diving.
DISCLAIMER: Many thanks to Ocean Encounters for hosting us on the Lionfish Hunting, Coral Restoration, and Eastpunt/ Klein Curacao dive trips. While we were hosted at no charge, we received no payment for this post, and this post is our honest opinion. This post also contains uncompensated diving with Ocean Encounters and other dive shops in Curacao.
Best Caribbean Diving in Curacao – Boat Dives
There are numerous boat dives both in the East and in the West sides of Curacao. In the East, you find Barracuda Point, Booby Trap, Shipwreck Point, and Superior Producer, to name a few. Ocean Encounters is a excellent dive shop that schedules boat dives to these areas.
Watamula, in the West, is my second favorite dive spot in the world! See pristine hard corals, fields of colorful soft corals swaying in the current, and tons of Sargent Majors guarding their purple eggs from schools of hungry fish. We often see enormous schools of fish, giant sponges, squid, puffers, and sea horses. In July at Watamula, we were in the water with a pod of pilot whales – that was a first! Curacao has many more great boat dive sites.
In the East and West, boat dives include some of the best diving in the Caribbean:
- Watamula – A drift dive with huge coral formations, and an abundance of marine life. We have seen seahorses, octopus, colorful lettuce slugs, and a profusion of fish.
- Mushroom Forest – Where hard corals look like mushrooms with an abundance of sea life around them.
- Double Reef – For brain corals, anemones, and turtles.
- Beacon Point – For the largest pillar coral in the Caribbean, and large jacks, grouper, and barracuda.
- Booby Trap – For sponges, big coral heads, and juvenile fish.
- Shipwreck Point – To feel like you are diving in an aquarium.
Curacao Scuba Diving Sites – Shore Dives
Curacao is chock full of shore dives, mostly on the south side of the island where the water is calm. The majority of sites can be reached from shore, found off beaches like Blue Bay, Sea Aquarium, Caracas Bay, Playa Kalki, and others.
Some of our favorite shore dives are – the Blue Bay Wall and Coral Gardens, accessed from the Caribbean resort beach of Blue Bay, near the town of Willemstad, Coral Nursery dive from Sea Aquarium Beach, and Playa Lagun. Playa Piscado or Fisherman’s Beach in Westpunt is a favorite where snorkelers can also swim in the wild with the turtles, and see the gorgeous varieties of reef fish along the rocky shore. At Fisherman’s Beach, divers get up close with turtles while swimming out to the reef; watch for the rare and beautiful Coronet fish in the shallows at the edge of the reef. At 25 feet straight out from the dock, look for the sunken King Neptune statue covered with growing corals. With over 70 dive sites, it could take years to explore them all.
Specialty Dive and Snorkel Trips
Specialty dive and snorkel trips are run by only a few dive shops, and Ocean Encounters offers the greatest variety. We have been on the Lionfish Hunt dive, the Superior Producer deep wreck dive for advanced divers – rated a top 10 Caribbean wreck dive, Eastpunt – a drift dive in a strong current on a pristine wall, and Klein Curacao for a reef dive and lunch, swimming with turtles and a walk on the beach.
– Coral Restoration Dive
A special dive that Ocean Encounters offers is just off the beach at Lions Dive, by Ocean Encounters. After a briefing on coral restoration, divers go for a dive to see the coral nurseries or better yet, divers can choose to participate in a Coral Restoration dive.
– Superior Producer
This ship sits on the bottom at 100 feet and is covered with corals, orange sponges, and circling barracuda. Superior Producer, a 165-foot shipwreck, is adjacent to the cruise ship dock. Diving here is allowed only when there are no ships docked here, making it even more special. I loved seeing the life that grows on the sunken vessel – it’s covered with corals from its 42 years being submerged, and there are lots of fish that like to hang out here. The colors are spectacular when lit with a flashlight.
Due to the depth of Superior Producer, this dive requires a quick descent. It’s an amazing experience to descend and have the ship appear out of the deep blue. Water clarity is excellent, so it’s easy to see the whole ship. Not being a frequent wreck diver, its size is impressive to me. It is upright and has large open cargo hold that allows for easy penetration. Sport Diver magazine has rated it one of the best Caribbean Wreck dives. It’s special to be able to dive Superior Producer; there are many divemasters and instructors in Curacao who have not been there yet.
Eastpunt dive site is an unspoiled reef filled with lush colonies of corals – hard and soft, sea fans, and sponges. Both large and small animals are seen here, like turtles, sharks, tarpon, crabs, eagle rays, starfish, eels – some quite large, and schools of fish.
– Klein Curacao
After Eastpunt and as part of the surface interval, the boat continues traveling to the remote and uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao for the second dive. Diving at Klein is more pristine due to its remote location. Klein has a diverse ecosystem with calm waters, colorful reefs, corals, plus underwater caves to swim through. After the dive, the boat moves closer to Klein for a lunch break. Klein Curaçao is also famous for having a turtle population breeding here. While watching the turtles swim around the boat, we had a light lunch. After lunch, there is time to swim with the turtles, snorkel, or walk to the lighthouse. It’s an exhilarating fun-filled day!
– Lionfish Hunting Dive
Ocean Encounters has a regular program for scuba divers about the invasive lionfish and the proper handling of the hunting equipment to help control their population.
Although we have been lionfish hunting on shore dives, this is the first time we did a boat dive for lionfish. We joined Ocean Encounters on one of their regular Wednesday afternoon Lionfish Hunt dives, allowing us to go further from shore to remove invasive lionfish from the Curacao reefs. First, we had a short educational session before boarding the boat and donning our dive gear.
The dive focused on finding and spearing the lionfish, rather than a slower observing and sightseeing dive. Once in the water for a drift dive, we started off by a wall eyeing and spearing the lionfish hanging out there. I spent my time spotting for those hunting since I am not comfortable spearfishing, and Tom got the thrill of the hunt when he had successful strikes. Tom felt a fun-loving competitive spirit in trying to spear more lionfish than the other divers. After a 45-minute drift dive, we headed toward the surface for our safety stop on top of a wall filled with beautiful soft corals.
At the dock, our divemaster cleaned the lionfish and prepared sashimi for us to taste. Tom liked it, and I prefer lionfish cooked. I bagged our catch and took it to our villa to cook. It was yummy and the Caribbean has few less invasive fish!
– Other Dives
Animal Encounter dives are offered in conjunction with Sea Aquarium, where you can feed and pet the animals. Ask Ocean Encounters about these special experiences.
Dolphin Dive – Weekly, Ocean Encounters offers two ‘Diving with Dolphins’ experiences for divers in conjunction with the Dolphin Academy. First, there is a briefing about the interaction, and then divers take a boat to Shipwreck Point, gear up, meet the dolphins and their trainer underwater for a reef dive with the dolphins.
Night Dives or Fluorescent Night dives – Once a week Ocean Encounters offers a night boat dive to the Tugboat dive site. This is a great opportunity to see the life that emerges at night, which is quite different from what is seen during the day. The corals feed at night so they look totally different – all soft and fuzzy-looking. Shrimp emerge at night and their eyes glow red when lit. Night-time is the best opportunity to see corals feeding or spawning, lobsters and crabs walking on the corals or ocean floor, and octopus hunting.
I love fluorescent night dives; diving with a blue ultraviolet light makes some animals ‘glow in the dark.’ Some of the corals light up in psychedelic patterns, and some of the sea-life fluoresce various colors. Personally, I like to take both a white light and a blue UV light to see the underwater life both ways.
Find other specialty dives and snorkel trips at Ocean Encounters’ website.
Other shops offer special snorkel and dive trips. A special snorkel trip offered by some dive shops in the west takes snorkelers to the Blue Room – a small cave that once inside seems to sparkle as the water runs over the entry. Some shops in the west also pair the Blue Room with a stop at Playa Piscado to snorkel with the turtles. We have done these trips either on our own or with a local dive shop and thoroughly enjoyed them.
Curacao Dive Shops
If you are looking for an excellent and reputable dive operation in Curacao, check out Ocean Encounters; it’s one of the largest and most professional shops that we have dealt with. They offer numerous boat dives from the southeastern side of Curacao. They have the largest private dive and snorkel boat fleet on the island. Boats are 40-50 feet long, all with twin engines, comfortable for short or long trips. Captains are professionals and they know the best dive spots. Ocean Encounters has the largest professionally-trained staff, the most boats, and the greatest variety of dive and snorkel trips. They have an extensive dive shop, and air or nitrox packages for shore or boat diving. Their diversity of experiences goes well above and beyond the services most shops offer, including the fact that they brought the Coral Restoration Foundation initiative to Curacao.
A few other shops have boats and run boat dive trips too. In Westpunt, Go West Diving runs several west side boat dives; Watamula is their most coveted dive boat trip and on their regular weekly schedule. There are dive shops throughout Curacao that plan shore dive itineraries and transportation, and provide air and nitrox packages.
Curacao – the Best Caribbean Island for Diving and Adventure Seekers
After all of the diving we have done and after visiting Curacao over 10 years for 30 weeks total, we continually return to Curacao. It’s hard to believe that we haven’t seen all the Curacao dive sites yet. Likely it’s due to all of the interesting and fun things to do in Curacao when not diving. Listen to the podcast I did with Amateur Traveler to hear about the Best of Curacao and adventures that make it a wonderful vacation spot.
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