Curacao is known for its unique mix of cultures -- African, Dutch, Latin American, and Caribbean -- and its incredible diving. The capital, Willemstad, has a busy cruise ship port while the dry, desert-like terrain on the east coast is lined with beach and dive resorts. For the most beautiful natural landscape, however, the west side, known as Westpunt, is where you should go. It receives the majority of the island’s rainfall, which creates the lush landscape found within the island’s largest preserved space, Christoffel National Park. Below, we break down the different ways to explore it.
Hike to the Island’s Highest Point
There are eight hiking trails within the park, from short strolls to rigorous all-day affairs. The main event is a two-hour route for seasoned hikers that reaches the summit of Mt. Christoffel, the island’s highest point at 1,227 feet. From here, the panoramic views of the island are stunning. Bring a lunch to enjoy at the top, and be sure to start early to avoid the daytime heat.
Tackle Two of the Island’s Most Scenic Drives
There are two major scenic driving routes in the park. The Mountain Route is a winding journey through the green hillsides, with several scenic overlooks of the valley and the former plantation estates. The North Coast Route takes you closer to the ocean and past the Savonet Planation complex. The drives are 7.5 and 5.6 miles, respectively, so plan on a half-day journey and bring a lunch to picnic on an overlook. Get a map upon arrival and read up on the various stopping points.
Learn About Curacao’s Slave History
It may be one of the prettiest parts of Curacao, but Christoffel has a dark history tracing back to the Atlantic slave trade. Before heading out to the park’s plantations -- Savonet, Zorgvliet, and Zevenbergen -- visit the Kura Hulanda Museum in Willemstad for a general explanation of slavery’s role and influence on the island. The Tula Museum tells the story of the Curacao Slave Revolt of 1795, a month-long conflict where slaves rose up against their owners. Though it wasn’t ultimately successful, the uprising began a process that eventually led to the end of slavery on the island. Take the Savonet History Tour, where a knowledgeable guide can bring to life one of the island’s oldest plantations.
Visit the Island’s Best Beaches
Despite being located just outside the park’s boundaries, two of the island’s best beaches draw a deep connection to Christoffel Park and were part of the Savonet Plantation and the Knip Land House. Grote Knip (Big Knip) and Klein Knip (Small Knip) are similar in appearance; each is a pristine cove with blue water and fine white sand set against the backdrop of the park’s green hills. Stop by for a dip on your way out of the park, visit just to see the sunset, or mingle with a crowd of mostly locals on Sundays.
Have the Park to Yourself for Sunset
One thing to always keep in mind when planning your visit: the park closes early -- at 4 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays. This means that parking your car or hiking to one of the park’s many overlooks for sunset views is not allowed. But there is a budget-friendly loophole. The park offers two-hour sunset tours for $20 per person (minimum 4 people). Have your guide take you to a series of western-facing vantage points, and pack a cooler for a DIY happy hour. Because it is closed to the public at these times, you are assured a crowd-free way to enjoy the Caribbean sunset.