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All West Beach Hopping on the Island of Curacao

All West Beach Hopping on the Island of Curacao


By avatar  Stacy
Posted On 04/08/2019 17:02:47
Trip Date 02/25/2019  

Destinations | Cruises | Curacao | Willemstad | Irie Tours | Curacao Shore Excursions | Snorkeling in Curacao | Swimming with Turtles in Curacao | Wild Flamingos in Caribbean



During our pre-cruise research on the island destination of Curacao, we found several options that appealed to both of us and also learned that some were already fully booked. As we did our homework on tour companies, Irie Tours came highly recommended. Once we realized that the company's All West Beach Hopping Tour checked most of our boxes, we knew it was the one for us.

If your Caribbean cruise docks in Willemstad, Curacao and you are in search of Curacao shore excursions check out this post for a fun way to spend your day. If snorkeling in Curacao or swimming with turtles in Curacao sounds appealing, this shore excursion has you covered. If you'd like to see wild flamingos in the Caribbean (and prefer smaller groups versus the large groups typically joining cruise line tours), read on for an awesome option.



Overview of All West Beach Hopping Tour

The All West Beach Hopping Tour offered by Irie Tours is an excellent choice for those who want to make the most of their time ashore rather than spending the day at just a single beach. In addition to learning some of the island's history along with a few photo opportunities along the way, the tour makes the following stops:
  • Shete Boka National Park on the north coast for some time to stretch your legs while enjoying the park's natural scenery;
  • Playa Forti to soak up more of the island's natural beauty plus an optional cliff jumping opportunity;
  • Kenepa Beach and Porto Marie Beach, both popular for swimming and snorkeling as well as relaxing on the sand or enjoying some people watching; and
  • Salt Flats at Sint Willibrordus to (hopefully) see the wild flamingos living on Curacao.

Included in the $65.00 USD per person tour price (paid at the end of the tour) is pick-up and drop-off at the port (or hotel), entrance fees to the national park and beaches, snorkel and mask (no fins) plus bottled water, soft drinks (Coke and Sprite; no diet drinks) and beer. Reservation requests and submission of questions can easily be completed online. If our experience is the norm, you can expect to receive a prompt reply and/or confirmation.

Arriving into Willemstad, Curacao

The port at Willemstad, Curacao has two docks, both of which were occupied during our visit. Upon disembarking, you'll likely be greeted by a dance group welcoming you to the island. After enjoying their performance, keep your eyes open for the easily spotted Irie Tours sign providing directions to those with internet reservations. We were instructed to walk to "Jackie" Voges Pier where we saw our guide dressed in his brightly colored t-shirt as we approached the entrance to the adjacent pier. If you're a shopper, plan to disembark early so you have enough time to check in plus spend some time wandering around the market set up under the covered port area.



Transportation around Curacao

Transportation around the island is in a brightly painted open air school type bus which we boarded just outside the port. After brief introductions by our driver Yrad and guide Eddie, we quickly picked-up a few more passengers at the nearby Renaissance Hotel bringing our total to 15.


You can't miss the Irie Tours Buses!

You can't miss the Irie Tours Buses!

In addition to the points where we had time to get off of the bus to explore, we made a few other stops including:

  • Chapel of the Twins, known locally as Kapiya Di Oochi, the island's smallest church open only on Easter Sunday;
  • Williwood, Curacao's answer to the famous "Hollywood" sign in Los Angeles; and
  • the above ground cemetery and Church of Sint Willibrordus.


Curacao Tourist Attractions

Curacao Tourist Attractions

With the large cooler stuffed full of self-service drinks and the island breeze ensuring a nice temperature, your ride around the island is sure to be very comfortable. When Eddie wasn't sharing interesting tidbits about the island ("dushi" means "happy"), the Caribbean tunes playing added to the island vibe! There are 160,000 inhabitants representing 80 different nationalities living on Curacao, plus an assortment of wild animals including several tribes of goats who shared the road with us!



Salt Flats at Sint Willibrordus

Our first stop was a short one but, to be honest, was a "must see" for us when making our plans for the day. Knowing that viewing flamingos in the wild is limited to a few locations, we wanted to take advantage of one of the islands where it is possible. The flamingos apparently came to the Salt Flats at Sint Willibrordus from the neighboring island of Bonaire. Since the cool pink birds hang out in the waters of Salina Sint Marie, we walked past the freedom monument and along the rocky muddy path to get as close as possible!


Curled up like a Pretzel!

Curled up like a Pretzel!

Taking Flight

Taking Flight

Curacao's Favorite Pink Flamingos

Curacao's Favorite Pink Flamingos

The Flamingos at Sint Willibrordus

The Flamingos at Sint Willibrordus

Shete Boka National Park

Although there are more than ten inlets (or bays), the name Shete Boka stands for seven inlets, which we learned are protected for turtle breeding. A thirty minute stop will give you the opportunity to admire a small part of the national park beginning at Boka Tabla. The short hike along a gravel and rock path leads down to a lower viewpoint as well as an underground cave. The views are remarkably different as are the sounds of the waves crashing into the shore depending on whether you are inside or outside of the sea cave.


Lower Viewpoint at Shete Boka National Park

Lower Viewpoint at Shete Boka National Park

Underground Cave at Boka Tabla

Underground Cave at Boka Tabla

You'll still have time to hike the short distance up to the top of the limestone bluffs, so fortunately your visit won't be over yet. Peering down from the upper viewpoint gives you yet another perspective of how high the water splashes each time a wave crashes into the limestone. Although we couldn't even come close to walking along the entire coastline, we kept an eye on the waves and walked along the northern coast of Curacao until our time was up.


View from Limestone Cliffs at Shete Boka National Park

View from Limestone Cliffs at Shete Boka National Park

Rumor has it that the restaurant at the park serves iguana soup!



Fisherman's Wharf

We made an unexpected but very welcome stop at Playa Piskado (also known as Playa Grandi). With many a local fisherman cleaning and selling fish from this spot on the island each and every day, it is a real life Fisherman's Wharf. Because of the fish remains regularly found in the water, sea turtles now claim the water as their residence and can regularly be seen swimming about as they wait for their next feeding. The feasting turtles have in turn made the spot popular with visitors who come in hopes of swimming and snorkeling with the graceful sea animals.


Ready to Snorkel at Playa Piskado

Ready to Snorkel at Playa Piskado

Snorkeling with Sea Turtles at Playa Piskado

Snorkeling with Sea Turtles at Playa Piskado

Playa Piskado is a great place to visit even for those who don't wish to snorkel as the view from the Banco di Caribe Pier is just as good.


Sea Turtles Feasting at Fisherman's Wharf

Sea Turtles Feasting at Fisherman's Wharf

Playa Forti

Just a couple of minutes away, we made stop for the daredevils to go cliff jumping while the rest of us enjoyed the view. We only had one person in our group willing to take the plunge, so the stop was a quick one. Fortunately we had a great vantage point to witness the jump ... and also watch a lone turtle pop up every so often as he swam about below.


Cliff Jumping at Playa Forti

Cliff Jumping at Playa Forti

Playa Kenepa Grandi

You'll have about an hour to spend at Playa Kenepa Grandi which, along with Playa Kenepa Chiki, is one of two neighboring beaches on the island's quieter west side. Popular with both locals and tourists, the beauty of the beach can first be enjoyed from the vista atop the rocks surrounding the area.


Viewpoint above Playa Kenepa Grandi

Viewpoint above Playa Kenepa Grandi

After taking a few photos, it's time to make your way down the flight of concrete stairs to the white sandy beach to pick your favorite spot - either with full sun or a more shaded spot to escape the rays. (Sun loungers and parasols are available for rent at a cost of $5.00 USD and $10.00 USD respectively - or a combo deal including 2 loungers and one parasol for $15.00 USD.)


Enjoying Playa Kenepa Grandi

Enjoying Playa Kenepa Grandi

Don't miss out on spending at least part of your time either swimming or snorkeling in the beautiful blue water. Even without fins, the snorkeling is enjoyable as you'll find colorful fish not far from the shore.


Snorkeling at Playa Kenepa Grandi

Snorkeling at Playa Kenepa Grandi

Schools is in Session for the Yellow Striped Goatfish

Schools is in Session for the Yellow Striped Goatfish

There's more than just Fish in the Blue Water

There's more than just Fish in the Blue Water

Hiding under the Coral!

Hiding under the Coral!

If you're hungry or thirsty, there's also drink and snack options available from a food truck vendor located in the parking lot.



Playa PortoMari

We had two options after the longest ride of the day which brought us to Playa PortoMari, our last stop. Those preferring an early return to the ship had a quick 20 minutes to see the beach before the bus ride back. The remaining five of us chose to spend two hours people watching, snorkeling and relaxing on the sand while waiting for the bus to return.

Playa PortoMari is more than just a beach with a swim platform. You'll find a restaurant and bar, toilets and a shower, a dive shop, kayak and beach chair rentals, and even a masseuse! With a unique double reef, the beach is a favorite of both divers and snorkelers.


Snorkeling at Playa PortoMari

Snorkeling at Playa PortoMari

Blue Striped Grunt

Blue Striped Grunt

Swimming with the friendly Fish!

Swimming with the friendly Fish!

Smooth Trunkfish in Curacao

Smooth Trunkfish in Curacao

Although we never saw them, a population of free roaming wild pigs are also residents of Playa PortoMari. We did, however, see some cool lizards roaming about the sand and shoreside rocks.


Local Residents at Playa PortoMari

Local Residents at Playa PortoMari

Before leaving the beach, make sure to climb the tower to get a good view of Playa PortoMari.


Tower at Playa PortoMari

Tower at Playa PortoMari

White Sand and Blue Water of Curacao's Playa PortoMari

White Sand and Blue Water of Curacao's Playa PortoMari

The PortoMari

The PortoMari

Exploring the Port of Willemstad

Even with spending two hours at our final stop, we had plenty of time to explore the port area before our 6:30 PM all aboard time. If your ship doesn't depart until the evening, take a little time to read the seven signs as you walk the short Historical Walking Tour. Walk through the RIF Fort (originally built in 1828) that is now home to shops and restaurants.


RIF Fort in Willemstad

RIF Fort in Willemstad

Make sure to ascend the old fort wall stairs for some awesome views.


Colorful Dutch Colonial Architecture in Willemstad, Curacao

Colorful Dutch Colonial Architecture in Willemstad, Curacao

Peering through a Fort Wall Window

Peering through a Fort Wall Window

The "WE Did It!" Evaluation

Our day spent with Irie Tours during our Curacao port of call was an excellent choice for The Wordy Explorers. With multiple stops, the All West Beach Hopping Tour gives visitors a chance to learn a little about the island, experience beautiful scenery, beaches and, for those who wish, snorkeling and cliff jumping.



Priced at $65.00 USD per person, our excursion included the entrance fees for the national park and the beaches plus transportation from the port and drinks. The most comparable tour offered by Celebrity Cruise Lines was the 3 1/2 hour Fun Beach Express, Sightseeing and Snorkel tour priced at $59.00 USD per person described as:

"Explore the tropical scenery and hidden treasures of Curacao's west coast aboard the Beach Express, a one-of-a-kind open air bus. Discover a world where nature reigns supreme as you encounter incredible wildlife, historic plantation houses, panoramic mountain views, salt flats and the island's most famous inhabitants, the pink flamingos. After your exciting island tour, you'll visit the famous Curacao Beach for some leisure time to relax, swim or snorkel."

While Celebrity does contract with Irie Tours for some excursions, none included all that we had the opportunity to see in our 7 hour tour. In our opinion, the longer full day tour with more stops along the way was certainly worth the extra $6.00 as compared to the cruise ship excursion offering.



Bonaire

If you enjoy snorkeling and your cruise itinerary calls for a port visit to the Caribbean island of Bonaire, take a look at our suggested private shore excursion. Our post, Two Stop Snorkel Tour with Aqua Fun Bonaire, includes all that you need to reserve your place on the boat. As always, we've included plenty of photos to help you confirm that the excursion is right for you and your travel companions.

Caribbean Islands

What is your favorite island in the Caribbean and why is it at the top of your list?




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All West Beach Hopping on the Island of Curacao











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