By Kristin Batista
The ABC Islands are on many beachcomber bucket lists thanks to all the amazing sea glass that is found there. The ABC Islands are Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao (pronounced “kur·uh·sau”), the three westernmost islands of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean. The geographical order of the islands is not alphabetical, though: from west to east are Aruba, Curaçao, then Bonaire. Already very familiar with Aruba, my Seaglass and Serenity co-founder Virginia and I decided to check out Curaçao, along with three beachcombing friends. With the help of a treasure map from Captain Ky of LC’s Glass, we were able to find sea glass that is just as beautiful as that found in Aruba—and accessible by car! Although each island is worth visiting, we love Curaçao for its authentic Dutch feel, beautiful beaches, art, shopping, and beautiful architecture. And of course, the abundance of beautifully finished and diversely colored sea glass, including marbles, dominoes, stoppers, pottery, and other unique pieces that we found.
Like Aruba, Curaçao is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and is a dry, desert-like island. However, Curaçao is the largest of the three islands with its 171 square miles and population of just over 152,00 (compared to Aruba’s 70 square miles and population of 106,500), and it has more hills and green space with beaches and cliffs that are less developed, more remote, and just stunning! It is not unusual to find a remote beach on the west end of the island that you can have all to yourself for a time, and snorkel with sea life such as turtles and fish of every shade, and coral that is undamaged and colorful. We found sea glass on these beaches as well. It was not as abundant as on the beaches on the east side of the island, where the resorts and restaurants are located, but it was very frosted, and we found it on the beach and in the water when we snorkeled for sea glass.
Curaçao also offers some unique experiences, including the Curaçao Distillery, where the famous Blue Curaçao liqueur is hand crafted, beaches with wild flamingos, the floating Queen Emma Bridge, beautifully pastel colored colonial architecture, and the small island of Klein Curaçao, which was a personal favorite of ours. You can explore the cafés of Pietermaai, hike Mount Christoffel, or sail Sint Joris Bay. Of course, sometimes it is best to slow down and pick a few favorites to enjoy and fully explore. Whatever you choose, you cannot go wrong, but the following are our top choices.
Klein Curaçao, which means Little Curaçao, is a 1.7-square-kilometer island that is uninhabited, except for the island cat and hermit crabs. (Don’t worry about the cat—it is well cared for by the charter crew!) The island lies 15 miles southeast of Curaçao and is a two-hour boat ride from the mainland. The beaches are sandy white and the waters are crystal blue with a stunning reef and wildlife. We recommend the Mermaid to take you out to Klein Curaçao. It is one of the only two charter companies that have facilities on the island, including restrooms, showers, lounge chairs, umbrellas, snorkeling equipment, shaded areas with tables for eating, and a cooking area where breakfast, lunch, and drinks are served. With other charters, the facilities are all on the boat, which limits maximizing the time you spend on the island. The cost is comparable to all other tour companies at 120 Euros per person.
Although there are many beaches to choose from on the west end of Curaçao, it would be impossible to see them all in a week or two. Our philosophy is to pick one that looks beautiful and remote and commit to fully experiencing the beach rather than trying to beach hop and experience a little bit of each beach. The choice is yours—and Playa Forti turned out to be an excellent choice for us. Although we did not take advantage of the cliff-diving opportunities that the beach is known for, we loved snorkeling with turtles, beautiful fish, abundant sea life, and healthy vibrant coral along the base of the high cliffs that surround the beach. We also snorkeled for sea glass and found well-finished pieces in the water as well as on the beach. We loved the little hidden swim hole at the end of the beach that we shared with a very large local seabird! Nearby Playa Piscado also has great snorkeling with turtles and tropical fish, plus plenty of sea glass on the south end of the harbor beach.
There is also a small but charming restaurant located at the top of the cliff at Playa Forti, where you can grab a margarita and fresh seafood. Playa Piscado has a snack bar with a limited selection of food and drinks. If you’re looking for a casual, fresh seafood meal with a view, head to the De Visserij Piscadera at Piscaderabaai. Open Friday through Monday, order at the counter and then enjoy local Caribbean cuisine at your outdoor table overlooking the activity at Pirate Bay.
The hike to the highest point in Curaçao is challenging, but the reward is the 360-degree view from the top of The Christoffelberg, as it is known here. The hike takes about three hours (round trip), depending on your fitness level, and you must grab a pass at the visitor center and start your hike before 10 am. Get there early to avoid the heat and crowds, bring plenty of water, and get ready for this epic, steep scramble/climb.
Grab and go snacks
For a cool treat or a quick lunch, swing by the Disfruta Mas (Cositas Ricas) food truck for delicious smoothies and arepas. Arepas are traditional corn cakes with your choice of savory fillings. There are a few shaded picnic tables here, or you can get your food to go.
Head southeast of Willemstad for a visit to Fort Beekenburg, perched on a rocky outcrop on Caracas Bay. Built in 1703 to protect the entrance to the bay, you can still visit its round tower and see the cannons pointing out to sea.
The Curaçao Distillery
This was a fun, interactive tour of the facility in Willemstad, where we were shown every step of the distillery process for creating all shades of Curaçao, including the famous Blue Curaçao. You learn the history of the process, taste the famous liqueur, or even learn how to make your own cocktails. There is a lovely outdoor sitting area where you can enjoy your cocktails or your gelato, which is also included in your ticket price. We recommend that you purchase your tickets in advance at curacaoliqueur.com. For US$25 you can purchase the tour with tastings, two cocktails, and a locally made gelato.
The capital of Curaçao does not disappoint. It is beautiful and charming with pastel colored colonial structures lining the streets, local art, shops, restaurants, and of course, the floating Queen Emma Bridge, which connects the Punda and Otrobanda neighborhoods across Sint Anna Bay. If you are lucky and time it right, you can ride the bridge as it turns 90 degrees to allow ships to pass through.
Go during the day and enjoy the sights, but the area comes alive at night, and we especially recommend going on a Thursday night to enjoy the live music, parades, and fireworks. Buy a love lock and hang it on the giant heart sculpture or buy yourself a famous Chichi Doll, which is described by the creators as “a sensual, well-rounded, Caribbean figure who represents the vibrant, dynamic, and responsible older sister.” The Chichi doll is handmade, and hand painted by local artists.
We also recommend having dinner at one of the many bayside restaurants where you can people watch, see the boats go by, and enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Last, but definitely not least, is the beachcombing. You can go everyday if you would like since the beaches are so accessible.
Whenever you are sea glassing in a new location, it is helpful to look for the worst-looking beaches in the area—locations where people do not go to swim because of the rough shore or trash—or locations close to restaurants.
For specific locations, we recommend that you contact Captain Ky at LC’s Glass to inquire about a treasure map that shows the top beaches he has found for sea glass. Each beach has something different to offer.
One beach had more UV glass than normal, and so we went at night with our blacklights and found at least 20 pieces in about 20 minutes.
We found marbles and pottery, stoppers, dominoes, and unusual colors like pink, grey, cobalt blue, turquoise, red, and orange.
Where to stay
Curaçao offers an abundance of choices including resorts, vacation rental homes, all-inclusive experiences, and hotels across the island. Most of the hotels are located along the coast south of Willemstad. We chose to stay in Jan Thiel, which is located on the “heel” of Curaçao. Our friendly, neighborhood-style resort area provided everything you could need including beaches, infinity pools, nightlife, beachside restaurants, casinos, shopping, and more.
You can choose to experience the music and beach clubs or enjoy the inviting beach lounges while watching some of the most beautiful sunsets we have ever seen.
Getting to Curaçao
Curaçao International Airport (CUR) is located about 20 minutes from downtown Willemstad and 30 minutes from Jan Thiel. Nonstop flights are available from U.S. airport hubs including New York, Miami, and Charlotte. Remember your passport! Car rentals are available at the airport and throughout the island.
Sea Glass Maps
If you would like to have everything on a trip like this planned for you, join Kirstin and Virginia on a Seaglass & Serenity retreat. They take care of everything from the minute you land to when you get on the plane home. They do all the planning, driving, and share their expertise and knowledge on their small-group retreats. Learn more at seaglassandserenity.com.
You can purchase a map to some of Captain Ky’s favorite beachcombing spots on his Facebook page LC’s Glass or via email at TheBoredPirate@gmail.com.
Learn more about the best beaches and destinations for sea and beach glass, seashells, fossils, rocks, and more beach finds around the world. Articles ›
Join Ky Davis who is sailing the world with his dog, LC, in search of undiscovered sea glass beaches and rare beach glass. You'll get a look at how Ky got started on his worldwide sea glass hunt and come along on some of his beachcombing adventures.
Join us for a trip to a remote sea glass beach in the Caribbean with Ky Davis. This video takes you down flooded streets, off-road trails, down a cliffside, and into underwater caves, where Ky finds beautiful, rare sea glass and more. You'll get a peek at his life living on his sailboat as he travels the seas to find untouched sea glass beaches.
This article appeared in Beachcombing Volume 37: July/August 2023.