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A Scuba Diver’s Paradise in the Caribbean: Curacao Dive Travel Guide

Undoubtedly, Curacao is one of the best scuba diving destinations I’ve ever visited. Located just off the north coast of Venezuela, this picturesque Caribbean island offers crystal clear waters, incredible marine life, and a wide variety of incredible dive sites for divers of all levels.

Why Curacao is Famous Among Scuba Divers

So what makes Curacao such a world-class scuba diving destination? For starters, the island sits inside the so-called “hurricane belt” in the Caribbean, meaning it rarely gets hit by major storms. This results in excellent underwater visibility year-round.

The Curacao Underwater Marine Park protects the island’s delicate coral reefs and marine ecosystem. And the diversity of dive sites around the island provides endless opportunities for discovery. From shallow reef dives perfect for beginners to deep wall dives teeming with sea life, Curacao has it all.

The Best Time of Year to Visit Curacao

Curacao enjoys warm tropical weather year-round, making it a great scuba diving destination in any season. But the prime scuba diving conditions run from February to August. During these months, visibility underwater can exceed 100 feet! And even during the “off-season” months, visibility remains excellent. Just pack a light wetsuit during the winter months when water temps can dip to around 78°F.

Curacao’s Top 18 Scuba Diving Spots

After dozens of trips to Curacao over the past decade, I’ve logged over 500 incredible dives around the island. Here are my picks for the top 18 scuba diving spots in Curacao that every diver should experience:

1. Mushroom Forest

Located on the southeastern tip of the island, this site lives up to its name with massive mushroom-shaped star corals popping up from the sea floor. It’s one of the most iconic dive sites in Curacao.

Water Temperature: The year-round water temperature averages 78-82°F, so a light wetsuit is recommended for warmth during the cooler winter months.

Diving Proficiency Required: This is an intermediate to advanced dive given the depth down to around 100 feet along the wall. Beginners should stick to shallower reef areas.

Things to See

The mushroom forest begins at around 60 feet and descends into a wall that drops off thousands of feet into the deep blue. Along with the huge star corals, you can spot sea turtles, eagle rays, nurse sharks, and schools of blue tang.

2. Director’s Bay

Situated just south of Willemstad, Director’s Bay features a shallow reef perfect for beginner divers and snorkelers.

Water Temperature: The shallow waters range from 78-84°F throughout the year, allowing comfortable diving without a wetsuit.

Diving Proficiency Required: With a maximum depth of around 20 feet, this site is perfect for novice divers and snorkelers.

Things to See

You’ll find healthy staghorn corals and sea fans swaying in the current. It’s also a great spot to see species like squid, trumpetfish, and octopus hunting along the reef. And keep your eyes peeled for hawksbill turtles!

3. Watamula

Nestled on the southwest coast, Watamula features an excellent wall dive along with two gorgeous beach dive sites.

Water Temperature: Temperatures average 80-84°F, making wetsuits optional here.

Diving Proficiency Required: The wall descends from 50 feet to over 300 feet for advanced divers, while the shallower beach dives max out around 30 feet for beginners.

Things to See

The wall has tons of overhangs, cracks, and caverns to explore, while the beach has vibrant sponges and fields of garden eels. You’ll often spot large tarpon hunting for crabs that fall from the wall.

4. Blue Bay

Tucked away on the northwest corner of the island, Blue Bay lives up to its name with ridiculously blue waters at this protected cove.

Water Temperature: The shallow cove ranges from 80-86°F throughout the year.

Diving Proficiency Required: Perfect for snorkelers and beginners in the shallows, but also offers a wall dive beyond 60 feet for more advanced divers.

Things to See

Excellent snorkeling in 10 feet of water inside the cove. Scuba divers can explore out to the 60-foot drop-off. Keep an eye out for seahorses in the seagrass!

5. Playa Kalki

The western shoreline of Curacao is dotted with secluded beach coves, and Playa Kalki is one of the best shore diving spots.

Water Temperature: Expect temperatures between 78-84°F. A light wetsuit helps for warmth during the winter.

Diving Proficiency Required: Intermediate divers can explore along the reef wall starting at 35 feet. Shallower areas exist for beginners.

Things to See

Swim through the shallow reef before venturing out to the reef wall. You’ll often spot whale sharks and large tarpon, especially in the mornings.

6. Tugboat Wreck

One of Curacao’s most iconic wreck dives, this 140-foot tugboat sits upright in around 15 feet of water not far from the entrance to the infamous Quarantine House.

Water Temperature: Temperatures hold constant around 80°F at this deeper offshore site.

Diving Proficiency Required: This is a shallow beginner’s dive given the 15+ foot depth of the wreck site.

Things to See

The wreck is completely encrusted with coral and sponges and provides habitat for leopard-spotted morays, queen angelfish, and hawksbill turtles. Taking a quick sunbath under the mild tropical sun of the tugboat beach can be the cherry on top.

7. Double Reef

Located off the coast of Westpunt, this aptly named dive site consists of two parallel reef lines.

Water Temperature: The temperature averages 78-84°F, allowing comfortable diving without a wetsuit.

Diving Proficiency Required: The shallow reef is around 30 feet for beginners, while the deep reef starts at 70 feet for advanced divers.

Things to See

The shallow reef has brain corals, sea whips, and sea fans. The deep reef has massive pillar corals and giant barrel sponges. Keep an eye out for large green moray eels hunting along the reefs.

8. Porto Marie

Situated near the fishing village of Marie Pompoen, this shallow reef dive maxes out at around 45 feet in depth.

Water Temperature: Expect bath-like temperatures of 80-86°F on this sheltered reef.

Diving Proficiency Required: With a maximum depth of 45 feet, this is an ideal beginner dive site to hone skills.

Things to See

The rocky reef has a vibrant coral-like brain, sea plumes, and occasional giant star coral. Expect to see angelfish, trumpetfish, and even sea horses.

9. Superior Producer Wreck

One of the top wreck dives, the Superior Producer cargo ship sits upright in around 100 feet of water off the southeast shore.

Water Temperature: The constant 80°F temperature allows comfortable diving without a wetsuit.

Diving Proficiency Required: This advanced dive has a depth of around 100 feet. Penetration diving experience is recommended.

Things to See

Encrusted in coral, this 400+ foot freighter provides a habitat for nurse sharks, snapper, and more. Be sure to explore inside the hull and bridge.

10. Alice in Wonderland

Named after the surreal novel, Alice in Wonderland near Westpunt has towering mushroom corals scattered across the sea floor.

Water Temperature: Temperatures hold steady around 82°F even at depth.

Diving Proficiency Required: With a starting depth of around 50 feet, this is considered an intermediate to advanced dive.

Things to See

You’ll feel like you shrank and fell down the rabbit hole exploring the psychedelic corals. Look for trumpetfish, turtles, and cowfish on this magical reef.

11. Vaersenbaai

Nestled within a sheltered bay on the northwest coast, Vaersenbaai features three excellent beach dive sites one of which includes the spectacular Kokomo Beach with its glistening yellow sand.

Water Temperature: Temperatures range from 80-84°F depending on depth.

Diving Proficiency Required: With maximum depths from 20-60 feet, this site offers options for all skill levels. Prior reef diving certification is required for your own safety if you wish to perform one.

Things to See

You’ll wind through coral canyons and tunnels, with an outer wall dive aptly named The Office teeming with blue tang.

12. Snorkeler’s Cove

Living up to its name, Snorkeler’s Cove near Sint Michiel offers a perfect protected reef for snorkeling and beginning scuba divers.

Water Temperature: The shallow cove ranges from 82-86°F year-round.

Diving Proficiency Required: With depths from 5-20 feet, it’s ideal for snorkelers and novice divers.

Things to See

Surrounded by healthy elkhorn coral, sea plumes, and tons of tropical reef fish. Also, a great spot to see green turtles munching on sea grass.

13. Sea Aquarium

Off the coast of Westpunt, this site resembles a giant outdoor aquarium teeming with coral and marine life.

Water Temperature: Temperatures hold steady around 80°F even at depth along the reef.

Diving Proficiency Required: Intermediate since the healthiest part of the reef begins around 60 feet deep.

Things to See

Canyons of brain coral give way to tunnels you can swim through, loaded with sponges, sea fans, feather duster worms, tarpon, and more.

14. Jan Theil Bay

Featuring a double-barrier reef system, Jan Theil Bay near Westpunt offers excellent diving for all skill levels.

Water Temperature: The temperature averages 80-84°F depending on depth.

Diving Proficiency Required: Beginners will love the shallower inner reef around 30 feet deep, while advanced divers can venture further out to the deep reef.

Things to See

The shallow reef has healthy elkhorn coral, while the deep reef plunges from 70 feet into the blue. Eagle rays abound here.

15. Car Pile

One of Curacao’s most beloved shore dives, Car Pile features a shallow reef littered with the rusted husks of dozens of cars tossed into the bay.

Water Temperature: The shallow cove ranges from 80-86°F year-round.

Diving Proficiency Required: With a maximum depth of around 30 feet, this is a perfect beginner dive.

Things to See

Explore the car interiors to find lionfish, juvenile drumfish, moray eels, and ample macro life like shrimps and crabs.

16. Klein Curacao

Located 15 miles southeast of Curacao, this satellite island offers pristine diving with virtually no crowds.

Water Temperature: Temperatures average 78-84°F, allowing comfortable diving without a wetsuit.

Diving Proficiency Required: Intermediate to advanced, with most named dive sites starting around 60 feet deep.

Things to See

Highlights include the Tunnels dive site with massive coral growth. Expect great visibility and pelagic life like dolphins, turtles, and whale sharks.

In addition to the excellent scuba diving, Klein Curacao is also known for its historic lighthouse built in 1879. Non-divers can join boat excursions to climb the lighthouse stairs and take in panoramic views from the top. The boat trip to Klein Curacao itself is worthwhile, as you’re likely to spot dolphins, sea turtles, and even humpback whales during the migration season. Spending a day diving and exploring the island makes for an unforgettable Curacao experience.

17. Westpoint Bay

Curacao’s northwest tip near Westpunt features an expansive shallow reef perfect for novice divers, before dropping off to a sheer wall that plunges thousands of feet into the abyss.

Water Temperature: Temperatures hold steady around 82°F throughout the year.

Diving Proficiency Required: Ideal for multilevel diving from beginner reef to advanced wall diving beyond recreational limits.

Things to See

Sea turtles abound here, along with schools of tropical fish. Look for the elusive reef octopus hiding within coral heads.

18. Playa Lagun

This expansive bay on the island’s southeast side contains over a dozen excellent dive sites, both beach entries and boat dives.

Water Temperature: The steady 80°F temperature allows comfortable diving in just a swimsuit.

Diving Proficiency Required: Options for all levels, from beginner reefs at 20 feet to advanced walls plunging to over 300 feet.

Things to See

Sites like Mushroom Forest, Small Wall, and Front Porch offer coral labyrinths, sea fans, and sponge-encrusted walls with 150+ foot visibility.

Traveling Between Dive Sites

With so many world-class dive spots scattered around the island, how do you maximize your experience on a Curacao dive trip? Here’s a suggested one-week itinerary to hit the highlights:

Start on the southwest coast near Blue Bay to ease in with beginner sites like Front Porch and Watamula.

Then head east for a couple of days around Willemstad to hit highlights like Director’s Bay, Tugboat Wreck, and Double Reef.

Continue east to Playa Lagun for a few days of next-level shore diving. Then finish up the week in Westpunt to dive sites like Sea Aquarium, Alice in Wonderland, and Klein Curacao farther offshore.

Our Dive Trip Around Curacao

Here are some personal highlights from our dive trip exploring the underwater realm around this scuba diving mecca.

Mushroom Forest – A Diver’s Dream

I’ll never forget my first dive on the Mushroom Forest site off Playa Lagun. Descending along the coral wall festooned with intricate sponges, I felt like I had entered an alien world. And then the first massive mushroom-shaped star coral emerged into view. Over 6 feet across, it looked like something out of a sci-fi movie. As I swam through the forest of mushroom corals, I glanced up to see two spotted eagle rays soaring overhead – simply magical!

Superior Producer Wreck – A Surreal Shipwreck

Having logged hundreds of wreck dives around the world, exploring the Superior Producer freighter was a highlight. Dropping down the anchor line to 100 feet, the shadowy outline of the intact 400-foot wreck emerged from the blue. I squeezed through a tight swim-through into the interior engine room encrusted in coral and swarming with tropical fish. Inside the wheelhouse, I felt like I had stepped back in time to when the freighter sank in the 90s. A truly surreal dive!

Director’s Bay – Turtle Playground

After diving exotic sites around Curacao for years, I returned to the simple shallow reef dive at Director’s Bay. Immediately I spotted a hawksbill turtle nibbling on some coral, and then another, and another! In just a 45-minute dive I counted over 20 turtles – the most I’d ever seen in one place in the Caribbean! The healthy shallow reef makes Director’s Bay the perfect turtle hangout.

Car Pile – Automotive Aquarium

While odd on the surface, diving at the Car Pile site at the Sanscape Curacao Resort was extraordinary.

Dropping down, I soon found myself inside a dilapidated Datsun encrusted in fiery orange sponges and schools of blue chromis. Nearby a VW bus had become an apartment complex for a green moray eel. And peering inside a truck cab, I came mask-to-mask with a five-foot nurse shark napping on the seat – what a rush! The Car Pile seriously has to be one of the most creative dive sites on Earth.

Blue Bay – Seahorse Sanctuary

At long last, I returned to the sheltered bay at Blue Bay determined to find one of those elusive long-snouted seahorses that live there. Scanning the seagrass beds near shore, I finally spotted one! Then another, and another.

I counted over a dozen seahorses clinging to the blades with their tails. Blue Bay has proven to be one of the most reliable spots to find these magical creatures in all of Curacao.

Final Impressions

After a decade of diving this Caribbean scuba paradise, I can wholeheartedly say Curacao offers some of the best and most diverse diving in the entire region. The pristine reefs, endless variety of sites, and incredible marine life make Curacao a must-visit destination for any passionate scuba diver. I’ll be returning year after year to this picturesque island to discover more of its underwater secrets. There’s simply no place quite like it!

William Dupre

William Dupre

Retired Master Diver with 20+ years of experience and 2100+ logged dives. Presently, spending my time blogging about Diving and checking off locations one by one from my bucket list of dive destinations.

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