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The Beaches of San Juan

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Four beaches can be accessed from a single entry point near the northern town of Soto. At the former Landhuis of San Juan, you’ll be asked to pay a small entry fee before continuing along a set of dirt paths that lead to the sea. It’s up to you which path you take.

Each of San Juan’s four beaches are beautiful, and you might find yourself tempted to spend time at all of them. Working from north to south, the first you come across is Playa Chiki. The track which leads down to the beach is extremely rough, so we parked at the top of the hill and walked down, certain that our rental car wouldn’t be able to return back up this steep, uneven path of loose gravel.

The beach was gorgeous, and as small as we had reason to suspect (“chiki” is Papiamento for “small”). There were a few people here, including an enterprising couple who’d set up a hammock between two trees. Although we were sorely tempted to get into the water, we returned to the car and continued on our journey… this was going to be a long day, and we didn’t want to lose too much time at the first beach.

Playa Manzaliña was next. This is probably the most well-known of San Juan’s beaches, and for good reason: it’s large, quiet and stunning. Here, we were unable to resist the water’s siren call, and spent a long time swimming, snorkeling and laying out.

While in the water, we were able to see over to the next beach, Playa Shon Mosa, and could have easily swum over. This one is smaller than Manzaliña, but with finer sand and fewer visitors. But after lazing about Manzaliña for a couple hours, the day was getting late, so we decided to skip Shon Mosa and continue to beach number four.

Playa Largu, or “Long Beach,” is the southernmost of San Juan’s beaches, and also the one at which you’re least likely to spend the day. Not that it isn’t nice; it is. But the beach is made up mostly of dead coral, and there is precious little shade to be found. That said, there is at least one good reason to check out Playa Largu: the snorkeling is fantastic, with huge forests of Elkhorn Coral just off the coast, excellent visibility and hundreds of fish to be found.

Locations on our Map: Landhuis San Juan | Playa Chiki | Playa Manzaliña | Playa Shon Mosa | Playa Largu

Our Underwater Camera We Used For This Video

Snorkeling at Playa Largu
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February 23, 2016 at 8:46 pm Comments (0)

The Black Sand Beach of Santu Pretu

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If you’re looking for solitude, lace up your hiking boots and tromp through the woods to Santu Pretu, a small beach of black sand accessible from Santa Cruz. Here, you’ll find untouched nature, strange sand, and excellent snorkeling, but you probably won’t find any other people.

Santu Pretu Black Sand Beach

Santu Pretu is halfway along the path that connects Santa Cruz to the jump-off point for Curaçao’s famous Blue Room: an easily-accessible cave in the cliffs which sparkles beautifully with the Caribbean’s crystal blue color. But we’d be saving the Blue Room for another trip, because today we were content to stay on Santu Pretu.

This is a fairly remote spot; there are no services at all, and although there is a path which 4x4s could probably negotiate, the main way to arrive at Santu Pretu is on foot. It’s about a fifteen-minute walk from the parking lot of Santa Cruz. The sand at Santu Pretu is coarse and dark; not the soft, white sand found at other, more conventional beaches, and lends the beach a different atmosphere.

The lonely, peaceful vibe of Santu Pretu is great, but the best reason to seek it out is the snorkeling. Just off shore, there’s a fantastic reef with tons of things to see. For us, the highlight was a large coral tower, whose short orange fuzz moved with the waves in a mesmerizing way.

Besides hearing it referred to as the “black sand beach”, we didn’t know anything about Santu Pretu, so our time here was a real surprise. I would say that it was among favorite spots on Curaçao… but we have bestowed that exact same honor upon so many other places, that it’s lost its significance. Curaçao is blessed with a lot areas of extreme natural beauty, and Santu Pretu is yet another one.

Location on our Map

Underwater Cameras

Santu Pretu Black Sand Beach
Santu Pretu Black Sand Beach
Santu Pretu Black Sand Beach
Santu Pretu Black Sand Beach
Santu Pretu Black Sand Beach
Santu Pretu Black Sand Beach
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January 6, 2016 at 10:43 pm Comments (0)

Playa Porto Mari

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After scratching wounds into our arms and legs during a prickly hike that started at the parking lot of Playa Porto Mari, we returned eagerly to the beach. Soft white sand, cool blue water, and incredible reefs for snorkeling… if this were always the reward, I would go hiking every day.

Playa Porto Mari is a large beach near Sint Willibrodrus, with all the conveniences you might want or expect, including a dive shop, a bar/restaurant, lockers, showers and bathrooms. We usually prefer beaches that are less developed, such as nearby Daaibooi Beach, but after the hike we had just endured, we didn’t mind the convenient comforts at all.

The beach is of fine white sand, and overlooks a gorgeous natural bay. The Dutch had protected the Portmaribaai with a fort atop Seru Kabayé, a hill south of the bay, but it was captured and destroyed by the English during their 1805 invasion of Curaçao. I’m not sure if there are remains of the fort, but we weren’t about to climb the hill and check. Not today, anyway.

The Plantation Porto Mari was a big one, dedicated to livestock and produce, and it had over 200 slaves before the 1863 emancipation. Today, most of the former plantation grounds have been returned to nature.

Porto Mari prides itself on its natural double reef, and the snorkeling here is fantastic. We spent nearly an hour kicking around, spotting hundreds of fish. The reef was damaged by a hurricane in 1999, but they’ve placed artificial “reef balls” on the ocean floor to encourage regrowth. The people in charge here seem to take nature seriously, as well they should. The restaurant might be great, and the lounge chairs comfortable, but visitors come to Playa Porto Mari primarily for the unspoiled nature.

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Affordable Snorkel Gear

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December 30, 2015 at 8:51 pm Comment (1)

Laid-Back Daaibooi Beach

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Once you drive past Sint Willibrodrus, you’ll arrive at Daaibooi Beach. Although it’s privately-owned, Daaibooi has remained free to the public, and boasts a natural, uncommercial vibe. The moment we sat down on the sand, we realized that we had fallen in love with yet another beach on Curaçao.

Daaibooi Beach Curacao

One end of Daaibooi is still reserved for the fishermen of Sint Willibrodrus; it’s nice to see that not everything on Curaçao has been given over to tourism. We stationed ourselves under a Manchineel tree, and wondered about the all the warning signs. Later, we would do some research. Manchineel trees produce fruits which look like tiny apples, but are poisonous enough to kill. And the tree’s sap is poisonous, as well. In case of rain, it’s better to seek alternative shelter; water dripping from this tree can cause blisters.

We spent a couple hours relaxing and snorkeling on Daaibooi; the visibility in the water was fantastic, and the coral was in great condition. We went around the point of southern cliff, where the underwater world really came to life. Giant elkhorn coral, angel fish, parrot fish, brain coral, trumpet fish, and hundreds of other things I didn’t yet know the names of.

There’s also a small restaurant on Daaibooi Beach, which is well-known for its french fries. They’re good, the beer is good, the beach is good, the snorkeling’s good. In fact, I can’t think of anything to complain about. Except perhaps for those death trees.

Location on our Map

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Daaibooi Beach Curacao
Daaibooi Beach Curacao
Daaibooi Beach Curacao
Daaibooi Beach Curacao
Daaibooi Beach Curacao
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December 29, 2015 at 1:34 pm Comments (0)

Grote Knip – Our First Beach in Curaçao

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We pulled our car into the parking lot and, for a few stunned seconds, sat in silence. We had found the perfect beach. The one which your optimistic mind envisions whenever you set off for the ocean. But Grote Knip was the very first beach we were visiting in Curaçao! Was it just luck we had already found the best one? Or… we allowed ourselves to hope… would all the island’s beaches be this spectacular?

Grote Knip Curacao

Grote Knip is found on the northwestern tip of Curaçao, near the Knip Landhuis and a smaller beach called Kleine Knip. It’s one of Curaçao’s most popular places, and we were visiting on a sunny Saturday afternoon, but even so, it wasn’t very crowded. We grabbed lounge chairs, set ourselves up in the shade of a tree, and leaned back to appreciate the Caribbean beauty.

There was an appealing mix of people around us, most of them locals. Dozens of crazy teenagers were crammed onto a floating dock in the middle of the bay, and were hard at work singing, dancing, laughing and throwing each other into the water. The foreigners at the beach, like the foreigners all over Curaçao, were almost entirely Dutch. I got the sense that a lot of them live here at least on a semi-permanent basis, as most of them were grilling. Tourists generally aren’t equipped to grill.

Grote Knip Curacao

Grote Knip is set within a cove, protected by rocky cliffs from which the more daring kids will occasionally leap. I considered joining in, but was spooked by how shallow the water seemed. It was probably an illusion, because of the water’s astounding clarity, but I wasn’t about to risk my life on that theory.

There’s a small snack shop on the beach, which serves basic grub like hamburgers and fries, and you have to rent the chairs for a reasonable price, but otherwise the beach is free to use. Our original plan was to just stay for an hour, and then check out Kleine Knip… but we soon decided that Kleine Knip could wait for another day. We were in no hurry to leave the perfect beach.

Location on our Map

Buy Your Snorkel Set Before You Leave For Curacao

Grote Knip Curacao
Grote Knip Curacao
Grote Knip Curacao
Grote Knip Curacao
Grote Knip Curacao
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Grote Knip Curacao
Grote Knip Curacao
Grote Knip Curacao
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December 21, 2015 at 9:26 pm Comments (0)
The Beaches of San Juan Four beaches can be accessed from a single entry point near the northern town of Soto. At the former Landhuis of San Juan, you'll be asked to pay a small entry fee before continuing along a set of dirt paths that lead to the sea. It's up to you which path you take.
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