Planning a trip to Curacao

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morecowbells

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It has been over a decade since I have been to diving in Grand Cayman, so I don't feel I can contribute much to that destination. Within the past couple of years, we have been to Cayman Brac and Curacao. I enjoyed both places immensely and would not hesitate to return.

Cayman Brac: Anything Cayman will cost you more, however some ways to circumvent the costs is to buy alcohol at the duty free shop. We typically don't eat out for breakfast of lunch. Dinners were not horribly expensive. Groceries are quite limited depending on day they get food delivered. Boat diving gets expensive. To dive the Captain Keith Tibbetts, we used Brac Scuba Shack. I loved these guys! DM Steiner had an amazing eye for finding critters of all sizes. He is one of my favorite all time dive masters.
Shore diving in Cayman Brac is a double edged sword. The good: The entrances are a shore divers utopia. Multiple sites had areas cut into the stone for swimmers and divers. The bad, the dive shops(2 on the island) have a policy of only renting out one tank at a time. Although the island is small, it sucks to spend your surface interval driving back to change tanks. The massive sponges, statues and wreck diving are a big crowd pleaser. The marine life was not as rich as what I see in Curacao. The island is very safe and friendly. It is refreshing to park at a shore diving spot and not see broken glass or other signs of theft/vandalism.

Curacao: The good: It is much easier to access than Brac or Bonaire with multiple daily flights. Grocery prices are comparable to what I pay here in St. Louis. I typically book one day of boat diving, making it a point to visit Watamula. Most of the shore diving is fairly easy to enter and exit. I feel the marine life is more bountiful in Curacao, especially turtles, eels and schooling fish. Tank rentals cost about the same as on Cayman Brac. Rental places and options are abundant, plus you can purchase packages where you can schlep multiple tanks at a time. The bad: the crime. Broken glass in parking lots is common. Although I always take precautions in locking up my room, I have to be extra vigilant in Curacao/Bonaire.
brac.jpg

Cayman Brac shore dive entry
 

tarponchik

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I'm not familiar with the east (south) of the island, but there are only 2 boat dives that worth trying in the west (north): Watamula and Mushroom Forest to the grotto. Everything else are the same reefs you dive from the shore. So diving these reefs from the boat makes sense only if for whatever reason you do not rent a car.
 

KK Boyd

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You should definitely do some boat dives out at Eastpoint. There are 6 miles of pristine reef only reachable by boat. Also, Watamula at the far western end is a boat dive - best dive site at that end of the island. Check out Dive Charter Curacao for great diving with small groups!
 

vatty

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I am currently diving a lot at Curacao since I am trying to become a dive master certified diver, and I'll still be here for at least 4 months, so perhaps in 4 months I can let you know a lot better. I am mostly diving at the east side. The sites I really enjoyed the most are as followed, please note non of these require paid access. Just your gear and you are good to go!

East side:
Director's bay, it goes deep pretty quickly - but if you follow the coast to the left at a depth of 18 meters and back 8 meters there is a lot to see.

Lost anchor, more called: turtle island (if you know where to go down specific), you will easily encounter 10 to 20 turtles chilling / swimming. It is really nice to see.

Tugboat, is a great place to snorkel and to dive. Especially at night. You got a small tugboat as a wreck at 5 meters depth and the general area has a lot of man made stuff to see.

Caracasbaai, is a general nice area with a lot of fish and good looking coral. It is close to turtle island, so you are able to also encounter turtles here. I was lucky enough to encounter a turtle at night here, and my instructor told me that was rare.

Marie Pampoen, close to Mambo beach and easy to navigate in and out. There is a small beach part where kids play / people and if you then swim out of that area you can quickly go deep or just hover at the side and enjoy the view.

West side:
Porto Mari, your non-diving friends can enjoy the lovely beach and it is a really nice place to just relax in the water. Downside is, the first few meters in the ocean is just white sand. If you dive to the left there is not a lot to see, but if you go straight right you will see some nice coral and fish of course. (Side note: people do need to pay if they go and relax on the beach, but if you rent a tank at the dive shop there you do not need to pay for access.)


Renting a tank is almost everywhere 15,- NAF.
 

BumbleV

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Curacao is much more shore dive friendly than Grand Cayman. We stayed near Bonnie's Arch on GC. Shore diving was good, but it is a pretty lengthy swim to the buoys where the best diving is and there can be a bit of a current. Boat diving on GC was expensive and not particularly impressive.
 

DiveProKoko

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I'm not familiar with the east (south) of the island, but there are only 2 boat dives that worth trying in the west (north): Watamula and Mushroom Forest to the grotto. Everything else are the same reefs you dive from the shore. So diving these reefs from the boat makes sense only if for whatever reason you do not rent a car.
I just got back from our first trip to Curacao. Wow! The diving there is really good and definitely underrated compared to some of the other "must dive" places in the Caribbean. We've been to the Caymans, Bonaire, Roatan, etc. Shore diving in Curacao is easy and really good. We dove both the west and east point (east point twice) with Dive Charter Curacao. as you'll need a boat to dive Watamula in Westpoint and pretty much any of the Eastpoint sites. IMO, don't miss Watamula, but the east end is the gem of the island. I'd dive there the whole trip next time if I could. Do a drift over Kathy's Paradise and you'll see why! :) I understand you're trying to keep costs down, but the boat diving with Dive Charter Curacao is off a RIB, it's a blast, and the operators are great people who know the good spots! Maybe do that a couple of days and shore dive the rest? That's what we did and it was a great trip. BTW, the cost of living (groceries, etc) is pretty much what we pay in the US for most things.
 

RIHappyDiver

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I just got back from our first trip to Curacao. Wow! The diving there is really good and definitely underrated compared to some of the other "must dive" places in the Caribbean. We've been to the Caymans, Bonaire, Roatan, etc. Shore diving in Curacao is easy and really good. We dove both the west and east point (east point twice) with Dive Charter Curacao. as you'll need a boat to dive Watamula in Westpoint and pretty much any of the Eastpoint sites. IMO, don't miss Watamula, but the east end is the gem of the island. I'd dive there the whole trip next time if I could. Do a drift over Kathy's Paradise and you'll see why! :) I understand you're trying to keep costs down, but the boat diving with Dive Charter Curacao is off a RIB, it's a blast, and the operators are great people who know the good spots! Maybe do that a couple of days and shore dive the rest? That's what we did and it was a great trip. BTW, the cost of living (groceries, etc) is pretty much what we pay in the US for most things.
I don’t want to hijack the thread, so was wondering if you’d be ok with me messaging you some questions for an upcoming trip?

Erik
 

tarponchik

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I just got back from our first trip to Curacao. Wow! The diving there is really good and definitely underrated compared to some of the other "must dive" places in the Caribbean. We've been to the Caymans, Bonaire, Roatan, etc. Shore diving in Curacao is easy and really good. We dove both the west and east point (east point twice) with Dive Charter Curacao. as you'll need a boat to dive Watamula in Westpoint and pretty much any of the Eastpoint sites. IMO, don't miss Watamula, but the east end is the gem of the island. I'd dive there the whole trip next time if I could. Do a drift over Kathy's Paradise and you'll see why! :) I understand you're trying to keep costs down, but the boat diving with Dive Charter Curacao is off a RIB, it's a blast, and the operators are great people who know the good spots! Maybe do that a couple of days and shore dive the rest? That's what we did and it was a great trip. BTW, the cost of living (groceries, etc) is pretty much what we pay in the US for most things.
This is not about saving money but mostly about freedom. When shore diving, we go where we want, when we want, and for as long as we want. This is why shore diving is always the top choice for us.

Thanks for the tip, though. If we go to Curacao again we'll definitely try the east. Last time we visited the island we were pissed off how crowded and touristish it has become with time. In 2002, Curacao was the end of the world; in 2017 it felt like freaking Cancun on the 4th of July.
 
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This is not about saving money but mostly about freedom. When shore diving, we go where we want, when we want, and for as long as we want. This is why shore diving is always the top choice for us.

Thanks for the tip, though. If we go to Curacao again we'll definitely try the east. Last time we visited the island we were pissed off how crowded and touristish it has become with time. In 2002, Curacao was the end of the world; in 2017 it felt like freaking Cancun on the 4th of July.
It got busier since 2017 but the diving is still awesome.
 

drrich2

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It got busier since 2017 but the diving is still awesome.
Any idea why things picked up around that time? Several years ago I only read of Curacao on ScubaBoard very sporadically, but it progressively picked up post frequency and 'mind share' and seems much more known and visited now, just judging by forum activity. It's an excellent choice; I'm just curious about the timing.
 
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