Curacao National Park & Hiking Trails | Christoffelpark, Caves & Coast
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by Kristin Young | Updated On: November 5, 2020 | Curacao
While you may be expecting to embrace a Caribbean beach vacation on the idyllic island, Curacao National Park hiking trails, as well as several other hiking options might take you by surprise. The colorful country is influenced heavily by Dutch design and architecture with its own island-style twist.
But other than an unusual take on an island getaway, Curacao is still a paradise for snorkelers, divers, nature enthusiasts, and hikers. Many islanders and travelers take advantage of the wondrous caves, hidden beaches and interesting vegetation with a day spent hiking.
So whether you’re venturing to the island for the vibrant, colorful streets or hoping to snorkel your way around the reefs, embarking on a hike is a fantastic addition to your itinerary. Take a look at these top national park routes and coastal hikes.
CURACAO NATIONAL PARKS AND HIKING TRAILS
Although this is a small island, there are gems of unique hiking spots and spectacular viewpoints to visit. You can walk or jog through the pristine jungle forests and mountain bike along coastal paths or jagged mountain ranges.
Christoffel National Park: Mountain Trail
Distance: 1.7 miles
Cost: Entrance fees for adults are $14.50 USD and $4.50 USD for children. As an added bonus, the entrance fee includes free access to the Savonet Museum.
Hours: 2-3 Hours
Tour or DIY: The moderately trafficked trails are easy to follow and primarily used for DIY nature walks and hikes.
Parking info: There is free parking available, but it’s difficult to get a spot, so get there as early as you can. You can also rely on a taxi or the Curacao transportation system.
What you will see: Reach the top of the mountain and you’ll gaze upon lush mountaintops. You can also see iguanas, lizards, and geological formations on the way up.
Best time to go: The park closes at 4:40 PM, so getting there early is advised. Starting from 6 AM to 10 AM is the best time to avoid the afternoon heat and crowds.
Tips and safety: Plan for extra time to spend on top of the mountain – after all, it’s one of the highest mountains in the Caribbean.
A major reason for visiting the quaint island of Curacao is to embark on a hiking journey through Christoffel National Park. Part of its magic is that it’s the only route on the island that provides a mountain hiking experience.
While this is a short hike, it’ll require some adventurous rock climbing and rocky paths. It’s a thrilling experience, and beginner hikers will need to come prepared with a sense of adventure, along with proper hiking boots.
Follow the simple trail and spot an array of interesting plant life, with the occasional orchard making a bold appearance.
Shete Boka Park
Distance: 7 miles worth of walking trails.
Cost: $5.50 USD
Hours: 1 Hour walk for each trail.
Tour or DIY: You can visit the park on your own, and the trail is well marked
Parking info: Parking is available at the park’s entrance.
What you will see: Protected turtle breeding areas, spectacular ocean vistas, rolling lava hills, and impressive rock formations.
Best time to go: Low tide, when you can easily enter one of the caverns.
Tips and safety: Although the trail is cool along the ocean, there is very little shade along the trails. Be sure to bring along a sunhat, sunblock, and water.
The Shete Boka National Park offers you the chance to enjoy the coastal countryside and untouched nature.
The path stretches 7 miles and features 10 pockets of beach, which are home to three species of turtles who use the grounds for breeding. Beautiful caverns and a natural bridge are some of the highlights of the park.
The park has two hiking/strolling trails, both of which can be done in a day.
Boka Pistol Trail
For ocean lovers, the Boka Pistol trail runs along the rugged coast, showcasing huge waves hugging the shorelines and interesting rock formations. Some have even described the sound of the crashing waves as gunfire explosions along the shore.
From wooden platforms, you can get a closer look at the ocean and experience panoramic views of your surroundings.
Boka Wandomi Trail
This gentle walk takes you along the rugged north coast of the island, right over rolling lava hills and limestone bluffs. Peek inside the caverns along the coastal paths and sit on the edge of the rocks to be thrilled by the enormous, thundering waves.
After years of the waves crashing forcefully against the rock formations, a natural bridge has been formed. The wooden viewing platforms are ideal for gazing at this natural creation.
For those of you looking to spend more time at this wonderful national park, this tour takes you on an outback safari for the ultimate coastal adventure.
Tour or DIY: This is a route that can be done solo. (Top tip: download the Wikiloc app and download a map of the trail.)
Parking info: Parking is available behind the old dive shop.
What you will see: Beautiful pink flamingos flapping and squawking away. Plus, magical views of the salt pans from atop Michielsberg.
Best time to go: Drier seasons when the pans aren’t too high, and when the weather isn’t too sunny.
Tips and safety: The trail is often moist and muddy and there’s a chance of slipping. Watch your step and wear good hiking shoes.
This wonderful trail starts along the saliña (salt lake) and journeys towards the top of Michelsberg where you can overlook the salt pans. Once used for harvesting salt, the pans are now adorned by flamingos. Large groups are often seen flocking around the waters and foraging for food.
Walk through mangrove forests, wander around diverse nature, and marvel at an array of migrating birds. Look out for crabs making their way across the muddy pans as they search for food. Just try not to be too noticeable, or you might scare them back into their hole.
Overall, making your way from the pans to Michielsberg isn’t extremely strenuous. However, the trail is protected from the wind, meaning that you might bake in the sun on a hot day.
The views from the top will be well worth it if you plan on starting early. You’ll see remnants of the rectangular lines that indicate where the salt was once harvested.
Whilst in St. Michiel, use your time in the old fishing village to visit the Fort Sint Michiel built-in 1701. The fort once served as one of the batteries guarding the bay, but today it’s open free to the public.
Hato Caves: Tour and Nature Trail
Cost: Entrance fee is $9 USD for persons 13 and older, and $7 USD for children 4 to 7
Hours: 45-minute tour of the caves and a 20-minute self-guided walk through the Indian trail.
Tour or DIY: The Indian trail is self-guided, but opting for a guided tour through the caves is highly recommended. The tours take place every half an hour, on the hour.
Parking info: There is parking available, but tickets need to be purchased before parking.
What you will see: Ancient rock limestone caves, Indian carvings, and typical vegetation of Curacao.
Best time to go: Anytime, as the caves are protected from the weather.
Tips and safety: There is also a cactus garden to be explored, which shows off the most indigenous cacti on the island.
Hato Caves is an archeological wonderland and a popular tourist attraction on the Caribbean island. With the sea levels dropping for millions of years, marine coral limestone has accumulated in the Curacao caves, producing intricate rock formations.
Inside the caves, walk along the smooth, gently lit path and explore the 300,000-year-old crevices and unique terraces that the caves feature. To reach the entrance of the limestone cave, you’re required to walk up 49 stairs. The stairs are lined with handrails for extra support and safety.
Spy upon a collection of bats hanging from the cave roof, learn about the history and culture of the cave, and view creative formations of stalactites and stalagmites.
After exploring the caves, spend 20-minutes walking along the Indian trail just outside. The trail is the perfect chance to discover the local flora and fauna, as well as spot some Indian carvings done by the Caiquetio Indians. These cravings date back 1,500 years and only exist here and along the South American Orinoco river – where the tribe originated from.
Salt Pans of Jan Thiel
Difficulty: Relatively easy, but some parts are tough to manage because of the salt pans.
Distance: There are various trails around the Jan Thiel area that are well marked. You can opt for one that suits your needs. The average distance is 2.7 miles.
Cost: There are no entrance fees.
Hours: Generally tours and walks last 2 hours.
Tour or DIY: The trails can be done solo.
Parking info: Parking is available at Bapor Kibrá.
What you will see: Spectacular vistas of the salt lake and limestone cliffs.
Best time to go: Getting an early 6 AM start will allow you to see one of the largest flamingo populations on the island and beat the Caribbean sun.
Tips and safety: Be prepared for an island-based adventure with water, a trail map, and good hiking boots.
As an island once colonized by the Dutch, one may be wondering what made this island so special? Besides its beauty, the island was rich in salt, a hugely valuable commodity at the time. Jan Thiel Landhuis was once a thriving salt plantation that sat right along the popular Jan Thiel beach.
Now the grounds have been transformed into an enchanting hiking trail that leads you through extraordinary vegetation and beautiful, soft pink salt pans. Not only does it show off natural beauty, but it is also a prime spot for bird watching and mountain biking.
Parts of the trail wind through an inland lagoon, while others venture into nature. Walk along the coast and take a snorkel in the waters where you can explore the coral reefs.
Santa Barbara Hiking, Caves & Tafelberg Mountain
Distance: 3 Miles worth of hiking and walking paths.
Cost: Free, and only accessible to guests of the resort.
Hours: 1 Hour
Tour or DIY: You can explore the grounds and pristine landscapes without a guide.
Parking info: You won’t need a car to get to the trails.
What you will see: The nature trails are the perfect way of discovering the island.
Best time to go: Any time of the day.
Tips and safety: While the hiking and walking trails are only available for guests of Santa Barbara resort, travelers can buy a day pass for $15 to enjoy the iconic beach.
Located on the southeast of the island, Santa Barbara is a private beach and golf resort. Unfortunately, that means that travelers not staying at the resort can’t access the short hiking trails on the property. However, the trails do offer access to a small caves and Tafelberg Mountain.
Besides enjoying the Santa Barbara walking trails, guests can make their way to the bird watching point to watch numerous species of seabirds.
Before tying up your laces and trailing through the paths, there are a few things you should take note of before the journey.
Always bring enough water for the journey; the climate can be brutal at times and fresh water isn’t readily available.
The early bird catches the worm. Start your hikes early to enjoy the most splendid time of the day. The best time to go to Curacao is from May to November when temperatures aren’t too hot.
Respect the environment and be mindful of the areas you’re walking through. Carry a bag that can hold any litter you may have and watch the wildlife from a respectable distance.
Although the island is relatively safe, make sure you’re not hiking any time near dark and that you’ve always got a Curacao map.
READY TO EMBARK ON SOME OF THE BEST HIKING IN THE CARIBBEAN?
While the island is most known for its party scene and brightly colored architecture, Curacao is also a dreamland destination for hiking and outdoor enthusiasts. With island creatures roaming around freely, pink salt pans, and coastal trails, the island is buzzing with outdoor adventures.
An absolute beach paradise, Curacao has a pleasant collection of hiking trails. So when you’re not underwater, exploring the reefs, take your legs for a walk and discover the most beautiful parts of the island.