If you’re vacationing on the amazing Caribbean island of Curaçao, be sure not to pass up on the opportunity to take a little day trip to Klein Curaçao. This uninhabited island is located around 10 km southeast of its larger cousin, meaning it’s only a 1.5-2hr boat trip away.
My Klein Curaçao boat trip was one of the highlights of my entire holiday. To make sure your experience is equally great, we’ll discuss everything you have to know about visiting the island in this full Klein Curaçao travel guide!
Ready to plan your visit? Read on for everything you need to know about booking a Klein Curaçao boat trip, what to do on the island, where to snorkel and what to keep in mind.
What is Klein Curaçao?
As mentioned in the intro, Klein Curaçao (Dutch for “Little Curaçao”) is a tiny uninhabited island in the Dutch Caribbean, located around 10 km/6 miles off the southeastern tip of Curaçao. It measures only 1.7 sq km or 0.66 sq mi.
This desert island has no tall vegetation aside from a few palm trees, so the landscape is open. The only permanent structures are a lighthouse plus a few sheds owned by tour companies and fishing huts. This is one of the reasons it’s such a great place to visit: there isn’t even any WiFi or cell connection, so you can really unwind away from the rest of humanity.
Although there isn’t technically that much to do on Klein Curaçao, it’s stunning and an ideal place to spend a full day.
Booking a Klein Curaçao boat trip
There are loads of different tour operators that offer day trips to Curaçao. Prices vary from around $100 up to around $200. How do you choose which one to go for?
One of the prime things to keep in mind is that at the time of writing, only two boat companies have permanent structures on the island: Mermaid Boat Trips and Miss Ann Boat Trips. If you don’t book with these operators, keep in mind that you’ll have to swim back to your boat for things like lunch or if you need to use the toilet.
Mermaid and Miss Ann’s boats aren’t the fastest (there are also powerboat trips available) nor the coolest (I think that one goes to the catamaran options), but their packages are the most comfortable. That’s why I booked with Mermaid Boat Trips myself, which cost me $130.
- Coffee, tea, soda and water for free
- Beer, wine and spirits at a small cost
- Simple breakfast sandwiches
- Surprisingly elaborate BBQ lunch
- Umbrellas and sunbeds
- Toilet facilities and a shower to rinse yourself off
- Free pick-up in the Jan Thiel area
Getting people on and off the boat was done with small dinghies. That took a little too long for our liking, so we just jumped off and swam!
The Mermaid leaves early in the morning from Caracas Bay and returns in the afternoon.
Tip: Even if you’re not prone to getting seasick, I’d still take some anti-nausea medication. I get nauseous quite easily and I had no problems whatsoever after taking an anti-seasickness pill, which was a huge relief. Other folks on our boat were not so lucky… the ocean can be rough and there were some people who spent the entire trip throwing up.
What to do on Klein Curaçao
I’m sure this one comes as a surprise to no one! Aside from sunbathing and strolling along the paradise beach, snorkeling is probably the prime activity on Klein Curaçao. The waters on the leeward side of the island are usually calm enough, although it’s important to stay alert if you want to go a bit further out. Boats are always coming in and going out.
Most boat companies will supply snorkel gear, but I brought my own to make sure it fit well and wouldn’t cause me issues. I also brought my trusty underwater camera and was very glad I did!
Remember, you can only snorkel on the leeward side of the island (the side where the shacks are). The windward side is much too dangerous. It’s easy to get into the water even barefoot because the beach is sandy. The water is usually calm, with great visibility and healthy corals.
Here’s what I did: I walked all the way to the left side of the beach (when looking toward the ocean) and swam to the left point of the island to explore, since I read that’s where there’s the most to see. This was true.
Then, I made my way back past all the boats until I reached the dock on the right side. There are some reasonably strong currents at the island point. As such, it’s best to skip this part if you’re not a strong swimmer or don’t have fins with you.
Some of the species I personally ran into include:
- Ocean triggerfish (Canthidermis sufflamen)
- Moray eels like the chain moray (Echidna catenata)
- Scrawled filefish (Aluterus scriptus)
- Schools of Caribbean blue tang (Acanthurus coeruleus)
- Lionfish (genus Pterois)
- Scorpionfish (family Scorpaenidae)
And many more, including a variety of small fish species and invertebrates like sea urchins, fireworms (no touchy!), crabs, shrimp, anemones, sponges, you name it.
Although the reef is a bit too far out to reach while snorkeling, I promise you won’t be disappointed with the island’s underwater beauty.
Did you know? You can also go diving on Klein Curaçao, like through here. If you want to bring your own dive gear, make sure to ask the boat company beforehand if that’s okay. Also ask the dive school you’re renting from if you don’t have your own gear.
Explore the abandoned lighthouse & shipwreck
Done snorkeling? Don’t lay down on your sunbed just yet, as there’s more to see on the island than just the underwater world. It features two more must-sees: a lighthouse that was built in 1879 and a small abandoned oil tanker, the Maria Bianca Guidesman.
Because the island is so small, it’s easy to reach both spots and have a look around (maybe 15 minutes at a leisurely pace). Be careful around the shipwreck, as it’s on the windward side of the island where the sea is too rough to swim and stones are very sharp. The treacherous winds are the reason the wreck is there in the first place!
As a “bonus”, in 2007, a small yacht washed up close to the Maria Bianca. No worries: its passengers were fine. The boat, however, could not be salvaged and was left.
Tip: You NEED to pack SPF 50 sunscreen, even if you have naturally dark skin. The sun beats down relentlessly on the island and it would be a total shame to spend the rest of your holiday covered in painful blisters. Wear a hat or cap, too, as well as a rash guard while snorkeling.
Despite its tiny size and lack of inhabitants, Klein Curaçao does have some history:
- In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was owned by the Dutch West India Company. Sick slaves brought in by the company from Africa were quarantined on the island and the dead were buried there. Some graves are apparently still present on the south side.
- In the 19th century, phosphate was discovered on Klein Curaçao and a mining operation was set up. This, unsurprisingly, greatly damaged the island’s ecosystem.
- Also in the 19th century, the lighthouse was first constructed. It was built in 1850, destroyed by a hurricane in 1877, rebuilt, and then rebuilt again in 1913 but left to the elements. Restoration efforts are now underway and the lighthouse does actually feature a light again to warn boats in the area.
Enjoy the natural beauty
It’s tempting to spend your entire time on Klein Curaçao with your face in the water or peeking around the abandoned lighthouse, but don’t forget to pay some attention to the other natural wonders the island has to offer as well. For example, sea turtles and various seabird species nest here!
Like Curaçao itself, Klein Curaçao was born through volcanic eruptions that thrust ancient reefs to the surface. As a result, it’s rife with amazing fossilized corals, making it a natural history lover’s dream. You can’t take these corals with you, but be sure to keep an eye on the rocks to see what kind of formations you can spot.
Another detail I loved were the hermit crabs (soldier crab or Coenobita clypeatus) and lizards (Curaçao striped anole or Anolis lineatus). These guys are extremely abundant and they have definitely learned that the tour operator shacks are the place to be for food. Throw them a piece of lettuce and you’ll see what I mean!
Don’t pick up the hermits, they pack a nasty pinch. Don’t ask me how I know that.
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If you have any more questions about going on a Klein Curaçao boat trip or if you want to share your own experiences with this amazing uninhabited Caribbean island, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!