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Tugboat Beach Curaçao: Snorkeling a boat wreck

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Staying on the beautiful island of Curaçao in the Dutch Caribbean and looking for something to do today? One of my favorite places on the island is a great snorkel spot called Tugboat Beach. If you love exploring the underwater world, you can’t leave without checking it out.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about Tugboat Beach, how to get there and how to snorkel it!

What is Tugboat Beach?

This beach is located on the southern end of Curaçao, on the eastern side of Caracas Bay. It’s not really much to look at: a pebbly bit of coastline next to an industrial zone. In fact, when I visited, a huge drilling rig had just been installed right next to it! Other times, huge ships can be docked there to receive maintenance. Not exactly ideal.

So why is Tugboat Beach one of the most popular beaches on the entire island, then? Well, the name kind gives it away. Located only around 50 meters/165 ft from the beach, in shallow waters, is the decades-old wreck of a small tugboat.

Unlike most shipwrecks, which are on the deep seafloor and require a special diving license to be able to see them, the tugboat can be spotted just fine while snorkeling.

It’s not every day you get to see a shipwreck without loads of preparation, so don’t pass up on the opportunity! It’s really very easy to reach and quite a sight to see.

Boat wreck at Tugboat Beach Curaçao

What the beach has to offer

One of the great things about Tugboat Beach is that it doesn’t just have the awesome boat wreck. It’s got the whole package! There’s a bar offering snacks, drinks and comfy seats for those who don’t want to lie on the pebbles, an art display by a local artist and even a “make your own souvenir” workshop where you can paint a piece of driftwood to take with you.

Forgot your snorkel gear? No problem, you can rent some at the beach bar. You can even book a dive or rent diving gear at Curious 2 Dive, a nearby dive school that does regular guided dives at Tugboat Beach.

As an added bonus (yes, there is more), there’s also some history to be found nearby. Once you’re all done snorkeling, be sure to head over to Fort Beekenburg. Located right next to (and visible from) Tugboat Beach, this Dutch military fortress dates all the way back to 1703.

Tugboat beach bar in Curaçao

How to snorkel Tugboat Beach

Once you’re ready to take a peek at that famed tugboat, get your snorkel gear and descend the wooden stairs to reach the actual beach. I recommend wearing beach shoes, as the area is a bit stony.

To get to the boat, swim to the square metal platforms shown in the map below, particularly the smaller one that sits closer to the shore. Once you’ve reached those, you’re already almost there. Go a tad further and you should be able to see it! It’s easy enough to dive down to take a closer look, but don’t touch the boat in order to avoid damaging any corals.

If you’ve had a look at the tugboat and still feel like exploring further, good news. There’s plenty more to see here!

Here’s what I did:

  • Swim a bit past the tugboat to explore the area beyond, which is full of corals and loads of different fish and invertebrate species. You’ll see all the classics: damselfish, filefish, lionfish, wrasses, feather duster worms, urchins and so much more.
  • Start making your way back, all the way to the dock (on the right as seen from the beach). In the shallows, you’ll come across a boat anchor as well as pieces of huge boat chain that have become part of the local ecosystem.
  • Explore the area around the dock, AVOIDING the ship or drilling rig docked behind it. In fact, I decided not to go under the dock at all. The pillars on the beach side already had plenty of life to marvel at!
  • Keep an eye out for the seahorses that are apparently sometimes spotted behind the dock. Also see if you can find the coral growing stations that are used to help coral regrow before placing it back on the reef.

I want to mention that I also went diving at Tugboat Beach, and wholeheartedly recommend it. The reef (in dark blue on the image below) is too deep to snorkel properly, but it’s full of life. If you’ve got your license, be sure to give it a try for an easy shore dive.

Tugboat Beach Curaçao map
Boat wreck at Tugboat Beach Curaçao
There she is: the tugboat in all her glory.
Submerged boat anchor
The anchor you’ll spot on your way back to the dock
Dock at Tugboat Beach in Curaçao
The dock pillars
Urchins on submerged pillars at Tugboat Beach in Curaçao
West Indian sea egg urchins on the dock pillars
Sun coral (Tubastrea sp.) on dock pillars underwater photo
Sun coral (Tubastrea sp.) on the dock pillars

How to get to Tugboat Beach

There are many different ways to get to Tugboat Beach. Because it’s such a popular day trip destination, most boat, snorkel and diving tour companies offer excursions there. There’s also a special taxi service organized by the beach management (Taxi Max) that can pick you up from your hotel, resort or cruise ship, or you can take a regular taxi.

It’s also absolutely possible to drive to the beach yourself if you’ve got a (rental) car. There’s a dirt road involved, but don’t worry: no 4×4 vehicle needed. You’ll want to follow your GPS to Caracasbaaiweg until you reach Caracas Beach.

From there:

  • When you reach a fork in the road, take the left. You’ll now reach the dirt road. Worry not!
  • The road will slope upward a bit, after which you reach another fork. Go straight.
  • Keep going (pothole alert!) until you reach a beachy spot where a huge boulder sits on the side of the road.
  • Pass the yellow house until you reach an intersection. Turn right. You’ll see a large ship or drilling rig. Voilà! You made it.
  • There should usually be some parking space on the side of the road or at the tiny Tugboat Beach parking.

Other great beaches in Curaçao

Loved snorkeling Tugboat Beach and looking for more? Good news: there are loads of amazing snorkel beaches to be found scattered around the southern side of the island. You can find a whole bunch of them in my full post on snorkeling in Curaçao.

If you’re into shipwrecks, whip out your dive license because there’s more to be seen. The tugboat isn’t actually the most famous wreck: that honor goes to the Superior Producer, a ship filled with alcohol and clothes that went down in 1977 (no casualties!). It’s located outside Willemstad at a depth of 21m/70ft, with the deepest end being at 32m/105ft.

Due to its depth, the Superior Producer requires an Advanced Open Water license to dive (plus additional certification to be able to go inside).

If you have any more questions about visiting Tugboat Beach on Curaçao or if you’d like to share your own experiences at this fantastic snorkel and dive location, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

2 thoughts on “Tugboat Beach Curaçao: Snorkeling a boat wreck”

  1. Great article! We are going back to Curacao and want to try Tugboat. We are all good swimmers, but my 14 yo doesn’t typically use fins to snorkel. Are they a must wear due to the distance to swim there and back? Also, did you leave towels/clothes on beach or is it too rocky?

    • Hello! Sorry about the late reply, I’m snorkeling my butt off in Thailand right now. So I visited the tugboat twice, once while diving and wearing fins, once while snorkeling and without them. You will be fine. The beach is pebbly, I left my stuff there (or you may be able to leave it at the bar, I can’t emphasize enough how nice they were) and it was all fine. Did some sunbathing after, the pebbles aren’t THE most comfortable but it’s doable when you’re tired and need a nap 🙂 have fun, you’ll love it!


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