Aruba and Curacao are two of the three “ABC islands,” which are all territories of the Netherlands located in the southern Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela (the third is Bonaire). Given this, you might assume that there isn’t much difference between Curacao and Aruba. However, while there are some similarities, there are definite differences.
If you’re thinking about traveling to this part of the Caribbean and trying to decide between Aruba and Curacao, you’ve come to the right place! This article will compare Aruba and Curacao; we’ll tell you all you need to know about the similarities and differences between Curacao and Aruba so you can choose the best Caribbean island for your honeymoon or romantic retreat.
What are the similarities between Aruba and Curacao?
Both Curacao and Aruba are gorgeous islands that lie outside the hurricane zone and offer excellent weather most of the time, so they are both great year-round Caribbean destinations. Aruba and Curacao both feature stunning white sand beaches and turquoise waters, and have plenty of watersports.
Since both islands are Dutch territories, they have a similar heritage and cultural vibe. Locals are friendly and offer warm hospitality, and the architecture is colorful.
What’s the difference between Aruba and Curacao?
Aruba is smaller than Curacao, but has more visitors (almost twice as much). Because it has such a well-developed tourism industry, you will find more amenities aimed at travelers here, including beach facilities and tour operators.
You will also find larger crowds on Aruba. Curacao is much less crowded due to its lower numbers of tourists and larger size. Curacao is the largest of the three ABC islands. Aruba is easy to explore since it’s so small.
While Aruba is flat and has a desert-like interior landscape with cacti and rocks, Curacao has mountains and a green interior, although it also features cacti. Both islands have rocky areas and cliffs along some coastlines.
The weather on both Aruba and Curacao is good all year, with warm (occasionally hot) temperatures and plenty of sunshine. However, while Curacao has breezes, Aruba’s trade winds blow a bit harder.
Curacao has beautiful beaches, but the beaches on Aruba are said to be better. (See “Curacao vs. Aruba: Beaches” below for details.)
Because most of the tourists in Aruba come from North America and it gets so many more tourists than Curacao, Aruba is more developed and tends to feel somewhat “Americanized.” Curacao is said to have more of a Dutch feel. Most tourists to Curacao are European, and many residents are Dutch. Curacao is a bit more affordable than Aruba.
While both islands have low crime rates and Curacao is perfectly safe to visit, it tends to have more minor incidents like car break-ins. The people on both islands are very friendly and welcoming.
Aruba vs. Curacao: Getting There
Aruba is somewhat easier to get to from the United States, with more daily flights offered. There are direct flights to Aruba from Miami, Atlanta, Boston, Washington DC, New York, and more. There are direct flights to Curacao from several major airports, however, including Miami, Charlotte, and New York, as well as flights from multiple other airports.
When it’s time to leave, U.S. visitors will have an easier time in Aruba, since its airport has a separate area for flights to the United States that allows you to go through customs there, rather than having to do it once you land in the U.S.
You can also visit Curacao and Aruba on a cruise ship.
Aruba vs. Curacao: Getting Around
Aruba is easier to get around than Curacao. It’s smaller and easy to find your way around if you rent a car (although you will need 4-wheel drive in some areas).
Curacao’s streets are confusing to navigate within the capital city, since so many are one-way, but the rest of the island is pretty easy to figure out.
Renting a car is the best way to get around both Curacao and Aruba, as taxis are expensive.
Curacao vs. Aruba: Beaches and Watersports
One of the main things most people want to know is, does Aruba or Curacao have better beaches? While both islands have soft white sand beaches with vividly colored water, the general consensus is that Aruba has better beaches. However, if you honeymoon in Curacao, you will not be disappointed.
Beaches in Aruba tend to be long stretches of sand, while beaches in Curacao are smaller and often found in coves. Many beaches in Curacao are private, and some of the public ones are a bit isolated, while Aruba’s beaches are public and easy to access (except for two private islands). You can still go to the private beaches in Curacao, you’ll just need to pay a fee.
Some of the best beaches in Curacao are Cas Abao, Grote Knip Beach, Playa Lagun, Playa Jeremi, Blue Bay, Mambo Beach, and Playa Grandi. A unique thing to do in Curacao is to take a day trip to “Klein Curacao,” an offshore island with a completely unspoiled and beautiful beach.
Some of the best beaches in Aruba are Baby Beach, Eagle Beach, Palm Beach, Arashi Beach, Druif Beach, Rodger’s Beach, Surfside Beach, Boca Catalina, Mango Halto Beach, Hadicurari Beach, and Malmok Beach.
Both Aruba and Curacao have a full array of watersports to enjoy, including snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, paddleboarding, and more. When trying to choose between the two islands, many people wonder, is snorkeling better in Aruba or Curacao? And is scuba diving better in Curacao or Aruba?
The answer to these questions varies depending on who you ask, but many people say that scuba diving and snorkeling is better in Curacao than Aruba. There are more opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving from the shore in Curacao.
And although Aruba offers some great dive sites, like the wrecks of the SS Antilla and the Jane Sea as well as some airplanes, many people prefer to scuba dive in Curacao because of the variety of sites, ranging from wrecks to coral reefs. Top diving sites in Curacao include the Curacao Marine Park, Mushroom Forest, Watamula, Paradise, Snake Bay, Booby Trap, Klein Curacao, and Tugboat.
(However, if you are coming to this part of the Caribbean primarily for diving and/or snorkeling, you may want to consider Bonaire instead, as it has much better opportunities than either Aruba or Curacao.)
Because Aruba is windier, it often has rougher water that can negatively affect snorkelers. However, those winds make it a great spot for kitesurfing, windsurfing, surfing, and parasailing.
Aruba vs. Curacao: Activities
Both Aruba and Curacao have plenty to offer in terms of things to do and charming capital cities, which feature Dutch colonial architecture and brightly colored buildings.
Curacao’s capital, Willemstad, is larger and has more of a Dutch feel to it. There is a lot to do in Willemstad, including visiting historical sites such as Fort Amsterdam, walking across the Queen Emma pontoon bridge, browsing local markets and shops, checking out local restaurants, and going to the Kura Hulanda Museum. Willemstad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Aruba’s capital, Oranjestad, has a more touristy feel and can be full of cruise ship passengers, but there are also fun shops and restaurants here. Aruba tends to have more high-end boutiques than Curacao. Oranjestad also features the Historical Museum of Aruba, housed in a fort that was built in 1798. A free tram circles the city and provides a breezy way to get around.
A unique thing to do in Aruba is to take a submarine tour of the waters around the island.
A unique thing to do in Curacao is to visit the Curacao Sea Aquarium.
Gambling is legal on both Aruba and Curacao, so you can visit casinos on either island. There are more casinos in Aruba.
There is hiking on both islands, and both Aruba and Curacao have national parks you can explore. Aruba’s is larger; Arikok National Park covers almost 20 percent of the island. It has a wide variety of landscapes, including desert, rocks, and caves, and features an incredible Natural Pool by the sea that you can swim and snorkel in.
Christoffel National Park in Curacao is mountainous and forested; you can hike up Mt. Christoffel for views from the highest point on the island, as well as learn about the island’s history at the Savonet Museum in a former plantation. You can also take a safari tour. Roi Rincon Park has shaded hiking trails, caves, and rock formations.
Both Aruba and Curacao offer islands you can visit, but Aruba’s is private, home to the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Spa, and you have to pay a fee to visit if you’re not staying there. However, this island has Flamingo Beach, where you can feed and take selfies with flamingos!
Curacao’s island is Klein Curacao, a completely undeveloped and pristine island featuring a gorgeous beach surrounded by clear waters.
Interestingly, there are ostrich farms on both Aruba and Curacao that you can tour. And while you can visit and feed flamingos at Aruba’s private Flamingo Beach, those were imported to their private island by the hotel. On Curacao, there are native, wild flamingos roaming around.
Aruba also offers a donkey sanctuary and a butterfly farm.
Both Curacao and Aruba celebrate Carnival, which is a fun time to visit either island.
Aruba vs. Curacao: Dining
The food on both Aruba and Curacao is excellent and diverse. While Curacao has more traditional Dutch influence, you can find Dutch food both places. You can also find fantastic fresh seafood on both Aruba and Curacao.
Despite being a small island, Aruba has more than 250 restaurants offering a wide variety of cuisines, with plenty of fine dining options. There are gourmet restaurants as well as casual spots on Curacao as well. Foodies will not be disappointed on either island.
Unique to Curacao is the blue namesake liqueur made from a fruit that only grows here.
Aruba vs. Curacao: Nightlife
There’s more “life” in the nightlife on Aruba than on Curacao. Aruba has a party vibe, while Curacao is more laidback. If you like to go dancing, Aruba is the best choice for you. Aruba has lots of nightclubs, music venues, and cocktail lounges. Nightlife options in Aruba also include a variety of tours on the Kukoo Kunuku party bus.
If you like to watch the sunset from a beach bar, you can do that on both islands. You can also visit casinos for entertainment on both Aruba and Curacao.
Aruba vs. Curacao: Accommodations
Aruba is more developed than Curacao, since it gets so many more tourists. You’ll find a lot more high-rise resorts along the beach in Aruba, and more all-inclusive resorts here.
Some of the best all-inclusive resorts in Aruba are the Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa, Holiday Inn Aruba Beach Resort and Casino, Hotel Riu Palace Aruba, Divi Village Golf and Beach Resort, Tamarijn Aruba All-Inclusive Resort, Aruba Ocean Villas, and the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino.
Curacao has fewer and smaller places to stay, tending towards boutique hotels and low-rise resorts. However, it does have all-inclusive resorts. In fact, it has a Sandals adults-only all-inclusive resort—the newly opened Sandals Royal Curacao—while Aruba does not. Other top all-inclusive resorts in Curacao include Dreams Curacao Resort and Sunscape Curacao Resort, Spa & Casino.
So what do you think? Which is nicer Curacao or Aruba? We think it’s mainly a matter of personal taste. Does one island appeal to you more than the other? Let us know whether you would book your romantic vacation or honeymoon in Aruba or Curacao!
Ashley has always loved to explore new places and indulges her passion for travel whenever she can. She has been to 12 countries and 32 states so far.
Ashley has worked as a freelance writer for more than 20 years, specializing in the areas of travel, marketing, personal development, and the pursuit of happiness.
Favorite destinations include Sorrento and Capri, Italy; Haarlem, Netherlands; Paris; Sydney and K’gari, Australia; Rotorua and Waiheke Island, New Zealand; the American West; Palm Beach; the Florida Keys; and her hometown of New Orleans. Ashley has a goal of visiting every state plus many more international destinations.