Curaçao YUM! The Best Places To Eat & Drink On The Caribbean’s Most Captivating Destination


Imagine pristine beaches with crystalline waters that morph into every shade of blue, or a thriving capital city with buildings wrapped in Crayola crayon hues. These are a few things that set Curaçao apart from other Caribbean islands. Despite its feel as a hidden gem because of its southerly location (off the hurricane path, we might add), many fussy food-focused travelers anxious to be wowed by the celebrity chef du jour bypass island destinations in favor of more “cosmopolitan” cities.

However, these travelers may not know Curaçao. A southern Caribbean island 40 miles north of Venezuela and one of the islands that comprise the Netherlands Antilles, along with Aruba and Bonaire. Curaçao boasts the allure of an island escape and a continental city’s historical, cultural, and gastronomic diversity. Discovered by Spaniards in 1499, the island has been under Spanish, Portuguese, and ultimately, Dutch control since 1634 (it gained independence in 2010,). The official language, Papiamentu, is a mellifluous Portuguese creole sprinkled with Dutch, Spanish, African languages, and English. Most citizens are multi-lingual and many attend school in the Netherlands in their youth. The people and culture represent a seamless integration of these influences with spirit and style called “dushi” in local parlance.

As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Willemstad appears like a storybook village in bloom, bursting with a vibrant culinary and nightlife scene that will satisfy curious palates, pub crawlers, and music lovers.  Like the language of Papiamentu itself, the cuisine is a melange of every culture that has traversed the island. Bold and savory stews, fresh seafood, plantains, rice, Dutch cheeses, pastries, and snack foods abound and will appeal to foodies who are all about local gastronomy and fans of food truck culture back home.  Culinary influences here are literally all over the map, from Indonesia, Africa, Sephardic Jewish (there was once a thriving Jewish community and the island boasts the oldest surviving synagogue in the Americas), plus  Middle Eastern dishes that are becoming quite popular. Although fresh seafood is a major attraction,  non-seafood lovers will have no trouble finding food they love.  Vegetarians will have plenty of choices, as will those who prefer to avoid pork or shellfish.

The Food Halls

No trip to Curaçao is complete without a visit to one of its popular food halls.  It’s the best way to sink your teeth into the local fare, especially the traditional comfort foods, and eat side-by-side with locals in a modest environment.

Plasa Bieu is the old market catering to Willemstad’s workforce for a hearty and affordable lunch. Some of the standout staples not to be missed are keshi yena (baked cheese balls stuffed with meat or fish, capers, olives, onions, peppers, and tomatoes), bitterballen (meatballs stuffed with beef, veal, or cheese served with a piquant mustard dipping sauce), oliebollen (a deep fried Dutch doughnut coated in powdered sugar), funchi (a polenta-like dish made of cornmeal normally eaten as a side dish), stoba (the hearty national stew traditionally made with goat marinated overnight in spices and fork tender). If you can find them in one of the stalls, you don’t want to pass up the Dutch sweet treats of stroopwafels or poffertjes. Seafood lovers will find this a great place to get a taste of both African and Dutch-inspired recipes. You may also find Venezuelan arepas filled with seasonal produce, cheese, or meat.

Pasawa Curacao

Pasawa Box Eatery is the nighttime version of Plasa Bieu with the volume cranked up. Open daily from 5 pm – midnight, the bi-level, indoor-outdoor food hall is ablaze with wild murals, upbeat music, a large central TV screen playing sports, and a hexagon-shaped bar in the middle of it all. Breathe deep and take it all in – there is too much to enjoy here, so go crazy and order all the street food your stomach will allow. Standout options include barbecued meats with a variety of sauces, fries piled high with just about anything and everything on top, Mexican, seafood, and super yummy  Portuguese espetadas (grilled meat skewers) with a side of bolo do caco, a melt-in-your-mouth sweet potato bread with garlic and parsley. Everything needs a topping, and you’ll find a plethora of sauces and condiments available (hint, they love their mayonnaise). 



This is the trendiest and most lively neighborhood in Willemstad where you will likely spend much of your time.   Murals and original art give a distinctive “tropical urban” mood to this historic city center populated by fairy-tale edifices and a robust dining and bar scene. Locals and visitors mingle freely, making this an especially appealing place for amiable cultural co-mingling.

A convergence of global flavors and adventurous pairings. Ginger is the current hot spot for fearless Carib-Asian-Indian cuisine. This cozy space offers a wide selection of spicy recipes prepared with fresh ingredients. Exotic gastro-adventures at Roebis Eethuisje, a small Surinamese cafe, escape to MosaCana Bar & Kitchen for Carib-Latin fusion, or Soi95 for Asian specialties and funky decor.

Mundo Bizarro takes you back in time to the days of old Havana on the brink of revolution.  Sip cocktails on one of the outdoor sofas, or relish the flavors of Cuba on retro upholstered chairs. Come late at night for salsa dancing and party like it’s 1959. Outrageous cocktails, and soul food reign at Tiki Loco, where you can also book a personal cocktail workshop with a master mixologist. Sal The Kitchen, stowed away in a yellow cottage is a spirited explosion of color and taste, with a farm-to-table flair for a modern take on local dishes.  A new traveler favorite is  Kome (Papiamento for “eat”).  A modern Caribbean restaurant getting accolades for its chef-driven, locally sourced cuisine featuring a wood-fired grill,  custom smoker, in-house bakeshop, and inventive cocktail menu.

The evening is still young, and the Pietermaai district is percolating with energy. The always-packed BKLYN is a must. It’s all about quality food and drinks set and a laid-back atmosphere where you can chill to 90’s hip hop while getting spoiled with stellar service. Mr. Porter Street Cafe is noted for its fine assemblage of eclectic music and cocktails, plus tasty grub for late-night munchies.

Early risers and coffee lovers will appreciate Downtown 59999, La Reina, Van Gogh Coffees, and AIDB for light breakfast, lunch, or midday pick-me-ups. Find out more about the array of dining and nightlife options in Pietermaati at

The Other Side

Across Sint Anne Bay from Pietermaati is Otrobanda – which translates to “the other side” – Willemstad’s chic up-and-coming neighborhood. One a historical district that had become an eyesore of dilapidated structures and storefronts, Otrobanda was reinvented as a robust and revitalized district of boutiques and eateries with prime water views. Street art and winding alleyways of hidden treasures make this area idea for strolling and discovering some of the city’s best dining and shopping.

A long-time favorite, Café Gouverneur de Rouville is celebrated for its colonial ambiance and postcard-perfect vista of the Willemstad “skyline” across the bay. A new fan fave, however, is Rustiq.  The awesome food is augmented by exceptional cocktails, art-covered walls, and live jazz to keep things buzzing. For a quieter retreat, Harbor features live Caribbean music and craft cocktails with a 360° bay view.

Deep dive into local culture at Lionfish Caribbean – one of the region’s most unique and memorable experiences. You’ll not only eat deliciously mild lionfish (and never look at standard fish-n-chips the same way again) but partake in a sustainable, ecol-conscious, and eco-curious endeavor. Shop for jewelry made from lionfish fins, take a jewelry workshop or even learn how to hunt and clean lionfish (you can even sign up to be a hunter). Lionfish Caribbean is not to be missed, and the food is outstanding.

Eats On The Beach

Mood Beach Club is a luxury beach club and restaurant where you can recline the entire day on a beach chaise or bed while enjoying signature cocktails and local or internationally inspired-snacks. Two distinct table service restaurants serve lunch, dinner, and a popular Sunday brunch. Grab bites at the bar or beachside, or enjoy fine dining after dark when the club transforms into a symphony of lanterns and candlelight.

On the northwest side, Cas Abao Beach is arguably one of the loveliest in the Caribbean and consistently appears on the “best of” lists of the region’s great beaches. The water changes from turquoise to teal and back again with every glimmer of the sun and the sand is a blinding glimmer of white. You will find ample palapas and beach chairs, clean changing rooms with showers, and massages under a palapa at Sensi Spa. A snack bar serves local finger foods, smoothies (with or without alcohol), and many cold drinks including beer and cocktails. As of this writing, a new sit-down restaurant for lunch is set to open soon!

Casa Bao Beach

Brisa Do Mar

Brisa Do Mar

On the southern side of the island on Caracas Bay is Brisa do Mar Pop’s Place. Admission to the beach area is free, but most come for what some consider the best seafood, as well as fabulous kabritu stoba (goat stew), tuna steak, or the very tempting Friday night espetadas (grilled meat skewers).

Hofi Cas Cora

Healthier Bites

Farm-to-table fare is gaining wide traction and there are options for those who seek healthier preparations made from sustainably produced local ingredients.

One such place is Hofi Cas Cora, located on a small family farm on the outskirts of Willemstad. Serving food from mostly home-grown ingredients, you can enjoy breakfast and lunch at the eatery or marketplace, including delicious acai and smoothie bowls infused with tamarind, ginger, and other immunity-boosting goodies. Lunch and brunch include salads, wraps, creative waffles and pancakes, and Mediterranean dishes with an island twist. The ambiance is rustic, with a walk-up bakery and coffee bar, and some furry friends roaming the grounds.

 Fresh Curaçao i is a casual all-day cafe serving freshly prepared dishes in a garden setting.  As the sun sets, Fresh Curaçao transforms into a serene lounge where you can choose from a curated selection of cocktails and fine wines. A wide range of vegan and gluten-free options are available.

Helmi Smeulers

Cook And Dine With The Caribbean Chef

With her recent appearance on Top Chef, Helmi Smeulders, known as the Caribbean Chef, has helped put Curacao front and center of the culinary world. If you are ready to experiment and hone your Caribbean cooking skills, Smeulders showcases her warmth and talent at her chef’s table dinners, cooking classes, workshops, and monthly Dinner in the Field. An author of two cookbooks (with a third on the way), a meal with Helmi Smeulders is a must for serious food lovers.  Visit

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