Visit The ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao)

Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Planning To Visit The ABC Islands

When we booked our cruise to the southern Caribbean, we were excited about the chance to visit the ABC islands. Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao sit very south in the Caribbean, just above Venezuela. They are out of the hurricane belt and are great options for fall travel when other islands are threatened. A few years ago, we visited Curacao for a week to scuba dive. But had not yet explored the other two islands.

When we packed for our trip, we added an extra bag with snorkelling and scuba gear. We really hoped to enjoy the great underwater world. All three of the ABC islands were known for water activities.

First Stop In Aruba

The first stop on our cruise to visit to ABC islands was in Aruba. We started our visit to Aruba with a short walk into town. We wandered around the waterfront and shopping district.

Aruba Downtown - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Aruba Waterfront Renaissance Hotel - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Aruba Downtown I Love Aruba Sign - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Our afternoon tour of Aruba took us to several different spots around the island. The first stop gave us a view of the underwater world on a semi-submersible boat. The bay was full of all kinds of different water sports. We circled the Arashi coral reef and the Antilla shipwreck (a World War II German freighter). The water was so murky we saw little.

Aruba Water Sports - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Aruba Semi Sub Seaworld Explorer - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Aruba Semi Sub Seaworld Explorer - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

We then headed up the north coast of Aruba. We stopped at the California Lighthouse for pictures. Then headed along the volcanic shores to the Natural Bridge. Our final stop was at the Casibari Rocks. A large pile of massive rocks we another leftover from the volcanic eruptions in the sea surrounding Aruba.

Aruba Caliornia Lighthouse - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Aruba Natural Bridge - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Aruba Casobari Rocks - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

We saw quite a lot on our day trip around Aruba. It was a busy way to start when you visit the ABC islands.

The Cruise Port In Curacao

The second cruise port on our trip to visit the ABC islands was in Willemstad, Curacao. We arrived early as the sun rose. There is no better sunrise than the view at sea.

Curacao Dock Sunrise Oceania Cruises Insignia - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

We visited Curacao many years before on a scuba diving trip. So we had a good general sense of the island. We had originally planned to scuba dive again in Curacao. The poor visibility in Aruba was a warning. So we just watched the weather. The pounding seas confirmed that Curacao would not provide us the great underwater sights that we knew were available.

Curacao Dock Welcome - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

The ship was docked close to town. It was easy to walk off the ship from the new cruise port. Taxis and tour operators were at the gate but we headed towards the old fort. The walls of the fort remained but encircled just a shopping and restaurant spot. We climbed to the top of the walls for our first clear view of the harbour area.

Curacao Harbour - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

We don’t normally bring back souvenirs when we travel. But the delft blue pottery store had several cute souvenirs with “Holland” on them. How could we not take back something that identified us?

Curacao Delft Blue China Holland - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Curacao Delft Blue China Shoe - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

When you visit the ABC islands, there will be many reminders that these islands are part of the Netherlands.

Crossing The Bridge Over The Harbour

The harbour had two bridges that crossed between the two sides. There was a very large high car bridge. And a pedestrian bridge on pontoons that swung to let boats in and out. The buildings on the banks were colourful. They reminded us very much of the houses lining the Nygaard Canal in Copenhagen.

Curacao Harbour Colourful Houses - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Curacao Harbour Colourful Houses - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

A giant heart with love locks sat on one side of the pier. This Punda Love Heart by Carlos Blaaker was a much better idea than putting love locks on bridges. And far more artistic too!

Curacao Harbour Punda Love Heart by Carlos Blaaker - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

When we headed back across the pedestrian bridge after we walked through downtown, we heard the whistle blow. And then the bridge started to move. We were surprised we were allowed to stay on the bridge as it opened fully to let several boats through. After it was completely moved to the side, it remained that way for some time. People who wanted to cross needed to find the ferry. Luckily we were on the right side and headed back to the ship.

Curacao Harbour Moving Bridge- Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Curacao Harbour Moving Bridge- Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Walking Through A Deserted Downtown Willemstad

After we walked across the bridge, we wandered the streets of Curacao. It was Sunday and the town was pretty much shut down. We were the only cruise ship in port and we were told our ship was too small to keep the shops open for.

Curacao Downtown Willemstad - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Even the MacDonalds was closed. But when we saw the cow statue, a sign pointed to an Italian gelato shop. We were happy to find it open. But were delighted when we found the darkest chocolate gelato. It was a perfect way to cool down.

DAGAZ Gelato Curacao Downtown Willemstad - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

The cow was not the only art we found as we wandered. We are always on the lookout for street art. The 3D flowers on the wall called to us. This was a Smallesteeg wall relief mural by Esteban Ferrales. Bright colourful street art decorated other walls.

Smallesteeg Wall Relief Mural by Esteban Ferrales Curacao Downtown Willemstad - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Painting Curacao Downtown Willemstad - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

In the first week of January, we found many signs of Christmas in the islands. The harbour area was still decorated with snowmen and Christmas trees. We found Santa’s Factory. And the biggest Santa statue we have ever seen!

Santas Factory Curacao Downtown Willemstad - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

On our cruise ship visit the ABC islands, we had very long port days. This gave us lots of time to explore the islands. It also provided the opportunity to see the islands after dark. From the ship, we got a great last view of the colourful city of Willemstad as night settled in.

Curacao Harbour Colourful Houses - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Curacao Harbour Colourful Houses Night - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Visit The ABC Islands And Don’t Miss Bonaire

The cruise ship finished the itinerary to visit the ABC islands in Bonaire. We have always wanted to visit Bonaire for scuba diving. As the ship docked, we looked down and could see clear to the bottom. We were definitely going to head underwater in Bonaire.

Bonaire Port Kralendijk Harbour - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

David wanted to visit Klein Bonaire (the island just offshore), so we took the Caribe water taxi over. It was an easy 15 minute transit to the island. A long walk along the beach got us to a spot right where the coral dropped off into the sea. When we headed underwater in Klein Bonaire, we were immediately met great views of coral and fish.

Klien Bonaire Beach Caribe Water Taxi- Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Klien Bonaire Beach Snorkel Angel Fish - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Klien Bonaire Beach Snorkel Colourful Coral - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

Klien Bonaire Beach Snorkel Colourful Coral - Visit The ABC Islands.jpg

We were very glad we went underwater in Bonaire. The water visibility was great and there was so much to see in shallow water when we snorkelled. We imagined how much better it would be to scuba dive in Bonaire. When next we visit to ABC islands, we will definitely look at returning to Bonaire.

A Great Taste Test When You Visit The ABC Islands By Cruise Ship

We were glad we found a cruise that provided an itinerary to visit the ABC islands. It was a busy day in Aruba. We found it to be bigger and more commercial than the other islands. Our water experience in Aruba unfortunately was not the best. But it was great to see the volcanic nature of the island. It took us back to our travels through the volcanic islands of the north Atlantic.

On our return visit to Curacao, we saw little new. But Willemstad was a great colourful town to visit – just not on a Sunday!

Bonaire was our favourite stop on our cruise to visit the ABC islands. Our great underwater experience in Bonaire will definitely draw us back for a return visit.

It is possible to move between the ports if you visit the ABC islands. So you might want to visit more than one and find your favourite. A cruise to the southern Caribbean was a good way to taste test and see the different atmosphere on the islands.

Have you a cruise to visit the ABC islands? Have you stayed for a longer vacation? Which island was your favourite?

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About TravelAtWill 739 Articles
Travel blogger and photographer! Scuba diving, luxury cruising, chocoholic, sea and sunshine addicts, camera attached and just generally curious! Join us on our adventures!


    • Julie, Thanks for your comments on our photos. It is part of the reason why it takes so long for our blog posts to get up. Thousands to sort for the right ones. The southern Caribbean is a great spot for an introduction to the Caribbean! Linda

  1. I cannot decide which of the three islands I like most. All of them are so pretty, with their own persona. Which was your favourite? The Caribbean fascinates me with its lush landscape and unique culture. Would love to go and discover each of these for myself.

    • Punita, I used to think that Curacao was my favourite. But on this trip we really liked the more laid-back vibe on Bonaire. The little we saw snorkelling on Bonaire will definitely pull us back to scuba dive in Bonaire! Linda

  2. For me the underwater world is the biggest draw in Aruba. The marine life is so amazing and colorful there. You are right about the blue ceramic and the clog bit. I had to check the title of the post to ensure that you had not flown to Netherlands instead. Lovely post on this exotic destination

    • Ami, The underwater world is the biggest draw for me in the ABC islands too. Other than our somewhat disappointing experience with the semi-submersible boat, we have found the water in the ABC islands to be clear and there is so much to see so close to shore. I was amused with the blue delft china too. But it was a reminder of the history of the island. Linda

  3. It is really hard to choose one among these as a fav. Ideal thing would be to tour all 3 exactly the way you did. Your underwater pictures are superb. I am fresh from snorkeling in Bali and must say that I have seen water so clear. The fish is so clear almost staring at my face. 🙂

    • Indrani, Thanks for your comments on the underwater pictures. We had a great chance to be underwater in the ABC islands and then later Grenada, St Vincent and finally to scuba dive in St Lucia. The water everywhere we went offered so much to see. I wish we had snorkelled or scuba dived in Bali. I was sick and could not really breath well. But Bali underwater looks so great that we will definitely want to return! Linda

  4. The ABC islands, all looks so beautiful. Wacthing coral reef and the Antilla shipwreck form Semi -submersible boat in Aruba will be so much fun. The Casibari Rocks are fantastic. The sunrise view picture is beautiful and so are those blue stone souveniors. Those colorful houses lining the Nygaard Canal in Copenhagen looks lovely too. Now I too need to gulp a desert!!

    • Suruchi, I am glad you enjoyed our adventures through the ABC islands. Each of the islands is just a little bit different. But the water aspect is the same in them all. Certainly would be a good idea to try them all and see which one fits your own needs. Linda

  5. That name ABC island is so cute and catchy. Never heard of this before but I’ve been dreaming of the Caribbean, it also became more popular with me when the movie series of “Pirates of the Carribean” was shown. What an amazing island that is. My longest vacation on an island was just a week and my most favorite one is one of the most remote and untouched islands in the Southern Leyte in the Philippines! Your post makes me go wanna see the underworld! Although, I’m a bit scared under the water!

    • Cathy, The ABC islands are a great choice if you visit the Caribbean. But I really want to go to the Philippines for underwater fun. Often you can see a lot just on the surface snorkelling. My husband can dive down when he snorkels, so he gets closer. But when I snorkel I stay on top. Until I go scuba diving at least! Linda

      • Yes we also traveled the abc islands, for sure our favorite is Bonaire.
        Second would be Curacao at blue bay resort the snorkeling there was awesome had move the fish away there were so many. Then you can
        Go to the drop off and see the deep blue sea as it should be. Wish I would of had a chance to scuba there.
        Aruba is so awesome with its beaches and s must go
        Is Iguana Joes bar restaurant the best. My favorites are so close it’s hard to choose just one favorite. Don’t forget to bring some blue Curacao liquor back with you!

        • Mike, I am so glad to hear that you also love the ABC Islands. Hope you get a chance to return to scuba dive. Thanks for the restaurant suggestion. As I am sure we will go back. We brought home Curacao liqueur so we could make “Blue Eyed Blonds”. Thanks for following the blog. Linda

  6. How small is too small to keep some shops open? I feel like I may have been that one shop that stayed open so I can make that money. Especially since everyone else was closed. Definitely want to visit these islands and see the beauty myself.

    • Holly, The cruise ship we were on had about 620 people. But the store keepers said the holiday season had been really busy and the stores wanted a bit of a break. We did find a few more touristy shops open but most were closed. We actually had some shopping to do, so we were a bit disappointed. The ABC islands are definitely worth a visit! Linda

  7. With this cold weather in DC, I am glad to be transported, even if for a few minutes to the ABC islands! Every time I see the photos of the colorful buildings of Curacao I also think of Copenhagen. So pretty!

    • Jessica, I am with you about escaping the cold weather. We are back in Toronto and getting yet more snow today! I could happily escape to the ABC islands again! The colourful buildings in Copenhagen reminded me of Copenhagen too. Linda

  8. The ABC islands look pretty darn awesome. I love the pristine waters in Aruba, would love to go diving there. And Curacao’s colourful houses are so cool too (you’re right, it does remind you a bit of Copenhagen). Honestly, I have not even heard of Bonaire but this cruise itinerary seems quite amazing, the kinds I’d love to experience too.

    • Medha, It was quite nice to see all ABC islands back to back. You get to see the difference in the islands. Bonaire is the smallest and often just a destination for scuba divers. But the water was so pristine there! Certainly a destination to check out if you want a different part of the Caribbean! Linda

  9. I would love the chance to visit Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, mainly for the water sports, but it does look like each island has a really unique history to it as well. I had no idea that the islands were part of the Netherlands, so that would have taken me by surprise! The colorful housing lining Curacao harbor really do look like a spitting image of Nygaard Canal in Copenhagen though! Thanks for this post, and showing me a look at the islands which goes beyond the beaches they’re more famous for.

    • Meg, We certainly had the ABC islands on our radar for scuba diving. So we too were very glad we got to explore a bit more of the islands on our cruise. Seeing them back-to-back at the same time, helped to highlight some of the differences in the islands. Definitely a spot to consider if you are looking to visit the Caribbean! Linda

  10. Loved your pictures. Glad you were able to finally to get some good viability and could go snorkeling. So frustrating when you can’t see what you set our to see. Glad you enjoyed. Thank you for sharing your great pictures.

    • Samantha, I am glad you enjoyed our view of the ABC islands. Certainly was great to see them all at once. The underwater tease we got in Bonaire was just our first on this trip. We both snorkelled and scuba dived was we continued our trip. Linda

  11. I’ve been very curious regarding the ABC islands for a while now. Although they used to be Dutch, I think that there are far more popular in the Americas than in Europe. However, I’d love to explore the heritage and of course the amazing waters. I love snorkeling – it’s like swimming in an aquarium, especially in the Caribbean.

    • We are happy we have had some time exploring the different ABC islands as they are all quite different. Aruba is much more developed. But we loved Bonaire for the water life. And Curacao was an interesting mix. Hope you get to visit one day.

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