This Budget-Friendly Caribbean Destination Is Great For Outdoor Adventures

The Caribbean is definitely one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world — including among celebrities and in pop culture. From the Bahamas to Trinidad and Tobago, the dozens of islands offer varied terrain, size, culture, history, and activities. They also vary in cost depending on factors like time of year and choice of lodging. A lesser-known, but affordable and exciting island in the Caribbean is Curaçao, near the coast of Venezuela.

Though the prevalence of all-inclusive resorts all over the Caribbean and the variation of hotels make it hard to pinpoint costs throughout the region, U.S. News and World Report ranks Curaçao as the top budget-friendly Caribbean vacation spot. Car rentals are cheap and parking is usually free, while the large airport allows for enough flights to keep costs low. However, to take extra advantage of Curaçao's affordability, it is best to visit from May to November as this is the island's tourism off-season, making flights and hotels even more affordable.

Coral Reefs are vibrant and peaceful in Curaçao

Scuba diving is popular in Curaçao due to its beautiful coral reefs and even underwater shipwrecks. The island's coastal waters do not have strong currents, rarely see hurricanes, and have great levels of visibility. The water temperature also stays around 80 degrees Fahrenheit year round. These factors mean that both seasoned and beginner scuba divers or snorkelers can enjoy the underwater wonderland that surrounds Curaçao.

Rooms at the Scuba Lodge and Ocean Suites in Willemstad are under $200 during the off-season, and the lodge offers a dive center onsite through Dive Center Pietermaai. For more than scuba diving, Blue Bay Dive takes guests on snorkeling tours, boat tours, and offers kayak rentals. However, keep in mind that coral reefs are fragile ecosystems. Aside from human interference, coral reefs are also suffering from pollution and coral bleaching from rising carbon dioxide levels. Make sure to use reef-safe sunscreen like ThinkSport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen, do not leave any debris in or near the water, and do not touch the delicate coral.

Hike to the tallest point on the island at Christoffel National Park

Curaçao may be renowned for its pristine beaches, but the island also boasts natural formations and forests further inland. Christoffel National Park includes limestone caves and hiking trails to Mount Christoffel, the highest point on the island (pictured above). Access to the park must be booked in advance through contact information on the park's website. Not far from the mountain are the secluded Grote Knip and Kleine Knip beaches that combine white sand with rocky areas. Hikes between Kokomo Beach and Bullenbaai can take you to more secluded beaches as well.

Near Christoffel National Park is Hofi Mango, a former plantation site that dates back to 1707. Crops grown here once included sugar cane and mangoes — the present-day mango trees in this forest are the oldest trees on the island. Tickets are available online at the Hofi Mango website. As Hofi Mango's origins suggest, Curaçao endured years of enslavement after becoming part of the Dutch West India Company in 1634. Kura Hulanda Museum in Willemstad details the African enslavement trade and the histories of other cultures that make up present-day Curaçao.