Planning a beach vacation to Curacao? If so, don’t just stick to the resort. Mix up your visit with a hike to the top of Mt. Christoffel, the tallest peak on the island at 1,227 feet.
We hiked up Mt. Christoffel during a recent trip to the Caribbean and found it to be fun– and just challenging enough to keep us on our toes.
Best of all, this hike is the perfect way to make up for a few days of lounging at the beach and eating decadent meals!
Hiking up the mountain
The hike begins with a curvy 15-minute drive into Christoffel National Park, where a small parking lot forms the trail head. The hike itself takes about 2 hours round-trip, not including the drive in. Entry costs $10 per person, and gives you access to the entire national park, which includes several other smaller hikes and some scenic drives.
The trail begins on flat terrain in a surprisingly lush and green forest, and includes a couple of river crossings.
As we left the streams and started our ascent the landscape changed dramatically, and reminded us a lot of the arid US Southwest.
As we started climbing higher and higher the trees opened up and gave us our first views of the area, stretching out to the beaches and ocean in the distance.
There were tons of prickly cacti and thorny plants everywhere, which left us a bit scraped up by the end of the hike. (I’d recommend wearing long pants).
Some thorny bushes were at eye level– which forced us to look carefully before grabbing at vines or bushes for support.
Also along the trail were other interesting plants, including some that looked similar to aloe (which would’ve helped my sunburned neck!).
From hiking to rock climbing
The hike started to get strenuous when we came across a bit of forest graffiti. This rock was spray-painted with the term “dushi,” the Curacao version of “cool”. Officially, it means “sweet” or “nice” in the local dialect of Papiamentu.
After a relatively gradual ascent, about halfway up the trail it narrowed and steepened considerably. This was still nothing, however, compared with what lay further ahead.
The last stretch before the summit was a very steep scramble over jagged boulders, some of which were along a sheer drop-off.
We were forced to wait as a group of guys in boat shoes tried to scramble their way up the pass. At this point we wished their sneakers (and ours) had a bit more traction!
Reaching the summit
Despite both of us wearing crappy treadless shoes we both managed to make it to the top, and were treated to 360-degree views of the whole island. On clear days we were told we could see Venezuela, but we didn’t spot it.
Heading back down
To return to the bottom you head back the same trail you take up, and climbing back down was equally treacherous and involved some sliding down on all fours. Once we made it past the top section, however, it was a relatively easy hike back to the trail head.
Like elsewhere on Curacao, there are lizards of all varieties everywhere along the trail, including some enormous 5-foot long iguanas. Also keep your eye out for feral donkeys and goats that roam the national park. Leslie claims to have seen a bright orange goat on the trail, which darted off just before I rounded a bend (I remain skeptical).
Christoffel National Park is located in the northwestern part of Curacao, about a 45-minute drive from the main city of Willemstad (where many hotels are located). Independent travelers can get there by rental car, available for about $30-$40 per day when picked up from the airport. Guided tours are also offered, but since this is a very straightforward drive and fairly easy hike, we’d only recommend a tour if you are really averse to renting a car.
To visit Curacao, most airlines connect through neighboring islands Aruba or Bonaire. American Airlines also has direct flights from Miami to Curacao twice daily.
What’s your favorite hiking destination?
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