Swim with the Turtles at Playa Grandi, Curacao
Imagine spending a leisurely afternoon snorkeling or diving among graceful sea turtles, darting schools of silver fish and the flashing colors of the blue tang, parrot and angelfish to name a few. Then watching a stunning sunset with silhouettes of fishing boats in the foreground, while sparkling water reflects the reds and oranges of a setting sun. That, is Curaçao’s Playa Grandi.
Playa Grandi (also referred to as Playa Piscado), on the edge of the town of Westpunt, is popular with locals and tourists. The leading edge of the beach is mostly gravel and broken coral washed up by the tides. A few yards back from the broken coral is sand, making Playa Grandi a desirable location for sunning on the beach.
When you arrive at Playa Grandi you will see the broad Westpuntbaai (Westpunt Bay) extending in front and to the left of you, with a wooden fisherman’s pier reaching into the bay and cliffs descending into the water on the right. During the day, local people are often fishing from the pier and we have found them to be friendly and happy to visit. The coral reef along the cliffs provide wonderful snorkeling and diving with a large variety of fish and eels.
To the left, though hidden by rocks at the water’s edge, is the smaller Playa Forti, a local favorite for swimming and cliff jumping. Further along, the villas of Marazul Dive Resort, atop 10 meter (30 feet) cliffs, are visible. Guests from Marazul often enjoy snorkeling along the coral reef from the resort to Playa Grandi.
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The treasure of Playa Grandi is the opportunity to see and swim alongside sea turtles. You are almost guaranteed to have the privilege of seeing these magnificent creatures. As you swim, the turtles will often come alongside, allowing you an amazing opportunity to view them up close. Most of the turtles at Playa Grandi are juvenile green sea turtles (endangered) with occasional hawksbill sea turtles (critically endangered). Turtles on Curaçao are protected by law and are not to be touched or interfered with.
In the morning fishermen head out to sea, returning in the late morning or early afternoon with the day’s catch. The fish are cleaned at the dock and offered for sale. This is likely the reason sea turtles make this their home.
To arrive at Playa Grandi, drive west on Weg Naar Westpunt, past Christoffel and Shete Boka Parks. Shortly after Shete Boka the road turns south through the town of Westpunt, takes another turn back to the east and dips into a small ravine. At the bottom of the dip is a shaded road to your right that goes directly to the beach. A small snack bar open on the weekends and lounge chairs and beach umbrellas are available to rent.
Watch out for the poisonous trees!
As with many other places on Curaçao, the road, and some of the beach is shaded by Manchineel trees which have signs warning that they are poisonous. Not only is the fruit poisonous, the sap is also dangerous. If it starts to rain, do not seek shelter under the trees as rain running off the leaves will cause your skin to blister.
Historical Note: Archives from the 1770’s describes what is now Playa Grandi as a weak spot in the island’s defenses. A small fort or battery with seven embrasures (openings for cannons) was located at Playa Forti, but the cannons were unable to completely cover Playa Grandi. The archives also describe sloops and small boats navigating a narrow inlet called “de Rooy” (long ago silted in) that used to run alongside the current road to the beach.