With white-sand beaches, warm turquoise water, and amazing diving and snorkeling in pristine coral reefs just offshore, the five islands still collectively referred to as the Dutch Caribbean (or the Caribbean Netherlands) offer plenty of picture-perfect photo ops for visitors.
The islands of the Dutch Caribbean are actually spread across two different parts of the Caribbean Sea. Curacao and Bonaire are in the far eastern Caribbean near Aruba, while St. Maarten, Saint Eustatius, and Saba are in the group of islands east of Puerto Rico. Here are our picks for the best places to photograph in this region.
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1. Willemstad, Curacao
Willemstad at sunset
The colorfully painted houses in the old town center of Willemstad look even more fairy-tale-like at twilight, when the sky is painted a cotton candy pink and purple blue as seen in this image. The capital of Curacao, Willemstad has a Dutch vibe throughout, complete with canals and lots of sidewalk cafés.
2. Kralendijk, Bonaire
The contrast of blues at the harbor in Kralendijk is stunning. The capital of Bonaire, it is also the main port town on the island. All the activity is clustered around a few blocks where you’ll find sidewalk cafés and a bustling little market.
3. Blue Room Dive Site, Curacao
Blue Room dive site in Curacao
One of Curacao’s coolest dive sites is the Blue Room. Grab your underwater camera and head to this seascape of coral reef in a blue-lit cave. It is a magical experience to swim in this vivid blue chamber that is on many a diving enthusiast’s bucket list (although it is not a difficult dive).
4. Simpson Bay Marina, St. Maarten
Simpson Bay Marina
The island of Saint Martin features a French and Dutch side. Pictured here is a scenic view of the Simpson Bay Marina from the Dutch side of St. Maarten. St Maarten is a major hub for sailing and yachting in the Caribbean.
5. Rappel Dive Site, Bonaire
French angel fish in Bonaire
Bonaire is known for its exceptionally clear water and prolific marine life in surrounding coral reefs. As such it is a top scuba diving destination in the Caribbean. Check out dive sites like Rappel, where you can see honeycomb cowfish like the one pictured above.
6. Bonaire Salt Pans
Bonaire Salt Pans
This photo shows Bonaire’s salt pans from above, and the juxtaposition of the pink salt on one side and the turquoise hues of the sea on the other is quite stunning. But even if you can’t see it from above, you can still snap some amazing images of the salt pans at ground level. You’ll often see flamingos here as well
7. Klein Bonaire, Bonaire
Klein Bonaire sunset
Uninhabited Klein Bonaire is just about half a mile from Bonaire and is known for its awesome snorkeling and diving in a pristine reef that surrounds the white sandy islet. At sunset, it is absolutely gorgeous as can be seen here.
8. Playa Lagun Beach, Curacao
Playa Lagun Beach on Curacao
Set between dramatic looking cliffs, Playa Lagun Beach, is a picture-perfect spot on the northwest coast of Curacao. There is excellent snorkeling to be found in the reef just offshore from the white-sand beach. Grab lunch at the restaurant atop the cliff.
9. Queen Emma Bridge, Willemstad, Curacao
Queen Emma Bridge, Willemstad
In Curaco’s capital city of Willemstad, the Queen Emma Bridge is a pontoon bridge that connects two of the city’s districts on opposing sides of St. Anna Bay. The bridge is open regularly to allow oceangoing ships to pass through this waterway.
10. Mullet Bay, St. Maarten
Mullet Bay on St. Maarten
The gorgeous turquoise-hued-sea-meets-white-sand-beach at Mullet Bay on St. Maarten is quieter than the island’s other main beach, Maho Bay, which is right next to the runway at the international airport. Besides less jet noise, Mullet Bay offers restaurants on the sand and waves that can be surfed.
11. Grote Knip Beach, Curacao
Grote Knip Beach, Curacao
One of the prettiest beaches in Curacao, Grote Knip Beach is a great place to snap some family- or romance-oriented photographs. The white-sand-meets-turquoise-hued beach pictured above is great for swimming. There is also good snorkeling by the rocks on either side of the beach.
12. Te Amo Beach, Bonaire
Te Amo Beach
It is impossible to not want to photograph Te Amo Beach on Bonaire. The varying hues of turquoise and jade water juxtaposed against a white-sand beach is straight up stunning – hint, this is a great spot for some romantic photos. There is even a shallow reef just offshore that you can swim to for great snorkeling.
13. St. Louis Bertrand Church, Bonaire
St. Louis Bertrand Church on Bonaire
In the sleepy little village of Rincon in a valley in north central Bonaire, the mustard yellow St. Louis Church makes for a colorful photograph. The village dates back to 1527, when it was founded by the Spanish, and as such it is the oldest town in the Dutch Caribbean.
14. Great Bay Beach, St. Maarten
Great Bay Beach, St. Maarten
Great Bay Beach stretches for two miles in front of the Dutch side’s capital city of Philipsburg. It gets busy on days that cruise ships are docked here. There are numerous restaurants and shops on the boardwalk running parallel to the beach.
15. Cas Abou Beach, Curacao
Cas Abou Beach at sunset
Beautiful Cas Abou Beach on Curacao is gorgeous any time of day, but it really stuns at sunset as this image shows. The white-sand beach is backed by cliffs, and there is good snorkeling just offshore where you have a chance to spot sea turtles and spotted eagle rays.