The wonderful underwater world of Curaçao has a lot to offer and each reef is home to a society of colorful fish, sumptuous corals and sometimes a bunch of sea horses. It’s a vibrant happening, especially around one of the island’s most famous snorkeling spots: The sunken Tugboat Wreck.
The Tugboat wreck is a well-known snorkeling spot off Tugboat Beach. The remains of the wreck lie in a shallow bay, about 5 meters or 16.4 feet deep. The water is crystal clear and the sea is calm. These are the ideal conditions to get a good look at the wreck and its rich marine life.
Where to find the sunken tugboat wreck
The wreck of the sunken Tugboat can be found between Tugboat Beach and Directors Bay. The remains are in shallow water, just behind the rocks near the Quarantine building.
From Tugboat Beach it is about a 10-minute swim to the snorkeling spot. You can also reach the shipwreck from Directors Bay. The swimming time from this beach to the Tugboat is 10-15 minutes.
What to see around the shipwreck?
The shallow waters surrounding the Tugboat are the scene for a cabaret of tropical variegated fish, cute little seahorses and eclectic corals. All are part of the ecosystem that has formed around the shipwreck over the years.
The Ecosystem around the Tugboat
The corals are the essential basis of marine life in the tropics. It is a breeding ground for fish and also a shelter for their natural enemies. You can see the corals as a settlement. A small village around the Tug Boat where fish, seahorses and a single sea turtle go about the daily business.
Fish swim around and in the shipwreck. The small fish often in schools, the larger extravagant fish usually swim solo. This live performance can be admired with only a snorkel set. You don’t have to go diving to see this spectacle. Swimmers in good shape can take a deep breath and dive down.
Snorkel with care
Do not touch the tugboat. If we handle the shipwreck and the corals with care, this snorkeling site can be well preserved. This means that the ecosystem is minimally affected by our presence and we can enjoy this underwater miracle for a long time to come.
Do you need to be in good shape to swim to the wreck?
You must have some fitness to swim to the Tugboat wreck. It’s a 10-minute swim towards the shipwreck. Once you have arrived to the snorkel site, you will swim around for some time. Then you have to swim back to the beach for another 10 minutes.
This can be tough if you are not used to this. I’m in pretty good shape and found it quite tough. I can advise you to walk as far as possible towards the quarantine building and enter the water there. This way you are a bit closer to the shipwreck. Next time I’ll bring a pool noodle. This way I can enjoy the underwater world at the Tugboat for a longer period of time.
What do you need to bring to snorkel at the Tugboat?
If you would like to snorkel at the Tugboat, I advise you to bring a snorkel set and water shoes. This is necessary because the beach at Tugboat beach is littered with pebbles and fossilized corals. You can hurt your feet when you go into the water.
Although you can buy cold drinks at the beach bar, it is recommended that you always bring your own drinks. This is a must when exploring the island. You never know in which situations you will end up and in the Curaçao warm climate, a bottle of water is standard equipment.
Things to do at Tugboat Beach
Tugboat Beach is the starting point of your swim to the shipwreck. It is a pebble beach with a few facilities. The setup always gives me a Pirates of the Caribbean meets Castaway vibe. As if you are trying to create a settlement on a tropical desert island with found materials.
Drift art takes center stage around the beach bar. Objects made with materials carried by the sea to the land. On the pavilion you can find several cozy lounge corners. The decoration makes the ambiance.
The Beach Bar
There is a cozy atmosphere around the beach bar. From the cozy sitting areas you have a beautiful view over the bay. You can order cold drinks and a small snack if you get hungry in between swimming. There’s also snorkeling equipment and beach chairs for rent at the beach bar.
Paint your own souvenir
Prefer to spend your time on land? Take a seat at the painting table next to the beach bar. Here you can create a homemade souvenir together with a local artist. Paint your favorite island scene to take home with you. An authentic made in Curaçao souvenir!
Around Tugboat Beach there are several places you can hike to. There are several historical sights to visit near the beach. Examples of this are Fort Beekenburg and the Quarantine building. You can also hike towards Directors Bay or explore the Caracasbaai peninsula.
You don’t have to pay an entrance fee on this beach and snorkeling at the wreck is completely free. Beach beds can be rented at the bar.
Snorkeling at Tugboat Beach
The Tugboat wreck is the most famous attraction in this area, but there is so much more to experience underwater.
From the bay you can swim in a treasure trove of corals and tropical fish. The tugboat is only part of all the beautiful things you can encounter here. Most fish swim close to the rocks. Along the cliff edge you can encounter the most beautiful specimens.
A secret snorkeling gem is the pier on the right side of Tugboat beach. There’s a lot of activity along the pillars. You might just come across some big fish.
Diving around the Tugboat wreck
Diving is one of the most beautiful experiences you can have, and especially at a unique dive site like the Tugboat wreck, diving is an activity you will never forget.
At the dive shop you can take various diving courses, book a guided diving tour or rent equipment. You can follow an introductory or participate in several courses. Do you already have a padi in your pocket? Then you can also rent just the equipment to go diving around the Tugboat wreck.
Directions to the Tugboat wreck
You can find Tugboat Beach on the east side of the island at the Caracas Bay peninsula. It’s about a 17-minute drive from Willemstad and can be reached by following the Caracasbaaiweg.
From the city center of Punda it is a long road straight ahead until you reach the peninsula. After passing the Caracas Bay you drive straight on to Fort Beekenburg. Tugboat Beach can be found in-between the fortress and the quarantine building.
If you want to snorkel from Directors Bay to the Tugboat wreck, you have to drive straight until the end of the road.
How to get to Tugboat Beach from the Cruise Port
Are you visiting Curaçao by cruise ship? Then you can take a taxi or book a shore excursion to the tugboat wreck. A taxi is a cheaper option in this case, but a shore excursion is more convenient.
The Taxis are ready in front of the Mega Pier Cruise Terminal in the port of Curaçao. Make sure to arrange a pick-up time. Tugboat Beach is located in a quiet part of the island where taxis don’t pass very often.
Discover Caracas Bay Peninsula
The Tugboat wreck is located off the coast of the Caracas Bay peninsula. I personally think this area is one of the most beautiful places on Curaçao. You can do a number of activities on this small piece of land and you have the most beautiful views over both the sea and the Spanish Water.
Fort Beekenburg was built on the peninsula in 1703 to defend the Spanish water. The Spanish was one of the few suitable places to land from the sea. This part of Curaçao therefore needed extra protection.
The remains of the fortress are free to visit. You do not have to pay an entrance fee to enter this historic place. You can go up towards the tower. From there you have a beautiful view over the Caracas Bay. This tourist attraction is unfortunately not wheelchair friendly.
Insider tip: On the other side of the fort, you will find the Fort Beekenburg cave.
From Tugboat Beach you have a view over the large quarantine building. This place was built in 1883 and served as an observation spot for sailors coming ashore. It was important that no diseases were brought in, so a quarantine period was put in place to recognize infections.
As a tourist you can visit the building and look around from a distance. You don’t have to pay an entrance fee. Entering this building is at your own risk. It is a fun activity to combine with a visit to the Tugboat wreck.
Hiking at Caracas Bay Peninsula
The Caracas Bay peninsula is the perfect place for hiking. Various paths run through the bushes, including one towards Seru Kabritu (Goat Mountain). From here you have a beautiful view over the Spanish Water and the Sandals Resort on plantation Santa Barbara.
Directors Bay is a popular spot for divers. This is because of the pristine reef off the coast and the possibility to swim towards the Tug Boat wreck.
Directors Bay owes its name to the former owners of this beach. It used to be owned by the Shell company and senior executives and their families spend their weekends at the private property. Nowadays Directors Bay is owned by the country of Curaçao and everyone can use this beach freely.
During the week you may be the only visitor to this beach, but on the weekends, it can be more crowded.
Are you crazy about snorkeling and would you like to discover a unique underwater world? The Tugboat wreck near Tugboat Beach is the ideal place to investigate.
The entrance is completely free and the atmosphere on the beach is fantastic. In addition, a number of historical sites are within walking distance. You can combine a snorkeling trip with a hike in the area.
The Caracas Bay peninsula is a place where you can spend a whole day. Snorkeling around the sunken shipwreck is an experience you will never forget.