Photos of Curacao

Spanning St. Anna Bay, the Queen Emma floating bridge at Willemstad, Curacao is the oldest permanent wooden pontoon bridge in the world. Known as the “Swinging Old Lady,” the bridge connects Willemstad's two halves, Punda and Otrobanda, and was named after Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont, who was queen consort of the Netherlands during its construction in 1888. The bridge is supported by 16 pontoon boats and laterally swings open to allow ships to enter and leave the bay. With the opening of the Juliana Bridge in 1974, the Emma Bridge became solely a pedestrian bridge closed to all vehicles.

Introduction

Background

The original Arawak Indian settlers who arrived on Curacao from South America in about A.D. 1000 were largely enslaved by the Spanish early in the 16th century and forcibly relocated to other colonies where labor was needed. The Dutch seized Curacao from the Spanish in 1634. Once the center of the Caribbean slave trade, Curacao was hard hit economically when the Dutch abolished slavery in 1863. Its prosperity (and that of neighboring Aruba) was restored in the early 20th century with the construction of the Isla Refineria to service the newly discovered Venezuelan oilfields. In 1954, Curacao and several other Dutch Caribbean colonies were reorganized as the Netherlands Antilles, part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In referenda in 2005 and 2009, the citizens of Curacao voted to become a self-governing country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The change in status became effective in 2010 with the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Caribbean, an island in the Caribbean Sea, 55 km off the coast of Venezuela

Geographic coordinates

12 10 N, 69 00 W

Map references

Central America and the Caribbean

Area

total: 444 sq km

land: 444 sq km

water: 0 sq km

comparison ranking: total 199

Area - comparative

more than twice the size of Washington, DC

Coastline

364 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical marine climate, ameliorated by northeast trade winds, results in mild temperatures; semiarid with average rainfall of 60 cm/year

Terrain

generally low, hilly terrain

Elevation

highest point: Mt. Christoffel 372 m

lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m

Natural resources

calcium phosphates, protected harbors, hot springs

Land use

agricultural land: 10% (2018 est.)

arable land: 10% (2018)

other: 90% (2018 est.)

Population distribution

largest concentration on the island is Willemstad; smaller settlements near the coast can be found throughout the island, particularly in the northwest

Natural hazards

Curacao is south of the Caribbean hurricane belt and is rarely threatened

Geography - note

Curacao is a part of the Windward Islands (southern) group in the Lesser Antilles

People and Society

Population

total: 153,289

male: 73,755

female: 79,534 (2024 est.)

comparison rankings: female 187; male 187; total 187

Nationality

noun: Curacaoan

adjective: Curacaoan; Dutch

Ethnic groups

Curacaoan 75.4%, Dutch 6%, Dominican 3.6%, Colombian 3%, Bonairean, Sint Eustatian, Saban 1.5%, Haitian 1.2%, Surinamese 1.2%, Venezuelan 1.1%, Aruban 1.1%, other 5%, unspecified 0.9% (2011 est.)

Languages

Papiamento (official) (a creole language that is a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, English, and, to a lesser extent, French, as well as elements of African languages and the language of the Arawak) 80%, Dutch (official) 8.8%, Spanish 5.6%, English (official) 3.1%, other 2.3%, unspecified 0.3% (2011 est.)

note: data represent most spoken language in household

Religions

Roman Catholic 72.8%, Pentecostal 6.6%, Protestant 3.2%, Adventist 3%, Jehovah's Witness 2%, Evangelical 1.9%, other 3.8%, none 6%, unspecified 0.6% (2011 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 19.2% (male 15,069/female 14,337)

15-64 years: 62.3% (male 47,258/female 48,217)

65 years and over: 18.5% (2024 est.) (male 11,428/female 16,980)

2023 population pyramid:
2023 population pyramid

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 47

youth dependency ratio: 25.6

elderly dependency ratio: 21.4

potential support ratio: 4.7 (2021 est.)

Median age

total: 37.8 years (2024 est.)

male: 35.5 years

female: 40.2 years

comparison ranking: total 81

Population growth rate

0.28% (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 168

Birth rate

12.9 births/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 135

Death rate

8.9 deaths/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 64

Net migration rate

-1.3 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 152

Population distribution

largest concentration on the island is Willemstad; smaller settlements near the coast can be found throughout the island, particularly in the northwest

Urbanization

urban population: 89% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 0.57% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Major urban areas - population

144,000 WILLEMSTAD (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female

total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2024 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 7.5 deaths/1,000 live births (2024 est.)

male: 8.3 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 6.7 deaths/1,000 live births

comparison ranking: total 152

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 79.9 years (2024 est.)

male: 77.6 years

female: 82.3 years

comparison ranking: total population 59

Total fertility rate

1.96 children born/woman (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 111

Gross reproduction rate

0.96 (2024 est.)

Drinking water source

improved: total: 100% of population

unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017)

Sanitation facility access

improved: total: 100% of population

unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017)

Education expenditures

7.4% of GDP (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: 16

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 17 years

male: 18 years

female: 18 years (2013)

Environment

Environment - current issues

problems in waste management that threaten environmental sustainability on the island include pollution of marine areas from domestic sewage, inadequate sewage treatment facilities, industrial effluents and agricultural runoff, the mismanagement of toxic substances, and ineffective regulations; the refinery in Sint Anna Bay, at the eastern edge of Willemstad’s large natural harbor, processes heavy crude oil from Venezuela; it has caused significant environmental damage to the surrounding area because of neglect and a lack of strict environmental controls; the release of noxious fumes and potentially hazardous particles causes schools downwind to regularly close

Climate

tropical marine climate, ameliorated by northeast trade winds, results in mild temperatures; semiarid with average rainfall of 60 cm/year

Land use

agricultural land: 10% (2018 est.)

arable land: 10% (2018)

other: 90% (2018 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 89% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 0.57% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Revenue from forest resources

0% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 182

Revenue from coal

0% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 116

Air pollutants

carbon dioxide emissions: 5.39 megatons (2016 est.)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 24,704 tons (2013 est.)

municipal solid waste recycled annually: 494 tons (2013 est.)

percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 2% (2013 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Country of Curacao

conventional short form: Curacao

local long form: Land Curacao (Dutch)/ Pais Korsou (Papiamento)

local short form: Curacao (Dutch)/ Korsou (Papiamento)

former: Netherlands Antilles; Curacao and Dependencies

etymology: the most plausible name derivation is that the island was designated Isla de la Curacion (Spanish meaning "Island of the Cure" or "Island of Healing") or Ilha da Curacao (Portuguese meaning the same) to reflect the locale's function as a recovery stop for sick crewmen

Government type

parliamentary democracy

Dependency status

constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands; full autonomy in internal affairs granted in 2010; Dutch Government responsible for defense and foreign affairs

Capital

name: Willemstad

geographic coordinates: 12 06 N, 68 55 W

time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: named after Prince WILLIAM II of Orange (1626-1650), who served as stadtholder (Dutch head of state) from 1647 to 1650, shortly after the the Dutch captured Curacao from the Spanish in 1634

Administrative divisions

none (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)



note: Curacao is one of four constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; the other three are the Netherlands, Aruba, and Sint Maarten

Independence

none (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)

National holiday

King's Day (birthday of King WILLEM-ALEXANDER), 27 April (1967); note - King's or Queen's Day are observed on the ruling monarch's birthday; celebrated on 26 April if 27 April is a Sunday

Constitution

history: previous 1947, 1955; latest adopted 5 September 2010, entered into force 10 October 2010 (regulates governance of Curacao but is subordinate to the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands); note - in October 2010, with the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles, Curacao became a semi-autonomous entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Legal system

based on Dutch civil law

Citizenship

see the Netherlands

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: King WILLEM-ALEXANDER of the Netherlands (since 30 April 2013); represented by Governor Lucille A. GEORGE-WOUT (since 4 November 2013)

head of government: Prime Minister Gilmar PISAS (since 14 June 2021)

cabinet: Cabinet sworn-in by the governor

elections/appointments: the monarch is hereditary; governor appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party usually elected prime minister by the Parliament of Curacao; last election held on 19 March 2021 (next to be held in 2025)

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Parliament of Curacao (21 seats; members directly elected by party-list proportional representation vote to serve 4-year terms)

elections: last held on 19 March 2021 (next to be held in 2025)

election results: percent of vote by party - MFK 27.8%, PAR 13.9%, PNP 12.5%, MAN 6.4%, KEM 5.4%, TPK 5.2%; seats by party - MFK 9, PAR 4, PNP 4, MAN 2, KEM 1, TPK 1; composition - men 15, women 6, percent of women 28.6%

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Joint Court of Justice of Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten, and of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba or "Joint Court of Justice" (sits as a 3-judge panel); final appeals heard by the Supreme Court, in The Hague, Netherlands

judge selection and term of office: Joint Court judges appointed by the monarch for life

subordinate courts: first instance courts, appeals court; specialized courts

Political parties and leaders

Korsou di Nos Tur or KdnT [Amparo dos SANTOS]
Korsou Esun Miho or KEM [Michelangelo MARTINES]
Movementu Futuro Korsou or MFK [Gilmar PISAS]
Movementu Progresivo or MP [Marylin MOSES]
Movishon Antia Nobo or MAN [Hensley KOEIMAN]
Partido Antia Restruktura or PAR [Eugene RHUGGENAATH]
Partido Inovashon Nashonal or PIN [Suzanne CAMELIA-ROMER]
Partido Nashonal di Pueblo or PNP [Ruthmilda LARMONIE-CECILIA]
Pueblo Soberano or PS [Ben WHITEMAN] 
Trabou pa Kòrsou or TPK [Rennox CALMES] 
Un Korsou Hustu [Omayra LEEFLANG]

International organization participation

ACS (associate), Caricom (observer), FATF, ILO, ITU, UNESCO (associate), UPU

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (represented by the Kingdom of the Netherlands)

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Consul General Margy BOND (since 20 January 2022); note - also accredited to Aruba and Sint Maarten

embassy: P.O. Box 158, J.B. Gorsiraweg 1

mailing address: 3160 Curacao Place, Washington DC  20521-3160

telephone: [599] (9) 461-3066

FAX: [599] (9) 461-6489

email address and website:
ACSCuracao@state.gov

https://cw.usconsulate.gov/

Flag description

on a blue field a horizontal yellow band somewhat below the center divides the flag into proportions of 5:1:2; two five-pointed white stars - the smaller above and to the left of the larger - appear in the canton; the blue of the upper and lower sections symbolizes the sky and sea respectively; yellow represents the sun; the stars symbolize Curacao and its uninhabited smaller sister island of Klein Curacao; the five star points signify the five continents from which Curacao's people derive

National symbol(s)

laraha (citrus tree); national colors: blue, yellow, white

National anthem

name: "Himmo di Korsou" (Anthem of Curacao)

lyrics/music: Guillermo ROSARIO, Mae HENRIQUEZ, Enrique MULLER, Betty DORAN/Frater Candidus NOWENS, Errol "El Toro" COLINA

note: adapted 1978; the lyrics, originally written in 1899, were rewritten in 1978 to make them less colonial in nature

National heritage

total World Heritage Sites: 1 (cultural); note - excerpted from the Netherlands entry

selected World Heritage Site locales: Historic Willemstad

Economy

Economic overview

high-income island economy; developed infrastructure; tourism and financial services-based economy; investing in information technology incentives; oil refineries service Venezuela and China; unique COVID-19 stimulus support applied to government debts rather than household support

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$3.467 billion (2022 est.)
$3.214 billion (2021 est.)
$3.085 billion (2020 est.)

note: data in 2017 dollars

comparison ranking: 189

Real GDP growth rate

7.89% (2022 est.)
4.18% (2021 est.)
-18.04% (2020 est.)

note: annual GDP % growth based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 34

Real GDP per capita

$23,100 (2022 est.)
$21,100 (2021 est.)
$19,900 (2020 est.)

note: data in 2017 dollars

comparison ranking: 84

GDP (official exchange rate)

$3.075 billion (2022 est.)

note: data in current dollars at official exchange rate

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

2.62% (2019 est.)
2.58% (2018 est.)
1.59% (2017 est.)

note: annual % change based on consumer prices

comparison ranking: 42

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 0.7% (2012 est.)

industry: 15.5% (2012 est.)

services: 83.8% (2012 est.)

comparison rankings: services 22; industry 177; agriculture 204

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 66.9% (2016 est.)

government consumption: 33.6% (2016 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 19.4% (2016 est.)

investment in inventories: 0% (2016 est.)

exports of goods and services: 17.5% (2016 est.)

imports of goods and services: -37.5% (2016 est.)

Agricultural products

aloe, sorghum, peanuts, vegetables, tropical fruit

Industries

tourism, petroleum refining, petroleum transshipment, light manufacturing, financial and business services

Industrial production growth rate

4.3% (2014 est.)

note: annual % change in industrial value added based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 73

Labor force

73,010 (2013)

comparison ranking: 189

Unemployment rate

13% (2013 est.)
9.8% (2011 est.)

comparison ranking: 187

Youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24)

total: 42.2% (2020 est.)

male: 38.1%

female: 47.1%

comparison ranking: total 8

Remittances

4.06% of GDP (2022 est.)
5.17% of GDP (2021 est.)
5.22% of GDP (2020 est.)

note: personal transfers and compensation between resident and non-resident individuals/households/entities

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-0.4% (of GDP) (2012 est.)

comparison ranking: 57

Public debt

33.2% of GDP (2012 est.)
40.6% of GDP (2011 est.)

comparison ranking: 161

Taxes and other revenues

16.6% (of GDP) (2012 est.)

comparison ranking: 120

Current account balance

-$877.284 million (2022 est.)
-$507.018 million (2021 est.)
-$688.805 million (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - net trade and primary/secondary income in current dollars

comparison ranking: 122

Exports

$2.049 billion (2022 est.)
$1.373 billion (2021 est.)
$1.014 billion (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - exports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 165

Exports - partners

US 17%, Costa Rica 16%, India 9%, Netherlands 7%, Guatemala 7% (2022)

note: top five export partners based on percentage share of exports

Exports - commodities

refined petroleum, petroleum coke, fish, coal tar oil, scrap iron (2022)

note: top five export commodities based on value in dollars

Imports

$2.904 billion (2022 est.)
$1.919 billion (2021 est.)
$1.709 billion (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - imports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 164

Imports - partners

US 35%, Netherlands 22%, China 7%, Ecuador 5%, Philippines 3% (2022)

note: top five import partners based on percentage share of imports

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, cars, garments, integrated circuits, packaged medicine (2022)

note: top five import commodities based on value in dollars

Exchange rates

Netherlands Antillean guilders (ANG) per US dollar -

Exchange rates:
1.79 (2022 est.)
1.79 (2021 est.)
1.79 (2020 est.)
1.79 (2019 est.)
1.79 (2018 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

Refined petroleum products - production

189,800 bbl/day (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 53

Refined petroleum products - exports

167,500 bbl/day (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 33

Refined petroleum products - imports

45,800 bbl/day (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 85

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 53,000 (2021 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 28 (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 153

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 168,000 (2021 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 88 (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 187

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: fully automatic modern telecommunications system; telecom sector across the Caribbean region continues to be one of the growth areas; given the lack of economic diversity in the region, with a high dependence on tourism and activities such as fisheries and offshore financial services the telecom sector contributes greatly to the GDP (2020)

domestic: roughly 28 per 100 users for fixed-line and 88 per 100 users for cellular-mobile (2021)

international: country code - +599, PCCS submarine cable system to US, Caribbean and Central and South America (2019)

Broadcast media

government-run TeleCuracao operates a TV station and a radio station; 2 other privately owned TV stations and several privately owned radio stations (2019)

Internet users

total: 111,956 (2021 est.)

percent of population: 68.1% (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total 186

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 55,000 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 34 (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total 141

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 2 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 11

Airports

1 (2024)

comparison ranking: 221

Roadways

total: 550 km

comparison ranking: total 194

Merchant marine

total: 57 (2023)

by type: general cargo 5, oil tanker 1, other 51

comparison ranking: total 116

Ports

total ports: 4 (2024)

large: 0

medium: 2

small: 1

very small: 1

ports with oil terminals: 3

key ports: Bullenbaai, Caracasbaai, Sint Michelsbaai, Willemstad

Military and Security

Military and security forces

no regular military forces; Curacao Militia (CURMIL); Police Department for local law enforcement, supported by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee (Gendarmerie), the Dutch Caribbean Police Force (Korps Politie Caribisch Nederland, KPCN), and the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard (DCCG or Kustwacht Caribisch Gebied (KWCARIB))  (2024)

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; the Dutch Government controls foreign and defense policy; the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard (DCCG) provides maritime security (2024)

Transnational Issues

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 14,000 (Venezuela) (2022)

Trafficking in persons

tier rating: Tier 3 — Curacao does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so, therefore, Curacao remained on Tier 3; the government took some steps to address trafficking, including providing shelter and services to two victims, prosecuting two alleged traffickers, and adopting and funding a National Action Plan (NAP) to improve law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking; however, the new NAP did not include provisions to protect victims or prevent crime; the courts did not convict any traffickers, and the government continued to condition foreign victim assistance on cooperation in cases against traffickers; lack of funding remained a primary obstacle to anti-trafficking efforts; officials demonstrated limited familiarity with human trafficking and conflated it with migrant smuggling, hindering effective prosecution, prevention, and protection efforts; government coordination with civil society organizations and internally, across agencies, was inadequate (2023)

trafficking profile: human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Curacao; undocumented migrants, especially the substantial population of Venezuelans, are vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking; traffickers exploit women and girls, particularly from Curacao, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela, among other countries, in sex trafficking; migrants from other Caribbean countries, South America, China, and India are subject to forced labor in domestic servitude, as well as in construction, landscaping, mini markets, retail, and restaurants (2023)

Illicit drugs

northbound transshipment points for cocaine from Colombia and Venezuela; cocaine is transported to the United States, other Caribbean islands, Africa, and Europe