Aruba Travel Guide: Where To Stay, Dine + What To Do!

Home to a combination of paradise-like beaches, tropical landscapes, and desert terrain, Aruba is easily one of the best destinations to visit in the Caribbean.

Although small, Aruba sure knows how to combine seaside goodness, cultural offerings, nature escapes, and a distinctly European flair, making it a perfect place to head to if you want to combine a beach vacay with culture and adventures out in nature.

From exploring the art scene of Oranjestad to going beach hopping and hiking amid a seemingly endless desert landscape, here is the ultimate guide to  Aruba that will show you why the island is commonly nicknamed “one happy island”!

guide to aruba

 

Best tips for visiting Aruba

Wondering if you can use your countries currency and credit cards? The official currency in Aruba is the Aruban Florin. I would recommend bringing some cash with you and changing it over when you arrive. However, US Dollars are widely accepted. Most resorts, restaurants and big shops will take credit cards – but you will want to keep cash on you just in case!

The official language in Aruba is Dutch and Papiamento – however, English is widely spoken (I have never had any issues). 

There is no Uber or Lyft in Aruba, but you can easily get a taxi. Make sure to have cash to pay for it. Alternatively, you could rent a car (and you will drive on the right side of the road). 

You can drink and gamble in Aruba if you are 18+ years old. 

Aruba, part of the ABC islands, doesn’t really get hurricanes as it sits below the hurricane belt, so this is a pretty safe bet to visit year round. However, it is usually windy. 

The sun feels a bit harsh after spending a day or two in it but you might not realize it because of the winds – apply, re-apply, protect yourself from the burn. 

When you go to the airport go to home, if you are returning to the USA, you will clear customs in Aruba. Make sure you arrive at the airport with plenty of time to do this. Last time I was there it took over two hours. TSA pre-check will work here. So when you land in the USA, you will not have to do this. 

Things to Do in Aruba

1. Visit Aruba’s best beaches

With miles of white sand coastlines and stunning beaches, some of the beaches not to miss are: Eagle Beach, Palm Beach and Manchebo Beach. For a hidden gem, check out Tres Trapi Steps!

2. Go on a 4-course dinner cruise

If you love luxury and great food, this 3-hour cruise is one of the best things to do in Aruba. Enjoy a delicious 4-course dinner as you watch the sun go down over the glistening waters of the Caribbean Sea (oh, and did I mention it comes with unlimited premium drinks?!)

3. Day trip to De Palm Island

Take a day trip to nearby De Palm Island and enjoy the activities this paradise-like island has to offer, including snorkeling, banana boat riding, visiting a water park, or simply relaxing under a cabana with a few drinks in hand.

4. Go on a Jeep adventure

Hop on a Jeep and go on a safari-style adventure to some of the more rugged parts of Aruba. Some of the highlights include swimming at Natural Pool, seeing petroglyphs inside a cave, checking out Arikok National Park, and more.

5. Explore Arikok National Park on a UTV

Drive your own UTV to get deep inside Arikok National Park, where you’ll be able to explore a mysterious cave, see the ruins of an ancient gold mill, and visit Baby Bridge, a long natural bridge that stands over the ocean.

6. See flamingos at the beach

Located only a short boat trip away from Oranjestad, a visit to De Palm Island is one of the best things to do in Aruba, especially if you’ve always dreamt of swimming in crystal-clear waters surrounded by wild flamingos!

Alternatively, if you are a guest at the Renaissance Aruba Resort you can visit Flamingo Beach, they have a private island with flamingos. You can also get a day pass if you want to visit and are not a guest. 

*Pro tip – be the first on the boat ride over in the morning for pictures because it gets busy!

7. Ride a catamaran to some of the best snorkeling spots around Aruba

Go sailing off the coast of Aruba aboard a catamaran while you sip tropical cocktails and make various snorkeling stops to see the thriving marine life that surrounds the island and even a World War II shipwreck.

8. Drink champagne and snorkel your worries away

Mimosas and ocean views? Yes, please! Start the day just right by going on an over-the-ocean brunch. You’ll be able to enjoy a European-style breakfast, sip champagne, and stop at several snorkeling locations to explore underwater.

9. Ride a horse to Wariruri Beach

Ride a horse to one of the most idyllic locations in the world: Wariruri Beach. As you make your way from Rancho Amistad to the coast, you’ll be able to gaze at different landscapes, spot interesting wildlife, and see a gorgeous natural bridge.

10. Explore some of the island highlights

If you want to see a lot in a short amount of time, this tour will have you checking out some of the top landmarks and natural destinations on the island, ranging from the Alto Vista Chapel, the California Lighthouse, Natural Bridge, and even a butterfly farm, all in just three hours!

11. Visit an aloe vera farm

Get to know the healing properties of aloe vera by taking a guided tour through the Aruba Aloe Museum and Factory, where you’ll be able to see how the aloe is cut, tested, and turned into various products (skincare, medicine, and more!)

12. Meet the animals that call Aruba their home

If you love animals, this tour will have you meet some of the most interesting ones in Aruba. Observe the largest birds in the world roaming free at Ostrich Farm, see friendly donkeys at Donkey Farm, and learn more about the wildlife in Aruba at Philip’s Animal Sanctuary.

13. Go hiking at Arikok National Park

Get more personal with Arikok National Park by hiking a few of its trails guided by a park ranger, who will teach you about the park’s flora, endemic wildlife, and even a few historical sights.

14. Visit a secluded beach and a world-famous one

Sunbathe at a dreamy (and super secluded) beach before heading over to popular Baby Beach to relax and snorkel in search of colorful fish under crystal-clear waters!

guide to aruba

15. Enjoy live Frank Sinatra music on a Thursday Night

Spend a romantic Thursday night listening to Frank Sinatra covers by Aruban singer Fred de Jong while you sip cocktails and enjoy a delicious dinner.

16. See the sun go down on a catamaran

Watch an unforgettable sunset over the Caribbean Ocean on a comfortable catamaran cruise. Drinks, tropical fruits, and snacks are provided, of course!

17. Check out the California Lighthouse

Located at the northwestern tip of the island, the California Lighthouse is probably the most iconic historical landmark in Aruba, especially when you consider it was used to warn ships from the coast!

18. Experience an adventure aboard a semi-submarine

Enjoy a one-and-a-half-hour adventure of a lifetime aboard a semi-submarine, from where you’ll be able to gaze at the thriving marine life living under Aruba’s waves, see the remains of a shipwreck, and learn all about life under the sea.

19. Party the night away on a bus

If you’re traveling with friends, book yourself an evening aboard the Kukoo Kunuku, a party bus that will take you to some of the best nightlife spots in Aruba, ranging from bars, clubs, and even watering holes!

20. See the Old Mill

Aruba is dotted with Dutch heritage, and one of the most quintessential examples of it is the Old Mill, a centuries-old windmill brought here all the way from the Netherlands that also happens to be a super instagrammable spot!

21. Explore Oranjestad

As the capital of Aruba, exploring the colorful streets of Oranjestad is one of the best things to do in Aruba. Stroll through historical colonial buildings, sip coffee at the many cafés available, see gorgeous wall murals, and visit the many local art galleries scattered all over town.

22. Join the Bon Bini Festival

Every Tuesday, the Bon Bini Festival is held in the courtyard of the Historical Museum, where visitors can learn all about the history of Aruba through art displays, live music, folkloric dances, and delicious food.

23. Explore the wild side of Aruba at Arikok National Park

Arikok National Park covers a whopping 20% of the island, making it a must-see on everyone’s itinerary. The park encompasses caverns, gorgeous viewpoints, groves of cacti, and towering cliffs, making it a treat to explore on foot, on a scenic drive, or even on a horseback riding adventure.

24. Try your luck at the Stellaris Casino

Located at the Marriott Resort, the Stellaris Casino offers gaming tables, slot machines, and sports betting facilities paired with entertainment events, parties, and open bar evenings.

25. Explore Aruba’s countryside on a horseback riding adventure

Explore Aruba’s dreamy countryside on a horse, where you’ll be able to spot wild donkeys, parakeets, iguanas, and all sorts of tropical birds roaming free before arriving at the island’s rugged lava coast.

26. Visit the Fort Zoutman Historical Museum

Once an operating fort, Fort Zoutman is the oldest building in Oranjestad, and today, it homes a fantastic museum where you can learn all about the history of Aruba through exhibitions and guided tours.

27. Go on a Cuba-themed cruise

Dance to the rhythm of salsa music, try authentic Cuban food, and sip on fresh mojitos with Aruba’s picture-perfect coastline acting as the backdrop!

28. Explore Aruba’s backcountry on a 4×4

Go on an off-road adventure through Aruba’s backcountry until you reach the island’s famous Baby Beach for a snorkeling adventure.

29. Go full luxury at Renaissance Island

Treat yourself to a stay at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino, a resort that feels like its very own private island in the Caribbean (oh, and flamingos love hanging out here, too!)

30. Take a trolley tour through Oranjestad

Explore downtown Oranjestad easily by hopping on an Aruba Streetcar and Trolley Tour, where you’ll be able to get to the highlights easily while getting a deep explanation about each place from an expert.

31. Visit the Sasariwichi Dunes at Hudishibana

Explore the desert-like side of the island by visiting the Sasariwich Dunes, where you’ll find a series of rolling white sand dunes that will make you wonder if you’re still inside an island in the tropics.

32. See the Watapana trees

Watapanas (or Divi Divis) are a really cool species of trees that act as a sort of compass in Aruba (they’re always curved towards the southwest). They’re extremely photogenic and can only be found in Aruba – two of the most iconic ones on the island can be found at Eagle Beach.

33. See the art murals at San Nicolas

Visit the second largest town in Aruba, where you’ll find colorful street murals created by artists from all over the world. At San Nicolas, you’ll also find tons of art galleries, locally-owned workshops, and Art Deco buildings.

34. Visit Etnia Nativa

Get a deep insight into the cultural heritage of Aruba by visiting the Etnia Nativa, an art gallery and museum that displays artworks, musical instruments, and various other artifacts from the island. Advanced reservations are required.

35. Visit the Butterfly Farm

See thousands of butterflies at Aruba’s butterfly farm, where you’ll get to learn all about them and even try your hand at handling them yourself guided by an expert.

36. Explore the Caribbean on an authentic submarine

Dive 130 feet deep into the ocean on a real-life submarine to explore the Caribbean Sea. Along the voyage, you’ll be treated to views of the Barcadera Reef, which brims with colorful marine life, including tropical fish, eels, and more!

37. Visit a natural rock lava pool

Go on an off-road adventure through the island’s more rugged side until you reach a natural rock pool formed by volcanic lava, where you can swim or snorkel while being surrounded by beautiful views of the Aruban outback.

38. See the Bushiribana ruins

If you’re a history buff, head over to the Bushiribana ruins on the north coast of the island to get a glimpse into the island’s mining era with gorgeous views of the ocean to pair the experience with.

39. See the sun rising at Trinity/Tripod Bridge

The Trinity/Tripod Bridge is a somewhat remote natural bridge that also acts as the perfect place to see the sun rising if you happen to be an early bird!

40. Ride a pirate ship

Become a pirate for a day by gliding your way across the Caribbean coast on an authentic ship, all while also getting to enjoy some of the best views the island has to offer, snorkeling around a shipwreck, and swimming in the clear waters of beautiful Boca Catalina Bay.

Where to stay in Aruba

I have been to Aruba a few times and my hands down favorite place to stay is the Ritz-Carlton Aruba. Everything about the resort is perfection – from the rooms, the landscape, pools, beach access with the bluest water ever, all the restaurants, the gorgeous spa – perfect. 

A lot of you have asked about the overwater villas in Aruba (Aruba Ocean Villas) and I have not stayed there – yet. I can tell you that after looking at some of the overwater rooms, there wasn’t much availability between now and next summer unless you want to stay in the Penthouse, which runs about $1,999 per night. It is not all-inclusive but it is adults only. 

There are a few good all-inclusive resorts on the island on a great stretch of beach. I have not stayed at them but friends and colleagues love them. Barcelo Aruba comes up a lot. 

Places to eat in Aruba

My hands down, must eat place in Aruba is in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton and it is called the Divi Sushi Bar. Trust me when I say, you are doing yourself a disservice if you do not go here and get the Ritz-Carlton Roll. Just trust me. 

Zeerovers is a must for prawns!

BLT Steak – make reservations in advance and definitely get the passionfruit crepe for dessert. Their popovers are amazing too. 

Saco di Felipe – this is a late night, paper bag, insane local cuisine thing!

Casa Nonna is famous for its homemade pasta and a must!

 

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Guide to Aruba

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