The sun-kissed paradise of Aruba is nicknamed ‘One Happy Island.’ The sparkling turquoise water, white sandy beaches, sunny days and some of the best snorkeling and diving destinations in the world are just some of the gems of why life is so good here.
Beaches attracts the majority of tourists, however, the island has a lot of other activities and sights as well. Aruba is also home to rich history, colorful flora & fauna, delicious local food, mysterious caves and diverse landscape.
Aruba is one of four countries in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
More than 90 nationalities are represented here.
My partner and I decided to visit this island since we love Aruba. It is one of the country open to US Citizens. This will be my second visit and currently, I am in Aruba for a month. The weather is consistent i.e. great weather with warm, sunny and breezy days.
Visitors can arrive through the cruise port of Aruba ( currently due to Covid- 19 cruises are not running) and at Queen Beatrix International Airport. There are convenient single-connection flights from most major U.S. cities, as well as daily flights from all major hubs around the world.
30 day visa-on-arrival available for most nationalities (click here for more info)
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Aruba is from April to August. Since we are travelling in December, we made sure the island’s hurricane season and since the island sits well outside the hurricane belt, there’s very little threat of tropical storms at this time. January to March features pleasant weather, but the room prices will be high.
Rental car is a good option if you are staying more than a week. This way you can drive everywhere. Driving is the same side of the road as in USA. If you stay in a resort for a few days right on the beach, you might get away from renting a car. The local buses takes you to all the beaches only and runs every hour. Taxis are costly. From the airport to our hotel apartment cost $30 for 4.2 miles ( 6.9 km). We learned that $30 is the minimum you would pay for a ride. A week car rental cost us $207. We rented at the place we stayed so it was convenience. You can get a slightly cheaper deals if you shop online.
Aruban Florin is the local currency. Most places such as restaurants and groceries will accept US dollars but always carry cash whether in Florin or dollars.
There are many languages spoken here. The official languages are Papiamento and Dutch, but most Arubans speak a minimum of four languages, including English and Spanish. Schools require students to learn English, Spanish and to a lesser extent French.
Aruba is very safe, it’s a perfect place for solo female travelers, families with kids or couple.
WATERWe didn’t need to buy bottled water in Aruba. Aruba’s tap water meets the highest standards of quality of the World Health Organization. Since Aruba does not have any significant natural sources of fresh water, the water is distilled in a saltwater desalination plant.
POWER VOLTAGEYou can use your electric appliances because the standard voltage (127 V) is (more or less) the same as in USA (120 V). You don’t need a voltage converter.
Summer dresses, shorts and skirts are good during the day and make sure you pack formal outfits if you wish for the evenings.
Swimming suits/outfits, gear: make sure to bring several swimsuits and snorkel gear. They are plenty of beaches to visit.
Tipping in Aruba is not mandatory. However we tip at least 10%, the amount is entirely up to you. Some restaurants and bars add a service charge to the bill of 10 to 15%. At Aruba all-inclusive resorts, tipping is included. I would also suggest tipping the person/s who clean your room, the cabana boys, porter, bartender and anyone giving services.Cellular SIM Cards
Aruba has both 3G and 4G cellular networks. We used SETAR for Prepaid SIM cards so we can use our own phone at local rates. We got 8 GB for 30 days, approx $97 (174 florin for 2 sim cards).
WHERE TO STAY
There are all kinds of hotel from budget to high-end.
Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino: We stayed here on our first visit for a week.We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here. $207 a night but varies during seasons.There are a couple of Renaissance properties on the island, including this one which gives guests access to the Renaissance Private Island.
- Free boat shuttle to private Renaissance Island
They have a nice lagoon and beautiful beach areas. The rooms are very modern, bright and clean. Close to Oranjestad with a great beach near the harbour and luxe Aveda amenities.
Price per month including gas, water, electricity, cable TV, internet WiFi, 1x weekly cleaning is $ 1800. Varies during season as well.
THINGS TO DO
Relax and Swim on the best beaches
Eagle Beach: The island’s most famous beach is often listed as one of the best beaches in the world. Not surprising, as it’s absolutely beautiful. The long stretch of soft-white sand, the clear turquoise water, and picturesque divi-divi trees make it paradise on earth. We rented couple of chairs for $10 to sit underneath the tiki huts.
Palm Beach: This is where all the action is in Aruba, water sports activities and resorts lined this beach.
The actual beach is pretty crowded. This beach wasn’t our favorite because we find it too touristy. We prefer more quiet areas that locals go. Nonetheless, a great spot for photo ops and night life. There’s tons of umbrellas (also called “palapas”) dotting the sand. It’s definitely a fun spot be in if that’s the vibe you’re looking for!
Baby Beach: Baby Beach is local’s favourite and our fave spot to snorkel. There’s a beach bar on site, as well as umbrellas and chair rentals. My boyfriend saw sea turtles the past two times he went snorkeling.
Boca Grandi: One of the best kiteboarding beaches in Aruba. If you are into a challenging surf, here you will find steady winds and a long stretch of white sand.
Arashi Beach: Another good option for adventure-seekers., this one in the Noord district has some great surf spots and is popular for snorkeling thanks to the coral reefs and wrecks found offshore. You can rent chairs for $30 or a tent cabana for $60.
Rodgers Beach: This beach is a hidden gem, close to Baby Beach. The beach is less crowded than Baby Beach, the water is very calm. There are covered picnic areas and lots of parking, Rodgers Beach is perfect for sun bathers and swimming but not so much for snorkeling.
Boca Catalina and Catalina Cove: Boca Catalina is also my favorite spot for snorkeling. It is located on the northwestern tip on the way to the California Lighthouse. Nearby is Catalina Cove, a snorkel site where sometimes people go diving. It’s a shallow dive site with a sandy rocky bottom and an incredible biodiversity. Turtles, emperor fish and sergeant majors are permanent residents.
Boca Catalina, with its nice reef areas teeming with colorful fish and a good chance of seeing green sea turtles, is considered as the best one in this north section of the coast, but Arashi Beach (a bit north) also offers great snorkeling.
In the same area, Tres Trapi, where many cushion starfish lie on the sandy seabed, is a not-to-be-missed spot if you like these fascinating creatures.
The beautiful Malmok Beach is a popular Aruba snorkeling spot with a vibrant coral reef that is easily reachable from the shore! The area is a narrow, sandy stretch interrupted by rocks. The clear, shallow water has different type of hard and soft corals, tropical fish and even turtles to see. On the top of these, you can snorkel the Baboo shipwreck too which rests very close to the shore with its top part above water.
Mangel Halto is has amazing marine life! It is located on the southeast side of the island, south of Spanish Lagoon. It is not only a beach, and includs a complex area with mangrove forests, beautiful lagoon and the healthiest coral reef on the island. You can choose different points to enter the sea, even from the rocky shore from the lagoon side, or from the sandy mangrove beach next to it.
The other favorite spot to snorkel is Baby Beach.
Aruba is famous for wrecks. Several ship- and plane wrecks rest at different depths around the island.
The dive sites are close to shore and diving is done from shore based dive centers or dive resorts. Plus, the majority of the diving is on the west coast, with a concentration in the northwest.
Most of the wrecks are accessible for divers only, but luckily there are some that can be visited by snorkelers too. These are the Baboo Wreck on Malmok Beach, with easy shore access, the Antilla which is one of the Caribbean’s largest shipwrecks and The Kappel at Mangel Halto.
Spend the day with flamingos
Renaissance Private Island – if you’re visiting Aruba, don’t miss the opportunity to take incredible photos and feed the flamingos and spend the day on this incredible island! Located just off the coast from Aruba’s downtown, you’ll hop on a boat (they run every 15 minutes) to escape to this small island. We stayed at the Renaissance the first time we visited and the boat ride and the visit to the island are included. There are beach cabanas, restaurants and other amenities there. A day pass is $125 per person, but well worth it if you make a day of it.
Explore Arikok National Park
Arikok is the National Park of Aruba and covers about 20% of the island. With breath-taking coastline views coupled with 2 natural limestone caves. These caves has ancient drawings left by the Caquetios Natives and graffiti imprinted by early European settles on the walls and ceilings. In the park, there is also a beautiful natural pool you can swim and cool off in, known locally as Conchi. There are many tour operators that you can organize through your hotel to visit Arikok National Park, or you can rent a car and drive through it yourself. The entrance fee to the park is $11 USD per person.
Visit Ayo Rock Formations
The monolithic boulders at Ayo Rock Formations consists of a scattering of petroglyph images carved into the rock by the early inhabitants of the island. It was interesting to walk the paved paths that lead around and through the large rocks.
Ayo, just to the northeast of Hooiberg is a rugged experience with tunnels and narrow passage ways. While we weave through the boulders, we saw a couple of goats resting on top of these boulders. It was very peaceful. There was no one there so it was a free area to visit.
BABY NATURAL BRIDGE:
The original bridge collapsed but there’s plenty of several other natural bridges near this side of Aruba’s coastlines. Next to the remains of the natural bridge, is known as the “Baby Natural Bridge in Aruba”.
San Nicolas, also known as Sint Nicolaas, is the second city of Aruba after Oranjestad. The city is located in the southeast of Aruba and is best known for the American Lago oil refinery that opened here in 1924.
More than 40 murals depicting Aruba’s people, traditions, wildlife and more can be seen on the town’s walls.
For visitors in search of authentic Aruba, something besides the resorts, casinos, and beaches, San Nicolas is a refreshing alternative experience. It’s a place to explore a version of Aruba that showcases the island’s past and its vibrant, eclectic present.
Kitesurfers will definitely want to spend some time at nearby Boca Grandi. It offers the most consistent wind on the island.
Feed the donkeys
Established in 1997, these donkeys were originally brought to the island as beasts of burden during the colonial era. These donkeys have thrived here for the past 500 years and were the primary mode of transportation on the island until cars finally arrived. Many were abandoned to the elements and their numbers decreased dramatically until this sanctuary was built.
This non-profit Donkey Sanctuary was a fun stop for us.Before heading to the Donkey Sanctuary, buy some carrots and apples, they love it! You can feed and pet the donkeys from the safety of the enclosed porch. There is no admission fee, though they take donations.
Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins
This was one of the sites where gold was processed, and over the decades this fascinating historical site produced more than 3 million pounds of gold!In the 1400s and 1500s, adventurers traveled throughout the Caribbean in search of wealth and treasures. According to legend, one of these treasure islands was named “Oro Ruba,” which means “red gold.” Now known as Aruba. It wasn’t until 1824 that real gold was finally discovered, and that started a major gold rush on the island.Remnants of the gold rush remain at this former mill that processed ore from mines in the nearby hills.
Other activities to put on the lists are
Paddle – boarding,
Stroll the Downtown and take the free trolley
Take a photo op at the California lighthouse
Watch sunset at Druif Beach and Eagle Beach
Ride to Conchi on Horseback
Visit Aloe factory
Swim at natural swimming holes,
Take a submarine tour
Climb 500 feet to the top of Hooiberg, also known as Haystack Mountain, and enjoy the panoramic vistas over the island.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Zeerover is our regular spot. It’s small, local eatery in the fishing village of Saventa where you can get delicious seafood and it’s the catchof the day. The fried fish they had were Red Snapper, Mahi Mahi, Amber Jack and jumbo shrimp. Sides includes Aruban pancakes and fried plantains. You pay by the pound and it was reasonably priced. And must have is their coconut gelato is to die for!
Carnivorus Grill & Cocktail Lounge
A nice, chill hangout spot for great seafood, steaks and drinks. Not close to the tourist spot but I love dining at local spots. The price is reasonable. Also a stray dog came to visit us. We sat outside. The cute malnourished dog was so sweet and came and sat next to us. We couldn’t help but feed it some steaks.
The West Deck
We came here several times for lunch. I love the ocean view. Very casual atmosphere but the food and drinks were wonderful. Love the atmosphere and you can observe the Pelicans fishing for their meals. We highly recommend this great spot for a casual lunch or dinner.
Other restaurants that I liked are Eetcafe The Paddock, Fusion Deli, Sheriff and Nikkiei Sushi.
Aruba is one of the best vacation destination due to all the activities and beautiful scenery.
Do you have any questions about visiting Aruba? Let me know in the comments below!