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- Strategic itineraries covering the best beaches, the outback, and budget-conscious travel, with ideas for honeymooners, scuba divers, families, and more
- The top activities and unique experiences: Explore geological formations and see birds with startlingly bright plumage at Arikok National Park or celebrate Carnival with the locals. Indulge in traditional favorites like keshi yena (filled cheese) or cabrito stoba (stewed goat) or feast on fresh ceviche while dining beachfront
- Outdoor adventures: Go off-roading through the outback, snorkel in turquoise waters, or try your hand at windsurfing or parasailing
- Ways to respectfully engage with culture from local author and dive instructor Rosalie Klein, from supporting small businesses to exploring ethically and sustainably from local author and former dive instructor Rosalie Klein
- Full-color, vibrant photos and maps throughout
- Helpful background on the landscape, culture, history, and environment
- Handy tips for health and safety, transportation, LGBTQ travelers, families with children, and more
Planning Your Trip
The Best of Aruba
Best Water Sports
Explore the Outback
Best Bets for the Budget-Conscious
Peek out the window when coming in for a landing on Aruba. You’ll be struck by the intense blue of the surrounding Caribbean Sea and snowy white beaches. “Aruba is right next door to heaven,” is how one long-time visitor describes it.
Aruba is a small island, but rich and varied, fulfilling the vacation needs of families, singles, honeymooners, athletes, adventurers, and those who simply wish to do nothing but relax on the beach.
Some of the most stunning beaches in the Caribbean line the west coast of the island. Their turquoise waters are as calm as a lake. It’s where you’ll find Palm Beach, a parade of resorts, each at least 10 stories tall, standing side by side over a one-mile length. Turn a corner at the Westpunt going north, and the dramatic contrasts of the island become apparent: It is a lunar landscape of coral rock and pillow basalt, where spume surges high from the crashing waves, carving the rock into fantastical shapes. At Eagle Beach and adjacent Manchebo Beach are smaller, more intimate resorts which stretch to the outskirts of the main town of Oranjestad.
These tourist areas offer a wealth of easily accessible activities, eateries, casinos, and shopping. But a visit to Aruba is not complete without exploring beyond their limits. Discover Arikok National Park, Conchi (Natural Pool), and the caves, dunes, and bocas (coves) of the eastern end near San Nicolas.
In Aruba, there’s little divide between island dwellers and tourists. Don’t be surprised to find a table of islanders sitting right next to you at a resort restaurant or casino any night of the week. This congenial relationship with vacationers has made Aruba the most popular repeat destination in the Caribbean. It is an extension of the ease among the locals themselves.
Aruba can be a tranquil respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday existence. Each day can be an exciting discovery of nature, island culture, or a new sport on land, sea, or in the air. It is a place where modern luxury and the rugged landscape exist side by side. Your Aruban vacation can embrace either or both–the choice is yours.
Planning Your Trip
Where to Go
Aruba’s capital offers visitors a taste of authentic island life. Playa, as it is also known, boasts quaint side streets interwoven with major shopping avenues. Right next to malls with designer shops, the town residents are still living in homes from the 18th century. Explore Aruba’s history and culture here in museums such as the National Archaeological Museum Aruba (NAMA) or the Aruba Historical Museum. Then enjoy superb dining, shopping, and casino play.
Oranjestad also features a harbor filled with deep sea fishing boats; the major resort, the Renaissance Resort; and many attractive guesthouses. Some local beaches like Nikky and Druif Beaches are practically deserted during the week but fill up with islanders on weekends.
Eagle Beach and Manchebo Beach
This resort area offers a tranquil, secluded getaway. Miles of beaches are shadowed by large copses of sea grape. There are many spots where a visitor can settle down, look around, and not see a soul.
The apartment-style resorts here are well suited to families. Divi Links golf course is surrounded by a beautiful resort where golfers can roll out of bed to an early tee time. Organized resort activities, such as arts and crafts, scavenger hunts, pool games, and contests for kids keep the rest of the family happy. Close proximity to Oranjestad allows history buffs and shoppers easy access to museums and designer stores.
Palm Beach, Malmok, and Noord
Palm Beach is the best place on the island for lounging on the beach and for nightlife. Restaurants, casinos, and clubs are next door to glamorous resorts. It is the center of every water activity imaginable. Sailing, snorkeling, scuba diving off the Antilla shipwreck, tubing, deep sea fishing, parasailing, windsurfing, and Seaworld Explorer are all here. Close by is the exhilarating Butterfly Farm and Philip’s Animal Garden for family fun.
Turk’s Cap cactus, known as bushi in Papiamento
The dramatic, craggy north coast sharply contrasts with Aruba’s tranquil western shores. The Tierra Del Sol Country Club and Golf Course, featuring one of the most challenging courses in the world, borders the coastal road. A beacon to the northwest point, the California Lighthouse can be visited on mountain-bike tours.
Follow the spectacular coast trail via 4x4 or ATV to find secluded coves for surfing. Off-road adventurers enjoy traversing the Aruban outback for a trip back in time. Horseback tours provided by stables such as Rancho Daimari, weave through the dramatic coastal formations. Befriend a giant bird at the Aruba Ostrich Farm or do some rock climbing at Ayo and explore the Bushiribana Gold Ruin.
Santa Cruz, Paradera, and Piedra Plat
Aruba’s inland residential areas of Santa Cruz, Paradera, and Piedra Plat have interesting rock formations, native architecture, and inexpensive guesthouses that allow visitors to be immersed in authentic island life. Santa Cruz borders Aruba’s national park, where indigenous flora and fauna are protected.
Hikers enjoy the trails of Arikok National Park. Make the trek to the park’s highest point, Seroe Jamanota; or visit Conchi (Natural Pool) within its confines. Conchi is the best example of the dramatic lava rock formations on Aruba. This is horseback riding and ATV country. Spelunking is easy at Quadikakiri and Fontein Caves on the far side of the park. Meet local fauna at the Donkey Sanctuary or go rock climbing among formations at Casibari. Collectors enjoy sifting through antiques at Rococo Plaza in Paradera.
San Nicolas, Savaneta, and Pos Chiquito
The unspoiled and secluded coves of Aruba’s eastern end are favorite spots with kitesurfers, sunbathers, and snorkelers. The south side is known for pristine beaches with stunning turquoise seas. A barrier reef following the coast is home to the island’s best scuba spots.
Meet and interact with islanders at authentic local fish restaurants along the shore. The weekly Carubbian Festival is a multi-cultural mix of regional food, entertainment, and authentic handicrafts, all rolled into a lively street fair in San Nicolas. On the outskirts of the town is the atmospheric and spiritual Lourdes Grotto.
When to Go
Unlike many resort destinations at more northern latitudes, Aruba has the advantage of eternal summer with little changes in the seasons. The most expensive peak travel season is December 15-April 15. This is also when the island is the most crowded.
In September and early October room rates are lowest. Visitors can waltz into any restaurant without a reservation and enjoy a deserted beach. Other surprisingly quiet times to escape the cold and the crowds are the 10 days before Christmas and the week after New Year’s.
The spectacular pageantry of Carnival dominates Aruba from the first weekend in January until Ash Wednesday. The last two weeks in particular are filled with parades and musical events.
Before You Go
Passports, Visas, and Vaccinations
Valid, current passports are required for visitors from the United States and Canada. Aruban immigration requires that officials see a return ticket upon arrival. An Entry-Departure form, or ED-Card, is issued while on the plane, prior to arrival, to fill in and give to Aruban immigration. A section of this remains with you during your stay; be sure to have it ready to return to local immigration officials when you depart.
Nationals of most countries are required to have a visa to enter Aruba. Exemptions are made for the United States, Canada, the European Union and territories (the Schengen Territory), United Kingdom, Ireland, and Colombian and Jamaican nationals coming from the United States with valid residence permits or U.S. visas.
Aruba’s Reina Beatrix International Airport receives regular commercial flights daily from the United States and Canada. Several cruise ship lines include Oranjestad Harbor on their agenda.
Once on the island, visitors find ample taxis, which are pricey. It is easy to rent mopeds, cars, and jeeps, or rent or arrange mini-buses to be chauffeured around for large groups. Some are equipped for people with disabilities. A bus system services major resorts and all residential areas. They stop frequently to take visitors to Oranjestad. For touring, ATVs, 4x4s, and Harley-Davidson motorcycles are readily available. Major holiday weeks require car rentals to be made well in advance of the trip.
The Best of Aruba
Aruba’s principal attractions are the gorgeous beaches and azure waters. But it is worth it to travel beyond the beaches to explore the culture and unique topography of the island. Main tourist areas offer a myriad of choices for dining and nightlife. Though free musical entertainment is offered at several venues, the most stunning show is the daily gorgeous, colorful sunset along Aruba’s western shore. Hotel beach bars and independent lounges provide happy hour prices to enjoy this spectacle, which can segue into a romantic dinner right on the beach.
On your first evening run down to the beach to savor the sunset and take advantage of happy hour. Look for 2-for-1 cocktails at most hotel bars and cafés like Bugaloe at the end of the De Palm Pier. Stay for dinner and enjoy a fresh fish meal at Pelican Nest.
After hours, take in some free live music at Palm Beach’s Arawak Gardens, Fusion Wine and Piano Bar in the Alhambra Shopping Bazaar, or at the bandstand by the water at the Renaissance Marketplace in Oranjestad. If it’s a weekend, find a great band and fun crowd at Café Chaos across the street from Renaissance Marketplace.
If it is a Sunday, check out the luxurious Sunday brunch at Windows on Aruba at the Divi Links. Enjoy an exhilarating morning jog along the paths parallel to Eagle Beach, or following the shore from Marriott to Malmok. Or, if you prefer, refresh your chi with some yoga on the beach at the Manchebo Beach Resort. For a true introduction to pampering and relaxation, Okeanos Spa will take you out to Renaissance Island for a treatment in their private cove.
sunset at Eagle Beach
Head over to the Butterfly Farm in Palm Beach for your first real outing; it won’t be your last visit. Butterflies are most active in the mornings.
Those eager to learn to snorkel or dive should join a sailing and snorkeling tour. Dive operators like Unique Sports of Aruba will have you exploring under the water in a few short hours. Quick morning courses allow novices to dive at one of the easier, shallower dive sites around the west coast, or snorkelers can enjoy a trip to the Antilla shipwreck and Arashi Beach.
Enjoy a romantic dinner on the beach at Passions by the Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort. Afterwards, stroll along the Palm Beach promenade for some souvenir shopping. Stay until late to party at Señor Frog’s.
Catch a bus to Oranjestad for the day. Explore the landmark buildings that house the National Archeological Museum Aruba (NAMA) and the Aruba Historical Museum located within Fort Zoutman.
A charming lunch spot with a view of the harbor is The Paddock. Or meet island movers and shakers at their favorite power lunch restaurant Aquarius. For dessert, try some fresh-made gelato at Lecca Lecca. Break up the day with a half-hour exploring Aruba from the air with HeliTours, or indulge in an underwater adventure on Atlantis Submarine.
Enjoy dinner at celebrated L.G. Smith’s Steak & Chop House or romantic Pinchos Grill and Bar.
Today, get away from the beach and towns and do some touring with Madi’s Magical Tours, a highly personalized, unique safari tour with a dawn trip to Conchi (Natural Pool) on the north coast. From there, Madi can take you on an outback adventure lasting all or part of a day.
Or rent a 4x4 to tour on your own: Start the day by watching the sun rise from the California Lighthouse. From there you can head down the north coast road or make your way back to Noord and take in such sights as Alto Vista Chapel, Philip’s Animal Garden, and Santa Ana Church. If venturing farther along the coast in a four-wheel drive, follow the gravel road to the Bushiribana Gold Ruin, and the Aruba Ostrich Farm. The Ostrich Farm is a nice spot for lunch, followed by scrambling around the Ayo Rock Formation. Next to the Ostrich Farm is Gold Mine Ranch, where you can schedule an exploration of the area on horseback.
Aruba Ostrich Farm
Unwind from an exhausting day of touring with a sunset “toes in the sand” dinner at Footprints at the Hyatt.
Enjoy a day of hiking or horseback riding at Arikok National Park and the caves and coves beyond. A light breakfast can be had at Huchada in Santa Cruz, on the way to the park, if you wish to get an early start. Paved roads allow exploration by car, or park rangers will guide you through various hiking paths, such as Cunucu Arikok Trail, or to the summit of Seroe Jamanota, or to Conchi (Natural Pool), which will take up a morning or nearly the entire day. Enjoy a lunch of authentic Aruban cuisine at Urataka Center on the road leading to the park. Call Rancho Daimari if you prefer to take the tour on horseback.
Enjoy a gourmet dinner at Carte Blanche, in the Bucuti & Tara Beach resort, for a long, full, and entertaining evening of socializing with the chefs while watching them prepare dinner.
Try one of Oranjestad’s many early morning eateries, such as Smit & Dorlas Coffee House. A drive to San Nicolas will allow you to enjoy the scenery of “Sunrise City.” Take a dip at Baby Beach or Roger’s Beach, two of the most beautiful inlets on Aruba. You can also set up diving or snorkeling in this area with Jad’s Dive Shop.
Heading back from San Nicolas, stop at Zeerover in Savaneta for fresh fish, island style. B-55, next to the old drive-in theater, on the main highway, has great BBQ and a beautiful view. From either of these eateries you can easily stop at Mangel Halto beach for a relaxing swim.
For a full day of water fun, families also enjoy the Aruba Waterpark off the Oranjestad-Santa Cruz road, which also has a great kitchen for lunch.
Returning from the waterpark takes you directly past Casa Vieja restaurant, which offers a dinner stop of authentic Middle Eastern or regional cuisine at bargain prices.
Dig into gourmet crepes for breakfast at Le Creperie in Palm Beach to fuel up for learning windsurfing or kitesurfing with Aruba Active Vacations. For a real thrill, try Skydive Aruba in the field across the road from the windsurfing center. Scuba is a no-no less than 24 hours before departure, but sailing and snorkeling are always an option. Try something really different by exploring the south shore with Aruba Kayak Adventures, which includes lunch, or a customized surfing tour with Aruba Surf School.
Try tandem skydiving for a safe and thrilling experience.
In the evening hours you can pick up some last-minute souvenirs and explore the hot spots at Arawak Gardens. It is a good time to give in and buy that necklace or earrings that caught your fancy at Kristie’s Jewels or at the Caribbean Queen shop in Palm Beach Plaza. Combine shopping with some island history and culture while enjoying the Waltzing Waters at Paseo Herencia Shopping Mall. Finish the day at Sky Lounge where you can while away the night and count the stars.
Best Water Sports
Sailing and Snorkeling Cruises
OCTOPUS CRUISES (click here)
With the only boat in Aruba without a motor, Octopus offers a true sailing experience! Cruises start at easy, placid sites, where the fish flock to snorkelers in search of snacks. One of the most impressive wrecks in all the Caribbean, the Antilla, is also seen while snorkeling or diving on this tour.
TRANQUILO (click here)
Enjoy “toes in the water” sailing on the beautiful ketch Tranquilo, which tours Aruba’s south side snorkel sites. This is one of the few boats that offers all-day trips—and the only one to offer the personal expertise of Captain Anthony and his family.
UNIQUE SPORTS OF ARUBA (click here)
Unique Sports of Aruba offers daily morning lessons for complete novices and regularly scheduled tours for experienced, certified divers. The instructors and divemasters are friendly and capable.
DIVE ARUBA (click here)
Personal service, customized to experience and ability, is the Dive Aruba trademark. A veteran divemaster takes experienced, certified divers to out-of-the-way sites.
Windsurfing, Kitesurfing, and Surfing
ARUBA ACTIVE VACATIONS (click here)
Develop a windsurfing obsession with the congenial instructors at Aruba Active Vacations, one of the best outfitters on the island. Located at Fisherman’s Huts, just north of the Ritz-Carlton Resort in Palm Beach, they have a large inventory of equipment designed for surfers of all abilities.
ARUBA SURF SCHOOL (click here)
Instructor Dennis Martinez is passionate about surfing. He also customizes his lessons at Aruba Surf School to his students’ ability and experience and scouts out the best surf on any given day.
Parasailing, Tubing, Banana Boats, and Waverunners
NATIVE DIVERS WATERSPORTS (click here)
Native Divers Watersports pays strong attention to safety while providing a fun time for the whole family. It’s easy to arrange the water activity of your choice, from banana boats to parasailing.
|Enjoy an all-day snorkeling cruise with the entire family.||windsurfing at sunset|
FUN FOR EVERYONE (click here)
Conveniently located in front of the Riu Palace Resort, Fun For Everyone has four boats for tubing, parasailing, and banana boat rides. They take banana passengers on a complete tour of the northwest coastline, all the way to the Westpunt.
Deep Sea Fishing
Principal departure points for fishing boats are Oranjestad Harbor and Hadicurari Pier, at the north end of Palm Beach. Crews clean your catch and take it to a recommended restaurant to have it prepared for your dinner.
DRIFTWOOD FISHING CHARTERS (click here)
Driftwood is named after the owner’s popular seafood restaurant, where they happily cook up your catch. Captain Herby has a passion for the sport. He’s highly motivated to find the fish—he has to provide the catch of the day for the restaurant’s dinner menu!
MELINA CHARTERS (click here)
Melina departs from Hadicurari Pier, conveniently located close to the Palm Beach resorts. Captain Piet is a very congenial host, with a love of the sport and a keen knowledge of the best fishing grounds.
Aruba has a wealth of ways for honeymooners, or honeymooners-at-heart, to make the most of their special time together on the island.
Aruba is a popular wedding destination.
Several island spas had couples in mind when they designed their treatment rooms. Not only do they have dual tables, but elegant sunken baths for two, and specialized packages featuring champagne and snacks.
OKEANOS SPA (click here)
Ease tired muscles and relieve stress with a massage at the Okeanos annex on Renaissance Island. Couples can have a full morning or afternoon session in their private cove, with a stunning view of the sea and absolute privacy.
ZOIA (click here)
Located within the Hyatt Regency Resort in Palm Beach, ZoiA has a special room for couples with a giant bath and a private terrace with a beautiful view.
RED SAIL SPORTS DINNER CRUISE (click here)
Enjoy an elegant dinner with wine and a champagne toast, while cruising the coast and watching the sun set.
MONSOON (click here)
- On Sale
- Oct 1, 2019
- Page Count
- 264 pages
- Moon Travel