Aruba is a Caribbean paradise just 15 km off the coast of Venezuela, belonging to the Netherlands. This Dutch Island is home to world-class beaches ideal for the near-perfect-all-year-round weather.
At just 33 km long, it is one of the smaller islands, but don’t let that put you off; it is renowned for its warm and welcoming culture, making it one of the most visited places in the Caribbean.
Alongside the numerous white sand beaches, you will find rolling hills to climb, and a capital oozes with character and pastel-coloured Dutch homes.
Aruba may be one of the most appealing of all Caribbean islands, but some of the best activities happen for free, perfect for anyone looking to travel to Aruba on a budget. Therefore, is Aruba worth visiting? Absolutely.
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What to expect in Aruba?
Aruba has not one but two official languages – Papiamento and Dutch. Still, travellers will find that most people can speak up to four languages on the Island, including Spanish and English.
At the same time, others will also speak French and also understand German.
The local currency is Aruba Florin; although it is common for most shops and restaurants to take American Dollars, you need to be aware that you may receive your change in Florins.
Service charges are now often added to bills, so be sure to check ahead of paying, as this will add around 15 percent to your total bill.
For those bars and restaurants that do not automatically add this, it is not mandatory to give a tip, but they will always be welcomed.
The best time to visit Aruba
While Aruba benefits from 365 days of sunshine, the best time to visit is between December and March, when temperatures are consistent and the rainfall is at its lowest.
The hottest month tends to be September, with temperatures averaging 33 degrees centigrade.
Still, you also need to be mindful that hurricane season falls during the months of June and November; therefore, while you are guaranteed the warmest weather, you may also experience a tropical storm or worse.
For those that would like to experience a Caribbean island in full carnival spirit, visit between January and the beginning of February, when you will find the Island awash with free entertainment – parades, pageants, concerts, and colourful celebrations.
How to get around Aruba on a budget
There are various ways to travel around the Island, but those looking at budget travel options should consider Aruba’s public transport.
Arubus provides a fantastic bus service to all areas, making it easy to get wherever you need to go. Their website has a complete list of schedules and routes, allowing you to plan your trip ahead of time, and unlimited day passes cost about £8.50, which you can purchase onboard.
Should you decide to travel by taxi, be mindful that they are not on meters and therefore make sure to get a price ahead of time which the local government sets, and note that companies like Uber are not allowed to operate on the Island.
If you want more flexibility, car hire is also extremely reasonable and starts at around £35 per day. The only requirements are that the driver must be 21 and have held their license for a minimum of two years.
Finally, for anyone visiting Oranjestad, free open-air street cars run the length of downtown’s main street and are an experience not to be missed.
Budget things to do in Aruba
Being an exotic location and a popular stop-off for cruise ships, you may ask, ‘Is Aruba Expensive?’
The answer is, of course, as with any destination, it can be expensive, but for those looking to save money, there are plenty of things to do that will not burn a large hole in your wallet.
Head to the Mall
You may be thinking that, indeed, this is something I should avoid if I want to travel on a budget, but the colonial-style courtyard of the Paseo Herencia Mall is something that everyone should witness.
Yes, there is shopping, and window shopping may be your favourite past-time, but if not, there are plenty of shows – dance, acrobatics, and music – to watch.
If you head there after dark, you will also get to watch the magical liquid fireworks set to music, offering great entertainment for all.
Ride a Street Car
Perhaps the best way to explore Oranjestad is on the renovated, eco-friendly street cars that run along the back streets adjacent to Main Street.
With nine stops in total, you can hop on and off at your own pace and soak in the colourful, charming scenery as you go.
The trams are entirely free to use, and for those looking to get a great view across the city, hop on a double-decker and enjoy the open-air vantage point.
Spend the day at the beach
Aruba’s beaches are famous and offer some of the whitest sands in the Caribbean; therefore, no trip would be complete without spending time laying on a sunlounger or strolling along the shores. But which one should you choose?
Eagle beach is known for its relaxed vibe, with this pristine beach offering beach huts, shaded areas, and an array of watersports.
Palm Beach is one of the most luxurious beaches on the Island but is also home to many high-rise hotels and spas.
However, there is also an abundance of restaurants lining the calm water here, and it is most definitely the one to visit if you fancy a massage on the beach followed by a chilled cocktail.
Baby beach, as you may gather from the name, is ideal for families, as it offers shallow, calm waters and the waves are pretty much non-existent thanks to its crescent-shaped lagoon.
Arashi Beach is one of the best locations for snorkelling in Aruba and across the Caribbean and is ideal for beginners.
Here you will find crystal blue waters, plenty of underwater life, including angelfish, clownfish, and perhaps an octopus or two hiding among the brightly coloured coral, plus several beach huts offering drinks and snacks.
Wander around looking for Street Murals
The street art of San Nicolas has become one of the main attractions on the Island. With more than 50 eye-catching, boldly coloured murals spread across downtown captures an unexpected side to the country and showcases the talents of both local and international artists.
Places to visit in Aruba on a Budget
Casibari and Ayo Rock Formations
Head along the main road towards Santa Cruz, and you will see a large formation of tonalite boulders sitting together in the central residential area; an extraordinary sight indeed.
Here there are many different walking trails, one that starts at a rock formation known as the ‘Dragon’s Mouth,’ which will take you through and up to the top of the boulders where you get undisturbed 360 views of the local landscape.
Nearby is a second monolithic giant, Ayo, an area once considered sacred to Aruba’s original inhabitants, supported by the rock drawings thought to be from the Arawak people, dating back thousands of years that have been found here.
Hike The Mount Hooiberg Haystack
This volcanic formation sits 165 metres above sea level and is considered the heart of Aruba. Back in 1951, 900 steps were built from the bottom to the top for hikers to use.
Unfortunately, these are no longer safe to use due to erosion but are still visible along the hiking trail. A stopping place halfway up has now been turned into a gazebo-covered rest stop for those wanting to tackle the Haystack.
Anyone who makes it to the top will be rewarded with views as far as Venezuela on a clear day.
Visit the highest summit site of Aruba’s oldest Catholic Church
Alto Vista Chapel in Boca Noord, on the northwest tip of the Island, is accessible via taxi, foot, or bike trail.
To visit there are no clear signposts leading up to the chapel itself, so some may decide to visit with a local. Whether you visit for sunrise or sunset, this little pilgrim church is the first thing you will notice as you round the corner.
The bright yellow chapel stands out in contrast to the brilliant blue sky and deep azure-coloured sea, while to one side, you will see a Peace Labyrinth, an attraction all on its own.
Remember to take a water bottle and, if cycling or hiking, perhaps some snacks as you will not find a restaurant or bar nearby.
Aruba Aloe Factory
Aruba has been one of the largest suppliers of Aloe Vera since 1840 when two-thirds of the Island was covered in the plant.
Today, you can visit the museum on the aloe Hato plantation for free to find out more about the history of the cultivation and exportation of this wonder product.
Visit the Natural Pools
Also known as the Conchi, this natural pool, formed by volcanic rocks, can be found on the eastern coast and is not for the faint-hearted.
To access the pools, you either need to undertake a 7-mile hike, ride horseback or take a 4×4 tour from Arikok National Park, so it is one for those seeking adventure.
It is also essential to know that once at the rock pools, they can be slippery, and the waves can sometimes be harsh; therefore, care is needed.
Once in the pools themselves, however, you will see the contrast, with calm, warm waters to relax in.
A day at the Donkey Sanctuary
A haven for abused and malnourished donkeys, this sanctuary has become a lifeline to any donkey that would have been left to suffer.
Home to more than 100 donkeys, you can visit this peaceful haven for free and even join in at feeding time should you wish and learn more about their history in the Caribbean.
Climb the California Lighthouse
Located at Hudishibana, near Arashi Beach and the Sasariwichi Dunes, this lighthouse was named after a steamship called California, which was wrecked nearby in 1891.
Climb 30 metres to the top, the tallest building in Aruba, and stand on the viewing platform where you will get 360-degree views across the ocean and inland across the dunes, where you will often see people dune surfing.
Visit Arikok National Park
Covering around 20 percent of the Island, this national park is full of protected flora and fauna and home to no end of wildlife.
It is also where you will find the natural pools, the highest peak, Jamanota, several caves, and the natural bridge, all of which can be explored via jeep or car. However, some off-roading is required to visit specific locations.
Where to stay in Aruba on a Budget
While many Aruba travel guides will highlight the luxury end of accommodation, there is also an opportunity for backpacking Aruba should you wish, with many affordable options spread across the Island.
You will find a mixture of budget two and three-star hotels, with Oranjestad offering some of the cheapest options, while beach resorts will be slightly more expensive.
Private apartments are also becoming popular, and whether you rent a room or an entire apartment, both can be found relatively cheaply compared to some of the more luxurious resorts dotted around the country.
Staying with those looking for Aruba’s backpacking scene, consider staying at the Hostel Room in Oranjestad.
This is more of a family’s welcome kind of hostel rather than a rowdy hangover stop-off and is conveniently located near restaurants, bars, shops, and the beach. There is also a shared kitchen to help keep costs down.
On the north side of Aruba, you will find the Aruba Blue Village, a tropical-themed resort that offers studios and suites with their own kitchenette and air conditioning. This resort also has a pool, offers free breakfasts, and a shuttle bus service to the bars and restaurants close to Eagle beach.
If Palm Beach sounds like the perfect holiday location, then the Coconut Inn is an aparthotel surrounded by lush gardens, sun terraces, and a swimming pool.
Just 15 minutes from the airport, 10 minutes from the capital, and 5 minutes to the local bars, restaurants, and mall, you will be hard-pushed to find a better-situated apartment for your stay.
Budget Eats in Aruba
Of course, there are many all-inclusive resorts around the Island, but there are also many cheap restaurants that serve outstanding traditional cuisine.
Eduardo’s Beach Shack, located between Palm and Eagle beach, is one such place. Starting as a smoothie shack for over 15 years, it has grown to offer healthy snacks and drinks. It is not hard to find, as you will always find a queue.
Another popular choice is Scott’s Brats, which opens until late afternoon and offers a selection of American and Caribbean dishes, a selection of cool drinks, and a fantastic beachfront view, where you can feel the sand in between your toes as you eat.
Away from the beach, Cocoplum in Oranjestad offers a selection of dishes focusing on local produce and flavours.
They serve specials each day, often featuring stews, fresh fish, and more unusual Creole dishes with more unusual ingredients that you may try for the first time.
Cheap tours to do in Aruba
Visit the Guadirikiri Caves
Hidden within the Arikok National Park, these caves are nestled amongst fine sand beaches and clear waters.
With a mix of underground tunnels, ancient rock formations, Stalagmites, and stalactites, these dark caves are home to an impressive colony of fruit bats, all of which are best seen as you pass under an overhead opening.
Off-Roading tours with Cliff Jumping
This one is for adrenaline junkies looking for a break from sunbathing on the beach. This trip will take you to sights such as Philip’s Animal Garden, the largest exotic animal sanctuary on the Island, the Alto Vista Chapel, and the Bushiribana ruins.
You will also visit Wariruri Bay, a sandy cove, a natural cave pool, Shark Bay, a popular location for surfers due to the high waves; and Black Stone Beach, with its black sand.
Catamaran Cruising with Dolphins
What could be better than floating around aboard a boat watching for dolphins to jump up out of the water? These trips also allow time to explore the local reefs of Boca Catalina and the Antilla Shipwreck.
Enjoy a day of luxury on De Palm Island
Head to De Palm Island for an all-inclusive day in paradise. Here you will be treated like royalty with the ultimate relaxation package.
Chill on the sandy beaches, go diving, enjoy the waterpark and sip cocktails, all in one location. This is one happy island location not to be missed.
Recommended tours in Aruba
- California Lighthouse Observatory Aruba
- 1 Hour Yoga on the Beach Experience in Aruba
- Unique Tour & Lunch experience
- Guided Mangel Halto and Baby Beach Snorkeling Tour from Aruba
- Aruba Downtown Historic and Cultural Walking Tour
- Aruba Island Sightseeing Tour
- Explore Aruba Party Bus Tour
- Half-Day Animal Sanctuary Tour in Aruba
- Discover Snorkeling Mangel Halto Aruba
- The only natural pool morning walk, swimming at a secluded beach & natural pool