Located in the heart of the Caribbean, Aruba is a small island known for its immeasurable white beaches, crystal clear water, and perfect year-round weather.
Aruba is home to some extraordinary geological formations, thanks to its interesting history. The island, and many others around it, formed when a volcano erupted underneath the sea millions of years ago.
This led to a unique landscape, incredible sights, and the well-known Conchi natural pool, one of Aruba’s most famous attractions.
Aruba’s population is just over 100,000, but they receive over 2 million visitors every year.
It’s no surprise that Aruba is so popular; there are so many things to do in Aruba that one trip might not be enough! The locals are very welcoming of tourists, and are widely regarded as very friendly.
This ultimate travel guide to Aruba will show you all the most beautiful places in Aruba, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Aruba and things to do in Aruba which will help you in planning a trip to Aruba.
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How to get to Aruba
Being an island, your choices in travelling to Aruba are limited. Unless you take a day trip as part of a Caribbean cruise, your only practical way onto the island is to fly.
It is possible to take the boat from Cartagena, Colombia, but unless you are already there, getting to Cartagena would be long, stressful, and probably not worth the trip!
Many airlines fly directly to Aruba from major cities throughout the Americas, and some from Europe too.
Once you arrive at the airport, a frequent bus service can take you downtown in less than 20 minutes. A round trip will cost you under $5.
If you’ve had a long flight or are feeling weighed down by your suitcase, a taxi will take you to the main city of Oranjestad in just ten minutes for a flat rate of $21.
What to Expect in Aruba
Aruba has two official languages; their native Papiamento (similar to Spanish and Portuguese), and Dutch, as Aruba is a constituent country of the Netherlands.
That being said, you won’t have any problems speaking English in Aruba; the heavy tourism traffic makes it an essential for islanders.
The official currency of Aruba is the Aruban Florin, but US Dollars are widely accepted too. Note that if you pay in US dollars, you may receive your change in Florin.
The exchange rate between Florin and US dollars is fixed, so you don’t have to worry about getting ripped off! There is also no expectation to tip in Aruba; it is entirely your choice.
When it comes to safety in Aruba, it is widely accepted as the safest of the Caribbean Islands. Of course they are not immune to crime, so always be sure to practice personal safety when you travel.
How to get around Aruba
Taxis in Aruba have a fixed rate, which means you can look up how much your fare should be and check with the driver before you get in.
Ride sharing apps, such as Uber, are not available in Aruba, so bear that in mind before you head out at night!
There is a reliable bus service between Oranjestad and the resort areas, but public transport to the rest of the island is limited.
A free streetcar runs between the main area of Oranjestad and the cruise terminal, which is a must if you’re arriving by boat!
A wide range of car rental companies operate in Aruba, many of which have a pick-up location in the airport.
As the island is quite flat, it is also worth considering renting bikes. You can rent a bike by the week for a reasonable rate, or use Green Bike, the city bikeshare scheme, for as little as an hour at a time.
The best time to visit Aruba
Aruba has amazing weather year-round, but you may want to avoid their very mild rainy season between October and December.
Although the weather can be hot, the constant breeze takes the edge off and the unique composition of sand means your feet won’t burn, even at the hottest time of day.
Because Aruba tends to be a haven for North Americans escaping the winter, the down-season actually falls during the hottest months of April – November.
Their peak tourist season falls between December and April, so avoid these months if you prefer the quiet.
If you’re looking for something a little more lively, you may want to visit during January and February; Aruba’s Carnival Season.
During this time you can expect to see lively colours, street parties, parades, live music and much, much more.
Things to do in Aruba
Many of Aruba’s main attractions involve the aforementioned crystal clear waters. From sunset boat trips to private snorkelling tours, there is truly something for everyone.
If you’re into something a little more active, kayaking, jet-skiing and paragliding are all available. If you’re looking for something a little more tame, deluxe boat cruises or catamaran tours are always a hit.
Renaissance private island is Aruba’s number 1 attraction, and for a reason! Featuring Aruba’s only private beaches, it is part of the luxury Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino.
You can gain access to the island either by staying at the Aruba all-inclusive resort, or by purchasing a day pass for $125. Whichever option you choose, it is important to plan ahead as spots are limited.
Renaissance private island is also where you will find the famous Flamingo Beach. If there will be an instagram worthy moment on your trip, this will be it! (Note that Flamingo Beach is over-18s only).
Eagle Beach is another one of Aruba’s most popular resort beaches, with endless stretches of white sand and mild turquoise waters.
Just a 14 minute drive from Oranjestad, it is another gorgeous stop not to be missed. Up the coast you will find Palm Beach, lined with bars, restaurants and high-rise hotels.
Towards the centre of the island, you can find Casibari Rock Formations, huge boulders made up of quartz diorite. Reaching the top requires summiting quite a few stairs, but it’s worth it, believe me!
Another wonder hailing from its unique geological formation is Aruba’s natural pool in Arikok National Park.
There are many sights to see when you explore Arikok National Park, but the natural pool is one of the most unique. There are several hiking trails, caves and beaches to explore, but be warned; if you want to get to the natural pool, it is only accessible by 4×4.
The easiest way to do it is to hire a guide from the park to take you there, but you can do it in your own vehicle, as long as you have permission from your rental company (the roads are not for the faint-hearted!).
If you’re into hiking, it’s also worth taking a trip up to Alto Vista Chapel in the north of the island. It has a dedicated hiking trail, but is also accessible by car and taxi.
California Lighthouse is at the very northern tip of the island, and the views are incredible. If you feel like splashing out, you can even book dinner for two with a private waiter right at the top!
For such a small island, Aruba has an impressive number of shopping malls and boutiques. Renaissance Mall is one of the largest and closest to the capital city of Oranjestad.
For a more touristy experience, try Paseo Herencia Shopping & Entertainment Center, which combines a range of shops with restaurants, games, live events and a cinema.
What to eat in Aruba
Aruba’s cuisine is multicultural, and takes inspiration from many nationalities. As it is in the Caribbean, but so close to South America, and ruled by the Dutch, you can imagine the number of influences and changes their cuisine has gone through over the years!
The result is a unique, spectacular fusion that would be difficult to find anywhere else in the world.
Bolita di Keshi quite literally means “little ball of cheese”, and that’s exactly what you get with this Aruban dish. It is especially loved by children, but can be enjoyed as a snack by all ages.
Fried plantain is also very popular in Aruba, hailing from its Caribbean roots. You could find this as a side dish to almost anything, and know that it will deliver every single time.
Despite the constant warm weather, a lot of Aruban food comes in the form of a hot stew or soup. The kind of food you might expect on a cold winters’ day elsewhere.
It almost always involves meat and a rich mix of vegetables, so the local cuisine isn’t quite vegetarian-ready! Of course, having such an abundant coastline, they also eat a lot of fish.
Despite their meat-filled traditional food, Aruba is very accessible to vegans and vegetarians due to the many tourists that visit each year.
Aruba’s most famous breakfast, having won “Best breakfast in Aruba” three times, is a dutch pancake house called, you guessed it, The Dutch Pancake house.
Boldly representing their dutch heritage but serving up dishes made only with local ingredients, The Dutch Pancake house is located in the heart of downtown Oranjestad and is a delicacy not to be missed.
Where to stay in Aruba
Of course, if budget isn’t a problem, the aforementioned all-inclusive resort on Renaissance private island would be top of anyone’s list.
Aruba isn’t shy to luxury; there are plenty of other options if Renaissance isn’t your style. Some of the best rated luxury hotels include Ocean Z Boutique Hotel, Eagle Aruba Resort & Casino (just minutes away from Eagle Beach) and Karibu Aruba Boutique Hotel.
If you still want a little luxury but at a lower price point, there are many gorgeous self-catered apartments across Aruba. Some favourites are: The Palm Leaf Apartments, Costa Esmeralda Village and Gold Coast Aruba.
As standard, these resorts generally come with bars and restaurants on-site (for those days when you just need to relax!), swimming pools, fitness centres, private parking and lovely staff on reception who can guide you through your activities in Aruba.
Hostels are hard to come by in Aruba. Aruba Harmony has incredible reviews and can offer shared dorms or private rooms.
In the city centre, with air conditioning and a pool, it has a little more to offer than your average hostel, although it is still reasonably priced. Budget travellers may also have luck in finding cheap hotels, if you are willing to be flexible on location.
Tours to do in Aruba
As you might have realised, a lot of the tours and activities on Aruba revolve heavily around the sea and water sports.
I like to think there’s something for everyone in their range of water activities, unless you’re absolutely terrified of boats and the sea!
If you’re looking for adventure, there are a variety of tours that include ATV rides to the natural pool, cliff jumping straight into the sea, or kayaking and canoeing.
If you want to make the most of the crystal clear waters in Aruba and explore the natural habitat, you can go snorkelling or even scuba diving.
Amongst some of the more relaxed things to do in Aruba, you can take a catamaran tour with incredible views of the island, take a sunset cruise (and add champagne on ice, if that’s your thing), or even take a submarine expedition, to experience the wildlife without having to get wet.
If you’re really dead set against hitting the water (and I wouldn’t blame you!), you can take a sightseeing tour of the island, take a trip to the natural pool on an ATV, or go bar hopping on a party bus.
Aruba even has a lot to offer for young families and children. Aruba’s Donkey Sanctuary, not far from Arikok National Park, provides a safe haven for injured or abused wild donkeys.
You can take an animal sanctuary tour in Aruba, visiting the Donkey Sanctuary, Aruba’s Ostrich Farm and Phillip’s Animal Garden.
Day Trips from Aruba
Many day excursions are available from Aruba in the surrounding waters, including luxury private boat tours and trips to hidden beaches.
If you’re willing to make an early start, a day trip to the island of Curaçao is possible by plane, although I would recommend making an overnight trip as there is just as much to do there. In fact, the capital of Curaçao, Willemstad, is a UNESCO World Heritage City.
If you’re staying in Oranjestad or closer to the north of the island, I would definitely recommend a day trip to the “Sunrise City”, San Nicolas. Aruba’s second-largest city is on the very southern tip of the island, and attracts fewer tourists than Oranjestad and the west coast.
Here, you’re more likely to find art galleries and historical buildings. San Nicolas is also home to Baby Beach, a crescent moon-shaped lagoon beach perfect for families with young children, snorkelling, or calm days in very shallow water.
Recommended tours in Aruba
- Island Ultimate Jeep Safari in Aruba
- Natural Pool Off-Road Safari
- Aruba ATV Tour Adventure with Kini Kini
- The Arusun – Aruba Catamaran Sail with Snorkeling
- Aruba Champagne Breakfast and Lunch Cruise with Snorkeling
- Private Airport Transfers: Round-Trip
- Aruba Happy Hour Sunset Sail with Food and Drinks
- Jolly Pirate Morning Sail and Snorkel Cruise in Aruba
- Aruba Half Day Island Tour