Whether you’re looking to lounge on a beach, delve into the great outdoors, meet friendly locals, and experience incredible attractions, Aruba has you covered. Aruba is more than just a tropical paradise and because of this, the Dutch-flavored island has become one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean.
North Americans escaping the winter season make Aruba the most touristy island in the southern Caribbean – for obvious reasons. With miles of enchanting white-sand beach, all-inclusive resort options, and a cute, yet diverse capital, Aruba is all about sun, fun, and spending money.
For those that are looking to venture away from the resorts or crowd filled beaches, you’re in for a real treat. This island can offer rough, windswept vistas, filled with uncrowded beaches, making this the perfect spot for hiking and horseback riding. Additionally, Abrubas crystal-clear waters are bursting with sea life, providing incredible opportunities for snorkeling and diving.
Aruba, located in the Netherlands Antilles, and offers a charming mix of contrasts. The pastel-colored Dutch houses placed against the natural backdrop will transport any traveler to a tropical version of Amsterdam. This island is a blend of Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, and West African cultures, offering a wild experience in and of itself.
Like almost all other Caribbean islands, Aruba is considered a bit more expensive. This is a destination where retired folk and honeymooners go in order to relax comfortably, leaving the island left to provide all that’s needed for this luxury end of the tourism spectrum. Keep in mind that you’ll pay a premium for hotels, food, and any chosen activities in Aruba. On the other hand, it isn’t impossible to travel around this country on a budget, and by simply eating local food, staying in cheaper hotels, and cutting a few other added expenses, you can make your trip to paradise a bit more affordable.
But, have no fear! No matter your budget, this Aruba travel guide will give you all the practical information you need to help you plan your visit, enabling you to make the most of what the island has to offer!
Because this island is a mix of multiple cultures, there are various languages frequently spoken here. The locals here will speak Dutch, Papiamento, English, and Spanish,
Even though the U.S dollar is widely accepted, the Aruban florin is this island’s main currency.
Climate and Recommended Time to Visit
If you are yearning for the best time to visit Aruba, then your best bet will be from April to August. This season is considered the off-season and because of this, the prices decrease during this time. Not only are the prices decreased, but the crowds and tourism numbers decrease as well.
Peak travel season for many tourists is between January and March when temperatures are the mildest, averaging around 80 degrees.
No matter what time you choose to visit this incredible island, there’s not much risk of tropical storms either because Aruba isn’t part of the Caribbean’s hurricane belt.
Top Attractions and Must-See Sights
Renting a quad
A quad can allow you to get off the beaten track and explore some of the smaller beaches and jungles spread out on the island. While getting a guide is sometimes considered a better option, exploring on your own will allow you to roam around the island. To find out more information about renting a quad, check out Around Aruba and Action Tours companies to find rental options.
National Archaeological Museum
This historic plantation house, which was built-in 1870 as a private home, has since been transformed into a museum. Here, there are a variety of stone, shell, and ceramic artifacts displayed, all from Aruba’s history when the first Amerindians arrived from Central and South America.
If you want to gain a better understanding of the island’s history, you can stay and watch the documentary film which is constantly played, which focuses on ancient Amerindian Indigenous life. A huge perk of visiting this museum is that admission is free.
The Peace Labyrinth sits peacefully on top of a bluff, surveying the Caribbean. Be sure to walk mindfully through the intricate outdoor labyrinth of stone, which is meant to serve as a sort of meditation space. The grounds are free to wander as well, making it easy to explore.
The Donkey Sanctuary
Donkeys have lived on the island of Aruba for over 500 years and were later replaced after cars came to Aruba. Because the donkeys that inhabited this island became less needed, their population hit record lows. Now, the donkeys that are left, live primarily in this non-profit sanctuary. This is a fun place to spend the afternoon, especially if you have kids because each geist is invited to feed and care for the donkeys. Shockingly, admission is free but donations are always welcomed.
Aruba Butterfly Farm
Aruba Butterfly Farm is home to hundreds of fascinating and beautiful butterflies. Here, butterflies flutter freely in a mesh, vegetated enclosure that allows visitors to walk through. Make sure to bring a camera and be patient, because when the butterflies decide to come near you, the shots you can get are priceless.
Aloe Factory and Museum Tour
If you are someone who is into the manufacture and history of things, then this isn’t a bad option to take advantage of on a rare rainy day. This museum is dedicated to all-things aloe, giving you the opportunity to learn more about this well-known plant. Plus, if you’ve been out in the Caribbean sun too long, the aloe found here can do wonders for your skin.
Interested in Arawak Indian drawings, desert landscapes, and giant lizards? If so, this natural park should be the first thing on your list. Making up about 20 percent of Aruba, this park has more than 20 miles of walking trails and amazing indigenous flora and fauna. The best thing about this national park is that rangers are available throughout the grounds to answer questions and even lead hiking tours.
California Point Lighthouse
The old stone California Point Lighthouse, named after an offshore wreck, is a 100-year-old, 250-foot lighthouse and viewpoint, sits upright on the bottom of the ocean just offshore allowing guests to come and explore the area. This landmark has become one of Aruba’s most scenic spots, which offers tourists sweeping views of the island’s coastline and beaches.
Fort Zoutman Historical Museum
The brightly-painted landmark, known as Fort Zoutman, marks the original location of Aruba’s Historical Museum. This fort was constructed in 1798 to protect the Dutch colony from the English and other rivals and was added onto around the year of 1868. Now, this landmark serves as both a lighthouse and clock tower. The museum traces Aruba’s growth from prehistory all the way to the 1920s.
Additionally, this attraction hosts a weekly welcome festival on Tuesdays from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. During this time, visitors can learn a little more about Aruba’s colorful past through its music and folklore.
Bushiribana Gold Mine Ruins
The name of this island, Aruba means “red gold,” and gets its name from a well-known mining site that was popular because of the Gold Rush, which took place in the early 19th century. When gold was discovered here in 1824, countless mines sprung up along the island’s northern coast, which eventually produced more than 3 million pounds of ore. The remains of these various mines can be explored today while traveling around the island.
Due to the size of this island, there are no trains on Aruba. The only exception to this is the electric tram that circles downtown Oranjestad.
Arbus is the most used public bus in Aruba and will get you everywhere you need to go while visiting this island. Their website has a full list of schedules and routes, offering busses every 10 to 20 minutes from each stop. Once you board the bus, you can pay the driver the amount owed.
Oranjestad, the country’s capital, has a free open-air trolley that runs the length of downtown’s main street. This is a great option if you are wishing to view all this city has to offer, but only runs on limited hours between 10 am and 5 pm.
It’s useful to rent a vehicle if you are looking for complete independence during your vacation in Aruba, however, if you plan to spend most of your time at the beach, don’t waste your money renting a car. Most resorts have on-site restaurants and offer plenty of other eating options within walking distance. Organized tours are plentiful in the main tourist districts, and taxi or bus services will be all that’s needed.
If you do decide to use a car, all major car-rental companies have offices at the airport and in most main cities. Aruba’s main roads are generally in good condition and gas stations are fairly easy to find.
Surprisingly, hitchhiking is safe to do on the island, but you’ll likely end up waiting a while because most people don’t tend to offer rides. If you are set on trying to hitchhike this island, then a popular website called HitchWiki is the best for updated hitchhiking info.
Taxi & Ridesharing
Taxis in Aruba are one of the safest and most reliable ways of travel. Ultimately, they are extremely easy to flag down at hotels and resorts, but with a catch. Most taxis do not have meters, because the rates are commonly set by the government. In most cases, the minimum fare is 10 AWG, or $6 USD, but just to make sure you are not being scammed, asking your driver for the price beforehand is ideal.
Aruba offers an abundance of snorkeling, sailing, and even submarine tours where boats are taken. In general, boats are not used for basic transportation around the island, so in most cases, boat travel is not an option.
Top Rated Hotels In Aruba
Overlooking the Caribbean sands of Palm Beach, this beautifully-styled hotel offers guests spacious accommodations located on the sunny beaches of Aruba. Additionally, this hotel provides exceptional resort amenities for all choosing to stay. You can try your luck at the thrilling 24-hour on site Casino or opt to take a long swim in serene ocean waters just steps from your door. This hotel also offers a relaxing sauna and whirlpool, packed with exquisite onsite dining at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Atari, and La Vista.
In the evening, you can retreat to the spacious hotel rooms, topped with designer bedding, private large balconies, and picturesque views.
At this hotel, you can revel in relaxation while being in the heart of downtown Aruba. Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino provides unparalleled access to iconic hot spots, including Flamingo Beach, Palm Beach, and the Renaissance Mall.
This hotel is divided into two zones, one made specifically for adults only, and one that is family-friendly. No matter which area you choose to stay in, guests can take a water taxi to this hotel’s 40-acre private island for an exclusive day of beachfront fun.
You can settle into any modern room or suite after all your exploring is over, which is complete with free Wi-Fi, unforgettable views, and room service around the clock.
This hotel option gives visitors spectacular ocean views from the moment you set foot in the lobby. You can make yourself at home in newly designed rooms or spend your afternoons lounging at the private beach or by the large pool.
An added perk of this hotel is that boutique shopping and dining options are found both onsite and within walking distance of this accommodation. If you choose, you can rejuvenate your body and soul with an aloe vera treatment at ZoiA Spa which is close by to this hotel as well. No matter how you chose to spend each day, this hotel will provide you with unprecedented and friendly service, creating unforgettable memories for you and all those you are traveling with.
Known as one of the most envied locations on the island, with the longest stretch of sugar-white beach, is the all-inclusive Holiday Inn Resort. This hotel will be your favorite home away from home. Positioned in the heart of Palm Beach right on the beachfront, filled with transparent waters, this hotel gives you the opportunity to explore Palm Beach’s diverse activities.
If you are searching for sun, a breeze, white sands, and lush palm trees then the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino is the choice for you. Spend time at the beachfront spa, sip a daiquiri by two sparkling pools, or experience world-class dining, the choices are endless.
Guests can play the tables at the casino or learn to scuba dive with private instructions, so whether you’re here for a family vacation, solo travel, or weekend getaway, the amenities that this resort offers will ensure a memorable stay.
Best Restaurants In Aruba
Carte Blanche is a restaurant for people who are open-minded and looking for exquisite dining experiences while being in a cozy and informal atmosphere. This exciting dining experience will provide only 14 guests the opportunity to sample many different culinary combinations while chatting amongst themselves at a large table.
This unique dining option was created by Chef Dennis, which gives him the opportunity to prepare a 5-course surprise meal right in front of all seated. Carte Blanche also features an extensive wine list and a top of the line selection of martinis and other spirits from the bar.
The Kitchen Table features 16 comfortable seats, solely for those who made reservations well in advance. This gastronomic 7-8 course feast is one that starts with sparkling wine overlooking Eagle Beach.
The restaurant opened its doors in August of 2014 and since then, has gained popularity through its extravagant 7-8 course dinner. To top things off, this restaurant was elected the #1 TripAdvisor Travelers Choice restaurant in 20018, and for the past several years has been within the top 5 of best restaurants in Aruba on TripAdvisor.
If you are looking for freshly cooked comfort food at moderate prices then Bavaria Restaurant is the place for you. You can also opt for an ice-cold beer that can be enjoyed in a relaxing garden atmosphere. Here, good food and friendly services are guaranteed.
Yemanja Woodfired Grill, located in a historic building in downtown Oranjestad, has been captivating food lovers since 2007. Chef Joyce de Cuba-Hüsken and her staff skillfully handle smoke and fire to cultivate the most natural tastes from each dish by mastering the world’s oldest and most beautiful cooking process.
Do you imagine dining right on the beach under swaying palm fronds, with your toes buried deep in the sand? If so, visiting this restaurant in Savaneta, Aruba’s charming fisherman’s town, will deliver this and more to you on a silver platter. Here, through imaginative plate presentations, you can find a fine range of delicious fresh seafood and steak creations made unforgettable.
How to Stay Safe in Aruba
Aruba is considered to be one of the safest places to visit in the Caribbean because it’s a small island with a low crime rate. Nonetheless, it’s still best to not leave your valuables out in the open to avoid theft. If you are worried about any important documents getting stolen, then making copies of these documents will give you added precautions.
It’s best to avoid isolated areas at night, specifically the San Nicolas area, and as a general rule of thumb, travelers need to be aware of their surroundings at all times.
One of the most important pieces of advice offered to travelers, is to purchase good travel insurance. This travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations that are experienced before or during your trip.