Aruba is a small and peaceful southern Caribbean island. The locals are known for their hospitality, and they love to interact with visitors. Aruba offers enough to entertain even the most demanding visitor, but the culture is quite laid-back, so you’ll never need a vacation from your vacation.
Whether you’d prefer to spend time on the beautiful beaches or at one of the island’s many festivals or historic sites, there’s something for you on Aruba.
Here are five amazing things to do on this lovely Caribbean island.
1. Hit The Beach
Aruba’s best natural features are its beaches. The white sand and turquoise water attract tourists year-round. Each beach has its own unique qualities, and there are plenty to choose from. Here are some of the most popular.
Palm Beach is a 2-mile strip of sand and water lined with hotels, resorts, casinos, and restaurants. It's the perfect place for an early morning walk or run. Although there is a lot of activity on Palm Beach, because it is so long, it’s never crowded.
Eagle Beach is a smaller, more intimate beach. If you visit this beach on a weekend, be sure to play a game of beach tennis with the locals.
Baby Beach, one of the most-visited beaches in Aruba, got its name because of its shallow waters, which attract many snorkelers and parents with young children. If you fear deep water, this is the place for you. Baby Beach is also famous for harboring turtle nests. When the eggs hatch, the baby turtles can be seen on the sand.
2. Take A Tour
Tours are a terrific way to experience Aruba. We took a full-day Baby Beach tour that started at 8:30 a.m. and ended around 3:30 p.m. and included lunch. It cost $107 after we applied our $5 coupon.
Our tour was not for the faint of heart. For most of the ride, I held on tightly to keep from being thrown from the UTV as tree branches slapped me in the face. The drivers seemed to forget we were in the vehicle as they sped across the rough terrain.
Nevertheless, we enjoyed our tour and got to see some of the most fascinating aspects of Aruba. These were some of the highlights.
Guadirikiri Cave is famous for its unique configuration and rooftop openings. It’s also known for its bats! But don’t worry -- the bats don’t go into the lighted areas of the cave. To interact with them, you’ll have to head deeper into the natural marvel.
The marvelous coral and limestone natural bridges of Aruba form all kinds of unusual shapes, and they make the perfect background for selfies.
Donkeys were once the primary mode of transportation in Aruba. However, with the introduction of cars to the island, the animals were no longer valuable. As a result, many donkeys were neglected, abused, injured, or even killed. To save the animals, the community established the Donkey Sanctuary in 1997.
Aruba Ostrich Farm
A visit to the Aruba Ostrich Farm includes a tour -- a history lesson on these birds and how they came to Aruba -- and even better, the opportunity to feed and interact with these giant birds.
Aruba’s Butterfly Farm, a beautiful garden located on a lake, is home to several species of butterflies. The entrance fee includes a tour and a lecture on butterflies. Don’t be in a rush to leave after the tour -- instead, enjoy the garden and the butterflies flying throughout.
3. Experience The Culture, Art, And History Of The Island
Here are some great places to experience the rich culture, art, and history Aruba has to offer.
Bon Bini Festival
The Bon Bini Festival, which celebrates Aruba’s traditional music and dance, occurs every Tuesday evening at Fort Zoutman.
City Of San Nicolas
San Nicolas is the second-largest city in Aruba and the best place to experience art and culture on the island. It’s about a 30-minute drive from Oranjestad and is accessible by bus or car.
The city boasts more than 40 buildings covered in colorful murals painted by locals and visiting artists.
Cosecha Creative Center
At the Cosecha Creative Center in San Nicolas, local artists provide classes and workshops. Visitors can take a class or simply observe the artists at work. After class, stop by the center’s shop and purchase art and jewelry made by students and artists. All purchases help support the center and its artists.
ArtisA is San Nicolas’s art gallery and the site of its fashion and holiday fairs.
Local History Museums
4. Try The Local Food And Drink
Several dishes and drinks are Aruba specialties.
Keshi yena, a Dutch-inspired dish, is the national dish of Aruba. It’s a cheese ball filled with spicy meat (usually chicken) and covered in Gouda. Every restaurant adds its own special flair to the dish, so you might be tempted to sample it at more than one place.
The seafood is another highlight, of course. Aruba specialties include mahi-mahi, red snapper, grouper, and prawn.
Ayaca is steamed meat folded into banana leaves.
Pan bati is a sweet bread that is served as a side.
Aruba’s soups and stews are exceptional, particularly the cabrito stoba, or goat stew, and the keri keri, or fish stew.
The Aruba Ariba is the national drink. It's made from vodka, rum, Coecoei liquor, crème de banane, orange juice, cranberry juice, and pineapple juice.
Summer Love, another popular cocktail, is a blend of tequila, triple sec, vodka, mango, and passion fruit.
Here are some of the best places to try these specialties.
The Old Fisherman
On our first night in Aruba, the locals recommended The Old Fisherman, a well-known seafood restaurant close to the cruise docks. The ambiance left something to be desired, but the food was spectacular.
Papiamento Restaurant, located on the grounds of a 126-year-old house in downtown Oranjestad, is one of the best restaurants in Aruba. Its sweet potato mash and blanched okra are heavenly. After your meal, take a look at the antiques the owners have collected over the years.
The beachfront Barefoot Restaurant, also in Oranjestad, offers both great views and delicious food. Enjoy the restaurant’s specialty, Caribbean grouper with mango cream cheese, while basking in the sunset.
Eat Local Week
Every September or October, during Eat Local Week, participating restaurants offer meals at a discounted rate. To ensure you pay the discounted price, ask for the Eat Local menu.
5. Shop Till You Drop
Here are some great places to shop in Aruba.
Renaissance Mall is a newer shopping center that hosts designer stores. It's in downtown Oranjestad, close to the cruise docks, and it’s easily accessible by public transportation. Take the bus to the last stop, and it’s a short walk from there.
The Paseo Herencia shopping center is two blocks from the Marriott. Boutiques, carts, and restaurants line both sides of the street for blocks.
Smaller boutique shops are located throughout the island on beaches and in hotels.
Aruba is known for producing aloe, and one of the local aloe farms has become one of the island’s most popular tourist attractions. Several of the farm’s products, including soap, body scrubs, and moisturizers, are available for purchase.
How To Get Around In Aruba
Traveling around Aruba is easy. Taxi service is available, but there is a great bus system. There are two types of buses to choose from. The larger bus charges $2.75 and cannot deviate from its route. The minivan, which has more flexibility, charges only $2.
With its rich culture, Aruba provides an enjoyable experience for visitors. There is plenty to do, but not so much that you will need a rest from your vacation. Instead, you will leave feeling refreshed and eager to return.
About The Author
Ora Cook is a coach, blogger, and inspirational speaker devoted to helping women restore their confidence and fulfill their purpose. She encourages women to travel for therapeutic and recreational purposes and offers the knowledge they need to do so. You can read more of Ora’s writing at her website.