When my husband suggested Aruba as our next destination, I assumed it would be similar to other Caribbean islands I had been to but I could not have been more wrong.
First of all, Aruba is part of the ABC islands, a chain of three Dutch territories made up of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. You can find these islands all the way at the bottom of the Caribbean, sitting just above Venezuela.
This island is very unique and not what I expected! Read on for my guide to Aruba:
WHAT IT’S LIKE:
Aruba has a very dry/arid climate. I expected a very lush, tropical island, but Aruba is so dry that the majority of the island is a desert. Not only that, there are thousands upon thousands of cacti covering the island. And now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t really recall seeing many palm trees.
Actually, about 20% of Aruba is comprised of the Arikok National Park.
Another thing to note, is Aruba’s weather. Because of where it is situated, the average temperature is usually in the 80s. Trade winds constantly blow across the island, so it is constantly windy, which can be a good thing if you don’t have long hair.
Aruba is pretty easy to get around but it is essential to rent a car. The car rental places are just outside the front doors to the airport and it’s a simple process to pick up and drop off a car right before or after your flight.
Taxis in Aruba are regulated. The problem with that is that the taxi drivers expect you to know the rate of your trip and if you don’t, chances are they will quote you the wrong thing to rip you off. Even then, a $20 ride to the main beach will add up quickly and is entirely not worth it in my opinion when you can rent a car for a little more than that.
Since a lot of the island is a National Park, you may want to look into renting a car that can go off road. Otherwise, you may not be able to get to some of the rocky areas. (We did not and found enough to explore)
WHAT TO DO
HIT THE BEACH
Aruba has some of the prettiest water and beaches. Eagle Beach is one of the most popular because of how close it is to the high rise hotels, but my favorite was Baby Beach. It’s located all the way at the southern tip, but has beautiful water, white sand and a Flintstone’s themed bar! Rodger’s Beach across from Baby Beach also has stunning water, though the beach is smaller and there is a factory in the distant view. Other beaches worth checking out are Arashi Beach, Boca Grandi, Druif Beach, Malmok Beach…really any beach in Aruba.
PICNIC UNDER A DIVI DIVI TREE
Divi Divi trees look blown over and all point in the same direction because of the trade winds. You’ll find some scattered along the beaches and if you’re lucky, and empty one to sit under!
EAT FRESH SEAFOOD
A lot of restaurants in Aruba sell the catch of the day and you can’t beat fresh fish! A popular restaurant is Zeerover’s, where you can pick your fresh fish and eat by the water. Zeerover’s Tip: go at lunch when they open, lines can get long at night and you can’t enjoy the ocean view.
GO SCUBA DIVING
Aruba has a ton of wreck dives off the coast, including the SS Antilla which is 400 feet long! There is also an airplane wreck site as well!
TRY SOME DUTCH FOOD
Try some popular Dutch foods while you’re on a Dutch island such as chicken satay, bitterballen, frikandel or Dutch fries with mayonnaise or curry sauce.
SEE THE CASIBARI ROCK FORMATIONS
I wouldn’t say this is a huge draw, though I was surprised to see tour buses here. But, if you’re driving by, why not stop. The landscape is interesting and you can see the Hooiberg Volcano from the top of the rock formation.
GO SEE THE NATURAL BRIDGE OR NATURAL POOLS
You can get to the bridge without an off road vehicle but it IS rocky. For the natural pools, I believe you have to either hike or have an ATV of sorts to reach.
SEE OSTRICHES OR DONKEYS
Along the way around the island, there are donkey and ostrich farms that you can go to to pet the animals.
FIND SECRET SNORKELING SPOTS
This spot might be the smallest beach I’ve ever seen and we would have never found it if a local hadn’t directed us to it. The rocky shoreline is beautiful and the small beach has rock stairs that lead you right into the water.
WHAT ABOUT THE FLAMINGOS?
Most people associate Aruba with beautiful flamingos in a tropical setting. The truth is, there are not many flamingos in Aruba. A local told me that you may see them at the Bubali Bird Sanctuary, but the beautiful instagrammable pictures you see are from a private island owned by the Renaissance Hotel.
The private island is only accessible to guests staying at the hotel (which is about $400 a night) or to people who buy a guest pass to the island (which is about $100-125 per day).
Since you can get up close and personal, the pictures make it seem like the whole island is covered in flamingos but the reality is there are only SIX on the entire island that people are trying to get pictures with. And rumor has it that they clip the wings of the flamingos so that they can’t fly away.
So if you want to see them at Renaissance Island, be prepared to drop some cash.
WHERE TO STAY
Oranjestad is Aruba’s capital, but it was not my favorite place. A lot of the shops and restaurants there seemed to cater to cruise traffic and the prices were hiked up. Staying in the Eagle Beach area was a lot more fun. We were close to the beach, supermarkets and we found a lot to explore. If you rent a car, anywhere on the northwestern side of the island would be a good place to stay.
Make sure you have several days to explore the island because Aruba has some beautiful places!