Aruba is an island unlike any other I’ve been to. As the Dutch colony located in the Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela, what makes Aruba especially unique is its desert climate. White powdery beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters are lined with thousands of cacti and other desert flora. Houses and buildings are painted in pastel pinks and yellows, and vibrant blues and oranges. The weather is hot and dry year-round, making it the perfect destination to travel to whenever you get the chance. The perfect Aruba itinerary can be crafted over a few short days, and although Aruba is a small island there is quite a bit to explore. Depending on your pace and preference, you can dedicate either a half-day or full day to any of the following top sites and activities.
But first, watch my Aruba drone video to give you all the inspiration you need to visit this idyllic island.
Visiting Flamingo Beach in Aruba
Of the most popular attractions on the island of Aruba is the unofficially named Flamingo Island or Flamingo Beach. The Flamingo Beach is located on the Renaissance Private Island. To access it, you must be a guest of the Renaissance hotel or purchase a day pass for around $100 USD. Only 30 passes are sold a day so it is recommended to arrive at the ticket counter at the Renaissance hotel early. The island is about a 10-minute boat ride from the Renaissance hotel and runs every 15 minutes from 7am to 6pm. On the island there is a restaurant, bar, spa, and two private beaches. The flamingo beach only allows children from 9-10am, but there is a second beach on the island that is open to families all day. My recommendation is to arrive early to beat the crowds and have optimal flamingo photo opportunity time.
Staying at the Renaissance Ocean Suites Aruba
I chose to stay at the Renaissance Hotel Ocean Suites for their access to Flamingo Island. The hotel is located in Oranjestad which is the capital of Aruba and the main town area. The Renaissance is separated into two properties about a block away from one another: the Ocean Suites and the Adults Only Marina hotel. The adult-only hotel is located in the Renaissance Mall which has high-end luxury shops such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Prada. This building has more of a contemporary decor with a small bar and infinity pool. The Ocean Suites building has a beachier resort vibe and is bigger with two pools, a swim-up bar, and bigger rooms with balconies. This property is also located directly on the water whereas the adults-only is across the street from the marina. Both buildings have a casino, and the hotel provides complimentary golf cart rides between the two hotels. The only drawback to staying at the Renaissance properties is that although it is located on the water, there is no direct beach access to swim in the ocean. They do have a sandy area on the water with a walkway sitting in front of the ocean, however, water flows from the ocean into a small pool creating a man-made lagoon on the sand. (View my drone video above and you’ll see what I’m talking about.) Most of the guests will go to the private island or another beach in Aruba if they wish to swim in the sea.
The Renaissance offers both all-inclusive and standard stays. I recommend not going all-inclusive as there are many wonderful dining options on the island. However, if all-inclusive is what you are after but don’t want to stay at the Renaissance, another popular option for a luxury all-inclusive resort is Divi Aruba, which is also in the Oranjestad but lies directly on the beach.
Palm Beach and Eagle Beach
If you choose not to stay in Oranjestad, Palm Beach and Eagle Beach are beautiful beach areas lined with resorts and boutique hotels right on the sand. Many large chain hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton and Marriott can be found in Palm Beach, and it is known to be the “high-rise hotel beach area.” In Eagle Beach, you will find more of the boutique hotels, such as the stunning Bucuti & Tara. Both Palm Beach and Eagle Beach are worth a visit during your stay in Aruba.
Visiting Arikok National Park
Arikok is the National Park of Aruba and covers about 20% of the island. It is a rugged, desert terrain with breath-taking coastline views. Within the national park are 2 natural limestone caves with ancient drawings left by the Caquetios Natives and graffiti imprinted by early European settles on the walls and ceilings. In the park, there is also a beautiful natural pool you can swim and cool off in, known locally as Conchi. There are many tour operators that you can organize through your hotel to visit Arikok National Park, or you can rent a car and drive through it yourself. The entrance fee to the park is $11 USD per person. The hotels and rental car companies will tell you that you need a 4×4 vehicle such as an ATV to drive the park, however a local informed us that it is possible to drive it with a regular SUV. A regular car was indeed drivable through the park, you just need to be careful as the road is unpaved and very bumpy. The only part of the park you cannot access without a 4×4 is a car. Depending on your timing, you may be able to catch a ride to the pool with a park ranger if you are not on an organized tour. If you wish to rent a 4×4 to drive through the park on a self-guided tour, I recommend renting from George’s.
Best Beaches in Aruba
After exploring Arikok, head 15-20 minutes to the southernmost tip of Aruba to spend some time at Baby Beach. Baby Beach is one of the most beautiful and pristine beaches due to the lack of hotel developments. The calm Caribbean waters make it the perfect beach to swim, snorkel, scuba dive, or relax. For a hidden gem and local favorite, Mangel Halto. This beach is also a great snorkel spot, as are Boca Catalina and Arashi Beach. If you’re lucky on your snorkel adventure you may spot a sea turtle or two! Among the mesmerizing coral reefs are also several famous shipwrecks that are a scuba diver’s dream. The most popular one being the Antilla.
Windsurfing in Aruba
Windsurfing and kitesurfing is an extremely popular activity in Aruba. Aruba is known as the wind/kitesurfing capital of the world, and many people come to Aruba from all over to compete in tournaments. One of the most popular windsurfing beaches in the world is located at Hadicurari Beach ( also known as The Fisherman’s Huts). It is located right next to the high-rise hotel area closest to the Ritz-Carlton. Both lessons and rentals are available at this beach.
Cruising the Outback and Northern Coast
The Northern Coast of Aruba is a wild outback to indulge your sense of adventure when you want a break from relaxation. It is highly, highly recommended to rent a 4×4 vehicle to drive it as sand dunes and rocky unpaved terrain make for a challenging, yet rewarding drive as the idyllic coastlines and coves provide a scenic and exhilarating ride. For a full day excursion with a jeep, ATV, or UTV rental, begin at the lighthouse and cruise the northern coast, all the way through Arikok National Park, and end your day relaxing at Baby Beach.
Where to Eat in Aruba
Aruba is known for their fresh sea food and Caribbean cuisine. There are options for every budget on the island ranging from rough and ready fish and chips, to upscale fine dining with Spanish and European influences. The very best places to eat in Aruba are Zeerovers ($), Wacky Wahoos ($$). The Flying Fish Bone ($$), Pelicans Nest ($$), Papiamentos ($$$) and Elements ($$$$).
Other Things to Note
Because Aruba is located outside of the hurricane belt, tropical storms are few and far between. This makes most, if not all times of the year a good time to visit. The largest weather concerns are high winds during the months of April-August, however a nice breeze is always welcome when temps are in the 80s and 90s. These months make it the best time to visit, as the high season is from January-March.
The official languages of Aruba are Dutch and Papiamento, however most everyone on the island spoke both English and Spanish as well.
The currency is the Florin, but U.S. Dollars are widely accepted. When compared to the U.S., prices in Aruba are relatively cheaper, but not as cheap as say, Mexico. There are many activities in Aruba that can be enjoyed for free. For luxury travelers, Aruba is definitely on the affordable side. You don’t need an extended amount of time on the island, which makes for a perfect extended weekend getaway. It is the perfect destination for honeymooners, couples, or friends in search of rest and relaxation.
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