Located in southern Caribbean outside the Hurricane Belt, the fabulous island of Aruba is a magnificent location which equals to its nickname: “One HAPPY Island”. Being outside the Hurricane Belt, with 365 days of sun and constant refreshing breeze, Aruba is a paradise escape for everyone. So read further to discover Aruba at a glance.
When to Go
High-season: mid-December until mid-April
Low-season: mid-April until mid-December
Considering that the island has constant temperature all year-round (approx. 28°C), any time is a good time to visit Aruba. Sometimes rain may occur, however when it rains it is usually for a couple of hours and this will not ruin a day on the beach.
The high-season corresponds to the months when in other parts of the world is cold or winter. Thus, the prices and occupancy in Aruba will get higher due to the visitors who try to escape for sun bath and relaxation.
There are plenty of festivals and events across the island such as the Carnival which takes place between January and March. This can boost the price of the hotels and restaurants, however they make the vacation more enjoyable with parades, live music and festivities.
How to Get There
The only way to get to Aruba is by plane or by cruise ship. Even if the island is very close located to Venezuela or to the other ABC islands (Bonaire and Curaçao), there are no ferries connecting with Aruba.
There are multiple flights from US and Canada operated among others by Delta, American Airways, US Airways, Continental, and Air Canada. From Europe, KLM operates direct flights from Amsterdam, whereas there are several daily flights from South America, including Venezuela and Colombia.
You will arrive at the international airport Reina Beatrix where the passport control might take some time (check upfront if your country requires a visa, however for US and EU a visa is not needed). The terminal is small and once you get outside you will finally feel the warm air of the island. Even if you are in need of cash, better use some of those dollars you brought with you and do not exchange money in the airport.
How to Get Around
The island is large and it has a good network of roads (paved or off-roads) which can take you to all the points of interest. In the end, it is matter of comfort and how much time you spend in Aruba in order to decide which means of transport is more suitable for you.
Rent a car
This will allow you to see the island at your own pace by benefiting of air condition which will cool you off from the burning sun. The gas is cheap and there are several gas stations indicated on the local maps. We have hired a car for 24 hours and we did a tour of the entire island in order to visit places which we could not have reached by bus. The good part was that someone from the rental company picked us up from our hotel and took us to their office, whereas in the end we dropped the car at the airport which was the most convenient before departure.
Rent a 4×4
In case you desire some adventure on the Eastern cliff coast, it should be noted that a regular car will often not be suitable for the off-roads. With our normal car we almost got stuck in the sandy dunes further down the California Lighthouse.
The bus services across the island is very well maintained and connects Oranjestad with the resort area as well as with several other cities. The buses have air condition and usually they respect the timetable. However, make sure to have change with you or to buy a ticket upfront as the bus drivers might not take you on if they do not have enough change for your bills.
The taxis in Aruba are great means of transportation and you can pay them for short trips but also for a few hours to give you a tour of the island. They do not have meters as they have fixed rates imposed by the government. For us this was the easiest way to go from the airport to the hotel and to have some first amazing views of the island.
Where to stay
As you can imagine, Aruba has it all in terms of accommodation, so it is a matter of taste, budget, comfort, and group size.
Famous resort chains are spread around Palm Beach. Apart from access to the beach, they have outdoor swimming pools, they offer entertainment throughout the day both for adults and children, and they can offer full packages for spa and all-inclusive meals.
Vacation villas, timesharing and apartments are spread all over the island, most of the time in the proximity of the main beaches, whereas camping facilities can be found close to Eagle Beach.
We have opted for Wonders Boutique Hotel, a cozy boutique hotel located in Oranjestad which was like an oasis of paradise in the middle of the capital city. With 7 minutes walking distance from the city center, we have enjoyed a wonderful breakfast with fresh local products every morning. You can further read my review of this hotel.
Where to eat
The main spot for finding a variety of restaurants, bars and cafes in Oranjestad is the Seaport Village Marina.
- The Plaza Café: We have enjoyed a burger cooked in a traditional American style and refreshing cocktails;
- The Dutch Pancake: We heard many good reviews about this place, however we did not have the chance to have a dessert there;
- Pizzeria Casa Tua: On my birthday we had an Italian snack there and the staff was very nice and helpful. In the evening there are live concerts so this creates a nice atmosphere.
Away from the shore but still in Oranjestad, we have enjoyed the following places:
- Baby Back Grill: It is a very simple non-fancy grill place where you can mingle with the locals and still taste some of the most delicious chicken and ribs on the island. For sports lovers, they have big screen TVs where football is shown most of the time.
- Coco Plum: This was the perfect place in the city center for a snack and a refreshing drink as they do smoothies from fresh fruits based on the combination you pick.
In the area of the low-rise and high-rise resort hotels there are plenty of restaurants, terraces and bars with European cuisine, Chinese or Japanese, many fast-food American chains, terraces with ventilators, but also cool places indoor. In the evening, this is the liveliest location on the island and the places can meet the taste of the entire family.
What to see
The capital city is very vibrant and in Plaza Daniel you may find the trademark traditional Dutch houses with colonial architecture painted in pastel or strong colors.
A picturesque streetcar is passing on the main street (which is actually named “Main St.”) and here can be found many shops, banks, book stores, etc. A stroll to Fort Zoutman can give you an idea of the former Dutch settlement dating back to 1796.
Along the seaside and around Renaissance Mall many high fashion stores can be found, as well as souvenir stores and shops with handcrafts.
Aruba’s main attraction is the beaches which have powder-soft sand, clear turquoise waters, sports facilities, piers with bars and restaurants, palm trees and Divi Divi trees for shadow. In order to choose the most suitable for you, read further my post on 5 best beaches of Aruba.
California Lighthouse & Alto Vista Chapel
In the Northern part of the island, these two landmarks are perfect spots for panoramic views. The California Lighthouse cannot be visited, however being situated on a high flat arid area offers a great view of the island on a sunny day towards the resort hotels. Being a small Catholic chapel, Alto Vista dates back to 1750 and it offers spectacular views of the Norther coast. The chapel can be visited and it is a perfect place for peace and meditation.
For nature lovers, in Aruba can be found many such attractions. The Natural Park Arikok is offering a great gateway for a hot sunny day. There are wonders of the nature such as the Natural Pool and the Natural Bridge. We really enjoyed a drive through the Frenchman Pass under the low branches of the trees and a walk at sunset in the nearby remains of the Balashi Gold Mine.
Located in the Southern part of the island, in the area of Seroe Colorado can be found limestone hills which make the road very nice. A ride there can be concluded with some hours on Baby Beach.
If you have been to Aruba, share with the other readers your favorite places. If you are planning to go there, tell us what excites you the most about your trip.