Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Laura Cooper
Aruba is One Happy Island, and with some of the best beaches in the world, and a brag list that includes some of the sunniest weather in the Caribbean, how could it not be a happy destination?
Aruba sits in the southern Caribbean below the hurricane belt, and just 15 miles north of Venezuela, making it the perfect destination for beach-goers and sunbathers. Aruba has more sunny days than any other Caribbean island, with a dry climate making temperatures consistent throughout the year. Partner this with its calm waters and pristine white sand beaches and you’ll never want to go home.
Travel to Aruba is rich with the best of both worlds: a relaxing all-inclusive vacation is possible, while exploring the city life in the Dutch-influenced Oranjestad and its countless restaurants, bars, and quaint historic areas is also popular on an Aruba vacation. What will you make your Aruba vacation out to be?
Aruba is the perfect destination, no matter the type of vacation you’re looking for. Enjoy the all-inclusives and white sand beach for some R&R and relaxation, or enjoy Oranjestad for history, casinos, and shopping — or a short cruise port stop. Aruba travel is also perfect for the sports enthusiast: either end of the island is rugged, a perfect spot for hiking, and more extreme sports like kite-surfing in the trade winds off the coast. Incredible underwater life and a few shipwrecks make it a great destination for snorkelling and scuba diving.
The popular hotel strip along the south and the island’s best beaches offer family friendly options, luxury getaways, and adults-only vacations. Many hotels and resorts in Aruba are European-plan, meaning they are not all-inclusive and meals aren’t included. Some all-inclusive options are the Riu Palace Antillas and the Barcelo Aruba.
Things to do in Aruba
Most travellers visit Aruba for its famous beach, in particular Eagle Beach. For people looking to leave their resort, there are plenty of Aruba excursions available, with transportation organized from your hotel, or pick-up spots within Oranjestad. Aruba also has several public beaches. The island also has a good public transportation system, which is easy and safe to use, in addition to plenty of rental cars and taxis. The majority of restaurants, bars, and excursions will also except the American Dollar, or their own currency: the florin.
Outdoor activities: Aruba is definitely the spot to go for outdoor enthusiasts. More than 20% of the island is designated national park land found in Arikok National Park. The park is home to trails, exhibits of native animals like the whiptail lizard, and caves. The island is home to two golf courses, one 18-hole and one 9-hole. Other outdoor activities include the Bubali Bird Sanctuary, mountain biking tours, and donkey sanctuary.
Scuba diving: There are 11 wrecks and over 20 dive sites available to scuba dive and snorkel to off the coast of Aruba’s south tip. Several diving companies are available for divers of all levels, with courses with reef, wreck, and night diving options. Explore the Antilla, the largest wreck in the Caribbean, exploring compartments, anchors, and parts of the wreck now covered in coral for experienced divers. Beginners may feel more comfortable with shore dives off De Palm Island, Baby Beach, and Pos Chiquito.
History: Aruba has plenty of history – explore historic gold mines from the 1400s and 1500s and during the gold rush of the nineteenth century. Learn about the 3-million pounds of gold once produced on the island, or visit the Archaeological Museum in downtown Oranjestad to get an overview of the island’s history. See Indian artifacts from 2500BC and learn about the first inhabitants of the island. Walking through Oranjestad is also a lesson in history – the architecture and style of the buildings exhibits the island’s Spanish and Dutch influences.
Aruba excursions: No matter your interests, Aruba excursions have something for everyone. Visitors visiting the cruise port on a southern Caribbean cruise will enjoy shore excursions ranging from snorkeling, to outdoor adventures and horseback riding for a way to experience the island in a shorter time-frame. Other excursions range from watersports, to full-island Aruba tours to get a snapshot of all the island has to offer, its history, and culture. Find plenty of outdoor activities like ATV tours to experience the fun nature of the island. The majority of Aruba excursions and things to do revolve around the outdoors, with the islands excellent weather, unique landscape, and rugged coastline.
Nightlife: When the sun goes down, Aruba turns from a quiet beach vacation to a vibrant, lively nightlife scene. Find casinos at several resorts, like the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino, Ritz-Carlton Aruba, and the Hilton Aruba Caribbean resort. Aruba is sometimes called the Las Vegas of the Caribbean, with 12 casinos on the island – some in resorts, and some stand-online for public access. You’ll find bars and clubs throughout downtown Oranjestad, in addition to your resort or hotel, to experience the nightlife like a local.
Restaurants and food in Aruba
Oranjestad is a mecca for restaurants in Aruba: take a walk through the capital city and find countless restaurants and tucked away local watering holes: everything from Asian cuisine to Mediterranean, local fare, Brazilian and Italian. A full list of Aruba restaurants can be found here.
Looking to enjoy a local meal? You’ll most likely enjoy beef stew (carni stoba), a corn flatbread (pan bati), and stuffed cheese (keshi yena). Unlike the rest of the Caribbean, traditional fare isn’t spicy or fish-based, but rather pulls from the island’s Dutch history and roots.
For tipping in Aruba, you’ll see some restaurants include a service charge – a tip is not expected here. If there is no service charge included in your bill, a tip similar to what you’d tip at home is appropriate (approximately 15%).
Aruba vacations are most commonly done as all-inclusive vacations, for the ease of travel with your meals, transportation, and accommodations looked after. The island, does, however, also have many European-plan hotels (meaning non-all inclusive, or meals not included). The island is easily accessible by rental car, or public transit in the main Oranjestad and beach strip areas. There is a bus that runs along the hotel strip every 15 minutes for $2.15 USD.
Direct flights and vacation packages to Aruba are available from Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto. Availability and frequency varies by season, with high travel season between October and April. During high season, expect flights several times each week from Canadian gateways.
To travel between the Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA) and your resort, the tour operator your vacation is booked through (ie. Air Canada, Transat Holidays, etc.) will provide direct transfers. These shuttles will also pick you up from your hotel on your departure date to return you to the airport, located in Oranjestad.
For Canadian travellers, a passport is the only requirement for entry to Aruba.