Where can you go to see cacti, flamingos and turtles at the same time? If you guessed the beautiful island of Aruba in the sparkling turquoise Caribbean Sea, you’d be exactly correct! Once a member of the Dutch Antilles, this gorgeous island has a unique climate and culture that makes it feel different than anywhere else in the world.
Aruba is one of the four countries that make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The island has been Dutch since 1636 when it was a base for protecting Dutch shipping from the ubiquitous Pirates of the Caribbean.
Aruba is the original “desert island”
Reaching Aruba is easy because their main hub, Queen Beatrix International Airport, services many international flights. The airport is just 8km from the capital’s centre, so a taxi is an easy option. Most resort hotels offer a free shuttle from the airport so you won’t suffer from a lack of transport options. You can easily walk to see the sites around town and you can rent a 4×4 vehicle for a day of visiting the national park.
Aruba is perfect for relaxing on the beach but it also offers many sites. Here are my favourites:
- Arikok National Park – this is a beautiful and unexpected treasure. The park is about 20% of the land on the island and it offers the best place to walk, hike or to take in the natural surroundings of this stunning landscape. This rugged desert terrain is full of cacti, with the stunning coastline as its backdrop. You should set off early spend time at all of these sites:
Take the plunge!
– Quadirikiri Caves – this is a complex of three caves at the base of a limestone cliff in the park. The caves have natural holes in their ceilings making it easy to explore and even take photos
– Fort Zoutman – in the capital city of Oranjestad was once an fortress to protect against pirates. It is now a museum and gives an interesting glimpse into the colonial past of the island’s Dutch heritage. There are also exhibits on the island’s indigenous past and even its geology.
– Flamingo Beach– Aruba has become famous on social media because of its friendly and beautiful flamingos. The Renaissance Hotel owns a private island where you can visit if you spend a night in the hotel or pay $100 for a day-pass if there is availability.
Aruban lawn ornament?!
- Aruba’s Beaches – this island has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Here are my favourites:
– Palm Beach is the most famous and busiest on the island. It’s the ultimate entertainment venue with water sports, bars and restaurants and, of course, crystal blue waters.
– Sink your feet into the soft, powdery, white sand of Eagle Beach. This stunning beach is home to the most photographed tree on the island, the “Fofoti Tree”. The beach is also a nesting ground for turtles.
– Dos Playas offers two coves within the Arikok National Park and is only accessible by foot. These two coves are popular among surfers, but it won’t be busy. This unspoilt beach is the best place to take some beautiful photos.
- Skydiving – this activity is not for the faint-hearted but with a backdrop like that of Aruba you might consider taking the plunge! Skydiving is a popular activity in Aruba and it’s not hard to see why as you dive into beauty.
- Snorkelling and Diving – Aruba has some of the most picturesque shipwrecks in the Caribbean. With abundant sea life and cool wrecks, it is one of my favourite diving spots.
With such a mix of cultures, the food of Aruba provides an exciting mix of flavours, spices and ingredients. Here are my favourite places to eat in Aruba:
- Pincho’s Grill & Bar – you should try the catch of the day, every day. Fresh fish is a no-brainer on a Caribbean island. You can expect the likes of mahi-mahi, grouper, red snapper and the freshest lobsters around. Pincho’s offers great seafood and a brilliant atmosphere.
Don’t be shellfish with the ‘Catch of the Day”!
- Gostoso – this venue serves up Brazilian, Portuguese, Aruban and international cuisine. Try their Aruban style sushi that’s wrapped in plantains – it’s my favourite.
- The Dutch Pancakehouse – this colonial holdover serves Dutch pancakes, that are similar to crepes and simply delicious. A firm favourite are their poffertjes served with powdered sugar. The restaurant also has a selection of ‘dinner’ pancakes with savoury fillings if you don’t have a sweet tooth.
Here’s a Pro-tip: Make sure to try the cheesy and delicious Keshi Yena. This pie-like Aruban dish is filled with shredded pork, beef or chicken cooked with spices and cashews. It is wrapped in Dutch gouda cheese and oven-baked in a lovely tomato-basil sauce. It is richly yummy!
The Caribbean is known for its vibrant nightlife and amazing rum punch. These are my favourite party spots on the island:
Party between parties in Aruba!
- The Kukoo Kunuku party bus is iconic. Grab your maracas and hop into the colourful, whacky and lively open-air party bus. The perfect evening awaits you as you are driven from club to club whilst enjoying good music.
- Charlies Bar is the perfect place to chill out, with its eccentric décor and wide variety of drinks. Among the knick-knacks, novelty décor and vintage plates you can meet locals and tourists enjoying this iconic local hangout.
- Enjoy gambling at the Stellaris Casino. Located in the Marriot Resort, this huge casino will certainly not bore you, with hundreds of slot machines and 26 gaming tables. Grab a cocktail try your luck.
You’ll need somewhere to rest your weary head after a warm Caribbean evening. Here are my top picks on the island:
- Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino has a full-service spa, casino and choice of amazing restaurants. There is even a 40-acre private island, famous for its flamingos, beaches, pools and bars. This resort offers everything you need and more!
- Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort is set on the beautiful white sand of Eagle Beach. This boutique resort is for adults only and has some amazing stand out features. Once a week you can watch an outdoor movie on the beach. Plan a romantic beach dining experience or pamper yourself at their world class spa.
- The Palm Leaf Apartments are affordable and offer more privacy. The apartments are beautifully decorated and equipped with all the amenities you will need, including a swimming pool.
Life’s a beach in Aruba!
If you look up the word “paradise” in the dictionary, it will probably show a picture of Aruba! Powdery white sand beaches, sunsets to make you swoon and excellent restaurants make me want to return whenever I can.