With the moniker “One Happy Island,” Aruba is one of four countries that compose the Kingdom of the Netherlands (along with the Netherlands, Curacao, and Sint Maarten). Less than 20 miles off the coast of Venezuela, the Southern Caribbean island is known for its constant tropical breezes, friendly people, high-quality beaches, strong sunshine, and locally-sourced aloe (the economy once depended on the plant). Most beach resorts are located along the island’s northwest shore, along Eagle Beach and Palm Beach.
Aruba’s Top 5 Beach Resorts
- The Ritz-Carlton Aruba
- Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort Aruba
- Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa
- Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino
- Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa and Casino
Oranjestad is the capital of Aruba and home to Queen Beatrix International Airport, the island’s main gateway. The city, located near the center of the island, offers an eclectic mix of modern luxury retail stores and restored landmark buildings, such as the green “stadhuis” housing the City Hall where legal marriages are performed. A modern tram built in 2012 connects the cruise ship terminal to the center of town; the tram passes through Main Street and makes stops at monuments, museums, and key shopping areas. The capital offers a good selection of restaurants, cafés, bars, and casinos, and isn’t far from the best beaches.
Eagle Beach, about 12 minutes north of Oranjestad, is known for its beautiful white sand and trademark Divi Divi trees (pictured below). It’s also known for Beach Tennis, a favorite local sport, and outstanding sunsets.
Just north of Eagle Beach is Palm Beach, where most of the major hotels and resorts are located. Aruba’s largest and most renowned beach, Palm Beach is about 15 minutes north of Oranjestad. It’s known for its bars, restaurants, nightlife, and various water sports options.
Things to Do
- Aruba ATV Tour – this ATV tour, by Kini Kini Transfer & Tours, explores Aruba’s mysterious northeast coast, stopping at hidden beaches, the Alto Vista Chapel, the New Natural Pool (Cave Pool), and the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins.
- Antilla & Catalina Snorkel Sail – this boat tour, by Red Sail Sports Aruba, stops at two of Aruba’s best snorkel spots: the Antilla shipwreck and Catalina Bay.
- The Butterfly Farm – home to hundreds of colorful and exotic butterflies, flying freely under a large, meshed enclosure just steps from Palm Beach. 20-minute tours run all day.
- Bubali Bird Sanctuary – also within walking distance of Palm Beach, this bird sanctuary allows visitors to watch more than 80 species of migratory birds from the Bubali Watch Tower. Birds that inhabit the sanctuary include herons, egrets, gulls, skimmers, coots, ducks, and more.
- Bushiri Karting Speedway – home to real-deal go-karting (at speeds up to 50 mph) just north of the capital, in Oranjestad-West. Each session lasts eight minutes and can include up to 12 drivers. Helmets, head socks, and instruction for first-time racers are provided.
Natural Areas to Explore
- Guadirikiri Cave – much of this awe-inspiring limestone cave in Arikok National Park is illuminated by sunlight streaming through openings in its roof. In the darker corners reside hundreds of harmless bats.
- Fontein Cave – this cave is known for its native Arawak drawings on its walls, as well as spectacular stalagmites and stalactites.
- Hooiberg – this cone-shaped volcanic formation, just outside Oranjestad at the approximate center of the island, is Aruba’s second-highest point. Hikers are rewarded with a panoramic view and sightings of colorful lizards, wild goats, and parakeets.
- Natural Pool – located within Arikok National Park on the island’s less-discovered and more rugged east coast, the Natural Pool greets visitors with bright turquoise seawater that’s protected from the Caribbean Sea’s crashing waves by jagged volcanic boulders. The pool is known as “Conchi” in Papiamento, the local language. Horseback riding tours to the Natural Pool can be booked here.
- Arashi Dunes – also known as the California Dunes, named after a ship that wrecked offshore (the California Lighthouse is also nearby), these sprawling, sandy dunes at the northern tip of the island create a desert landscape that’s almost unimaginable for a tropical Caribbean island.
- Faro Blanco – open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Located on the north end of the island near the Arashi Dunes. Serves Italian cuisine and memorable views near the California Lighthouse, in what used to be the dwelling of the lighthouse keeper.
- Elements Restaurant – open for lunch and dinner, located at the Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort in Eagle Beach. Serves sustainable seafood, natural meats, locally-grown produce, and European-style portions. There are menu items for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free guests.
- Salt & Pepper – open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Located in Palm Beach. Serves Spanish tapas, burgers, pancakes, omelets, salads, soups, and sandwiches and offers an impressive collection of salt and pepper shakers from around the world.
- The Kitchen Table – open for dinner, located on Eagle Beach. Offers an intimate setting and some of the most authentic Aruban cuisine on the island.
- Linda’s Dutch Pancakes – open for breakfast, brunch, or lunch. Located near Palm Beach. Serves authentic Dutch pancakes with dozens of toppings to choose from.
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