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Chances are, you know someone who has been to Aruba and is excited to go back. When I told friends and family I was going, there were a lot of responses like, “UGH, you’ll love it. I want to visit again.” Once I saw the beach, I understood. There’s something about Aruba (AKA the “one happy island”) that is different from other islands I’ve visited. Maybe it’s the fact that it has more sunny days per year than any other island, or perhaps the steady easterly trade winds (which peak in June, but keep you cool under the hot sun).
It could be the sweet locals who love to share their cultural melting pot of languages and traditions, born of the island’s dreamy amalgamation of tropic and desert. The island is a blend of some of life’s best offerings, sparing no details. Even the tap water is Water Sommelier-approved.
While lying on the gorgeous beach (with a cocktail and chips) at Bucuti & Tara, I overheard some visitors chatting at the bar. Many were saying how this was their fifth or sixth time coming to the hotel and how each time, they make lifelong friends and have a great time. It made me smile even though I wasn’t a part of the group chatting. I was alone, but also a part of something communal and joyful. Soon, I heard loud cheering as the newfound friends and the rest of the bar congratulated a couple on securing a front-row beach chair reservation for the next morning. Yeah, it’s a pretty friendly place.
Alright, I’ve enticed you with a lovely beach day but what else is there to do on Aruba? From animal encounters, to nightlife, to family-friendly adventures, no matter what you want out of your trip, you will find it on this small joyous island. Here are ten things you should definitely do in Aruba.
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10 Best Things To Do in Aruba
1. Visit one (or many) of their stunning beaches that are open to the public
Yes, I know I already mentioned it, but I have to say it again: If you ever wanted to be on the most picture-perfect beach, you’d have a hard time finding a better one than those in Aruba. The powdery white sand is not only gorgeous and soft, but doesn’t get too hot even when the sun is at its most intense due to its unique composition of coral and shells. The water is so crystal clear and blue that I felt like I had a hard time processing its beauty (especially as I had just flown out of freezing rain at home). The weather is gorgeous year-round in Aruba.
No matter where I went on the island, her beaches were stunning. And thankfully, no matter where you go on the island, the shoreline is open to all. While some resorts do have beach property, it doesn’t extend to the shoreline.
Even if you don’t spring for a hotel right on the beach, Aruba has public beaches that are easy to get to. Many hotels also share access with properties directly on the beach and even have chairs you can reserve. (Maybe you’ll have your own bar cheering experience!)
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2. Enjoy a range of cuisine choices from fine dining to comfort food
For those who worry they may miss the comforts of home, driving around the island you will see some of your favorite restaurants from the States like Domino’s, Benihana and KFC. I particularly fell in love with a giant Pizza Hut that had one of the biggest play areas I’ve ever seen. I failed to convince my travel group to go there, but that was fine by me as we got to experience a wide variety of local restaurants which were exquisite.
We ate at Caya House, where traditional comfort food gets a modern twist, Papillon, French Caribbean food, and Wilhelmina, which had creative plates not seen elsewhere on the island. You could not go wrong at any of those places. Some hotels have great dining as well, like Boardwalk Boutique Hotel, which features a three-course sea-inspired lunch to honor Aruba’s Paradise on Tap campaign.
I also got to experience fine dining with Chef Urvin at Infini where each course is made in front of you through a story-guided menu. While the experience is costly ($300 a person with wine pairing), the meal is worth it.
Even though there is fine dining on the island, the dress code is a rather relaxed “island chic.” So, skip that extra checked bag. I don’t think I saw a single suit jacket during my stay. Stick to button-ups and fun flowy dresses you would wear to a casual beach wedding—especially if you get a chance to dine on a sailboat.
3. Sail all your worries away
When you’re by an ocean that’s as gorgeous as Aruba’s, you’re going to want to be on a boat. There are plenty of options depending on what you want to experience. If you don’t like being on top of the water, you can go under with a submarine tour instead.
On my trip, we booked a sailing yacht through Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort. I got to see “Aruba’s marine beauty through a once-in-a-lifetime private snorkel sail with breathtaking views.”
Seeing the island from the ocean was an incredible way to see the contrasting lush tropical plants and desert flora. The snorkeling experience is one I won’t soon forget as I got to swim just above a coral reef filled with colorful fish. Afterward, we ate one of the best meals I had on the trip—all freshly prepared on the boat. The experience is available now through August 2024.
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4. Get moving on water and land
Before I even got off the plane in Aruba, I heard not one, but two people talking about their excitement about the ATV tour they booked. One bragged that they did it last time and it was the best part of the trip.
There are plenty of options for you to choose from—everything from the beloved ATV/UTVs or bikes to something less landlocked like wave-runners or windsurfing.
We chose kayaking with Vela Aruba, which was perfect for a beginner like me. The beach was calm, yet provided some fish sightings even with other tourists nearby. I was pretty jealous of the tube riders who were screaming with laughter—though a relaxing activity that technically counts as exercise followed by a beverage was pretty delightful.
5. Tours and sightseeing for every interest
If something a little less extreme is more your speed, then try a tour. Again, there’s something for everyone with artistic mural tours, rich history tours and hikes that will show you even more of the island’s beauty.
We were lucky to get to be some of the first to tour Aruba’s first craft distillery, Pepe Margo. They are a young rum and gin distillery located in a scenic fully restored traditional Aruban home with a garden that grows some of the ingredients they use to make the spirits. At $25 a person, which includes a tasting, it’s a great way for spirit enthusiasts to spend an afternoon. I learned so much from the passionate staff, which had me walking away with a new appreciation for the craft.
6. Animal encounters
Animal lovers will adore Aruba as well. The island is filled with interesting wildlife and gorgeous marine life in its waters and reefs. If you’re fond of lizards, you don’t have to go far as the island has plenty of them scampering around. I saw both small Aruban whiptails and medium-sized iguanas—although they were happy to keep their distance unless I “dropped” some of my breakfast near my table.
As I said above, I was able to see a lot of fish while snorkeling, and some people on the same tour have seen turtles.
If you are lucky enough to stay at the Renaissance Wind Creek Aruba Resort or go past it on a tour, you’ll see flocks of flamingos. Another feathered friend is the burrowing Shoco owl who you might see out and about while exploring the island.
As far as any native critters that you might not want to see, I am happy to report I didn’t see any large bugs. While I’m happy to entertain some scaly friends, I don’t love insects. Snakes are also rare to spot on the island. And while several types of sharks live in Aruba’s waters, most are not aggressive toward humans, and there hasn’t been a shark attack since 2015.
OK, back to the critters we want to check out. Aruba has some great experiences for animal lovers, like the Ostrich Farm, Butterfly Farm, Donkey Sanctuary and Philip’s Animal Garden, and several ranches that have horseback riding tours.
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7. Have a night on the town
If lying on the beach all day has you more energized at night, then check out the nightlife. From dance clubs to cocktail lounges to casinos, the happy island has plenty of ways to keep the night owls happy as well.
I didn’t get a chance to experience much of Aruba’s nightlife on this trip (though the Sopranos Piano Bar was tempting). But I noticed there were a lot of “girls trip” groups of all ages having a blast together.
With Aruba being safe, friendly and easy to navigate, I could see why so many had chosen this Island for their girls’ getaway. Aruba is also very welcoming to LGBTQ+ travelers and has entertainment geared toward the community, like the CAGE Nightclub.
8. Spend time with the family
A trip to Aruba can truly be what you want it to be—a girls’ trip, romantic getaway or even a family trip.
There are plenty of family-friendly resorts where I saw toddlers and kids enjoying time with their parents on the beaches. The easy-going pace of the island and calm waters make for a great destination for young parents who want something easy but still a little adventurous.
For the preteens and older crowd, there’s De Palm Island, where you can get an all-inclusive experience for $129 a person that includes water slides, food, a water park and rides. Plus, many of the above options are great for families.
While, yes, Aruba has a party scene, it’s not in your face like some other tropical destinations, so you can easily avoid it.
Dining is casual and filled with options for picky eaters. The kids will enjoy themselves while parents might be able to get a page or two read before being asked to help with a sand castle.
9. Recharge and renew with plenty of spa options
While we’ve given you plenty to fill your itinerary already, you have to make sure you leave time to simply relax. The locals on the island believe that the water there is healing. No, I wouldn’t book a trip to Aruba to heal that weird rash you have, but if you want to feel emotionally (OK, maybe even physically) recharged, you should take a dip in the ocean and just let your body float. Many resorts have spa treatments that expand on this feeling and connect you to the water even more.
Boardwalk Boutique Hotel has a specialty ocean-wave massage that was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It was unique with movements that felt like waves crashing over my body. We did a water meditation which helped us not only connect to water, but to our loved ones as well, with a flower ceremony. I really recommend it for those who are missing someone and want a moment to connect.
Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort has Yoga by the Sea, sound healing sessions, restorative spa treatments and more. I experienced my first sound bath session while staying there. Look, I thought the concept was a little silly, but I’ll try almost anything once. If you are a person who listens to ASMR videos or gets goosebumps at a sound that tickles the brain just right, I’m telling you to try a sound bath. Experiencing one on the beach next to crashing waves was pure peace. I’ll be chasing that calmness for a while.
10. Enjoy events like Carnival
Aruba is home to many events from festivals to athletic tournaments, but the one I hear the most about (mainly from locals telling me to return for it) is Carnival.
From Aruba’s site: “This vibrant festival, steeped in Caribbean history, brings together locals and visitors to celebrate Aruban culture and traditions. With its lively s, colorful costumes, and infectious music, these festivities truly are a feast for your senses.” Pictures show dazzling bright costumes, dancing and s. What’s not to like?
The season officially starts in November with the best carnival dates in January and February (the perfect time to leave anywhere cold) every year. Check Aruba’s calendar to see what fun occasions are happening during your stay or plan your trip around one!
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