Are you planning a trip to Aruba and have no idea what to do? From pristine beaches to climbing mountains or discovering the underwater world is definitely possible in Aruba. The diversity makes it a perfect holiday destination for all types of travelers. Curious about what are things you can do? Continue reading and find out in this article.
How do you get to Auba?
Aruba is a favorite island for Americans – for them is a shorter flight and less expensive for air tickets. As for European travelers flying to Aruba is not cheap, reckon almost a thousand euros. Darn, so expensive. I will not spend so much on air tickets – I continued my research for another possibility. And while looking at the flight to Curacao, this was half-price cheaper.
So instead of visiting Aruba alone – I decided to fly to Curacao which saves me a significant amount and booked a separate ticket with Divi Divi Air. However, while looking for ticket prices at Divi Divi Air I decided to include Bonaire and visited the three islands in one trip. Remember, if you want to combine Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire, the only way to these islands is by flying.
Prepare the Aruba tourist card
This is a standard document that you need for the ABC islands. You need to fill online the ED card, 7- days prior or the day you travel. For the safe side three-days, before your trip. What you need are the flight number, email address, and passport. The good thing about this is free of charge only in Bonaire that visitor has to pay, but they called it a tourist tax, and costs 75 USD which is quite a lot of money for island visitors.
Getting to Oranjestad from Beatrix international airport
The Reina Beatrix International Airport is less than ten minutes from Oranjestad. There are plenty of taxis outside the airport in Aruba, more than in Curacao and Bonaire. A taxi to the city center costs around 20 dollars, but I got pick-up for 15 dollars from the owner of my apartment.
The cheapest option is the Arubus, you find them behind the car park on both sides of the main road (Rte 1). The bus number: 1, 2, 2B, and 8 – were going to Oranjestad for 5 Florint. Perhaps ask your hotel for the nearest bus stop. Anyways, the bus terminal is just a short walk to Renaissance Mall. That said, there are a lot of taxis around the city.
This may be interesting: Curacao: how to get around the island – the easy way.
How to get around in Aruba
The most convenient to get around is a car. If that doesn’t apply to your budget, rent a car for one day. I rented a vehicle for the entire day and managed to see the tourist attractions at the end of the day. A good plan makes a perfect trip without driving back and forth, and my itinerary below is feasible in one day. Fairly to say, I find car rentals in Aruba are a bit more expensive than in Curacao and Bonaire. I was lucky to use the car from my host for 45 dollars a day.
Are you going to Bonaire? Beautiful Bonaire: how to get around on the island
Where to stay in Aruba?
Aruba is a very popular destination for honeymooners and holidaymakers who love pampering themselves. Can you imagine how many high-rise resorts are on the island? While tall buildings nearly not existing in Curacao and Bonaire? Moreover, prices in Aruba are somewhat higher than their neighboring islands. But if you are not picky and do not need the luxuries, you will find an inexpensive apartment.
I was staying at The Jazmine’s Apartment, which is 15 minutes walk from the city center. It only costs 55 dollars a night during the booking – a simple place with friendly owners. Having said, as a solo traveler, this was adequate for me. If you use Booking.com, you will definitely find suitable places to stay based on your budget.
Enjoy Aruba; One Happy Island
A trip to Aruba can be unexpected, my five days were too short, but I really enjoyed my stay. Some choose to spend the entire day on the beach, while I prefer to do some sightseeing. The north part of the island is very scenic and worth discovering. I suggest renting a car even just for one day. You might think the ABC islands are all about beaches, you will be jolted by what you find during your trip.
Read more: The Best Thing To See & Do In Colorful Curacao.
The Best-14 Things You Love To Do In Aruba
1- Walking through Oranjestad
Visiting Oranjestad, you don’t need a car because it is just a hassle finding parking. Walking or taking the bus is the best way. If you’re staying in a fancy resort, they have a shuttle service for guests. As I have been to other islands in the ABC, I wouldn’t say Aruba is my favorite, but my first impression of Oranjestad was wow. The cheerful facades in pastel colors were avoidable for picture taking. The affluence of Aruba’s capital has plenty of historical proof of a resilient past.
The capital of Aruba is quite small – you can see the entire city within a few hours by walking. This is also the entertainment area, but there is more than that if you love shopping, dining, partying, or gambling, Oranjestad is the place for it. The Renaissance Mall, for example, feels so wonderful to walk through, where you see the luxury brands, a paradise for shoppers. And while you are here, be sure you got a picture of the I Love Aruba letters. You will find Aruba’s landmark near the pier where the cruise ships dock and there is another one at the airport before entering the departure terminal.
Explore Aruba with a car.
I set this in order according to what I had done the entire day when I got the car. But you can switch things if you like, and this is feasible in one day. I’m an early bird from eight in the morning I already hit the road. Take your snorkel gear, you can do a quick look at Malmok Reef.
2- Visit Eagle Beach and the famous Divi tree
Aruba is an infinite tropical island with many beautiful white sandy beaches, and Eagle Beach is one example. The contrast with the clear blue water and sugar-powdery sand is an ideal place for a relaxing holiday. The good thing is that a large part of this beautiful wide beach is freely accessible. But tend to get busy during the day because is a place to go for cruise passengers.
You will also find the Divi tree (Fofoti Tree) at the beginning of Eagle Beach. The iconic tree is one of the most photographed in Aruba. Although it looks like a natural tree, in fact, there are some stories behind it. Imagine how famous Eagle Beach is because of the tree. Most people intentionally stop here just to see the Fofoti tree. How these trees survive in the sand is startling, its shape and the way the wind blows are fascinating – and they grow sideways.
3- Have a peek at the Old Dutch Windmill.
Unexpectedly during my search for things to do, I came to some images of the old Dutch windmill, which I added to my list. A short drive from Eagle Beach is the Old Dutch Windmill – a representation of the Dutch heritage and recently renovated. Although the windmill is not functional, a photo opportunity can be pleasant.
If you are curious, it’s worth checking inside. The theme of the interior has a bit of similarity to windmills in the Netherlands. There is a restaurant that everyone says should try the pancakes…well, it was absolutely delicious. Nevertheless, if you just like taking a photo no need to walk so far from the parking lot. I was here in the morning and easily parked my car close by.
4- Snorkel at Malmok Reef
The rugged coastline of Malmok is absolutely the best spot for snorkeling. Just be sure to take your snorkeling gear with you. You can snorkel in different places, but for me, Malmok was one of the best areas to see marine life. Moreover, if you have some time, not far from Malmok is Boca Catalina, which is also a great place for snorkeling.
Don’t expect sandy beaches because there’s no any, also no facilities on this beach. You better drive to Arashi Beach, which is less than five minutes away. Who says you cannot snorkel in Aruba? I admitted Bonaire is one of the best islands on the ABC for the underwater world. Snorkeling in Aruba can be surprising and if you got lucky you will see sea turtles.
Maybe interested: Bonaire: the best great tips activities for non-diver
5- Enjoy the white sand of Arashi Beach
If you are looking for less crowded beaches, Arashi is probably your best bet. Due to its location in the north end of Aruba, not many people come this way unless they are on tour or renting a car. The good thing about having a car is you can go beach hopping. And with so many beaches around the island is not possible to see them all in one day.
I have to make a choice, sightseeing or beaching. Arashi Beach is beautiful, but I only make a quick stop here. It wasn’t too busy when I was there, the thing is you have to pay for the facilities in Arashi. Also, you can snorkel here, where you find some marine life or this could be a better place if you love snorkeling and sunbathing. That said, there are still so many things to see.
6- Drive to California Lighthouse
Less than five minutes drive from Arashi Beach is the California Lighthouse, an impressive landmark in a desolate landscape. This thirty meters high tower was a majestic sight on the steep edge of the island. The lighthouse is named after California, a freighter that sank off the West Coast on September 23 -1891. As of today, the lighthouse is a significant tourist attraction in Aruba, thus, you can expect a big crowd. I got here early so it’s not too bad but do not let that burden you. If you have the energy, climbing the top of the tower is a must. For a 5 dollars entry, you have an excellent view over the island.
7- Alto Vista Chapel
About twenty minutes drive from the lighthouse is the Alto Vista Chapel, built by Spanish missionaries in 1750. As the name suggested and the remote location of the chapel, the elevated views of the surrounding area in the middle of nothing more than a natural environment. On the way, it is so strange to see during a drive that the crosses signify the line that leads to the tiny chapel.
The remarkable structure of the chapel draws every visitor to the island, so there are always people around. Inside is nothing special but a simple altar and wooden benches. However, it’s interesting to know the history that the church is still in use after being repaired. Although the location is in the outlying area, you’ll find vendors at the parking. The locals know exactly where is a good place that attracts well.
8- Climb the Casibari Rock
This is a free tourist attraction, a 20 minutes drive from Alto Vista Chapel, you will arrive at the parking area across the site. The imposing environment with piled rock rising out of the air is unbelievable! If you get lucky before any bus crowds, then you will have a whole place by yourself. Casibari Rock is a 45-foot-tall rock with an observation deck that can be reached through stairs. It may be a strange feeling ascending to the top, but it is an easy climb if you take your time going up…soonish you can anticipate a splendid view. Just be conscious that it is pretty windy on the top.
9- Ayo Rock Formations
Just ten minute’s away from Casibari is the Ayo Rock formations. It looks like a twin version but is less visited and more enjoyable as you barely see anyone around. During my visit, nobody around was all alone, which was relieving. Do not get confused with these two rock formations. Some people mingled Casibari and Ayo rocks, while the formation of the piled rock is different. I keep asking myself how these rocks got there. Well, it is a good question that will never get answered.
This natural phenomenon of Ayo is standing in peaceful surroundings. The only drawback is that there is no explanation about the rocks. On the upper hand, this is a free site, which doesn’t cost you anything, so fully enjoy it by going to the top for a lovely panoramic view.
10- Climb to Hooiberg Lookout
The next stop is Hooiberg Lookout, a short drive from Ayo Rock. Hooiberg is the highest point of Aruba – the cone shape is visible from almost everywhere, which makes the mountain so unique. These were easier to ascend than the ones in Curacao. But you have 600 steps to count on. And with the heat is a bit tricky but take your time. It takes 30 minutes to the top and lots of nature to see on the way up. The view from the peak offers a 360-degree view of the island…I should say the exertion is pretty rewarding!
11- Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins
The ruins are right on the beach and are a bit out of the tourist route. As for the history buff, hard to believe that gold was processed here from nearby mines more than 150 years ago. However, there is not much left of the building except the walls and some graffiti, but still good to have a quick peek.
It offers a different perspective on the archaeological history from 18-19th century. And free to enter, you can climb over the rocks if you like to get some ocean views. Nevertheless, not everyone like this place, so you will not see anybody here. Be cautious is a taxing drive going to the ruins, but feasible with a regular vehicle at a low speed. A jeep is not necessary.
12- Aruba’s Natural Bridge
Just a short drive from the ruins, you find the natural bridge, a fascinating sight and something you can’t miss in Aruba. Therefore, renting a car is a must for the easy way to discover things on the island. To remind you, going to the natural bridge takes some effort. Driving on a bumpy dirt road is not easy. You see all the vehicles swinging around to avoid the potholes, but doable with low speed.
As for the bridge, the original one collapsed several years ago. Today, you see a smaller bridge called the (Baby Bridge) and still quite impressive. Contrary to many other such natural elements, you can walk over it. The rough coastline and the seascape at this location were so amazing. It takes so long to get there due to bad road conditions, but it only takes a few minutes to see the sights.
13- Arikok National Park
If you are looking for a beautiful ride in a rugged landscape, Arikok National Park is a place to be where you can spend a few hours. The park is beautifully situated and offers a good impression and a different perspective on Aruba. The entrance fee is 11.00 USD per person which is worth the price. The diverse landscape, hills to dunes, and beautiful bays were exceptional.
You may hear somewhere that it is advisable to rent a 4×4. If you already have a regular car, you will manage to drive inside the park. I did not have a jeep, in fact, routes to the beautiful locations were mainly suitable for all-terrain vehicles. If you like to enjoy the scenery, you can only do it at low speed. I see some people whizzing with their jeeps like they are in a hurry. I have visited the National Parks in Curacao and Bonaire, but Arikok is something else. The only disadvantage of this park is missing some signs. But I used my phone navigation all the time.
14- See the beautiful murals in San Nicolas town
San Nicolas was my last stop before driving back to Oranjestad. It lies 30 minutes from the capital and is worth adding to things to do. This was the only place in Aruba that I was faltering to visit after reading some judgemental stories about this town. But I don’t want to skip either, so I take the risk of driving over there. And to be honest, I haven’t felt unsafe during my visit, just don’t wander at night.
If you have seen the murals in Curacao, what you find in San Nicolas can’t be compared. Some paintings you see were so bewildering…the most incredible collections of street murals I have ever seen. There are approximately 50 murals in the downtown area. Be sure to get a detailed map at the visitor center, where you can find the mural locations and titles. I highly recommend adding this to your things to do in Aruba.