Oh Aruba, the A in the ABC Islands. This small island off the coast of Venezuela offers more than year-round sunshine, white sandy beaches and crystal blue waters. From snorkeling to ATV riding, Aruba is an adventurer’s paradise. The adorable and goofy flamingos are added bonus, too! Discover the top things to do in Aruba with this easy guide.
#1: FLAMINGOS AT RENAISSANCE PRIVATE ISLAND
The Flamingos can’t be found on just any beach in Aruba, these magical birds only reside on the private island owned by Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino which is located on the west side of the island.
The Renaissance Hotel is located in downtown Oranjestad and provides free shuttle boat service for guests of the hotel or beach resort. The boat ride is short (15 minutes) and departs about every 15 minutes from the hotel. Each boat carries approximately 25 people on a first-come, first-served basis (it is not possible or necessary to reserve a spot).
#2: CATAMARAN CRUISES
Catamaran cruises let you bask on a boat in the sun (or shade) with music, food, and drinks. Hop on in the morning or afternoon and enjoy when they stop by the snorkeling spots for a little underwater exploration. The Palm Pleasures cruise also brings you to the S.S. Antilla, a famous WWII shipwreck that is one of the largest in the Caribbean.
There are several snorkeling tours to the Antilla shipwreck; Palm Pleasures was affordable, welcoming, and cheerful! You can book your tour directly through the Palm Pleasures website. In addition to exotic sea life, you can also find amazing coral and sponges among the wreckage and in the beautiful blue waters. Swimming with the fish felt so magical & the shipwreck was amazing to explore.
#4: RENT UTVs
Most people don’t know this, but Aruba is half desert! If you are an adventurous type like me then you have to rent a UTV, the best possible way to see the island. The reason I am recommending UTV’s over the more commonly known ATVs is because they are much safer. The roads are pretty rocky and you can come upon some unexpected difficulties if you’re not careful! Although Aruba generally gets very little rainfall, the night before our arrival there was more rain than Aruba had gotten in 7 years, which caused big potholes and rocky areas to form in the road. Our ATV got stuck in a ditch and it was quite dangerous. The other tourists in the UTV’s were fine and well protected! They gave us masks to cover our noses & mouths to prevent the dirt & sand from getting all over our faces. Sunglasses are also a must to keep the sand out of your eyes. We didn’t mind the dust though because the tour was so fun!
#5: FRESH COCONUT WATER
On the way to the natural pool we found a local Aruban selling coconuts from their home. This had to be the most refreshing and tasty drink possible after adventuring in the desert. It sure is hot out there and this was perfection!
#6: CONCHI – OR THE “NATURAL POOL”
One of the most talked about, and most gorgeous, natural elements in Aruba is the Conchi – or natural pool. It is located in the national park on the north side of the island and is pretty remote. You can get there yourself by hiking, UTV, 4×4, or on horseback with a tour.
#7 NATURAL BRIDGE
Our next stop on the ATV was the Natural Bridge. Aruba is made of coral and volcanic rock which lines the coast on the north side. Unfortunately the original natural bridge collapsed after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but you can see its remains on what was once one of aruba’s most beautiful beaches and top tourist destinations. While some might not see the point in visiting a falling natural landmark, I will say the view from the area is breathtaking and definitely worth a drive. Not to mention that a smaller version of the original is still standing and still makes for a great photo!
#8 CALIFORNIA LIGHTHOUSE
A picturesque white lighthouse stands near the northwest tip of Aruba. The California Lighthouse is a popular photo spot for visitors to Aruba and it’s easy to see why – beautiful overlook, perfect white beach, and the nearby California White Sand Dunes make it a great stop on any excursion. Don’t mind our gangster masks!
#9 THE BUSHIRIBANA RUINS
During the 19th century, Aruba had its own gold rush. One of the historical remains is the gold smelter mill at Bushiribana. Built of natural stone, the mill was designed to look like a fortress to ward off would-be pirates. While it has not been in use for over 100 years (and yet Aruba remains pirate-free!), the sturdy construction means that vacationers can still tour this once bustling mill and try their luck at finding any remaining precious metals.
#10 PALM BEACH
Another popular beach to visit is Palm beach where the waves are incredibly calm and the water is incredibly beautiful (look at that color blue down there!). Raft rentals are available and will cost you about $5 a day. You can bring your own if you have room in your bag though!
#11 ACAI BOWL AT EDUARDO’S
Located on Palm Beach is a small local snack shack called Eduardo’s. The acai bowls are both healthy and as delicious as they look! The flavor that gives it it’s beautiful color in the picture below is pitaya, which comes with a nice helping of fruit and granola on top.
#12 WANDER DOWNTOWN ORANJESTAD
Aruba’s old Dutch capital is best explored on foot so you can take in the many pastel-colored Dutch buildings that line its streets. Souvenir shopping (as well as high-end luxury shopping) is also excellent here and it’s fun to ride the trolley, which is free!
#13 DUTCH PANCAKES
As a former Dutch colony, Aruba is also known for their Dutch Pancakes. You can order almost any kind of flavor from savory to sweet. The Dutch Pancake House is a must try! The below pancake was the strawberry, banana and nutella.
#14 KESHI YENA AT THE WEST DECK
The West Deck is located along the Linear Park, on a large wooden deck that overlooks the water on, you guessed it, the west side of the island! It’s great for a casual but filling lunch or dinner. This was honestly the best food we had the entire trip! The food was so fresh and flavorful and the price was right. If you are like me and you love trying foods that you can only get when traveling to certain destinations, then the West Deck is for you. Keshi Yena is an Aruban dish consisting of a large round ball of cheese stuffed with spiced meat and served steamed or baked. It was so good that I went back a couple days later and get the same thing again. The friendly waitress recommended we get it with the Hot Cakes, as is tradition. You will not be disappointed!!
#15 DINNER ON THE WATER
Barefoot Restaurant was a beautiful and romantic spot! The service was amazing, the food was exquisite, and the mojitos were on point. I ordered the ribs and my boyfriend had the steak. Eating on the beach was so peaceful and serene, I wish I could do it every night!
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