Aruba is an island and a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands lying in the southern Caribbean Sea, located about 29 kilometres north of the Venezuelan peninsula of Paraguaná and 80 kilometres northwest of Curaçao.
North Americans fleeing winter make Aruba the most touristed island in the southern Caribbean. The draws are obvious: miles of glorious white-sand beach, plenty of all-inclusive resorts, and a cute, compact capital, Oranjestad, which is well suited to the short strolls favored by cruise-ship passengers. It’s all about sun, fun and spending money.
Venture away from the resorts and you're in for a real treat. At the island’s extreme ends are rugged, windswept vistas and uncrowded beaches – perfect for hiking and horseback riding. Crystal-clear waters are bursting with sea life and shipwrecks (and an airplane wreck or two), providing incredible opportunities for snorkeling and diving. And nonstop breezes create near-perfect conditions for windsurfing and kiteboarding.
So whether you're longing to lounge on a beach or delve into the great outdoors, Aruba has you covered. One happy island, indeed!
BEST TIME TO VISIT ARUBA
The best time to visit Aruba is from April to August – a huge window of time when the island's high prices take a holiday. And since the island sits well outside the hurricane belt, there's very little threat of tropical storms at this time. January to March features pleasant weather, but the room prices can soar. You can also find discounts if you travel in the early fall. Whenever you visit, keep in mind Aruba is prone to high trade winds, which makes for a great experience for windsurfers.
The bad news: You could pay as much as $900 a night to stay in some of the ritziest hotels along Palm and Eagle Beach. The good news: If you begin your search several months to a full year in advance, you could find something a lot more reasonable. Temperatures are steady, with lows in the mid-70s and highs in the mid-80s, and very little rain.
This offseason in Aruba is a great time to get a room deal. Plus, Aruba's southernly position in the Caribbean Sea puts it outside the hurricane belt. Temperatures are slightly higher (it could reach the 90s by the peak of summer), but the dry, desert climate and frequent high winds will keep the stickiness to a minimum.
If you're planning a visit for this time of year, try to get a room during the first few months before winter travelers arrive. September is also the month where Aruba's notorious trade winds die down. These months see the most precipitation of the year, but most days are rainfall-free.
BEST TIME TO VISIT ARUBA
Aruba is the happy Dutch Caribbean island in the Southern Caribbean. Served by a number of regional and international carriers, Aruba enjoys over 100 direct flights every week from 14 North American gateways and one-stop connections from almost every city in the U.S. and Canada. In just four hours from New York City and two and a half from Miami, you can be at Aruba’s airport, breathing in the tropical air as you breeze through immigration and customs. Aruba also enjoys international flights from European and Latin American countries, including Holland, the United Kingdom, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, and Brazil. American, Canadian, Caribbean, European and most South American citizens don’t require visas to enter Aruba.
GETTING AROUND ARUBA
The best way to get around Aruba is by bus. Although, many visitors stay close to their resorts and respective beaches along the northwest coast. Fixed-rate Aruban cabs are another hassle-free way of getting around. Renting a car is a good choice for exploring the island's east coast, while renting an all-terrain vehicle for off-roading in the Arikok National Park is another option for the more adventurous crowd. Aruba is also a popular port of call for cruise ships. Ships dock at the Port Authority in Oranjestad. From there you'll find car rental agencies and taxis ready to take you to your destination.
Public Transportation - The island's Arubus system is reliable and affordable with buses running every 15 minutes from 5:45 a.m. until 6 p.m. and every 40 minutes until 11:30 p.m. The central bus station sits in downtown Oranjestad, adjacent to the cruise ship terminal. Retour cards good for two trips cost 8.75 Aruban florin (or about $5). Day passes, which cover unlimited travel on all the routes, cost 17.50 florin (less than $10). The bus covers the major resort areas and downtown, as well as Baby Beach.
If you'll be staying in the downtown area, you can use the hop-on, hop-off trolley, which passes through Main Street and the newly renovated pedestrian mall of downtown from the cruise ship terminal. The tram, which is free to ride, makes six stops at monuments and museums along the way.
Taxi - You'll find the fixed-rate taxis are a stress-free means of getting to and from most sites, especially if you intend to spend most of your vacation around your hotel. You can have your hotel concierge call a taxi, you can grab one easily at the airport or sometimes they can be flagged down off the street (look for cars with a "TX" in the license plate), though it's best to call ahead. Before you get in, ask the driver what the fare will be to get to your destination. You can also look at his or her fare chart while you ride. Taxis here at not metered, so it's best to agree on the fare before starting your trip.
Car - Having a car can be handy for treks to Arikok National Park or out of reach sites like Baby Beach or the Donkey Sanctuary Aruba. You can rent a car near the cruise terminal or the airport and daily rates can range anywhere from $40 to $90. If you're splurging already, consider upgrading your compact car for a four-wheel-drive or all-terrain vehicle. Aruba's rugged east coast landscape will be much easier to handle if you're in a vehicle with some oomph. Keep in mind: speed limits and distances are posted in kilometers. An international driving permit is not needed.
WHERE TO STAY IN ARUBA
The Tradewinds Club offers an exclusive experience at the Aruba Marriott Resort, with elite adult-only privileges & impeccable service throughout stay. This beachfront resort faces Palm Beach and is a short walk from Tierra Del Sol Golf and Country Club. It offers the 24-hour Stellaris Casino, 7 dining options, an outdoor swimming pool and spa. WiFi access is free in the common areas but paid in the rooms. This Resort holds a Four Diamond Award. The rooms at the Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino have a balcony, a flat-screen TV with in-room movies and a coffee maker. The en suite bathroom offers a double vanity sink, a hairdryer and bathrobes. Guests can enjoy steaks and classic desserts at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. The Aruba Marriott also features international cuisine at La Vista, which offers panoramic ocean views. You can also enjoy a romantic dinner at "Atardi" perfectly set to enjoy sunsets. This Aruba Marriott also features an outdoor swimming pool and hot tub. A car rental desk and a gift shop are located on site.
Situated opposite Aruba's beautiful Eagle Beach, this hotel offers stunning Dutch colonial architecture, relaxing facilities and spacious studios and suites with fully equipped kitchens or kitchenettes. Free WiFi, parking and welcome drink are available on site. Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort features an outdoor pool and a children's pool. Guests can take advantage of the available snorkel equipment or relax in a complimentary lounge chair on the poolside or beach. Mango's restaurant offers an extensive buffet breakfast with live cooking, and international cuisine for dinner. You can enjoy cocktails, fresh fish and grilled steak on the beach at the Passions Beach Bar & Lounge. Free snacks at Manager's Cocktail party every Thursday. Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort has achieved the Master Level of Certification from EarthCheck and also the Golden Travel Life Award.
Set on the white sands of Eagle Beach, this adults-only (18+) boutique resort features an ocean-front restaurant with spectacular views and healthy dining options. Free breakfast and free WiFi are provided. The rooms and suites at Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort Aruba offer style and comfort, with cable TV, air dehumidifiers, a microwave and a fridge. The SandBar has a happy hour every evening, twice a week there is a free Movie Night on the beach, and Carte Blanche restaurant boasts gourmet-style cuisine at a chef's table. Romantic dining on the beach in a private palapa can be reserved. An air-conditioned fitness center has a beautiful view of the courtyard garden and nearby beach. An outdoor pool and concierge services are also available. Guests can relax with a massage or treatment in the Purun Spa. The Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort is near to the Alhambra Casino and shopping centre. Reina Beatrix International Airport is 8 km away.
This complex is set 500 m from Eagle Beach and 2 km from Divi Village Golf Course. It features an on-site casino, spa services and 2 swimming pools. Free WiFi is available in public areas. The suites offer modern décor with wooden furniture and tiled floors. All accommodations have a seating area, TV and a balcony and the kitchens have kitchenware, oven, fridge and stove. The private bathrooms come with bath or shower. Double Down Sports Bar & Grill serves steak dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner; The Bikini's pool bar and grill also offers happy hours daily and live music. There is also a cafeteria, an ice-cream store and an on-site supermarket. Snorkelling, scuba diving, sailing, horseback riding are water activities that can be arranged by Eagle Aruba Resort & Casino. Jeep Safari, town centre walking and shopping are another option for guests. This resort is 10 minutes’ drive from Oranjestad Main Square and a 20-minute drive from Queen Beatrix International Airport.
Offering a year-round outdoor pool, children's playground and terrace, Holiday Inn Resort Aruba - Beach Resort & Casino All Inclusive is located in Palm Beach, 3.5 km from Eagle Beach. The resort has a spa centre and hot tub, and guests can enjoy all meals and drinks for free. Each room includes a flat-screen TV. Certain rooms have a seating area to relax in after a busy day. Rooms come with a private bathroom. Extras include free toiletries and a hair dryer. There is a 24-hour front desk, a cash machine and hairdresser's at the property. This resort has water sports facilities and free use of bicycles and car hire are available. Guests can enjoy various activities in the surroundings, including golfing, snorkeling and windsurfing. Queen Beatrix Airport is 9 km from the property.
Featuring a 40-acre private island and beaches, this Oranjestad resort offers both adults-only and family lodging. A full-service spa, casino and choice of fine restaurants are available. Free WiFi is included. Satellite TV and a coffee maker are found in each bright room of the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino. Bathrooms provide plush robes and slippers. A large fitness centre and a jogging trail offered to guests at Renaissance Aruba. Three beautiful pools, scuba diving and kayaking are also offered. Offering 8 dining options total, Aquarius and the Papagayo Bar & Grill serve fine international cuisine. Guests can also enjoy L.G. Smith’s Steak & Chop House or Midnight Grill and BLUE. Fresco, Sole and Mangrove Beach Bar are available for additional dining options. Breakfast and all inclusive can be offered for an extra fee. The Reina Beatrix International Airport is 5 minutes from the Renaissance Resort and Casino. This waterfront property is located in Oranjestad's town centre.
Barceló Aruba - All Inclusive offers beachfront accommodation in Aruba, featuring 7 restaurants, 24 hrs gym, spa and kid´s club. The casino has 5 tables including American Roulette, Black Jack and Three Card Poker. There are 120 slot machines and a full service bar. Guests can also enjoy watching sporting events in high definition. The casino allows smoking and has free WiFi in the bar lounge. Barceló Aruba - All Inclusive boasts daily activities, numerous water sports and nightly live entertainment. Guests can enjoy the Lobby Lounge with a piano and pool tables. Barceló Aruba - All Inclusive is ideally located on the Caribbean Sea, providing hours of fun and excitement for the whole family. Guests can also enjoy 6 bars and a beauty salon.
Offering an unrivaled oceanfront location, direct beach access, a full-service spa, exciting casino action and gourmet dining, this Palm Beach, Aruba resort provides everything needed for an unforgettable stay. The newly enhanced rooms at Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa and Casino feature designs inspired by the teal blues of Aruba and welcoming furnishings that include 65” flat-screen TV, Hyatt Grand Beds and roomy bathrooms that feature stone and quartz. An endless variety of recreational activities can be found moments from the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort and Casino, including deep-sea fishing, sailing and snorkeling. The resort also has two pools, the outdoor pool complex which is 8,000 sq. ft. with two story waterslide and a 4,951 sq. ft. adults-only pool. Guests at the Aruba Hyatt Regency can also relax with a massage or facial from the on-site spa, enjoy a yoga class or browse for gifts in the on-site shops. The resort's casino features live entertainment along with popular slot machines and card games. The 5,200 square-foot ZoiA Spa – meaning balance in Papiamento – houses 8 treatment rooms, many of which will offer an indoor and outdoor experience, and an extensive spa menu featuring luxurious treatments with locally grown aloe vera. You can enjoya cool Biba Dushi cocktail at Alfresco.
Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino offers accommodation in Palm Beach. The resort has a spa centre and guests can enjoy a meal at the restaurant. The rooms come with a TV and a private bathroom, while a balcony or patio are featured in certain rooms. For your comfort, you will find free toiletries and a hair dryer. Bathrobes are available upon request. Guests can enjoy fresh seafood in the Sunset Grille Restaurant, then relax with an international cocktail at Mira Solo Bar. This resort has water sports facilities and car hire is available. A number of activities is offered in the area, such as golfing and diving. Eagle Beach is 2.9 km from Hilton Aruba, while Oranjestad is 6 km away. The nearest airport is Queen Beatrix Airport, 8 km from Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino.
This resort is located on the beach in Palm Beach, Aruba. The resort offers an on-site casino, a spacious outdoor pool with a lazy river and a restaurant. At Marriott's Aruba Surf Club you can choose between villas and bedrooms. Every spacious villa is equipped with a full kitchen, washer and dryer. The bedrooms include a mini-fridge, microwave and cutlery. Guest rooms and villas have a furnished balcony. Cable TVs with DVD players are included. Recreational facilities at the Marriott's Aruba Surf Club include a whirlpool spa and fully equipped gym with cardio and weight training equipment. Captain's Galley serves American cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Seaworthy's Pool Bar is open for lunch and serves drinks in the afternoon.
PLACES TO VISIT & THINGS TO DO IN ARUBA
North of Venezuela, the island of Aruba is famous for its stunning blonde beaches, wind-sculpted desert landscapes, and some of the best wreck diving in the Caribbean. Aruba is a relatively dry island with consistently fine weather. Its location in the far south of the Caribbean puts it out of reach of most hurricanes, so sun seekers can enjoy the island's outdoor attractions and water sports at any time of year.
Aruba's quaint capital, Oranjestad, is a charming cruise ship port packed with attractions and family-friendly things to do. Stroll among the brightly-hued Dutch colonial buildings; browse the galleries, shops, and museums; or tour the Aruba Aloe museum and factory or The Butterfly Farm.
Scattered around the island are many beautiful beaches. The north coast lures swimmers with its calm waters and seemingly endless sweep of glittering sand, while the rough and wave-battered east coast offers dramatic vistas and dangerous surf.
Adventures abound on this rugged island. Away from the resort strip, you can slide down towering sand dunes, ride the swells on a kiteboard, discover unique rock formations, swim in natural pools, fish for wahoo and tuna, and explore some of the island's rocky cacti-cloaked terrain in four-wheel-drive vehicles or on horseback. In late January and early February, Carnival ignites the island with dances, parades, contests, and other festivities.
Discover the best places to visit on this popular Caribbean island. Here are the list of Turisti- Info to the top tourist attractions in Aruba.
Aruba offers an abundance of dazzling beaches. The northwest coast of Aruba, from Druif Beach to Eagle Beach, and Palm Beach to Malmok, is an 11-kilometer sweep of uninterrupted white sand and clear jade waters. Eagle Beach and Palm Beach are favorites. Near the California Lighthouse, Malmok Beach and secluded Arashi Beach are great for swimming and snorkeling. On the windward east coast, Bachelor's Beach, Boca Grandi, Boca Prins, Dos Playa, Black Stone Beach, and Boca Andicuri have stronger currents and larger waves. Although they are not recommended for swimming, windsurfers and kitesurfers can tackle the swells. The beaches in the southeast are less populated. Locals' favorite, Baby Beach is great for inexperienced swimmers, with its shallow basin and calm waters.
Oranjestad, Aruba is a charming city and the capital and cruise port of this tiny island. The most striking feature is the Dutch colonial architecture. Pastel-hued buildings with a Spanish and Caribbean twist jostle along the tidy streets, and you'll find many shops, restaurants, museums, galleries, and entertainment options. Overall the city is simply a fun place to walk around and soak up the atmosphere. Well-maintained Wilhelmina Park, on the waterfront, is one of the city's main attractions, particularly in June, September, and October when many of the plants are in bloom. Look for iguanas along the water's edge. A short walk from here, you can explore the small Aruba Historical Museum, with artifacts related to the entire history of the island. It's housed in the King Willem III Tower at Fort Zoutman, which was built as a lighthouse and pirate-spotting vantage point. Other Oranjestad highlights include the Aruba Aloe Factory, where you can learn about the medicinal qualities of this wonder plant and purchase skin-soothing souvenirs, and The Butterfly Farm, a highlight for children and avid photographers. If you're a shopper, Renaissance Shopping Mall features high-end stores like Chanel, Gucci, and Cartier. For fantastic views over the city, hike to the top of the 165-meter-tall volcanic rock formation, Hooiberg. And if you prefer a more relaxing sightseeing experience, a great way to get a feel for the city is to hop aboard the bright red Aruba Streetcar, a free open-air bus that runs between the top attractions in the city.
Outdoor enthusiasts love exploring rugged Arikok National Park. Covering almost 20 percent of the island, the park features cacti-covered landscapes, caves, sand dunes, and unique rock formations. Large boulders adorned with Indian paintings make up the odd rock formation known as Ayó, and the Casibari Boulders, weathered by trade winds, are strewn amid dry scrub. You can walk the trails and steps ascending through the rocks for great views and photo opportunities. Arikok National Park also encompasses the wave-thrashed shores of the island's north coast. Wave erosion carved the Natural Bridge at Anicouri, which collapsed in 2005, but you can still see a smaller natural bridge here, and it's a great spot for a picnic. On the picturesque waterfront, the old stone walls of the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins are the remains of a 19th-century gold smelter. Parakeets, goats, lizards, snakes, and iguanas are just some of the creatures found in the park. Since the roads can be rugged, a 4WD vehicle is recommended- some sites can't be accessed via 2WD vehicles-but you can also explore on horseback and hike the many trails. To really enjoy all the park's top sites, a full day is recommended here.
In Arikok National Park, near the Fontein Cave and Blue Lagoon, Boca Prins is a dramatic stretch of coast backed by massive sand dunes. Trade winds sculpt these shifting sands, and adventure seekers love to slide from their peaks. At the narrow sliver of beach, crashing surf and soaring limestone cliffs create dramatic coastal vistas. Swimming here is too dangerous, but it's a great spot for a picnic, and you can descend the steps to the shore, sink your feet in the sand, and feel the spray of the salty surf on your face. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended.
At the northern tip of the island, the California Lighthouse stars on many Aruban postcards and tourist brochures. It was named for the S.S. California, which sunk off the coast here. The surrounding area is rugged and beautiful, with sand dunes called the California Dunes, cacti, and even some grazing goats. Although the lighthouse is closed to the public, it's a great spot to compare the calm waters of the western shore with the rough waves of the east. Sunset is a beautiful time to visit the lighthouse and enjoy panoramic island views. Many guests linger for dinner at the nearby restaurant.
Aruba is famous for its excellent wreck diving, catering to divers of all levels. Sunken vessels range from tugboats to cargo ships, and even plane fuselages. Lying between Arashi and Malmok, the Antilia is the Caribbean's largest wreck and one of Aruba's most popular dives. Snorkelers can also explore the shallow-water sections of this wreck. Other popular wrecks include the 76-meter former concrete freighter Jane Sea and the oil tanker Pedernales. Coral reefs lace the island's leeward shore. Some of the best reef dive sites include Skalahein Reef; Plonco Reef; and Mas Bango Reef, which is also excellent for snorkeling. Those who prefer to stay dry can board the Atlantis Submarine to view marine life, coral formations, and shipwrecks.
The Natural Pool is just that, a protected swimming hole filled by waves crashing over the slick rocks. You can swim and snorkel here, although the area is really not that big. The pool lies down a rugged road and is best reached by 4WD vehicle. You can navigate the area yourself, but the road is not well marked. The best way to visit this attraction is on an organized 4WD tour, like the four-hour Natural Pool and Indian Cave Jeep Safari or the Aruba ATV Tour with a Natural Pool Swim. You can also visit the pool on horseback tours.
Children, photographers, and anyone who loves nature will enjoy The Butterfly Farm near Palm Beach. During your visit, you can walk through an enclosure with lush, tropical gardens and witness these winged beauties fluttering around you. Guided tours help you identify the different species, and you'll also learn about butterfly habitats and the life cycles of these delicate creatures. If you arrive early enough, you may even see butterflies emerging from their chrysalis. This is one of the most unique things to do in Aruba and a wonderful way to capture colorful close-up photos. Best of all, your admission allows you to return as many times as you like during your stay.
One of the top free things to do in Aruba is take a tour at the Aruba Aloe Museum, Factory, and Store. During this fascinating tour, you'll learn everything you ever wanted to know about aloe plants. Watch a short film about the history of aloe production in Aruba, witness your guide "filet" an aloe leaf to extract the glutinous flesh, see the plants growing in the sandy soil, and learn about aloe's health benefits. The tour also includes a walk through the factory, where you can see how the products are made and packaged. After your tour, you can purchase some aloe products in the gift shop to soothe your sunburn or take home as souvenirs. Tours depart every 15 minutes, and self-guided tours are also possible.
The non-profit Philip's Animal Garden is a sanctuary and rehabilitation center for more than 52 species of animals. Animal-lover Philip Merryweather poured his passion for exotic animals into this popular tourist attraction, which runs educational and interactive tours. Favorite residents include snakes, kangaroos, monkeys, emus, ostriches, and ocelots, but you'll also find farmyard animals such as goats, pigs, horses, and donkeys. This is a fantastic place to bring the kids. The friendly staff are happy to answer questions and share the stories of each resident, and you can touch and feed some of the creatures. A small donation grants you entrance as well as a bag of carrots to feed the animals. All funds go towards care of the animals. Animal lovers might also enjoy a quick visit to Donkey Sanctuary Aruba, where you can pet and feed these rescued animals. Entry is by donation. And if you want even more critter-based fun, head to the Aruba Ostrich Farm for a quick tour and a chance to learn more about these flightless, feathered beasts.
The small Alto Vista Chapel is one of Aruba's cherished landmarks. Often called the "Pilgrim's Church," Alto Vista was originally built in 1750 by the Spanish missionary, Domingo Antonio Silvestre. The current structure was built in 1954 on the same site, and it's one of the island's most famous landmarks. Alto Vista means "highest view" in Spanish and, true to its name, the church sits high on a hill with beautiful views over the island's north shore. The Stations of the Cross mark the road leading to the chapel. While you're here, walk behind the chapel to the Peace Labyrinth, where you can wander the circular path in quiet contemplation.
On the remote northeast coast of Aruba, Rancho Daimari offers scenic horseback tours to sites such as the Natural Pool, Arikok National Park, Andicuri Beach, and the sand dunes. The ranch overlooks Daimari beach on the site of a former coconut plantation, originally established in the 17th century. Guests of all riding abilities are welcome, although the terrain can be rocky and steep. You'll also have an opportunity to ride the horses on the beach. Tours are usually about three hours and include pickup and drop-off from your hotel.
A five-minute ferry ride from the mainland, De Palm Island is a small private splotch of sand, packed with activities. For all-inclusive rates, guests can swim, snorkel, or zip around on banana boats, while land-based activities include beach volleyball, basketball, bingo, salsa lessons, and card games. Families with young children will enjoy the colorful water park with spiral waterslides and splash pools. For additional fees, guests can try the Sea Trek underwater helmet walk, SNUBA, or indulge in massages.
Located on the outskirts of Oranjestad in Santa Cruz, the Aruban Donkey Sunctuary is definitely worth the trek. The sanctuary is run by a non-profit organization dedicated to saving the island’s population of donkeys, which used to be a main source of transportation. Purchase a feed cup at the sanctuary or bring your own supply of carrots and apples.
One of the most popular watersports in Aruba is deep-sea fishing. For tourists who want to give the sport a try, check out one of the outings offered by Driftwood Fishing Charters. Groups of up to six people can board the Driftwood I for a morning or afternoon of deep-sea fishing. Driftwood provides all of the equipment and bait. Potential catches include barracuda, tuna, sailfish, and even sharks. If you decide on an afternoon charter, head over to the Driftwood Restaurant afterwards for some of the freshest seafood in all of Oranjestad.
Standing 165 meters above sea level on the outskirts of Oranjestad, Hooiberg (meaning ‘haystack’) is a volcanic formation that dominates the Aruban horizon. While not the highest point on the island, Hooiberg is a popular destination for hikers. The easiest way to access the top of this famous hill is to climb up the 587 steps built by Eduardo Tromp in 1951. At the top, the spectacular Aruban landscape extends outwards in every direction. On a clear day, Venezuela is visible to the south.
Originally constructed by the Aruba Island Gold-Mining Company Ltd. in 1872 to process the gold being mined at Seroe Plat, the smelting works at Bushiribana was only in use for 10 years until it was abandoned and fell into ruin. It is only due to its impeccably solid construction that a discernable percentage of the gold processing mill still remains. While the Bushiribana smelting works probably wasn’t very appealing its heyday, the ruins left behind offer a spectacular backdrop for any outdoor activity taking place in its vicinity. A favorite way to capture a photo of the ocean from this site is to take it through one of the ruins’ still-intact windows.
Built by Dutch settlers in 1796 to protect themselves from marauding pirates and foreign enemies, Fort Zoutman is both the oldest remnant of the original Dutch settlement on Aruba, as well as the island’s oldest standing structure. The King Wilhelm III Tower was added in 1868 and served as Aruba’s official clock tower and lighthouse. After Aruba no longer needed a fort to defend itself, Fort Zoutman housed an array of civic organizations for more than 100 years, including a library, government offices and a prison. Today, the fort contains Aruba’s Historical Museum, which showcases artefacts from the island’s indigenous past through to the present day.
Located on the south-east coast of Aruba near the town of San Nicolas in Seroe Preto, the Grot di Lourdes (Lourdes Grotto) is a holy site dedicated to the memorial of the Virgin Mary’s appearance in Lourdes, France. In 1858, a peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous claimed to have seen Mary many times near the town of Lourdes, which is now the second most popular tourist attraction in France behind Paris. 100 years after the sighting, a priest named Erkamp created the Aruban memorial, which consists of a statue of the Virgin weighing 700 kilograms. The grotto’s natural beauty is only complimented by the ring of colorful flowers routinely placed around the statue.
Aruba’s capital city of Oranjestad, named after Huis van Oranje, the royal family that ruled during the colonization of the island, is the perfect place to spend an afternoon shopping, whether you’re looking for luxury brands or local crafts. However, be sure not to miss the Plaza Daniel Leo, named after a local politician, that’s situated in front of the Renaissance Mall. Not only is this plaza home to a plethora of boutiques, it also boasts some of the best examples of stunning multicolored Dutch colonial buildings in the region.
For a peek into Aruba’s ancient past, look no further than the Fontein Cave. Located on the island’s north-east coast in Airkok National Park, this cave is famous for the Arawak Indian paintings still visible on its ceilings and walls. The grotto-like cavern offers the indigenous artwork an incredible backdrop that certainly won’t disappoint adventurers who wander inside. There is no substitute for this attraction as it is the only cave on the island with such paintings. That said, some other interesting caves to explore include the Guadirikiri Cave and Huliba Cave.
WHERE TO EAT IN ARUBA
Located on the southern coast of the Caribbean island of Aruba, Oranjestad serves as the island’s capital and largest municipality. Between tours, long days relaxing at the beach, and shopping for souvenirs, visitors need to eat. Luckily, Oranjestad is home to some of the best restaurants on the island, with many serving a wide variety of international cuisines.
Situated just off of Oranjestad Harbor, 7 West Bar & Restaurant is the ideal place to relax and take in stunning views of boats bobbing in the calm Caribbean waters. Originally named for their location on west 7th street (7 Weststraat), this restaurant is mainly known for its very reasonably priced gourmet-inspired menu, which is sometimes difficult to find in a resort town like Oranjestad. Stop by for lunch and order one of 7 West’s inspired platters which usually feature some kind of fresh fish.
Opened 23 years ago by Dutch transplants Hans Nooter and Harry Koeman, Café the Plaza has been a favorite for quite some time. Situated in Oranjestad’s Renaissance Marketplace, this café is the ideal place to grab lunch or dinner after a couple hours of shopping. What’s truly special about Café the Plaza is their flexibility. The restaurant serves food all day, from pancakes in the morning, to strong drinks at night, while you can’t go wrong stopping by for a sandwich at lunchtime either.
Like Café the Plaza, CILO City Lounge is conveniently located in the Renaissance Marketplace and is open all day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Try one of CILO’s city-inspired breakfasts, such as the New York, featuring two scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, fruit, yogurt and toast with butter and jelly, while enjoying a view of the bustling Oranjestad marina from the restaurant’s terrace. In the evening, come with friends and relax with half-off drinks during happy hour.
For a taste of Cuba in the heart of Oranjestad, head over to Cuba’s Cookin’ in the Renaissance Marketplace. Owner Douglass Markus has infused the space with Cuban charm through the dishes, music and art that he has accumulated from many trips to the Big Island over the past 15 years, so much so that it evokes a ‘Havana resto bar circa 1959’ feel. Try one of the restaurant’s traditional Cuban dishes, such as pollo con aceitunas (chicken and olives), or ropa vieja (braised skirt steak), and wash it all down one of their ‘world famous’ mojitos.
Poking its way out into the waters of the Caribbean Sea towards the north end of Aruba’s windward side, The West Deck is a lively, family-friendly drinks and dining spot that comes highly-recommended. The menu offers up a medley of uber-fresh fish cuts doused in a range of different regional sauces (think mahi mahi in black beans, or calimari with a twist of chilli), while the half al fresco design makes for some fine views of the gigantic cruise ships that arrive and depart to and from the city each day.
Located in a refurbished colonial townhouse, El Gaucho Argentine Grill was the first Argentinian restaurant to open on Aruba in 1977. Since then, the restaurant has made a name for itself by serving the biggest and, some say, best steaks on the island, even receiving an Aruba Business Award in that category in the past. While the menu mainly features a large selection of Argentinian-style grilled meats, there is also a nod to El Gaucho’s Aruban locale, with a section devoted to Carib seafood. Try the famous one-pound Gaucho steak, or the Argentine shish kabob, a skewer containing pieces of grilled beef tenderloin, chorizo, pork tenderloin and vegetables.
Located by the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Oranjestad, Yemanja Woodfire Grill is a hip local restaurant specializing in Caribbean-European fusion. The woodfire grill, for which the restaurant is named, is fueled by wood from the island, so diners can literally taste the essence of Aruba in every delicious bite. Fortunately, Chef Joyce Husken and her kitchen staff are happy to accommodate many dietary restrictions, an extra level of dedication most restaurants don’t typically offer. So, whether you go for gluten-free or vegetarian, you’ll be able to enjoy a meal at Yemanja.
Even though Wilhelmina is just a recent addition to Aruba’s gastronomy, it’s already a popular dining destination in Oranjestad. The restaurant is named after the Dutch Queen, Wilhemina, who was adored far outside the borders of the Netherlands, and honors her far-reaching influence by serving an internationally inspired cuisine with ingredients from all around the world. The cuisine of each dish on the menu is designated with a small flag, proving it’s completely possible for French bouillabaisse and Chinese Peking duck to coexist peacefully on the same card.
For a refreshing treat on a hot day, head over to Gelatissimo Bistro located in the heart of downtown Oranjestad. This bistro and gelateria is housed in a traditional Dutch-style colonial building, but the offerings on the menu are uniquely Italian. For lunch, try one of the bistro’s pizzas, paninis or salads, all for very reasonable prices. However, just be sure not to miss Gelatissimo’s selection of gelatos (Italian-style ice cream) and sorbets made from fruit grown on Aruba itself.
WHERE TO SHOP IN ARUBA
Aruba's main shopping street, Caya G.F. Betico Croes (named after ex-member of parliament Croes, who was responsible for setting Aruba's independence from the Dutch Antilles, back in 1986) is a half-mile long smorgasbord of international and local shops, snack bars, art galleries and department stores. Good buys include European fashion, quality electronics, French perfume, Swiss watches and local artisan gifts and delicacies. Aruba has no sales tax, and the duty is low (usually around 3-4%), so plan to buy your souvenirs here. The Caya G.F. Betico Croes and surroundings just underwent a major renovation, including the solar-powered tramcars (transporting visitors from the cruise-ship terminal to several points downtown), the revamped Parliament House, new art sculptures and commemorative statues.
Bring your best haggling tricks and get ready to bargain for T-shirts, local arts, crafts and delicacies. This flea market at the dock of Oranjestad's harbor used to be Aruba's first public market. Years ago, before the big supermarkets started to pop up everywhere, farmers and fishermen brought their fresh fruits, vegetables and fish here, at these open-air kiosks along the harbor, for locals to barter and buy. The Waf (wharf) was desolated for a while, but one day it picked up its trading habits and resuscitated as a flea market, bringing tourists closer to the island's culture and traditions.
From luxury malls and top-tier global brands to extensive variety shops, outdoor flea markets and off-the-beaten-path specialty stores, shoppers can exceed their wildest expectations in Aruba. But, if visitors want to dig deeper into the local shopping scene and sniff some history and culture along the way, a browse tour through La Linda is highly recommended. This family-owned business, located at the beginning of the main street, is not only Aruba's first department store chain, it's a local pride and the place to find anything you need at the lowest prices. Clothing for the whole family, shoes, suitcases, pans, pins, plastic parrots and religious memorabilia... La Linda has it!
This museum, factory and store in one, is a must-visit for everyone interested in Aruba's history as world's largest exporter of the aloe vera. By taking a fifteen minute tour, visitors will learn about the island's aloe industry past and present, the production process of this natural remedy and the many health benefits that can be achieved by using aloe vera preparations, both orally or topically. Shop for your own personal line of aloe products or purchase some typical island gifts. But don't leave before finding out everything there is to know about Aruba's aloe background. Tour guides are available in English, Dutch, Spanish and native language Papiamento. Dig deeper into the island's soil and feel the heal.
Once located on the L.G. Smith Boulevard, surrounded by all the island's bigger supermarkets in Oranjestad, Super Food has come a long way. From grocery store filled with fresh produce and Dutch brands to the new and growing Super Food Plaza shopping complex in Bubali, where customers can do their daily groceries, have a delicious lunch in Jack's Cafe, pick out the finest wines and liquors at Cheers, buy the freshest fish and seafood at Daily Fish, shop for home appliances and decor at Casa, browse for top quality toys at Intertoys, or get an eye exam and new glasses at Optica Sun Specs. This is not a supermarket, it's Super Food Plaza!
Although its name suggests otherwise, Trash By Ronchi is a one-of-a-kind fashion and lifestyle boutique that specializes in trendy island wear for the young and the young at heart. Local fashion designer Ronchi De Cuba's mission to provide all ethnicities, body shapes, sizes and gender with the latest styles at irresistible prices, is accomplished. With a mixed collection of imported brands and local creations, this young guru of style and image has been dressing up the famed and the infamous in Aruba. Models, misses, moms, ma'ams and misters... everybody can trash the old look and show off a bold, new style.
Fantasea's hip and colorful concept is a feast for the eye and imagination, showcasing a captivating array of travel essentials like the international luggage and lifestyle brand Kipling. For swim, beach, surf and casual wear for the whole family, Fantasea houses top quality names like Roxy, Quicksilver, Cover Me and Hurley, among other favorite collections. If Aruba is on your travel agenda, stop by at Fantastea for the most fashionable beach cover-ups, trendiest tank tops and tees, coolest caps, comfiest flip flops and bulging bags of fun accessories and one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Don't fantasize, get into the island vibe with Fantasea.
For anyone living on this planet, who's never heard of the German brand Birkenstock... we're talking about sandals here. And not just any sandals, but probably one of the most comfortable footgear on earth. Okay, fine, don't believe it, but do your feet a big favor and visit one of the three Foot Fit stores to see what they have in stock. The Finn Comfort shoes and sandals for ladies and gentlemen are ideal for a more elegant look, while the Clarks collection is all about alleviation in style. Whatever is preferred, - liberated toes or covered ones - at Foot Fit there is a perfect fit for everyone.
Founded in 1865 by the Penha family in Curaçao, this renowned company evolved into one of the leading beauty and lifestyle retailers in the Caribbean. With luxury brands like Estee Lauder, Clinique, Chanel, Dior, a skilled sales staff and the recently added Victoria's Secret and MAC, Aruba prides itself with five Penha stores. The first and oldest building is strategically located at the beginning of the main street, and has recently gone through some major renovations. The Mac Boutique and Victoria's Secret store are both located in downtown Oranjestad. At the Palm Beach Plaza there's another Victoria's Secret and a smaller Penha outlet.
"Adorn yourself with eminence and dignity, and clothe yourself with honor and majesty" is Caribbean Queen's motto and their amazing collection of one-of-a-kind accessories for all woman of the world, is the proof - from top of the head to tip of the toe. To become royalty, just make an entrance at this stylish Queendom and discover all the Caribbean treasures while striding with West Indian flair among inspiring and ready-to-wear art pieces, exclusive rewards, prestigious gems and distinguished guests. Get acquainted with Aruba's artisans and help promote the island's artistic talents. Join the cause and be grand! The royal staff of Caribbean Queen is always ready to serve.
Stores open until late at night, providing the full range of dining choices from fast-food to gourmet, shopping finds including clothing, jewelry, souvenirs, designer sunglasses, gifts and linens, as well as entertainment options offered by the movie theater, nightlife spots and nearby casino.
Palm Beach Plaza is more than just a shopping mall, it features a state-of the-art amphitheatre, spectacular water features and entertainment for the entire family. Palm Beach Plaza will certainly become the favorite venue for local and international artists as well as a prime location for top-of-the-line boutiques to showcase their latest fashions.
Paseo Herencia boasts a diversity of stylish stores offering quality goods and a panoply of eateries serving anything to suite one’s mood, as well as nightly entertainment and special events. Designer shops are stocked with the trendiest of fashions and famous labels.
A lifestyle center located at the entrance of the High Rise Hotel Area, depicting the authentic Aruban culture and architecture. The Village Mall offers the public a wide variety of restaurants, retail shops and outdoor entertainment.
If you are in search of known designer names then this is the mall for you. From Tommy Hilfiger to Benetton, the Royal Plaza Mall is one of the most traditional shopping areas on the island. Conveniently located near the cruise docks, this venue is designed to please tourists.