How many times have you heard…this is a must-visit destination! Quite a few, right?! But often you don’t get so many reasons to pack your bag and visit that recommended destination, other than “there are beautiful beaches and people are so nice”. I know, I have been in that situation hundreds of times.
I promise, I’m not going to be ‘one of those people’, so this story will give you just enough facts gathered from my personal experience and let you decide for yourself. Still, I can’t help myself but tell you…Aruba is a must-visit destination! If you are just a tiny bit curious why millions of tourists make their way to this tropical island, make sure you stick around and keep reading.
Aruba in short:
Located in the mid-south of the Caribbean Sea, this Dutch island is ranked as one of the Caribbean’s most popular vacation spots, surely not only for its white powdery blond beaches that we all probably link this island to. Aruba is much more! Along with Bonaire and Curacao (other incredible islands), Aruba forms a group of the ABC islands. This fair small land is stretched a little over 180km and proudly goes by the slogan “One happy island”.
What makes Aruba so different from other islands in the Caribbean?
It took me about an hour to find that out…With its dry climate, the sun was shining just different and made me feel happy in some different way. Making my way towards the rugged north coast, my views were rich in white sand beaches where the great number of pelicans are just regular visitors, several attractions along the way just as unique as the island itself…still the cactus-scattered landscape of a desert was something I didn’t expect to see on a Caribbean island. That’s the moment I have fallen in love with Aruba!
Attractions you can’t miss:
Bushirbana ruins of gold – An interesting fact is that gold was discovered in Aruba in 1824. and the industry produced more than 3 million pounds of gold. Who can say that little piece of history is not welcomed, right?
Along with a great scenic view of the ocean from the top, there is no reason to skip this stop. If you are looking for some adventure, you can even climb as far as you want. (Of course, I didn’t miss this chance).
Natural Pool – You absolutely can’t miss the island’s secret treasure – North Cost. For the best experience, hop on one of UTV’s or jeeps and drive to Arikok National Park. The bumpy ride and scenery of the most rugged terrain will leave you just speechless, trust me on this! When you think you have seen it all, you will reach the Natural Pool – a unique swimming hole formed by the volcanic rock formation where you can dip in to refresh.
Please note that the Natural pool is inaccessible by regular car and it is very important that you check the weather before you hit the road as the pool might be closed due to high winds, so swimming won’t be an option. Happened to me twice.
The butterfly farm – Wouldn’t you love to step into a tropical garden overflowing with butterflies? It is a precious opportunity for photography and a sure joyful experience for all ages. If you arrive early in the day, you will get a chance to observe new butterflies emerging from their caterpillar and taking the first flight.
Snorkeling at Boca Catalina – This place simply has everything one snorkeler can wish for…from the unspoiled sea, unbelievable shallow coral reefs where ‘Nemo’ and his friends will leave you without breath (don’t worry, not literally). Did I mention you can spot some green sea turtles? It’s pretty much heaven if you ask me. The great thing is that location is accessible from the shore as well as by the boat. My recommendation is to hop on one of the sailing boats with snorkeling included and have two experiences in one. Raising a glass of “Aruba ariba cocktail” while sailing away to glorify the competition of your memorable snorkeling adventure is something you will never forget (I’ve been there and I can remember it like it was yesterday).
Alto Vista Chapel – This charming Catholic church is the smallest and the oldest here on the island, often referred to as a “Pilgrims Church”. Located on the north-eastern side, high on a hill overlooking the Caribbean Sea, you can’t miss as the white crosses mark the route leading to the church. Just be ready for some bouncy ride, as the road is unpaved and quite dusty along the way.
California Lighthouse – Stands as a silent watch-keeper and offers the most spectacular view of the Caribbean Sea here on the island. Don’t miss out on a chance to capture this island’s scenic trademark and taste coconut smoothie from this bus-vendor right next to it (you can thank me later). Probably the best time to visit is during sunset, but that also means it will be more crowded, so be aware of that.
Aloe Factory & Museum – Add some educational character to your visit and stop by Aruba Aloe Factory, find out why they have been the leading company of this healing miracle plant in the world for over 150 years. Here, you will get an opportunity to learn all about the manufacturing process and see its plantation.
They also have different products available for purchase (Make sure you pick some, they are really good).
The best beaches recommended by locals:
Tres Trapi beach – A tiny sandy cove in the rocky northwestern shore will make you feel someone has created a single pool just for you. Accessible by three rustic steps carved into the rock. It is perfect for snorkeling, and take a guess…you may spot lots of starfish posing on the floor.
Palm beach – Glamour is your second name? Then make sure you spend some time among High-rise hotels and enjoying this stunning white sand beach. Calm water, tall palms, bars, restaurants, watersports, casinos, shops…do you need anything else? I didn’t think so.
De Palm Island – Excited to capture yourself with flamingos? This is a place to visit. A perfect day on a private island where your purchased day pass will include unlimited food, drinks, lounge chair, snorkeling activity kid’s waterpark and waterslides…
There are also loads of additional activities, such as snuba, sea trek, private cabanas for rent and of course flamingos. You will absolutely love it!
Arashi beach – Another white sand beach you will only fall in love with. There is a bar with a restaurant and restroom, but that’s about it. Not much of a shade, so please go crazy with sunscreen lotion for your own safety. If you love snorkeling, this is a go-to place, the left side of the beach will be your paradise point. Pelicans are here just as regular visitors, so if you happen to see them while swimming, make sure you keep your eyes open so they don’t fly down on your head. They say they are agile on the water as well, but I just had a different expression.
Eagle beach – If I tell you this pristine white sands beach was voted for the 3rd best beach in the world by Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Award in 2019, do I need to tell you more about it? Just in case I do, this is probably the widest beach here where soft white sands and the blue ocean seems to never end. Situated among Low-rise hotels, this is a home of the most photographed fofoti tree, well known among dozens of commercials. If you don’t have a picture of fofoti tree, you pretty much didn’t visit an island. So have your camera ready during your visit!
Baby beach – Has this name for a reason. It’s perfect for families with small kids and all those of you who love to swim far away from the shore, yet touch the sea bottom. This calm lagoon is also very good for snorkeling (as long as you swim a little further). There are complementary huts (not many of them) and a refreshment stand with some snacks, so you may want to get stuck up before you head there.
When is the best time to visit the island?
There is pretty much no best time as the weather is warm and sunny all year round, some would say avoid the rainy season between October and January…well If short showers you consider much of a problem, then let be it…avoid those months.
I would say that if you ask yourself (or your wallet) what type of vacation you are looking for – relaxing without crowds and lower prices of accommodation or pick season with higher prices, you can easily decide when is the best time for you to visit. Be aware that the high season is from mid-December to mid-April.
The greatest news of all is that slice of paradise is just outside of the hurricane belt…so you don’t need to spend days researching on google ‘hurricane season in Aruba”, just because there won’t be one. Your welcome for saving you some time on research!
What to bring with you?
Do not forget to pack loads of swimsuits with you, when you think you packed enough….add a few more! Also, water shoes will come in handy for lots of attractions I’m sure you don’t want to miss, comfortable summer clothes, but also clothing you don’t mind getting dirty (after only one trip to the north coast, you will understand why I’m saying this), snorkeling gear is a must – don’t let ‘Nemo” and his friend wait for you so long, hat and sunscreen lotion (lots of it, as most of the beach areas have very little shade).
Please leave at home your elegant dresses and bow ties so you don’t become a subject of fun, as this is most probably the most relaxing island you will ever visit. There you go, I made you some space for an additional swimsuit or hat – my pleasure!
Where to take ‘instagrammable’ photos with flamingos?
Have you also fallen in love with those pictures of people getting up close with charming pink flamingos on social media and wished to be one of them? Well, you can. Still, it’s good to know that you can do that only if you purchase a day pass and visit one of the two private islands here (De Palm Island and Renaissance Island).
Want to know a secret? This bright pink flock of charming birds is not native to this island and they won’t be everywhere you turn. I’m very happy to share this with you so you don’t get disappointed thinking that walking onto a first beach will give you a dream selfie to share with a world – that was me btw during my first visit!
Things you need to know before visiting Aruba?
- Here, on this happy island, party doesn’t go away with a sunset. Hooray, your bed can wait on you a little longer! From the beach bars, sophisticated cocktail lounges to fun clubs…it’s on you to choose. Even if you are traveling solo, it’s very easy to meet your fellow party lovers.
- Even though Aruba has its own currency, don’t convert US Dollars as they are widely accepted here, in fact, most of the places will have prices listed in dollars. On that note, be aware that prices are a bit higher in restaurants as most of the food has to be imported.
- You may have thought, public restrooms are free everywhere…well, not here. Be ready to have 1$ bills with you, no matter if you are on an organized tour or exploring an island on your own…you got to use a restroom. Also, they aren’t plenty on the island…so when you see one, use a chance as you don’t know when you will bump into another one.
- Aruba is ranked as one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean. Quite possible because most of its residents are middle class and the cost of living offers a more level quality of life here on the island. Of course, like anywhere in the world, you gotta be cautious as you are traveling to a foreign county, but your major worries about safety you can leave at home.
- It’s always windy here. The breeze is quite welcome during mid-day when the temperatures are high, but note that you shouldn’t play a superstar and get into the water to refresh with your sunglasses on, as the wave can easily knock you off and puuuf…goodbye your favorite sunglasses. Good for you, here is that superstar writing this article, so please learn from my mistakes. Commonly, the least windy month is December, and the windiest is July.
It’s not much of a secret that this is one of my favorite islands and I could go on and on about it for days, so let me stop right here. Still, if you have any questions about this tropical paradise, feel free to ask in the comments or get in touch with me on my Instagram.
Have you visited One happy island before? What are some attractions that highlighted your visit? Please drop in a comment and make this post even more valuable for other readers. And hey…I’m planning to go back, so let me know what I have missed during my visits.
Ready to explore other Caribbean Islands too? Don’t miss out on this post: