First Timer’s Guide to Aruba
For our wedding anniversary this year, we decided to go somewhere nearby and by nearby I mean less than a 12 hour flight from Las Vegas. At first, I was looking into Costa Rica or Cartagena but the weather there seemed unpredictable this time of the year. Since we only had 4 days, it came down to either New York City, Canada or the Caribbean. Two of those destinations would require a lot of walking or hiking so ultimately, we settled on the Caribbean.
Most of our trips, including our recent jaunt to Asia, are usually jam packed with activities. I think this time, we wanted something more relaxing.
So why did we choose Aruba?
- The weather is reliable. Aruba is famously known for having an average temperature of 82 degrees year-round. It’s outside the hurricane belt so visiting in the summertime shouldn’t be an issue unlike the other islands in the Caribbean.
- The beaches are gorgeous. From what I’ve seen and heard, Aruba has some of the best beaches in the world.
Things to know before your visit
Location – Aruba is 20 miles long and 6 miles wide. It’s approximately a 3 hour flight from Miami and a mere 15 miles from the coast of Venezuela.
Weather – Like I mentioned earlier, the weather in Aruba is ideal for vacation as its average temperature is 82 degrees year-round. The common misconception about Aruba is that it’s a tropical island. The weather is actually very dry and the surroundings are desert-like, which kind of reminds me of Las Vegas minus the three digit weather. If 82 degrees is still hot for you, don’t worry because there’s a constant breeze (thanks to trade winds) that will keep you cool throughout the day.
When to visit – We visited around first week of June and it wasn’t as crowded as I thought it would be. Best time to visit is anytime between mid April to mid December.
Getting around – Rent a car if you plan to go around the island. Although there is a bus (cleverly named Arubus) that goes around town, it’s way easier to just get a rental and drive on your own. Car rental is pretty cheap. We paid around $77 for 2 days (without insurance as our credit card company covers car rentals). Taxis are also widely available throughout the island. They’re regimented therefore they don’t have any meters so fares are based on destination rather than mileage.
Money Exchange – No need to exchange money during your visit. Most places accept credit cards and American dollars.
Safety – Aruba is considered to be one of the safest countries in the Caribbean so safety wasn’t an issue for us. We would walk to dinner at night and had no problems. But of course, always exercise common precautions. Be aware of your surroundings and do not leave valuables in your car.
Languages – The main languages in Aruba are Papiamento and Dutch but Arubans are multilingual and can speak English and Spanish as well.
Food and Drinks – Tap water is safe to drink. It meets the highest standards of quality according to the World Health Organization. As for the food, it’s surprisingly expensive and not much of a variety.
Wifi Connection – Wifi is available in most establishments. Even some of the public beaches have them. We didn’t need to buy a sim card but we did use one day of travel pass through our cell provider to get around the island. I recommend downloading offline maps through your google map app and save the places you want to go to.
Dress from Fortunate One
Where to Stay
We stayed in Renaissance Aruba located less than 15 minutes from the airport. It’s right at Downtown Oranjestad, which makes it super convenient to go around that area and sightsee. They don’t offer airport shuttles but we booked a package that comes with roundtrip transport to the airport via De Palm Tours ($20 per person). Aside from having the best location in the island, the main reason why we wanted to stay there was because of their famed private island that houses the only two private beaches in Aruba. That alone, made our stay worth it.
Renaissance has two sections: Ocean Suites and Marina Hotel. Ocean Suites caters to families whereas the Marina Hotel is more for adults. We stayed at a corner room in the Ocean Suites and every morning we would wake up to a cool breeze and sweeping views of the ocean right in front of our balcony. If you guys are planning to stay at the Renaissance, I highly suggest staying at the Ocean Suites rather than the Marina because it’s quieter (far away from the main road) and the room views are way better.
Where to Eat
- The Dutch Pancake House
- Linda’s Dutch Pancakes
- Eduardo’s Beach Shack
- West Deck Island Grill
- Hopi Bon Grill
- Pincho’s Bar and Grill
- Yemanja Woodfired Grill
- The Flying Fishbone
Dutch pancakes from The Dutch Pancake House. So yummy! It reminds me of a crepe.
Dinner at Pincho’s Bar and Grill. The view was amazing but sadly, the food was just okay. Go for the view and maybe buy a few drinks!
Things to Do
Spend a day or two relaxing at Renaissance Hotel’s Private Island
If you’re already staying at Renaissance or have a couple hundred bucks to spare, then you must spend a day or two relaxing at their private island. The main draw is the flamingos of course, but I think the beaches are worth the splurge. We spent most of our mornings either laying under the palm trees or enjoying a casual swim at one of their private beaches. Read more about the private island by clicking this link: How to See Flamingos in Aruba.
Book a UTV tour
Every time James and I travel, we try to do something extraordinary or adventurous. This trip was no exception. We went on a UTV tour with De Palm Tours that took us to several sights in Aruba: Natural Pool, Alto Vista Chapel, Natural Bridge & Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins. It was bumpy, dirty and really fun! The tour lasts 4-5 hours and it includes hotel pickup and drop-off, water, snacks and snorkeling gear. My favorite part of our tour is swimming in the natural pool/conchi, where I experienced my first cliff jump! FYI: The snacks provided are granola bars so make sure you grab breakfast before you leave for your tour. Also, make sure you wear clothing/shoes that you don’t really care for because it will get really mucky with dirt and dust.
There are two options for the UTV tour: Andicuri UTV Off-Road ($225 for 2 people) or Natural Pool Off-Road ($275 for two people). We chose the latter because of the option to visit and swim in the natural pool in Arikok National Park. Here’s the link for our tour: UTV TOUR.
Explore Arikok National Park
When I think of the Caribbean, all I could picture in my head were crystal blue waters and white sand beaches with palm trees strewn all over. In Aruba, you get to see those plus more! Arikok National Park covers 20% of the island and contains several unique attractions. Among them are geographical formations (natural bridge, fontein cave, quadirikiri cave) and secluded beaches (boca prins, dos playa, natural pool). You can hike inside the park although it is recommended to visit in a 4WD vehicle instead due to the rocky terrain. The park is open Monday-Sunday from 8 am till 4 pm. Entrance is $11 per person. Visit their official website for more info: Guest information.
Swimming at the natural pool
Go beach hopping
Aruba is home to some of the best beaches in the world. There is an overwhelming amount of beautiful beaches in Aruba so it’s hard to pick a favorite but if I had to choose, I would go with Mangel Halto and Baby Beach. Mangel Halto is a secluded beach located at the south end of the island. Many people favor this beach because of its calm, shallow waters surrounded by a network of mangroves that is perfect for snorkeling and kayaking. Baby Beach is another local favorite that we visited and can be found in San Nicholas, a 23 minute drive from Mangel Halto. It may not be as popular as Eagle Beach or Palm Beach but it’s equally beautiful and mesmerizing.
Here’s a list of the best beaches in Aruba: Eagle Beach, Palm Beach, Arashi Beach, Rogers Beach and Boca Catalina.
Dress from Vici Dolls
Drive around Aruba and visit the California Lighthouse
Since the island is pretty small, it can be easily explored by driving around. We rented a car and drove around the island to sightsee which included a stop at one of Aruba’s famous landmarks, the California Lighthouse named after the S.S. California – a wooden ship that sank nearby in 1891. There’s not much to do around the area but I love that it offers panoramic views of Aruba’s coastline.
Dress from Black Coral
Stroll downtown Oranjestad and go shopping
Since Aruba is part of the Netherlands, you will find traces of dutch culture in the form of colorful dutch buildings in downtown Oranjestad. I’ve never been to Amsterdam so it was a real treat to see this type of architecture in person. Looking for some retail therapy? The streets are lined up with souvenir shops, designer stores and local boutiques filled with crafts and Dutch delicacies.
Shoes from Manebi
From rugged coastlines to secluded beaches, Aruba is the perfect Caribbean escape. I didn’t know what to expect at first but after seeing the island as a whole, we really enjoyed everything the island has to offer and I hope you guys get to experience its beauty too! Bonbini!