How to See Flamingos in Aruba
Disclaimer: I want to encourage you guys to do your own research especially when it comes to tourist traps that involves animals. A lot of companies nowadays exploit animals to make a profit and that’s why I try my best to avoid those places. I’m writing this post to share my experience.
Travel tourism is experiencing an all time high thanks to an online platform we all know and love/hate, Instagram. I’m sure by now you all have seen photos of these beautiful birds circling around the app and you have to admit, it got you a bit curious and maybe even envious, right? Part of the reason why I wanted to go to Aruba was to see the insta-famous flamingos up close. How did they get to the island you ask? I tried to read up as much as I can before our trip but most of the articles I read were inconclusive. So here’s what I found..
Where did the flamingos come from?
There are two theories as to how the flamingos got to the island:
- Flamingos are not native to the island and were bought and flown from another country by the hotel. Some people say their wings were clipped so they would remain on the island. Although this process of “clipping wings” isn’t harmful to the birds, they also prevent them from flying away.
- They came on their own 15 years ago and made the island their home. They are not in captivity but rather live in their natural habitat in the mangroves on the island. Some actually have flown away which is why there are only few of them left (6 total).
Where are they located
The flamingos can only be found in Flamingo beach in the Renaissance hotel’s private island, a boat ride away from their property in Oranjestad, Aruba. If you’re hoping to see them everywhere, then sorry to say you won’t find them anywhere else. We drove around Aruba and didn’t see any roaming around.
How to get there
The hotel offers complimentary boat transfers with pickup points at the Renaissance Marina hotel lobby and Renaissance Ocean Suites docking area. You would need your room key (per person) in order to board. It takes about 10-15 minutes to get to the private island.
How to see the flamingos
Guests of the Renaissance have free access to the island, anytime during opening hours (7 am- 7 pm, daily). If you’re not a hotel guest, you can purchase a day pass for $100 at the front desk. However, if the hotel is at full capacity, they will not issue day passes for non-hotel guests. The day pass includes: round trip boat transfer, beach towels, loungers, lunch + drink and 1 hr of non motorized water sports.
Pre-booking day passes is not available. You would need to visit the front desk the day of and ask for availability. If your sole purpose is to see them, then I suggest staying at least one night at the hotel to guarantee a spot. We stayed at the Renaissance for 4 nights which enabled us to visit the island twice.
What else is there to do in the island?
The island has two private beaches: Flamingo beach and Iguana beach. Flamingo beach is mainly for adults but kids can go see the flamingos from 9-10am. Iguana beach on the other hand caters to families and has the only restaurant in the island, Papagayo bar and grill, where they serve breakfast and lunch. Their breakfast is pretty good but I can’t say the same for some of their lunch items. The Iguana beach area also has bathroom and spa facilities, outdoor tennis and gym. Floats, kayaks and paddle boards can be rented in the island for a cheap price. If you want a more private experience, they have cabanas that you can rent out for the whole day.
Since we stayed at the Renaissance, we were able to go to the private island twice. The first time we went, we woke up early and got to the island around 8:30 am. Apparently not early enough because we were already on the second boat and by that time a bunch of people were already on the island. We didn’t read the sign so instead of heading towards the Flamingo beach, we went to Iguana beach instead. 30 minutes passed before we realized we were at the wrong side of the island. After noticing the diminishing crowd behind us and of course, the lack of flamingos, we got up from our loungers and walked towards the other side.
And there they were. Six flamingos just casually frolicking on the beach with a group of people swarming them, each trying to get a selfie with these beautiful birds. It was difficult to get a shot without anyone in it so we waited till everyone grew tired of following them. Finally, we got our chance and I must say, they were quite friendly. Although, there was one flamingo that kept trying to attack me and was obviously not amused by my presence.
I also noticed that they won’t really go near you unless you have food. I forgot to bring my quarters so I just stood in the middle, hoping my husband could get some shots with them in it. After getting my photos out of the way, I sat at one of the loungers and just watched them continuously get followed by people. Ultimately, I felt bad because some people didn’t know when to stop and kept harassing the flamingos to get their selfies.
The second time we went, we started a bit early and got to the island by 7:15 am. We practically had the whole Flamingo beach to ourselves. I quickly got my quarters out and ran towards the small vending machine to get some food. After feeding them, we took pictures and went on our merry way. Don’t get me wrong, they really are beautiful and it was nice to see them up close. But after a while, the novelty wears off. We ended up spending most of our time at Iguana beach, swimming and lounging under the palm trees.
Is it worth it?
Seeing the flamingos? I’m 50/50 on this. It was such a cool experience getting to hang out with them. On the other hand, I felt bad at how some people were harassing the birds to get their selfies. I wanted to tell them that there are other things you can do in the island, aside from following the flamingos all day long. Some people were pretty good about interacting with them though. They gave the flamingos their space and only took pictures when approached.
Spending the day in the private island? Personally, I think it’s worth it. The hotel limits the amount of people that can go to the island so it doesn’t get crowded. Some of the public beaches we went to were packed and the companies operating on the beach, charge for everything – from the loungers/chairs to beach umbrellas. At the hotel’s private island, all are part of the package. Plus it also has a full functioning restaurant and bar plus clean restroom facilities. If money is no object for you when on vacation, then I say go for it! But if you’re more of a budget traveler then skip this and head to one of Aruba’s public beaches instead.
PLEASE be respectful and don’t touch the flamingos. If they walk away, just let them be and don’t follow them around or harass them. Chances are they will come back on their own, which they did for us eventually.
What do you guys think? Would you spend a day at the Renaissance private island to see the flamingos?
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OMG seeing these flamingos in real life would be a dream! total pink addict here! Thank you for sharing these tips 🙂
Janna C. says
It was pretty cool seeing them up close but after awhile the novelty of it all wears off. I would still visit just to relax at the beach!
I dont think seeing 6 flamingoes would be worth my time to go to this island. I am completely put off by the idea of people wanting selfies with these birds! The island looks pristine and I might do it just to have a relaxed day there. Hoping to see flamingoes in Ngorongoro Crater in Africa someday!
Janna C. says
I completely understand your take on this. I visited Aruba to see the island as a whole but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that part of it was because of the flamingos. Like I said on the post, the island itself is really nice and I’d go back just to go relax and have a nice beach day. Africa is my ultimate dream too! Hope to go someday.
I’ll be honest, I struggle with anywhere that artificially feeds the wildlife, as it keeps them at the mercy of humans. But I appreciate your frankness and balanced discussion of flamingo tourism. The private island is definitely a drawcard, even just for the quiet and privacy – getting a photo (from afar) of the flamingos would just be a bonus for me!
Janna C. says
Thank you Hannah for being honest and sharing your thoughts about this. I kinda struggled too on whether I should write this post because I know people will read this and question why I would promote artificial feeding of wildlife or tourist traps. I tried to research as much as I can before visiting this place and couldn’t really find anything but theories. The reason I posted this is so I can share my experience and also remind people who will visit and see the flamingos regardless, to be respectful and not harass the flamingos. The private island was definitely a must for us especially since it was our wedding anniversary and wanted a more relaxed vacation than our usual.
laughing here at ‘the money shot’ – it really is quite stunning so your husband did a good job! I had no idea you could see flamingoes in Aruba – and in such a picturesque setting. as a private island – a real coup for the Renaissance – I’d definitely want to stay there so I could spend a day on the island
Janna C. says
I had no idea either! I saw them on Instagram and was intrigued but I was a bit skeptical about how the flamingos are being treated. I would totally recommend the island just for some major R&R but I’m still 50-50 about the flamingos until I know for sure if they are being kept there as a tourist trap or not.
How fun! I have always wanted to visit the Flamingos and Aruba! I never knew there were only 6 of them though, how interesting! I’d love to see the iguana island as well that sounds fun too! Great photos btw !
Janna C. says
Yeah there’s only 6 but supposedly there were more of them but they migrated somewhere else. Who knows for sure but it was definitely cool to see them up close. Thanks Layla!
I just returned from my second trip to Aruba and both times I spent one night at the Renaissance to have access to their private beach. The flamingos are a bonus. The iguanas roam freely in between both sections of the island and they seem very “healthy” lol, probably from eating people’s leftovers. What I loved about the Island was that it wasn’t just the two beaches; as mentioned above, there are tennis courts and a gym, plus two bars and one main restaurant. There are also walking trails. The island is meticulously maintained. However, I would not pay 125 for a day pass if I was not a guest at the Renaissance. To me, it would not be worth it. You can book a room at the Renaissance for as low as $250 (from what I’ve seen) for two people and that includes access to three pools and many other restaurants.
Janna C. says
Hi Christina, thank you for sharing your experience! I agree with what you said. I think seeing the flamingos are a bonus and regardless if they’re there or not, I would still visit the private island if I was a guest at the Renaissance. The beach is well maintained and the area is very clean. The restaurant and bathrooms were well managed and they have several amenities (tennis courts and gym) that can be enjoyed as well.
it’s really nice to see the flamingos in Aruba and I think it’s just worth it. But also, I agree with the point that some people could harass these beautiful creatures just for the sake of selfies. Though, this is truly a stunning experience for you. Waking up early to catch them and being surrounded by gorgeous islands and beaches. Something that I would also love to do!
Janna C. says
I heard that they have wild flamingos in Bonaire! Wish I knew that before I visited but regardless, Aruba is so nice and I loved the beaches. The private island is so well kept that I definitely enjoyed our time there. I’m sure you’ll love Aruba too
I saw many photos f the Island on IG. Your husband did a good job of taking photos. Your photos are so pretty. Unfortunately, harassing animals for taking photos is a case in many places even when they are wild. I hope people learn to be more respectful to them 🙂
Janna C. says
Thanks so much! He was very patient. And yes I agree, unfortunately even in the wild people will find ways to take pics and harass animals. We should all remember to be respectful to them.
You’re right…it is sad to see people troubling birds and animals to take selfies. Why can’t we just observe them from a distance and enjoy the experience instead. Those birds are so delicate and pretty!
Janna C. says
They are so delicate and pretty! They actually will come near you even though you’re just standing there which in our case happened that’s why we got so many photos near them.
I can’t believe that the flamingos come up so close to you. What a stunning spot to see them, on a tropical island. Great job with the photos as well. I would definitely want to stay at the Renaissance to spend the day on the island.
Janna C. says
Yeah some of them would walk around but not everyone would come near so that rare photo of me with all of them was pretty cool. The island itself is pretty nice so I would recommend it with or without the flamingos. 🙂
Sandy N Vyjay says
The flamingoes look so graceful and nice. I hope they restrict the footfalls to the Flaming island. I am sure if the number of visitors are more and there is a scramble for getting pictures, the flamingoes will be traumatized. This does not bode well in the long term. The two beaches look awesome, like a slice of paradise. Nice place to visit, hope some restrictions are imposed like watching the flamingoes from a distance.
Emma Lewis says
I believe their wings are clipped, so they cannot fly away. I am happy seeing truly wild flamingoes, even if from a distance, as I did a few days ago in Jamaica.
Janna C. says
I hope that’s not the case! I keep hearing conflicting stories/theories. One blogger spoke to the hotel management and they said that they didn’t clip their wings so idk what to believe.
And that’s amazing! Where in Jamaica exactly?
Did the flamingos go on their own even tho they are not native or were they brought there ? I am confused