The Ultimate Local’s Guide to Aruba

Aruba Trip Planning

The Ultimate Local’s Guide to Aruba

Aruba, Aruba Restaurants, Things to do in Aruba, What's going on in Aruba?

There’s never a bad time of year to pack your bags and make your way to Aruba. Known as the “One Happy Island,” Aruba is a bright, welcoming, and wonderfully refreshing vacation destination to enjoy whether you’re excited to make the most of the beaches or your plans include as much time as possible in the tantalizing turquoise waters. Life here is laid-back and relaxing, and visitors are invited to embrace the best of island life from the moment they arrive.

Located on the Southern end of the Caribbean Sea off the coast of South America, Aruba is a place where Dutch heritage and Caribbean culture have fused into an entirely unique experience. In total, there are more than 90 nationalities represented across Aruba which is even more impressive when you consider the island’s compact and idyllic dimensions. A mix of languages, cultures, flavors, and options for fun make Aruba a place with plenty of reasons to return time and again. As suitable for sun seekers as it is for on-the-water enthusiasts, Aruba has something for everyone to enjoy. Consider this your ultimate guide to Aruba trip planning the next time you have at least three days to spare in the name of vacation fun!

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Getting to Aruba with Ease

Before you even land in Aruba, you’ll find this Dutch Caribbean island is a breeze to reach from just about anywhere in the world. The travel experience heading to Aruba is often particularly stress-free because the island is located outside of the hurricane belt. This means the island not only experiences great weather year-round but there are far fewer chances of travel disruptions here due to weather. When you’re making plans to fly to Aruba, you’ll want to book your tickets for a final destination at the Queen Beatrix International Airport. There is a long list of nonstop and single-connection flights into the airport from major U.S. cities as well as hubs around the globe. If you’re an American, Caribbean, Canadian, European, or South American citizen, you won’t need a visa to enter Aruba, but you will need a valid passport in hand. You’ll also need to fill out an embarkation-disembarkation card online before you travel, and once that’s done, you’ll be well on your way to island fun, relaxation, and adventure.

Getting Around Once You’re Here

Once you’ve landed in Aruba, you’ll find renting a car from the airport is an easy and inviting option. Aruba may not be a large island, but having a rental car available helps travelers customize their time sightseeing and exploring with more ease. You can even utilize shuttle services to and from the airport.

If you prefer to leave a rental car out of the equation, there are plenty of taxis and buses you can utilize across the island, particularly if you’re staying in downtown Oranjestad, near Palm Beach or the Eagle Beach areas. The public buses across Aruba are air-conditioned and conveniently accept both the Aruban Florin and the U.S. dollar.

Inside of a public bus

If you’re looking to slow things down, there are always options to rent a bike when you’re here and pedal your way to sightseeing fun instead. Aruba is home to a network of paved paths that showcase spectacular scenery so no matter where you end up staying, you’ll have routes to get you where you’re going. Both Green Bike and Bixi Bike are convenient rental companies on the island to consider booking through.

If you’re spending time in downtown Oranjestad, don’t overlook the free eco-trolley that offers hop-on hop-off options for sightseeing and is easily accessible down by the cruise ship terminal.

What to Pack

The beauty of Aruba trip planning is that the weather here is fairly consistent and sunny year-round. That means you don’t have to worry about packing parks or heavy apparel, but instead, can keep things light, breezy, and conveniently layered. No matter what’s on your itinerary, be sure you have sandals, swimwear, eco-friendly sunscreen, and a wide-brimmed hat on the packing list. At least one pair of long pants is recommended for more off-beat adventures like ATV tours through the rugged terrain of places like Arikok National Park. Aruba is also packed with amazing fine dining destinations to check out so it’s a good idea to make sure you have some evening wear on hand as well. Packing a combination of cash, credit cards, and even travelers’ checks is ideal for making the most of your purchase across the island.

Person holding two suitcases

Day 1

The very first day of your three-day stay in Aruba should most definitely begin with quality time on the sand. After a hearty breakfast in the comfort of your luxurious vacation rental, head over to Eagle Beach on the west side of the island to enjoy time with your toes dug into the shoreline. This picturesque stop is a great family-friendly destination where you can lounge under an umbrella at your own preferred pace or spend time paddling around on a kayak. It’s a great place to enjoy some SUP yoga if you’re looking to begin things on a balanced note while nature photographers will love this beach for the fact it’s home to the iconic and undeniably unique Divi Divi tree.

Once you’ve taken all of your landscape photographs and had time in the sun, take the opportunity to make your way to Boca Grandi which is another stretch of the Aruban shoreline that’s known for its great kiteboarding conditions! If you’re experienced on a kiteboard, you’re going to love the surf and steady winds. If you’re new to kiteboarding and excited to try for the first time, this is the ideal spot to book a private lesson. Not to worry, there’s plenty of white sand here to enjoy as well for those who are more interested in spectating rather than getting out on the waves.

After lunch, you’ll be making your way to the area of Aruba known as San Nicolas which is often referred to as “Sunrise City.” It’s an artistic part of the island that’s as colorful as it is captivating. Take some time to stroll the area’s five blocks which are brimming over with eye-catching murals. You can spend at least an hour here admiring the depictions of everything from seashells to flamingos that take up two stories of wall space. There are also sculptures dotting the neighborhood that are best enjoyed alongside a guide on a walking tour so you can gain more insight into the artists behind the work. Before you head out, be sure to swing by Charlie’s Bar and Restaurant for a drink and a bite. This eatery dates back to the 1940s and hosts walls filled with old license plates and a menu that features delightful options like sauteed scampi, tenderloin, burgers, and lamb chops.

Dock with palm trees

Booking a late-afternoon Jeep tour is a nice way to end your day exploring the back country roads of the island alongside a knowledgeable and local guide. Many of these tours take you to iconic landmarks across Arikok National Park and offer up opportunities to get views out over the island waves, cliffs and cacti that you might otherwise overlook. When your tour comes to an end, head over to Ruinas Del Mar for dinner. This upscale dining destination was designed aesthetically around the concept of the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins on the island and your dinner comes paired with access to a rooftop garden, waterfalls, and a koi lagoon. It’s a wonderful place to order up Caribbean and seafood specialty dishes as well as steaks and Italian fare. Don’t overlook their impressive global wine list as well as the beer options and handcrafted cocktails to top off your evening in style. If you drop by on a Tuesday through Saturday, you’ll be treated to live musical entertainment here as well.

Day 2

The second day of your beautiful island getaway takes you to vibrant Palm Beach. In many ways, this is a central hub for shopping, dining, beach hopping, and overall energy in Aruba. Not only is the beach beautiful and fun, but it’s a great starting point for accessing area nightlife as well if you linger past sunset. Here, there’s a good chance you can start your day with a game of beach volleyball or spend time in the waves cooling off while others surf nearby. If you do happen to be a surf enthusiast, make sure to follow up your Palm Beach morning with time at Arashi Beach too. This is a mecca for surfers in the area and a prime place for snorkeling as well thanks to the many offshore wrecks and coral reefs.

Once you’ve spent enough time on the waves, it’s time to explore underwater with a submarine tour booked through the team at Atlantis Submarine Expeditions. Headquartered in Oranjestad, this company specializes in taking passengers 130 feet below the waves of the Caribbean Sea and exploring in a submarine for no less than 90 minutes at a time. This could be the highlight of your stay if you’re looking for truly unique experiences. Along the way to your final depth, there’s a good chance you’ll spot sea turtles, and barracudas out the viewing windows. This is also an opportunity to set your sights on the Antilla, which was a World War II German freighter that sank back in the 1940s.

Yellow submarine

When you resurface, you’ll be in the perfect place to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the colorful Dutch architecture, fantastic food, shopping, and museums that make up the greater Oranjestad area. The island’s capital is booming and vibrant, giving visitors plenty of reason to linger longer than they originally planned. Here, you’ll enjoy easy access to jewelry shops, luxury boutiques, and duty-free stores as well when you’re looking to stretch your vacation dollars. If cravings come calling, there are several places in the area that serve up Pan Bati. This local pancake is often paired with seafood and is best washed down with a Balashi beer. Order up a Pstechi to end your tour on tasty note, as this pastry is packed with fried cheese.

This evening, enjoy a Parisian-inspired dinner at Papillon Restaurant. Here, the authentic French fare can be enjoyed on a beautiful outdoor terrace. Whether you go with the poulet Dijon, the wild boar, or the filet mignon, you’ll want to pair it with a French wine off their impressive list. Count on enjoying live music each night starting at 5:00 pm when the restaurant opens for dinner service.

Day 3

The last day of your Aruba adventure takes you to Baby Beach bright and early to round out your beach hopping experience on the island. This is a place where you’re likely to run into locals thanks to the shoreline’s pristine tranquility and warm waters that are protected by the bay. It’s a popular spot for families to enjoy because the gentle surf makes it a wonderful option for little ones who are looking to splash and swim. Heading to the beach early is important because once you’ve had a chance to spend time on the sand, you’ll be heading over to see the iconic flamingos on De Palm Island. Make your way to the dock that’s just 10 minutes from Oranjestad for a quick boat ride over to the island. Here, you’re in for a day of fun thanks to the many banana boat rides, waterslides, and beach cabanas you’ll find waiting to be enjoyed. Of course, the highlight of this visit for many travelers is the opportunity to see the light pink Chilean flamingos that inhabit the space. Though they average just four feet tall, they make for an impressive and colorful sight against the white sand and blue water.

Two flamingos in water

After a half day of adventure and new discoveries at De Palm Island, it’s time to let your wildlife wonders continue over at the Donkey Sanctuary at Bringamosa. This haven for animals was established back in 1997 and today, it hosts more than 130 donkeys that now have a safe and caring place to call their home on the island. When you drop by, you’ll get to enjoy time with the donkeys and learn more about the protective process that goes into giving these animals a second chance at life.

When evening rolls in, give yourself enough time to get over to the California lighthouse on the north end of Aruba. Dating back to 1914, the lighthouse has long played an important role in maritime safety. It’s also a great place to take pictures, connect with history, and of course, climb up to the observation deck for great views. Your strategic sunset timeframe puts you in a prime place to see the colors begin to streak across the sky from a bird’s eye view.

Tonight, toast to a great vacation at Lola Taqueria. Located in the heart of Palm Beach, this eatery is a one-stop shop for authentic Mexican cuisine and it’s attached to the Craft bar so you can easily pair your shrimp tacos with a homemade margarita. The vibe is welcoming and the views are great, making this a place you can linger into the evening hours.

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Book Your Island Escape Today

When you make your way to Aruba, Casiola Aruba has the luxurious accommodations you need to top off your journey in style. Take time to browse our many vacation rental options across the island and enjoy knowing you can easily book your ideal home-away-from-home online at just the touch of a button. We can’t wait to see you in Aruba soon!

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