Our friend Don from EatSleepCruise.com is back again today, with a look at a great Southern Caribbean port, Aruba. Enjoy!
Aruba is a popular vacation spot welcoming over half a million cruise ship passengers each year. Many popular cruise lines have itineraries that visit Aruba, including Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas.
Located just 15 miles north of Venezuela, this Southern Caribbean island is truly one of a kind. Measuring only about 6 miles wide and about 20 miles long, you can see much of the island in a single visit.
Recently, we sailed on Adventure of the Seas, and our itinerary was altered resulting in an impromptu stop at this “one happy island”. After spending a full day exploring the island, we are already looking to return on another cruise.
If you want to know why we are so eager to get back to Aruba, our Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Aruba may have you booking your own trip to the island.
Top Ten Reasons to Visit Aruba
10. The Weather
While the Caribbean is known for having great weather, Aruba might just be the ideal vacation spot.
Getting only 18 inches of rain a year and having constant temperatures between 80 and 90 degrees, you are almost guaranteed perfect weather.
Situated just 12 degrees north of the Equator, the island is located south of the hurricane belt, and only rarely experiences the effects of tropical storms. In addition, the favorable trade winds make the feel-like temperatures tolerable; so, as long as you wear plenty of sunscreen, you can enjoy a full day in the sun.
9. The Stunning Views
While there is plenty to do while on the island, take some time to appreciate the magnificent views from both sides of the island.
In the southeastern Arikok National Park, you can get a bird’s eye view of the island from atop the Arikok Hilltop. If you head to the Casibari Rock Formation, you can reportedly see the coastline of Venezuela on a clear day (which is only 15 miles away).
On the island’s northern tip, you can climb the hillside in the area known as “Hudishibana” to get fantastic views of both the rocky coral shoreline to the east and the white sandy beaches to the west, as well as the Championship Golf Course, the Tierra del Sol.
8. The Hotel District
There’s also plenty of grown-up fun to be had for those who want to escape the beach while in Aruba.
Tons of bars and nightclubs, restaurants, and shopping can be found in the northern hotel district. You will find many familiar retail outlets, international cuisine, and upscale hotels resorts, like the Ritz Carlton Aruba. You can explore this area on foot, do a little shopping, or press your luck at one of the dozens of casinos found in virtually every resort.
You may also want to enjoy a full day of pampering with a day pass, including food and drinks, at the luxurious 5-star Occidental Grand Aruba where you can use the beach, pools, water sports, and other resort facilities.
7. The Historic Sites
Now a Dutch colony, Aruba has a checkered past with its native Indian roots and influences from various European settlers.
Discover this heritage by visiting various historic buildings during your visit to Aruba. Among the locations on your tour, one should be the Alta Vista Chapel, the oldest church on the island dating back to the 1750s.
For more excitement, you can relive the Aruban gold rush of the mid to late 19th century, in which 3 million pounds of gold were excavated from the island, by visiting the Bushirbana Gold Mill Ruins. This 140 year old smelting plant was built to resemble a fortress to ward off pirates.
There is also the famous California Lighthouse. This 100 year old lighthouse was built after a steamship sank off the northern coast of the island and now provides stunning vistas of the surrounding areas.
6. Exquisite Cuisine
Indulge in some of the best restaurants in the Caribbean while you are docked in Aruba.
You can dine in one of the first restaurants to make eating on the beach popular in Aruba, the Flying Fishbone, with its Mediterranean inspired menu. For more adventurous palates, there are several “chef’s table” options providing intimate 4 and 5 course meals at trendy locations like the 2 Fools and a Bull and the popular Carte Blanche, For families, Gostoso offers a casual atmosphere and a menu with traditional Aruban dishes with Portuguese influences.
There is also the well-known La Trattoria El Faro Blanco, located right near the California Lighthouse.
Famous Italian dishes are served in both indoor and outdoor dining rooms offering spectaculars views of the coast and the perfect romantic dinner location.
5. Rock Formations
Unique to Aruba are two Rock Formation sites.
The Casibari Rock Formation, toward the middle of the island, is a cluster of huge tonalite rocks. Appearing to just rise from the ground, you can take the 55 step climb to the top of these boulders for a great photo op. Walking paths also exist around the formation to let visitors wander the adjacent large rocks and other landscapes near the site.
After your trek, you can get a drink at Casibari Café and perhaps listen to some of the live music.
Further east on the island is the Ayo Rock Formation.
These diorite rocks were utilized by the native Arawak people for ceremonies and tribal rituals. Ancient cave paintings and carvings dating back thousands of years can be seen in some of the formations. These large boulders seem like they have been purposely placed next to each other in unique designs. Travelers can transverse this area at their own risk.
4. The Landscape
Unlike your traditional Caribbean islands, with palm trees and lush green vegetation, Aruba offers a quite different landscape. It is mostly a flat, arid, desert with little vegetation.
You will find several species of cacti that have various uses including fences for keeping out livestock, cooking (the tall Kadushi Cactus is used for making soup), and even Christmas decorations. After admiring the cacti, you can let the awe inspiring divi-divi trees be your guide, literally, as the constant eastern breeze has shaped these trees to all point in the southwest direction.
Aruba appears to be one of the few locations in the world where these trees thrive, so make sure your camera is fully charged to capture this unique landscape.
3. The Wildlife
Although they are not native to Aruba, donkeys have played an important role in the Aruban economy for close to 500 years.
With the influx of cars on the island, donkeys were nearing extinction until the 1970s when the non-profit Donkey Sanctuary was founded. Visit the sanctuary to learn more about these animals and help support their preservation.
You can also take time to learn more about the mysterious ostrich at the Ostrich Farm on the eastern coast. Interact with over 80 ostriches and emus as guides provide details about the largest living bird species on earth.
Or, you can explore the Butterfly Farm in Aruba, providing you the opportunity to view 100s of different butterfly and moth species. A guided tour comes included with your admission, and it is recommended that you arrive early when butterflies are more active.
2. Natural Water Attractions
If the natural landscape and rock formations are not tantalizing enough, then Aruba’s famous natural water attractions may have you calling your travel agent.
The most famous of these sites is the island’s Natural Bridge, a 25 foot high and 100 foot long bridge made of coral limestone.
Even though it partially collapsed in 2005, it is still a popular tourist stop and amazing photo opportunity. For more adventurous swimmers, the Natural Pool (or Conchi) in Arikok National Park is surrounded by rigid rocks and offers excellent snorkeling and scuba diving.
The terrain is rocky so getting to this natural pool requires 4X4 transportation or horseback.
1. The Beaches
Many Caribbean islands are known for their beaches, but of all the islands we have visited, Aruba by far has the most pristine beaches of any island in our opinion.
We relaxed on Eagle Beach during our visit, the widest beach on the island. The white sandy beach and crystal clear water was pure paradise!
This public beach is free to all visitors, and you can rent chairs from seaside vendors. On the southern tip of Aruba is the famous Baby Beach, this lagoon beach has shallow water making it the perfect stop for families. The calm waters within the lagoon also provide ample opportunity for snorkelers of all skill levels.
If you like your beach break with a little more energy and excitement, then Palm Beach is your destination. This two mile stretch is adjacent to the hotel district with bars, restaurants, and a variety of water sports.
We have only scratched the surface on things you can do and see while in Aruba, but I’m sure you can already see why we can’t wait to plan another cruise stopping at the island.
Aruba truly has a variety of attractions, entertainment, and Caribbean life making it one of our favorite ports of call. So the only question remaining is “When is MY next trip to Aruba?”.