Aruba Holiday Planning Guide
A Dutch outpost in the Caribbean, sun-drenched Aruba provides a mix of modern seaside resorts and quiet coastal areas ideal for those wishing to escape the crowds. Vacations in Aruba, known affectionately as the "Happy Island," generally combine water-based activities with tours of the untamed backcountry, where you can discover unusual rock formations, historic churches, ostrich farms, and animal sanctuaries. Island capital Oranjestad offers some of the finest shopping and cultural sightseeing in Aruba, with an eco-friendly electric streetcar providing quick access to all of the city's major attractions, including numerous shops, restaurants, and hotels.
Places to Visit in Aruba
Cities in ArubaOranjestad
: Named after King William of the Netherlands, the capital offers classic Aruba sightseeing with its colorful colonial buildings, luxury shopping, plus island resorts and white-sand beaches.Palm - Eagle Beach
: Clean sand and turquoise water set the scene for relaxation or the thrill of water sports. Grab a bike or moped and explore this diving, swimming, and snorkeling paradise.Noord
: The center of Aruba tourism and the most populous town on the island, Noord offers cultural insight to the history of the nation, plus adventures to hidden coves and fascinating geological features.San Nicolas
: This "Sunrise City" boasts a thriving nightlife, various restaurants, and an art gallery; its weekly Caribbean carnival adds even more colors to an already joyful town.Savaneta
: The former capital and now a village with a story to tell, Savaneta was the landing site of the first Dutch colonists. Have a drink in a bar right next to the oldest home in Aruba.
Popular Aruba Tourist AttractionsEagle Beach
: Grab a drink and watch several different breeds of turtle on Aruba's widest beach. Sunbathe, relax under an umbrella, or participate in numerous water activities.Palm Beach
: Walk the boardwalk along the white sand coast, or rent a kayak, paddleboard, or jet-ski. Boat rentals offer the chance to spot exotic marine animals living just offshore.Natural Pool
: Separated from the ocean and accessible on foot only, the Natural Pool lies encircled by rugged volcanic rocks, and makes a perfect secluded spot to add to your Aruba itinerary.Baby Beach
: Rustic huts and snack stands surround this calm lagoon, whose lengthy shallows suit kids and beginner swimmers perfectly. California Lighthouse
: Named after a crashed ship, this lighthouse provides scenic views over the island, glittering sand, and golf courses. Come in late afternoon for scenic sunsets, and some of the best views of your holiday in Aruba.De Palm Island
: Kids will thoroughly enjoy water slides, snorkeling, and ziplines in this water park, while the lagoon's schools of fish will delight all ages.Arashi Beach
: One of Aruba's snorkeling hubs, Arashi Beach gives you access to the marine life of the nearby waters, including numerous turtles and fish.Butterfly Farm
: Enter the world of flowers and butterflies at this farm, home to many exotic species. Wear bright colors when you visit this tropical, isolated environment, and the beautiful animals will approach you themselves.Stellaris Casino
: Test your luck at this large casino, featuring numerous games, friendly staff, and a playful ambience. Alhambra Casino
: With a great variety of slot machines and card tables, plus friendly, professional hosts, this casino offers daily promotions and complimentary drinks.
Planning an Aruba Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Aruba with Kids
An Aruba vacation seems tailor-made for families with children, as the island prioritizes fun and safety wherever you go. Oranjestad
borders on plenty of beaches suitable for children of all ages, plus inviting water parks where kids can have fun and spend their energy. The area of Noord
is something of a big zoo, with numerous animal reserves and farms that spark curiosity, along with exploration trips into valleys with intriguing geological formations. Except for the casinos and extreme sports activities, nearly everywhere you go on a trip to Aruba will cater to your young ones, with age-appropriate activities and basic facilities within walking distance.
Things to Do in Aruba with Kids
Aruba tourism really focuses on families, so you'll have plenty of things to do during your stay on the island. Go swimming along colorful fish at Boca Catalina
, participate in beach sports
such as volleyball, or look for exotic ocean life on a boat tour from Palm Beach
. Let the kids work off some energy at Aruba's water parks, such as De Palm Island
, which combines the natural surroundings with slides, rides, and banana boats. Introduce your children to the island's exotic flowers and butterflies
, lovable donkeys
, and the largest flightless bird in the world
. If looking for a place to teach your children to swim, or gather more experience before tackling deeper waters, head to Baby Beach
, a perfect place for young swimmers.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Aruba
Health, security, and convenience are of primary concern for Aruba's tourism infrastructure. Most of the hotels and accommodation facilities take part in a program designed for visiting families, providing free lodging and a free meal for children under 13 who stay with an adult in a room. Apart from that, most of the hotels and resorts have programs and areas designated for children, with amusement rides, arcade games, and toy centers at their disposal. Those concerned about water safety will be happy to know that you don't need to buy bottled water in Aruba: the nation's tap water meets the highest quality standards in the world.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Aruba
Cuisine of Aruba
With numerous cultures under one nation, Aruba's cuisine borrows from South America, Europe, and other islands of the Caribbean. On your Aruba vacation, you'll encounter dishes heavily influenced by Dutch merchants, Spanish colonial powers, and American Indians. Have a taste of bami (noodles with meat) and nasi goreng rice (fried rice). Dutch pea soup and saté with peanut sauce (skewered grilled meat served with a dipping sauce) remain tourist favorites, and for sweet-lovers the Aruban thin pancakes are a must. Of course, fresh seafood features strongly in local cuisine, including barracuda, mahi-mahi, and red snapper. You'll find these dishes in restaurants across the island.
Shopping in Aruba
Aruba boasts lots of shopping options for a small island nation. Numerous malls and shopping centers attract visitors with luxury goods and brand names: Renaissance Mall
in Oranjestad draws scores of tourists fresh off their cruise ships, while Palm Beach Plaza Mall
in Eagle Beach impresses with its opulent design. Use your trip to Aruba to purchase Dutch porcelain, chocolate, and Gouda cheese, or splurge on French fragrances, German and Japanese electronics, and European crystals--all at attractive prices. No matter where you stay, almost every hotel and resort in Aruba has a gift and specialty shop of its own or within walking distance.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Aruba
Interesting Facts About Aruba
● Alonso de Ojeda was the first European to set foot on the island in 1499.
● Four countries, including Aruba, form the kingdom of The Netherlands; the others are The Netherlands itself, Curacao, and Sint Maarten.
● Commissioned in 1798 to protect the island from pirates, Fort Zoutman
is the oldest building in Aruba.
● Aruba is home to one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world, with more than 90 nationalities and ethnic groups.
● Aruba's sands are feet-friendly, even at high noon. The shell and coral composition of the fine, white beaches maintains the temperature of the sand, even under the most intense sun. Footwear optional!
Things You Should NOT Do in Aruba
Do not pay with local florins--locals generally prefer American dollars, which circulate more easily. When in line at fast-food eateries and other facilities, wait for a signal to approach the counter; walking up yourself is considered rude. Expect to meet plenty of iguanas during your Aruba holiday: these friendly creatures don't fear humans, so return the favor and treat them with respect, instructing kids to do the same. When interacting with the locals, don't assume everybody knows English or Spanish. Try to learn some of the local language, Papiamento, which will endear you to the local population.
Holidays & Festivals in Aruba
The festive people of Aruba have numerous holidays and generally like to celebrate. New Year's Eve falls at the peak of the tourist season, and involves lots pagara, or Chinese firecrackers, which keep away evil spirits, followed by midnight fireworks that continue well into the wee hours. Celebratory songs, yellow and red dresses, and traditional dances mark Dera Gai, or the "burying of the rooster" festival. Preparations for the Great Carnival begin in Aruba at 11:11 a.m. on November 11, which continues into the new year with costumed parades, extravagant displays, and plenty of dancing.
Useful Aruba Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Aruba
Throughout your Aruba vacation you may hear several languages spoken by the locals, including officially recognized Dutch, as well as English, Spanish, and French. Also, almost everybody here speaks the local language, Papiamento, as a native tongue. Several useful phrases in this language can go a long way, so try to learn at least the basics: "bon dia" or "halo" (hello); "ajo," "te aworo," or "te otro biaha" (goodbye); "por fabor" (please); and "(masha) danki" (thank you). You'll hear the ubiquitous "bon bini" (welcome) throughout your tour of Aruba, and you can wish someone a pleasant day with "pasa bon dia."
Climate of Aruba
The people of Aruba have little use for weather forecasts, as the weather rarely seems to vary from its warm and sunny disposition. The average annual rainfall below 50 cm (20 in), location outside the hurricane region, and cooling trade winds make Aruba one of the most temperate islands in the whole Caribbean. As differences in temperature amount to just a couple of degrees above or below the average 28 C (82 F), you can take your holiday in Aruba any time of year. Note that sea temperature is at its warmest--29 C (84 F)--from September through November, while in February and March it dips to 26 C (79 F).
Transportation in Aruba
Unless you plan to spend your entire Aruba vacation in the confines of your resort, renting a car will help you get around during your stay. Several quality, reliable rent-a-car agencies operate at the airport. That said, you don't need a car to enjoy your Aruba sightseeing. The affordable and comfortable local bus system, Arubus, has stops right next to virtually every attraction. Beyond that, taxi services have government-fixed fares, and provide yet another safe means of getting to and fro on the island.
Tipping in Aruba
Most of the restaurants and hotels in Aruba add a fixed service charge (around 15 percent) to your bill. If you deem the service to be especially good, you may add another 5-10 percent to your server. In restaurants without automatically charged service, a tip of 15-20 percent is considered fair. In hotels, leave up to 2 dollars per day to housekeeping and 2 dollars per bag to porters. Taxis have prearranged, government-set rates, and drivers will gladly accept tips of 10-15 percent of the fare, especially after long night drives. Remember to leave gratuity in US dollars.