Aruba is the most westerly and smallest of the ABC islands. Despite its limited size, the beautiful island has a lot to offer for people of all ages! Just like the nearby islands of Curaçao and Bonaire, Aruba has a wild, rocky north-eastern coast and a calm south-western coast with white sandy beaches and a turquoise, warm water world. The island is arid and quite flat with some hills, of which the Jamanota at 188 metres’ altitude is the highest.
What to see and do in Aruba
Most tourists visit Aruba because of its wonderful climate and its pearly white sandy beaches. But the island has so much more to offer. Below we give you an overview of what’s going on.
Hiking in Arikok National Park
The Arikok National Park consists of lava, quartz diamond and limestone formations that have played a central role in the history of Aruba. In the park, which covers more than 34 square kilometres, you’ll find rare, native animals, tree and plant species, as well as caves and even Indian cave paintings.
In the park you can go on various walks, accompanied or not. There are nine in total. Some very nice hikes are those from Plantage Prins to Dos Playa, and the ascent of the Jamanota. In addition, there are many opportunities for mountain biking. Moreover, parts of the park have to done by car. You need a 4×4 for this. If you do go on foot, take plenty of drinking water and sunscreen with you because you have little shelter in the warm sun. More information about the Arikok National Park.
There are two beautiful golf courses on Aruba: The Links at Divi Aruba and Tierra del Sol. We visited them both and enjoyed them a lot. Read our blog on golf destination Aruba!
Tierra del Sol Aruba
On the Tierra del Sol site there is an 18-hole golf course where golfers of all levels are challenged by the elements of wind, sea and earth. The Left-Golf course, located in the north-western tip of Aruba, offers beautiful views of the golf course itself, the lighthouse and the Caribbean Sea. It is often played on by cruise tourists. In addition to a golf course, there is a luxurious resort too.
The Links at Divi Aruba
The Links at Divi Aruba in Eagle Beach is a 9-hole course with a beautiful view of the sea. There are beautifully landscaped lagoons where you often have to hit shots over the water. The nine holes are around an island with beautiful holiday villas. Although it is a public course, guests of the Divi Resort and members have priority.
Although Bonaire has the healthiest dive sites in the ABC islands and also enjoys the best reputation among divers, Aruba also has very nice dive sites to offer! Aruba is the island where you must dive if you like wrecks. One of the most famous wrecks in Aruba is the Antilla. With a length of 130 metres, this wreck from 1939 is also the largest shipwreck in the Caribbean. Another wreck that is definitely worth a visit is that of the Sea Jane, a 75-metre-long cargo ship that was deliberately sunk in 1988.
Unlike Bonaire, the majority of the 31 dive sites on Aruba can only be reached by boat. In total there are 5 dive sites that can also be reached from the shore, namely Baby Beach and Santana di Cacho at St. Nicolaas in the southeast, Natural Bridge in the north, and Mangel Halto and The Palm Slope just south of Oranjestad.
Enjoying water sports on the beaches of Aruba
On Aruba there are over 20 beautiful, white sandy beaches, some even more beautiful (but often busier!) than others. Most of the beaches are located on the south or west side of the island. Here you can relax and swim. Some such as Hadicurari Beach and the beautiful Eagle Beach also offer windsurfing and kite surfing.
The beaches on the north or east side usually offer less good swimming conditions, but you can surf and kitesurf there. One of those beaches is Boca Grandi, which is considered by the real experts to be one of the best kitesurfing locations in Aruba or even in the Caribbean. For us as non-kitesurfers, this bay is a great place to visit anyway, if only to see the advanced kitesurfers do spectacular jumps.
A nice evening activity in Aruba is a pub crawl with the Kukoo Kunuku bus. This bus will pick you up at your hotel around 6 pm. While enjoying a glass of champagne, the bus will take you to the Casibari Grill, where besides dinner a drink is also included. Then the bus will take you to a total of three bars. At each stop you get one drink for free. The Kukoo Kunuku also has other, more culinary excursions on the programme. More information about Kukoo Kunuku.
Climbing the Hooiberg
De Hooiberg is a 165-metre high mountain in the middle of the island that can be seen from almost everywhere on Aruba. If you are in good shape for hiking, climb the 561 steps at around eight or nine in the morning. You will be treated to a fantastic view of the island and even the coast of Venezuela. In our separate blog we answer all your possible (practical) questions.
Mountain biking in Aruba
On Aruba, 350 kilometres of mountain bike routes have been constructed. Enough possibilities to explore the beautiful nature of the island in a sporty way. Most of these routes are located on the rugged north side of Aruba.
You can choose to go on your own or to join an organised tour. Accompanied by an experienced guide brings the advantage that the guide knows the route and the sights along the route like the back of his or her hand.
There are several mountain bike rental companies on the island. Often you can also go to your own hotel or resort for a rental bike. You can rent an MTB at Tri-bike Aruba or Aruba Active Vacations, for example. Here you can also go for mountain bike routes. If you’re going to spend a part of the day on a mountain bike, put on your sunscreen even on cloudy days and take plenty of drinking water with you in a water bottle!
By the way, if mountain biking in the tropical heat is a bit too sporty for you, consider renting an e-bike. It’s so comfortable and it’s possible to explore large parts of the island by bike.
Over thousands of years, wild waves and strong winds have created a total of seven natural bridges in the limestone cliffs on the north side of the island. The original, largest bridge that most people mean when they talk about the natural bridge, collapsed in 2005. That bridge caused a lot of debris in the bay and is still a tourist attraction. Nearby, however, is a smaller bridge that is still intact.
City walk through artistic San Nicolas
In the south-east of Aruba is San Nicolas, also called the Street Art Capital of the Caribbean. It is the second largest city on the island after Oranjestad but with the charm of a small, authentic Caribbean fishing village. San Nicolas is often (unintentionally) skipped by tourists. Completely unjustified in our opinion as the little town and its immediate surroundings have a lot to offer. One of the highlights is a city walk along the many, exquisite murals. Read our blog to find out why this highlight should not be missed.
Natural Pool (Conchi)
In the Arikok National Park on the north side of the island, a natural pool in the shape of a bowl (‘conchi’ in Papiamento) lies sheltered from the rough sea. The water in the natural pool is fed through narrow openings in the volcanic rock with crystal clear sea water. Bathing in it is a great experience because you can safely be sheltered in calm water and witness the fierce, often high waves that pound on the coast nearby.
The pool can be reached via a natural staircase. This is also the only safe way to get in and out of the water! Take a snorkel and goggles with you when swimming because there is a lot of life under the sea.
You will have to make an effort to get to your destination. The swimming spot is located in a far corner of the park which you can only get to by 4×4, on foot or on horseback. Another option is to join an organised jeep safari.
On the most north-western part of the island, near Hudishibana, you’ll find the California lighthouse, one of Aruba’s three old lighthouses. The 30-metre-high lighthouse is named after the steamship California that was shipwrecked in the immediate vicinity at the end of the 19th century.
At the lighthouse you have a fantastic view over the Caribbean Sea, the Tierra del Sol golf course and Oranjestad. It is also possible to visit the lighthouse and climb up the stairs. There is now a restaurant in the former lighthouse keeper’s house.
Practical matters for a visit to Aruba
Moving around on the island
Aruba is easy to explore by car, bus or on foot. As a tourist it is not really necessary to rent a car because many restaurants, beaches and shopping streets are within walking distance of most hotels around Oranjestad. Otherwise, you can always take a taxi. The main sights can also be reached by bus. See the bus routes of Arubus.
If you come there as a diver then renting a car really makes sense because there are also five dive sites on the island that can be reached on foot from the shore.
Accommodation in Aruba
Aruba has a lot of accommodation to offer, ranging from hotels in the centre or on the beach, to apartments, villas and luxury resorts. Most of the accommodation is located in the northwest around
Palm-Eagle Beach. If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, consider one of the beautiful hotels and resorts in the southeast around Saint Nicholas or Savaneta.