“Why did you decide to go to Aruba?” or “How did you discover about this island?” Those where the questions I’ve heard the most after coming back from my last holidays in Aruba, especially after posting some pictures about this piece of paradise lost in the middle of the Caribbean sea.
So… first things first. Aruba might not be a very well-known destination (at least in in some European countries), but it is quite popular for travelers from all over the world, especially from US, South America and Netherlands and it has amazing infrastructures for visitors. Don’t forget that Aruba was a cologne of The Netherlands together with Curacao and Bonaire – those three islands are often called ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) and they are part of the Dutch Antilles. In my mind, Aruba has always been connected with the mystic of the Antilles and I knew I wanted to go there… sooner or later.
This year when I decided to go abroad in August for summer holidays, I started my research. Where should I go? I wanted to go overseas and I was thinking about a destination in the Caribbean but end of August might be risky as it is the hurricane and rainy season. That’s when I found that the Dutch Antilles, in the Southern part of the Caribbean next to the Venezuelan coast, are located outside of the “hurricane belt” so the chances to be affected by bad weather are considerably lower – I’ve read Aruba has 5 days of rain per year. It seems quite promising, doesn’t it? On top of that I’ve been wandering about Aruba pictures of secluded beaches with turquoise waters on Instagram and Pinterest… My destination was chosen. And it was the best decision ever to visit “One Happy Island”.
Be aware that Aruba is a small island. It has 20km length from one side of the island to the other. Regardless of its size, it has an impressive number of things to do from beautiful beaches, water sports, and colonial villages to cactus and wild deserted landscapes.
In my trip, I decided to split my time into two different areas of the island. I started my journey in Aruba staying 3 nights in Oranjestad at Renaissance Hotel, owner of Renaissance Private Island with its famous Flamingo Beach (I’ll explain you all about that in my post about Renaissance Island). The rest of my stay was in Holiday Inn at Eagle Beach, one of the most touristic areas, less than 30m drive from the airport.
I loved both locations but Oranjestad and Renaissance Private Island have a special place in my heart.
Oranjestad is Aruba’s capital and it has the charming vibe of a colonial small town with colorful houses and a strong Dutch architecture influence. I totally recommend you to invest a few hours to walk around and to get lost in the small streets that will eventually take you towards the sea.
You will find in Oranjestad some international shops and restaurants, but choose instead the typical ones where you will sense the real Caribbean vibe.
Next to the harbor and the Renaissance Hotel, Marketplace is a great place to go, a small shopping mall and food court with great options for an informal dinner. I liked it so much that I went there several times.
In Aruba you can find all international dining options, but I recommend to try the local cuisine – it’s incredible tasty and yummy! Here you have some good recommendations based not only on my own experience, but also advices from friends that have been there.
Cuba’s Cooking – Great Cuban restaurant located in Oranjestad at the Marketplace hall. They have Cuban live music every night so you can have a tasty dinner with a nice Caribbean mood.
Smokey Joe – Alfresco dining restaurant at the center of Palm Beach. It has an informal atmosphere and great food from huge burgers to smoked meat and typical shrimps with coconuts (my favorite).
Le Petit Café – At a central location in Palm Beach, this cozy restaurant has great meat and seafood cooked on a hot stone
LG Smith’s Steak & Chop House – This fancy restaurant belongs to Renaaissance Hotel at Oranjestad. It’s a bit pricey but it’s worth it every cent. I has the best Wagyu steak ever.
The Lazy Turtle – Hidden gem in the Paseo Herencia Mall at Palm Beach. Food is the tastiest that I had in Aruba and the staff couldn’t be nicer.
Mojito’s – This Typical Cuban spot in Oranjestad has good and affordable meal options and great drinks. It is located in one of the best locations of the city in a typical and colorful Dutch style building in front of the sea.
Bugaloe – Don’t miss this bar in Palm Beach. It is located in a pier by the beach and it’s the perfect bar to have a drink while enjoying the sunset with Caribbean music.
Bar at the Renaissance Hotel – My favorite bar in Aruba. This bar next to the pool has the best views to the Caribbean sea. Enjoy a sunset while having Caribbean or lounge music.
Eduardo’s – The best and healthiest option to grab some food at Palm Beach. It’s in the beach next to Holiday Inn hotel. I had lunch there several times and I specially recommend a vegetarian poke bowl or pitaya and fruits bowl.
Zerover – Informal and affordable restaurant in Savaneta. Located by the sea, you can have the catch of the day. I didn’t go there but some friends recommended it.
Flying fishbone – Amazing spot for dining at the beach with feet on the sand. I also didn’t go there as you have to book it in advance, it is always fully booked.
I know that you probably decided to go to Aruba for the beach but… rent a car and take at least one day exploring the rest of the island. You can always stop along the way and discover some new beaches on the go.
Scenic view from Palm Beach to California Lighthouse
Drive from Palm Beach to California Lighthouse by the coastline and you will have stunning views from the Caribbean Sea. At some point you will see a shipwreck. Stop there and take some pictures, your Instagram feed will thank you. Before you arrive to the lighthouse, stop again and take some time at Arashi Beach, my favorite beach in the island.
California Lighthouse and Sand Dunes
This white lighthouse dominates Aruba’s landscape and it can be seen from far away. You will have beautiful views from the island and around the lighthouse, there are some sand dunes and wild cactus that will make you wonder sometimes if you are not in the middle of the desert.
The southern coast of Aruba is all about pristine sands and incredibly beautiful turquoise waters. But if you explore the northern coast you will probably feel that you are in another island. Rocky and adventurous, it has arid landscapes full of cactus plantations (I understood the reason why aloe vera products are so popular there) and a rough and dark blue sea that contrasts with the southern paradise of Aruba.
If you have a jeep you can travel by the coastline there and admire the wild nature of northern Aruba.
This yellow chapel was built in the exact site of the first Catholic Church in Aruba. It’s at the top of a small hill at the north side of the island. To get there take a road lined with white crosses and cactus everywhere.
From Altavista Chapel continue your journey to the next sight, Bushiribana, the ruins of a former gold smelter. It is located by the sea.
It is also known as Conchi (bowl) and this unique volcanic rock formation creates a natural pool that is one of the most visited attractions in Aruba. I didn’t go there but it seems to be amazing.
This species is the national tree of Aruba and its neighbor Curacao. Apparently its shape is always pointing southwest due to the trade winds. The most famous divi tree is located at Eagle Beach and its one of the most photographed sites of the island.
Arashi Beach – On the road to the California Lighthouse, this is a favorite by locals and I can totally understand why – it was my favorite beach too! With pristine white sands and turquoise waters it looks like a dream come true. It has some facilities as beach huts to rent and a small beach bar for drinks or snacks.
Eagle Beach – Another amazing beach with an unbelievable sea color. The famous Divi Tree with its particular shape is located there. You will want to have a photo there!
Palm Beach – Maybe the most touristic beach at Aruba where most of the big resorts are located. You can find all beach facilities and water sports there. It’s not as amazing as the other beaches I’ve mentioned before but it is beautiful too.
Baby Beach – I didn’t go there but it was also recommended as one of the best beaches in Aruba. It’s in the southern part of the island.
Flamingo Beach – There are no words to describe this small piece of paradise. I have dedicated a post just to this beach at Renaissance Private Island.
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