White sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, swaying palm trees, and a warm welcome from the locals – I’m talking about Aruba, also known as One Happy Island! But there’s so much more to explore here than just the enchanting beaches. Aruba has something for everyone! Join me on a journey of discovery as we explore some of the most unique things to do in Aruba that will make your visit to this ‘One Happy Island’ truly unforgettable!
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Aruba AKA One Happy Island
13 unique things to do in Aruba
1. Relax on the most beautiful beaches of Aruba
Aruba, globally known for its enchanting beaches, offers an unforgettable experience for beach lovers. Palm Beach, the most renowned beach, enjoys its popularity due to its proximity to luxury resorts and abundant recreational activities. Nearby, Eagle Beach shines, acclaimed as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, with its distinctive Divi Divi trees.
The beaches with the most stunning clear blue waters are located in the southeast of the island. Here, Baby Beach and the adjacent, lesser-known Rogers Beach are the absolute eye-catchers. You can relax on the white sandy beaches and marvel at the crystal-clear water!
And I haven’t even mentioned the breathtaking beaches along the rugged east coast of the island, which are part of Arikok National Park. Here, Boka Keto Beach and Dos Playa are must-visit spots.
This is just a glimpse of all the beautiful beaches that make Aruba a true paradise!
2. Explore the underwater world of the island
Aruba offers an abundance of water activities, and the surrounding Caribbean Sea awaits exploration. Embark on an exhilarating boat tour, ride the waves of the azure blue waters, or choose from a variety of adventures. Snorkeling in crystal-clear coves, kayaking along secluded coastlines, and paddleboarding through lush lagoons are just a few of the many adventures waiting for you here. The possibilities are endless for those looking to explore the waters of Aruba.
After a brief journey, you arrive at a deserted pontoon in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. Here, you are equipped with a snorkel and fins before setting off for a short snorkeling session. The snorkeling spots range from 1 to 9 meters deep, showcasing an abundance of beautiful fish and marine life.
For those who have never snorkeled before (like me), this is the perfect opportunity to learn. RJ takes the time to teach you all the ins and outs of snorkeling, guiding you step by step. It’s guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience!
3. Stroll through the colorful streets of San Nicolas
All of this is thanks to the Aruba Art Fair, an annual event since 2016 where artists from around the world and local talents come together to immortalize their artworks on the walls of San Nicolas. Each year brings forth new creations, making the vibrant streets of San Nicolas one of the must-see attractions in Aruba. Wander through the streets and discover your favorite artworks, and don’t forget to visit the local art galleries and shops as well.
4. Explore Arikok National park with a jeep
Arikok National Park is a breathtaking natural area that spans across 18% of the island. This park is a treasure trove of natural beauty, offering a range of unique sights and experiences.
Other highlights include the Guadirikiri Caves and Fontein Caves with their intriguing stalactites and stalagmites, as well as the Bubali Bird Sanctuary, where you can spot rare bird species.
5. Visit Oranjestad
In addition, this lively city is renowned for its exclusive shopping offerings. For designer labels and luxury beachwear, the Renaissance Mall is the place to be. This stunning pink building immediately catches the eye. With its vibrant color and lushly decorated architecture, it almost resembles a theme park. Even if you’re not a shopping enthusiast, it’s an absolute must to stroll through and admire the charming courtyard.
The most iconic landmark in the city is Fort Zoutman, the oldest building on the island, now housing the Historical Museum. Explore the history of Aruba through a historical collection of documents and artifacts from the past, as well as audiovisual programs. There is a permanent exhibition highlighting key events in Aruba’s history, and smaller exhibitions are regularly featured. The Willem III Tower next to the fort, serving as the entrance to the fort today, was built in 1868 and served as both a lighthouse and a clock tower. In 1963, after 95 years, the light in the tower was extinguished. On Tuesdays, the Bon Bini Festival takes place from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM. Stay in the city after your museum visit and celebrate the culture and history of the island.
Explore by tram
One of the most enjoyable ways to explore Oranjestad is by tram, which is completely free. Along the way, you can admire landmarks such as Fort Zoutman, the shops along the main street, and the Parliament Building. If you’d like more information during your visit to Oranjestad, you can also opt for an engaging guided walking tour.
6. Stay at the beautiful Courtyard by Marriott Aruba Resort
If you know me a bit, you’re aware of my emphasis on selecting the perfect accommodation during my vacations. After all, the choice of stay significantly contributes to the overall holiday experience. It’s crucial to opt for accommodation that seamlessly aligns with your travel goals. For this vacation, where adventure and relaxation intertwine, the Courtyard by Marriott Aruba Resort proved to be the ideal home base!
Situated in the vibrant Palm Beach area, the Aruba Courtyard Resort offers the perfect central location. Despite being in the most touristy part of the island, surrounded by other impressive hotels, you won’t experience crowds here. The intimate nature of the resort, with low-rise buildings, various blocks, and beautiful gardens, creates a peaceful oasis among the swaying palm trees.
7. Sunset Yoga on the beach
8. Indulge in a wellness treatment at Sirena Island Spa
9. Climb the Hooiberg and enjoy a spectacular sunset
10. Discover the traces of history on the island
Aruba has a fascinating history marked by various periods of dominance. The traces of this history are still visible on the island, both in its architecture and local culture. As a history enthusiast, the following unique landmarks in Aruba are definitely a must to explore.
Alto Vista chapel
The Alto Vista Chapel, also known as the Pilgrims Chapel, was built in 1750 by Dimingo A. Silvestre and later reconstructed in 1953. This yellow chapel marks the beginning of the Catholic faith on the island. Surrounded by a winding road with white crosses symbolizing the Stations of the Cross, this place offers a unique experience of tranquility and reflection amid the beautiful natural surroundings. The impressive location on an elevated coastal plain only adds to the wow factor.
Santa Ana Roman Catholic Church
The rock formations of Ayo and Casibari
The beating heart of the island hosts the Casibari Rock Formation, where a narrow path ascends along rock piles to a breathtaking panoramic view. On the ground floor, an expansive desert garden of rocks unfolds. The immense tonalite boulders of Casibari stand like giants in a residential area near the main road to Santa Cruz.
In 1824, a boy named Willem Rasmijn discovered gold on the north coast. Eventually, the quest shifted to gold-bearing quartz, leading to mines created with dynamite. The Balashi Gold Mill arose at the tip of Spanish Lagoon, near Frenchman’s Pass. In 1872, the Aruba Island Gold Mining Company built an extensive smelting works at Bushiribana on the north coast. Despite being in operation for only a decade, the construction of Bushiribana was so robust that impressive ruins can still be admired.
The old Dutch windmill
Another notable building and cultural icon on the island is the Old Dutch Windmill. Strategically situated in Palm Beach, next to the Courtyard by Marriott Aruba Resort, this windmill immediately captures attention. Dating back to 1804, the mill reflects Aruba’s Dutch colonial history. This distinctive landmark was transported to Aruba in 1961 and reconstructed at its present location.
When visiting the mill, you can enjoy a drink at the bar on the upper floor. On the ground floor, there is a Dutch pancake restaurant serving delicious traditional breakfast dishes.
11. Visit Aruba Aloe
12. Spotting Flamingos in Aruba
If you’re seeking travel inspiration for Aruba on Instagram, you’ll immediately come across dozens of photos showcasing beautiful pink flamingos. Do you want to see these majestic birds in person? There are two unique locations where this is possible on the island.
One of the most well-known spots is Flamingo Beach on Renaissance Island, an exclusive private island for guests of the Renaissance Aruba Resort. This idyllic piece of paradise is renowned for its white sandy beaches and turquoise waters, where charming pink flamingos grace the shoreline. If staying at the Renaissance Aruba Resort is outside your budget, there’s also the option to purchase a day pass. These coveted day passes are reportedly only available the day before and tend to sell out quickly.
An alternative place to spot flamingos is De Palm Island, an all-inclusive water paradise with various attractions and activities. You can purchase a day pass and reach the park with a short boat ride from Oranjestad. In addition to enjoying water activities such as snorkeling, banana boat rides, and adventurous slides, you can also admire flamingos here. The difference from the flamingos on Renaissance Island is that these are gray or light pink. Keep in mind that you can’t simply wander among the flamingos here, as they are located in a salt lagoon, delineated with a small fence to keep visitors at a respectful distance.
13. Taste the local cuisine
With a choice of over 200 restaurants on the island, Aruba provides an abundance of culinary possibilities. You can indulge in both local cuisine and international dishes in a casual atmosphere or a more refined setting. Despite its modest size, the island of Aruba truly offers an impressive culinary journey that can effortlessly compete with the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.
Of course, I couldn’t try out all the dining establishments during my stay, but here are my favorites.
For delicious local cuisine in an unforgettable setting, Papiamento Restaurant is a must-visit. This restaurant is renowned as a captivating fusion of a museum and a tropical paradise. Located on a plantation with over a 100-year-old Aruban cunucu house, you can dine on the terrace by the pool under a sparkling starlit sky. If you’re unsure about what to order, opt for the specialties cooked on stone – they are truly delicious. Be sure to also pay a visit to the wine cellar and cigar lounge on the domain as well.
Aruba Experience Cafe Patisserie
Enjoying a delightful breakfast or lunch in a charming setting is a treat at Aruba Experience Cafe Patisserie. This authentic patisserie, with a cozy seating area and terrace, is located in a cunucu house. Here, you can indulge in delicious pastries like croissants and cakes, and the wraps, salad bowls, and arepas are equally mouthwatering.
For international dishes with a Caribbean twist, Wilhelmina Restaurant in Oranjestad is a fantastic choice. In addition to the chef’s delightful culinary creations, you’ll enjoy a beautiful setting. You dine in a sultry, tropical city garden. Start your meal with a delicious cocktail and be sure not to skip dessert. For the main course, I recommend trying the catch of the day, with two preparation options to choose from. I had barracuda and opted for the second preparation, which was phenomenally delicious.
The name might give it away a bit, but at Lima Bistro, you can taste a touch of traditional Peruvian cuisine. The dishes are based on Peruvian cuisine combined with local Aruban ingredients. Here, you get the best of both worlds on your plate, Lima and Oranjestad. Dining is possible both inside the stylish interior and outside on the terrace overlooking the harbor of Oranjestad. For a culinary spectacle, I recommend not skipping any courses and fully surrendering to what comes. Believe me, you will enjoy it!
For lunch or dinner on the beach, you must visit The Westdeck ! Admire the view of the crystal-clear coastline from your table on the large wooden deck over the white sandy beach. Enjoy the delightful relaxed vibe and, most importantly, the delicious food. If I may give you a tip, go for food sharing and choose a few small dishes from the menu to share. The Island Coconut Shrimp is an absolute must-try! Definitely one of my favorite spots on the island.
For healthy and nutritious dishes, you absolutely must visit Eduardo’s. With three locations spread across different parts of the island, Eduardo’s is never far away. Each Eduardo’s location puts a unique twist on the menu, but they all share a commitment to using fresh, high-quality, plant-focused ingredients and delivering excellent service. Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty breakfast, a juicy vegan burger, or a classic açai bowl, Eduardo’s has something for everyone to enjoy.
Which unique things to do in Aruba are on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments below.
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