13 unique things to do in Aruba

13 unique things to do in Aruba

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 

Aruba, better known as “One Happy Island,” perfectly embodies the positive atmosphere of this Caribbean paradise. This expression not only captures the friendliness and optimism of the local population but also highlights the abundant sunshine, the beautiful beaches with fine white sand, and the crystal-clear Caribbean sea that surrounds the island. Furthermore, the diversity of activities, ranging from water sports and adventurous excursions to relaxation on the beaches, adds an extra dimension to the lasting impression of Aruba as a ‘One Happy Island.’

In summary, it’s the perfect destination for any traveler seeking relaxation and/or adventure! If you’re planning a trip to Aruba, I also invite you to check out my blog with 10 essential Aruba travel tips. There, you’ll find all the practical information you need to plan an unforgettable journey, including details on flights, renting a car, driving on the island, as well as payment and tipping in Aruba.

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.

Eagle beach Aruba

Explore beyond the popular shores during your Aruba vacation and uncover the island’s other stunning beaches.

If snorkeling with sea turtles is on your bucket list, Tres Trapi is the place to be. Perched on rocks, the sea is accessed by a narrow, slippery staircase. While it requires a bit of climbing, the reward is truly worthwhile. Don’t forget to pack your water shoes and snorkel gear for an unforgettable experience.


For those seeking the most picturesque beach, Mangel Halto stands out as the undisputed highlight. Here, you can savor scenic spots, including an idyllic swing overlooking the azure sea, a photogenic blue staircase descending to the water, and strolls amid cacti with views of the ocean.

Mangel Halto, Aruba
Mangel Halto, Aruba

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!

Baby beach, Aruba

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.

boca keto, Aruba

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.

The most exhilarating way to explore the underwater world of Aruba is with RJ’s Adventure Kayak & Snorkeling from Aruba Outdoor Adventures. This unforgettable experience begins at a hidden beach in the Balashi district, where RJ awaits you with the unique pedal kayaks. After a brief instruction and some practice on the water, you embark on a 2.5-hour tour.

Navigate at a comfortable pace through the secluded Spanish Lagoon, where you’ll revel in breathtaking views of coastal areas, a wall of fossilized coral, turquoise waters, mangrove trees, iguanas, land and sea birds, fisheries, and much more.

RJ Kayak adventure, 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.

Snorkeling Aruba
Snorkeling Aruba
Snorkeling Aruba
Snorkeling Aruba

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

San Nicolas, located on the south coast of Aruba, carries a rich history that is deeply intertwined with the island. In the early years, San Nicolas served as a thriving center for the oil refinery industry, which played a significant role in Aruba’s 20th-century economy. The city rapidly expanded, attracting workers from around the world, creating a melting pot of cultural influences. It thrived until it became a ghost town when the oil refinery closed.

Over the years, San Nicolas has undergone various transformations, from the bustling hub of the oil industry to a ghost town and now, a vibrant artistic community. Today, the city’s architecture still reflects the legacy of its industrial past, while colorful murals and street art bear witness to the creative rebirth the city has undergone.

San Nicolas, Aruba
San Nicolas, Aruba
San Nicolas, Aruba
San Nicolas, Aruba

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.

San Nicolas, Aruba
San Nicolas, Aruba
San Nicolas, Aruba
San Nicolas, Aruba

If you’re looking to unwind with a drink, a stop at Charlie’s Bar is a must. Established in 1941, this bar originally served as a place where divers showcased their finds from the sea, giving it more of a museum-like feel than a traditional bar.

San Nicolas is a captivating destination in Aruba, where history and culture converge in a vibrant mix.

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.

arikok national park, Aruba

One of the highlights is the impressive Arikok Hill, which from its summit provides a panoramic view of the azure Caribbean Sea.

arikok national park, Aruba

The Natural Pool, also known as Conchi, is a naturally formed bay surrounded by rugged rocks where you can swim in crystal-clear water. Additionally, Boka Keto Beach and Dos Playa, which I mentioned earlier as must-visit beaches, can be found in Arikok National Park.

Arikok National Park, Aruba

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.

Arikok National Park, Aruba

For adventurers, there are hiking trails that lead you through cacti and historical sites like the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins.

In short, Arikok National Park offers a unique blend of biodiversity and culture. It is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and adventurers looking to explore Aruba.

It’s important to note that the park can only be explored by jeep! You have the option to rent a jeep yourself or join an organized tour. Our preference was a customized private tour with Isla Aruba, led by guide Ross. The advantage of this is that you can explore the park at your own pace. Ross acts as your personal guide, tailored to your interests, and he knows exactly where to find the most picturesque spots.

5. Visit Oranjestad

Oranjestad is the capital and largest city of Aruba. The city is named after the Dutch royal house, the House of Orange, and is a vibrant destination that reflects a unique blend of historical charm and modern amenities.

Oranjestad is renowned for its colorful colonial architecture, featuring pastel-hued buildings lining the cobblestone streets.

Oranjestad, Aruba

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.

Oranjestad, Aruba

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.

Fort Zoutman, Aruba

There is also the Archaeological Museum. Housed in the restored Ecury family house in Oranjestad, this museum highlights three periods of Amerindian habitation on the island. Through artifacts, film, audio, and interactive technology, the culture and religion of the Amerindians come to life. Highlights include a reconstruction of a hut in which the indigenous population lived a thousand years ago and an exhibition of contemporary artworks with a historical theme. The museum also offers public programs such as lectures, educational projects, and temporary exhibitions. Currently, this museum is closed.

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.

Oranjestad, Aruba
Oranjestad, Aruba
Food scene 

Furthermore Oranjestad offers numerous cozy restaurants (which I will elaborate on later) and nightlife venues. The city center, with its lively markets and charming squares, reflects the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the local population.

It’s worth noting that Oranjestad also serves as the main port of Aruba, regularly welcoming cruise ships, making it a popular destination.

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!

Courtyart resort by Marriot, Aruba

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.

Courtyart resort by Marriot, Aruba
Courtyart resort by Marriot, Aruba
Courtyart resort by Marriot, Aruba
Courtyart resort by Marriot, Aruba

The rooms are not only bright and inviting but also equipped with all the comforts you need for a relaxing vacation in Aruba. Especially after a day at the beach, the spacious walk-in shower is a true delight.

For breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even snacks in between, you’re welcome at the hotel restaurant, where an international menu with delightful flavors and carefully prepared dishes awaits you.

The highlight of the Courtyard Resort, for me, is the pool, where you can unwind on a sunbed or in a cabana. Personally, I always opted for the cabana, but the swim-up bar Delia’s was also a favorite spot where I frequently enjoyed a refreshing cocktail, with the strawberry daiquiri as my top pick.

Courtyart resort by Marriot, Aruba
Courtyart resort by Marriot, Aruba

In short, the Courtyard by Marriott Aruba Resort offers ultimate comfort and convenience, where relaxation seamlessly blends with indulgence. This hidden gem in the Palm Beach district of Aruba creates an intimate setting to fully escape the crowds, yet remains close to everything.

7. Sunset Yoga on the beach

Enjoy a sunset yoga session on the beach with Yoga guru Maria Pucci. Maria Pucci, an experienced yoga instructor, creates a serene environment where the sounds of the waves and the gentle breeze merge with calming yoga poses.

As you unroll your yoga mat on the soft sand, you’ll be surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the Caribbean coastline. Maria’s guidance brings you into a state of mindfulness as you perform sun salutations with the setting sun as your backdrop.

yoga on the beach, Aruba

The combination of yoga and the natural surroundings of Aruba provides a refreshing and revitalizing experience. Maria encourages you to connect with your breath, feel the earth beneath your feet, and absorb the energy of the ocean during the various poses.

If you’re seeking a relaxing vacation in Aruba, this is a perfect moment of tranquility and well-being, allowing you to escape the daily hustle and bask in the soothing power of yoga on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

8. Indulge in a wellness treatment at Sirena Island Spa

Need even more relaxation in Aruba? Treat yourself to a delightful wellness experience at Sirena Island Spa,, located in the Courtyard by Marriott Aruba Resort. Whether you’re a hotel guest or an external visitor, Sirena Island Spa offers an exceptionally relaxing experience.

The spa is renowned for its extensive range of rejuvenating treatments, from soothing massages to revitalizing facials and body scrubs. My personal highlight? A blissful back and shoulder massage that melts away all tension.

Massage Sirena Island Spa Aruba

Sirena Island Spa not only provides relaxation but promises a journey of renewal for both body and mind. Let your expectations be exceeded and treat yourself to this delightful wellness experience on the enchanting island of Aruba.

9. Climb the Hooiberg and enjoy a spectacular sunset

One of the things still on my bucket list for Aruba is climbing the Hooiberg. I’ve visited Aruba twice and haven’t had the chance to do it yet. Hopefully, the third time’s the charm!

Climbing the Hooiberg is a highly popular activity, especially among adventurous travelers and nature enthusiasts. The Hooiberg is a distinctive cone-shaped hill that rises above the relatively flat landscape of the island. Situated in the center of Aruba, the Hooiberg offers a spectacular panoramic view of the island and the surrounding Caribbean Sea.

The climb to the top involves a challenging yet well-maintained trail. The adventure is rewarded with breathtaking views at every step upward. Once at the top, you can enjoy a phenomenal panoramic vista. It’s a unique opportunity to admire the landscape of Aruba from a different perspective.

Hooiberg Aruba

The best time to climb the Hooiberg is early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the heat.

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.

Alto Vista Chapel, Aruba
Santa Ana Roman Catholic Church

In 1776, the Santa Ana Roman Catholic Church in Noord was built, then the second most important religious gathering point on the island. During the nineteenth century, the church was reconstructed twice, with the final renovation taking place in 1916. The impressive altar, crafted from solid oak and hand-carved, is recognized as a masterpiece in classical neo-Gothic design.

St Anna's Church Noord Aruba
Frenchman’s Pass  

In the early seventeenth century, French pirates attempted to invade Aruba. An Indian chieftain and his group were killed when they tried to stop the pirates in this narrow passage. According to legend, the spirits of the deceased Indians watch over this serene place. The fact that the legend still persists became evident when our guide, Ross, emphasized that a nighttime visit to this place is strongly discouraged.

California Lighthouse 

The majestic California Lighthouse, standing over 27 meters tall, offers a phenomenal view of both the island’s rugged landscape and the stunning panorama of Palm Beach. This structure, built with local stones in 1914, derives its name from an English steamship that suffered a shipwreck off the coast.

The California light house in Aruba.
The rock formations of Ayo and Casibari

Travel back in time and discover the mysterious giants of Aruba! The presence of unusual hills and massive granite-like boulders on this seemingly flat island is downright intriguing. Climb to new heights at two explorable rock formations, Ayo and Casibari, where special paths have been laid out to explore the ancient locations in the rocks.

In Ayo, you can wander among giant boulders, each with its own intriguing shapes and sizes. The impressive boulders of the Ayo Rock Formation will enchant you while instilling a sense of humility. You’ll immediately understand why the original inhabitants considered this place sacred. Explore rock carvings dating back thousands of years.

Ayo Rock formation in Aruba

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.

Casibari Rock Formation in Aruba

Both locations not only contribute to the landscape but also offer active adventures and fantastic vantage points for a comprehensive overview of the island.

Balashi and Bushiribana Gold Mills

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.

Ruins of Bushiribana gold smelter, Aruba
Cunucu houses

Cunucu houses were former slave dwellings found scattered across the island. While not a visitable attraction in themselves, they are remnants that tell us more about Aruba’s tumultuous history. (Some of my favorite restaurants are located in old cunucu houses, see under “Taste the Local Cuisine.”)

After the Dutch conquest of the islands, the West India Company established extensive plantations for trade with Europe. To work on these plantations, slaves were brought from Africa. They constructed their homes on the plantation grounds in the style typical of West Africa and were called cunucu houses, literally referring to the countryside.

You can recognize cunucu houses by their distinctive one-story structure, almost always featuring a red roof. They are often painted in vibrant colors and adorned with unique decorations.

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  

While Aruba is primarily dependent on imports, there are also some well-known local products, such as Balashi beer and the spicy sauces of Hot Delight. However, the locally produced skincare products from Aruba Aloe, found all over the island, take the spotlight.

Great news! Because you can explore the Aruba Aloe plantation and factory yourself. Additionally, a free short tour is available. During this tour, a guide demonstrates how Aloe vera is processed and takes you through the factory. This way, you can witness firsthand the journey from the slimy substance straight from the plant to the final product. You’ll also learn about the benefits of these products.

Aruba Aloe
Aruba Aloe
Aruba Aloe

In the store, you’ll find an extensive range of products in various scents and colors, including lotions, gels, creams, and sunscreens. All of these products are infused with the healing and moisturizing properties of Aloe vera.

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.

Papiamento Restaurant 

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. 

Wilhelmina Restaurant

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.

Lima bistro 

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!

The Westdeck

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.

Despite its small size, I find Aruba to be a surprisingly versatile destination! In addition to the breathtaking beaches where you can relax, there are so many unique things to do in Aruba to experience the local nature and culture. There truly is something for everyone! So, what are you waiting for? Make your vacation on this ‘One Happy Island’ unforgettable by discovering these unique and lesser-known thing to do in Aruba.

Which unique things to do in Aruba are on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments below. 

Do you want to read more about Aruba? 

Thank you for reading! 

Yours truly, 


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13 unique things to do in Aruba
13 unique things to do in Aruba

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