The island of Aruba is a part of the Southern Caribbean’s Lesser Antilles islands located a mere 30 kilometers from Venezuela.
Spanish explorers first landed in Aruba in 1499 and enslaved much of the Indian population that had lived here for thousands of years. Following a war with Holland, the Netherlands took control of the island in 1642. The island’s capital is Oranjestad, named after the Dutch House of Orange. The Netherlands, never a country of slaves, immediately freed the Indians. The Dutch were primarily interested in buying one of the major local exports – salt. In return, they assisted the locals in raising cattle for sale to other islands, causing Aruba to become increasingly wealthy.
The Dutch did much to make Aruba one of the most successful Caribbean economies. In addition to encouraging a thriving livestock industry and helping mine gold when it was discovered in the 16th century, during the 20th century, Aruba created one of the major oil refineries in the world. This was crucial in providing the Allies acquire needed fuel during WWII. The discovery of oil helped the economy continue to boom and lead to Aruba becoming a leading luxury vacation destination. There have been occasional discussions about the island obtaining complete independence from the Netherlands, but it has not happened. Aruba seems satisfied with its Dutch affiliation.
The standards of living in Aruba is high, and it can be expensive.
Visitors come to Aruba not just for its sand and surf, although it is one of the most popular places for diving, snorkeling, kitesurfing, and windsurfing. Gambling is legal on the island and is a favorite go-to for visitors. Many resorts have their own casinos, some open 24-hour a day. One of the best-known is the Crystal Casino at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino. With chandeliers, marble, and mirrors, the 15,000-foot casino sparkles with elegance. The legal age for drinking and gambling is 18, good news for college students visiting Aruba during spring break.
Of all the Caribbean islands, Aruba is one of the least affected by hurricanes. This makes for an overall drier and less humid climate than your average Caribbean destination. The combination of ideal weather and abundance of activities makes Aruban beaches very popular. Spend some time underwater and take part in one of the island’s most fun activities – wreck diving.
When shopping in Aruba, the local currency is the florin; however, the US dollar will be accepted by most vendors, including local restaurants.
The languages spoken in Aruba are as diverse as its history. The primary language is Dutch. Spanish, English, Portuguese, and French are also common. The average Aruban can speak at least four languages.
What Is Aruba Most Known For?
Aruba has some stunning beaches with clean white sand and tranquil waters. Best of all, the island breezes make them an absolute joy to visit.
Flamingo Beach may be one of Aruba’s most famous beaches. Many visitors come specifically to see these beautiful pink birds strut through the wild. However, there are only three ways to actually roam with the birds and feed them. The first, and possibly best, is to stay at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino Island, a private island with some of Aruba’s best beaches accessible via water taxis. Here you can wander to Flamingo beach in search of the birds. Be aware that children are permitted on the beach only from 9 to 10 in the morning and with adult supervision.
The secret to an Instagram moment with the pink beauties is to feed them. They are quite used to human company.
Visitors can also get a day pass to Flamingo Beach, which includes a cocktail at the Papagayo Bar & Grill. These passes aren’t inexpensive, and a room at the hotel may be the better bargain.
A third and delightful way to the flamingos is to arrange a spa package at the Okeanos Spa. The spa is nestled within a secluded mangrove cove and offers purifying treatments, including a relaxing outdoor massage for two. A visit to Flamingo Beach is a part of any spa package.
Eagle Beach is another top favorite visitor destination. It was named the third best beach in the world by TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards. Its beauty is breathtaking, and the sunsets are legendary. There are plenty of watersport options here, as well as restaurants for dining, or just visiting the beach food truck.
Bring the kids to the Donkey Sanctuary Aruba in Bringamosa to feed, pet, and enjoy playing with the local Donkeys. They love carrots and apples and adore visitors who offer some.
Best Dining In Aruba
For couples, there are two unrivaled eateries in Aruba. Both are located on the oceanfront of Oranjestad and make for the perfect date night.
Papiamento in Oranjestad is a restaurant and art gallery in one – feeding both your body and your soul. Candlelit outdoor dining is available by the pool and in the garden. Papiamento is a longtime family-owned restaurant offering traditional Aruban dishes.
Passions On The Beach – the name says it all. Rekindle the flame while dining by torchlight on the white sand. Linger over the stunning Aruban sunset in Oranjestad while listening to live music.
Best Regions to Visit in Aruba
The small island of Aruba has several different regions, depending on what you are looking for during your visit.
The capital of Aruba is a bustling harbor city filled with luxury shopping and a City Hall that performs weddings (you never know when that may come in handy). A tram takes visitors through the town to the major sights and best bars. Eetcafe The Paddock Pub in the Wharfside Market is reminiscent of Aruba’s Dutch past, with imported beers and Dutch food. Iguana Joe’s Caribbean Bar & Grill in Palm Beach Plaza serves mind-bashing cocktails, such as their mango jalapeno mojito. Have Uber on standby for a ride back to your hotel.
Visitors to Oranjestad should not miss the famed Dutch Pancakehouse in the Renaissance Marketplace. It has won the Best Breakfast in Aruba award for those delectable pancakes. It’s the perfect family dining.
The Butterfly Farm takes you into a tropical garden filled with colorful butterflies. See these beautiful creatures develop from caterpillar to chrysalis to a full-grown lovely butterfly flapping its wings for the first time. Guides will discuss the entire process with visitors.
The Noord district on the northern side of Aruba is where the action is. This is where visitors find the best hotels, clubs, and casinos. It is also the home of Aruba’s great Palm Beach with the newly opened Ritz Carlton resort and its casino.
Boca Catalina on Noord is the undisputed place in Aruba for snorkeling and swimming with sea turtles and tropical fish. Bring munchies into the water, and the fish will take them from you. You can also encounter dolphins here, but never approach a dolphin with young ones – any protective mother will attack.
For golfers, the PGA-approved course Tierra Del Sol Resort offers wonderful golfing challenges.
Noord has restaurants of every type. Quinta Del Carmen is a large private mansion turned into an exquisitely sophisticated restaurant. Enjoy a drink at the open-air bar before indulging in their wonderful tapas.
If you can’t decide on the type of food, visit Pam Pam, which serves international cuisine with lots of choices.
This is a quiet town just 12 miles from Oranjestad. It is Aruba’s second largest city, known for its popular Palm Beach with its two-mile shorefront of luxury hotels and its enthusiastic steely calypso music. San Nicolas is where to come for authentic Caribbean food. O’Niel Caribbean Kitchen may have the best Caribbean food on the island.
Stop by Charlie’s Bar for their food and years of international memorabilia. Visitors are encouraged to leave a personal item behind, and the bartenders tell wonderful tales of decades worth of memories. You will be remembered forever at Charlie’s.
Best All-Inclusive Resort or Hotel in Aruba
Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
This resort has luxury suites and elegant dining by the beach. It stands out from the rest and elevates its guests’ visit with its Tradewinds Club offerings. Members of the Tradewinds Club enjoy a royal experience, from having their bags unpacked to their special beachfront views of the Tradewinds Club private beaches. Lounge by the adult-only pool and club-members seating area.
While all guests can dine at the Resort’s restaurants, Tradewinds Club members enjoy complimentary special snacks and light meals such as afternoon tea. A special members-only bar is open from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm.
The Stellaris Casino offers 26 tables, poker rooms, sports gaming, and Vegas-style entertainment.
Best Resort or Hotel for Couples at Aruba
Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa
The Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa was designed for couples. The beach is tranquil and calm, perfect for a candlelit dinner for two. Afterward, relax in the pavilion for a soothing couple’s massage. The best thing about Manchebo Beach Resort, however, is that there are only 72 rooms, so you will never encounter a crowd.
Whether it’s your honeymoon or you are rekindling the fires, Eagle Beach is the place for a stroll beneath the stars. Manchebo Resort offers a special honeymoon package complete with breakfast in bed, a candlelit dinner, and a sunset cruise. They offer a complimentary night’s stay for anniversary visits.
Best Family-Friendly Resort or Hotel in Aruba
Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club
The Aruba Surf Club provides a stunning oceanfront vacation that includes watersports, tennis, volleyball, or a good workout at the indoor fitness center. Or simply relax in the sauna. Two and three-bedroom villas with ocean views can easily accommodate entire families. The Mandara Spa revitalizes all guests from head to toe.
While the parents take advantage of the resort’s amenities, the kids can paint and work on arts and crafts at the Matey’s Hall Kids Club. Let the teens hang out at the Den, which organizes movie nights and other adolescent activities. The entire family can join up for bingo, games, scavenger hunts, or a few dance lessons.