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If I have to choose between the Caribbean islands I’ve already visited, in terms of island with the best weather year round and the easiest to navigate, then Aruba would be the winner. No wonder Aruba’s tourist slogan is “One Happy Island”. This Caribbean island is part of the ABC islands, together with Bonaire and Curacao. All citizens of these islands are Dutch. Aruba’s capital is Oranjestad. This island is located only 12 miles north of South America. Most of the tourists in Aruba are returning visitors, who have been coming to the island for years.
I have visited Aruba total of 6 times in a period of 4 years. It’s a very common situation for someone to ask you, “So how many times you have been to Aruba?” If you decide to revisit the island, it’s very common as well to run into the same people from last year. You might hear tourists say, “Why would I go somewhere else when I have it all here in one place!” Everything in Aruba is built tourist friendly, while the island’s uniqueness is still preserved. If you need secluded beaches and want to get away from the high-rise hotels, you can do that. There is little something for everyone on this happy island!
Jet Blue and Delta offer direct flights from JFK to Oranjestad, Aruba. If you want cheaper flight, visit the island during low season (April through November). You should consider applying for the Jet Blue and Delta credit cards to earn miles for a free flight to the Caribbean. Check out my previous post How to Earn Air Miles and Points for Free Flights. Keep in mind that duty free shop is available upon your arrival in Oranjestad, located nearby the baggage claim area. Therefore, if you would need anything from there, plan to get it right upon your arrival since it’s a great way to save money.
If you want to explore the island, you should rent a car. Car rental rates in Aruba are relatively cheap. Also, keep in mind that you get a discount if you rent weekly. I can suggest you two companies to rent from:
1. Aruba Top Drive Car Rentals (out airport terminal but really close) You should rent from them if you are staying in downtown area since their office is nearby the airport.
2. Thrifty (in terminal) You should rent them if you are staying in the high rises since their office is in that area.
Where to stay
It all depends on your budget. If you are on a budget, your best option is to rent a place through AirBnb. If you prefer staying at a hotel, here are my hotel recommendations for you in Aruba:
1. Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino This hotel is great for Aruba first time visitors! The hotel is less than 10 min away from the airport. The Renaissance Marketplace offers lots of food options around, restaurants & bars, gift shops, easy access to public buses, and various cultural events are taking place nearby. Also, in that area there is an opportunity for you to enjoy wild animals such as iguanas and pelicans. This is the best location to be if you never been to Aruba before since you will have a free access to the private Renaissance (Flamingo) Island. There is a shuttle boat that takes guests to the private Flamingo Island. The shuttle departs at the Marina next to the hotel and it’s free of charge for hotel guests. The Renaissance Island is a small island that offers an ‘adult’ and ‘family’ side to the island. The adult side has pink flamingos in residence!
2. La Cabana Beach Resort & Casino This is the best lodging to choose if you already have been to Aruba and saw the wildlife at Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino has to offer. This hotel is situated centrally on the island and it’s on one of the best beaches in Aruba, which is Eagle Beach. The hotel is a short walk to Super Foods Supermarket!
3. Playa Linda Beach Resort The tourist slogan for this hotel is “Your Home Away from Home’. There is no better description of this hotel than what their slogan already states. This cozy hotel has an excellent location in the high rises area.
4. Marriott’s Aruba Ocean Club This hotel is top notch. If you can afford to stay there, just go for it. There is nothing to worry about there but to relax.
1. Grocery shopping at Super Food Plaza If you want to save money and have a kitchenette at your lodging, then you should purchase your food supplies from this store. If you didn’t bring a cooler bag with you, this is the place to buy one and use it while on the island to store your beverages and sandwiches during the hot days on the road and beach. Besides offering a wide variety of food products and great Dutch food brands, this store has the most amazing bakery ever! Don’t miss trying their variety of bread and Tiramisu! The Super Food Plaza also has a small restaurant in the supermarket, liquor store, drug store, free WiFi, and Digicel Aruba store.
2. Fresh fish from the local fisherman at the pier in front of Marriott’s Aruba Ocean Club Look for a boat named ‘Go Get’em’. The captain’s name is Toohey. Buy fresh fish daily from those guys or any other fishermen on the pier! They show up every day around 10 am. Go for a morning run and get your fish from them on the way back! The usual catch of the day, includes barracuda, red snapper, yellow tail snapper, strawberry grouper and if you get lucky you might even come back with a fresh caught tuna! Marinate the fish in white wine, salt and black pepper and let it stay in it till the evening! At the end of the day, sit at your balcony and enjoy pan fried fresh catch of the day with a side of green salad from Super Food grocery store and maybe a glass of wine to go with it all! You will feel in heaven and won’t miss eating out at a restaurant!
1. Zeerovers Restaurant in Savaneta This place is a must if you are on a budget but like eating fresh seafood, while enjoying a breathtaking sunset! You should go around 5 pm. Don’t expect a fancy restaurant. Zeerovers is a local restaurant on the water which has a unique charm! First you wait on a line to pay for the fish or shrimp you pick up, order your sides and drinks (try the local Balashi or Presidente beer), then they will cook your seafood and bring it to your table. Before leaving Zeerovers, you might consider buying some extra uncooked fish if you are staying in a lodging with a kitchenette and if you are planning on eating in some of the evenings.
2. Hopi Bon Grill This little, cozy and reasonably priced grill restaurant is located in the Renaissance Marketplace in downtown. They offer fresh catch of the day with delicious sides and their food is phenomenally well cooked on the grill! Also if you already bought fish from the fishermen by the pier, you can bring it at Hopi Bon Grill and for the price of only $15/pp they will cook it for you and serve it with sides! (One portion can easily feed 2 people.) You can eat your meal there or pick it up for to go. So if you’re staying in a hotel with no kitchen or you simply don’t feel like cooking, this restaurant is a real gem!
1. ABC Tours Aruba Choose the ‘Island Ultimate’ package. The price for the tour runs around $100/pp, which is pricey. However, this tour a must if you don’t rent a car but still want to see the entire island. It’s a fantastic 9.5 hours tour, which will introduce you in just a day to the highlights of Aruba. This tour will bring you to places where you can’t get even if you rent a car, such as the Natural Pool, where you also can snorkel! The sites you will visit are the following:
- Bushiribana Gold Mills Ruines
- Natural Bridge
- Natural Pool at ‘Conchi’ Aruba’s Arikok National Park
- Baby Beach
2. Kukoo Kunuku Party Bus Do yourself a favor and don’t miss getting on this party bus tour! Choose the ‘Kukoo Kunuku Dinner & Nightlife Tour’ package. I’m not into nightlife activities and crowds, however I must say that after a few minutes on this bus, I was already laughing and feeling absolutely amazing! Go for it if you want to have a blast. This tour is so much fun! It is rated #1 by Entertainment Television. And don’t forget to put on comfortable shoes for a long night of dancing!
3. Jolly Pirates Sail Tours Choose ‘Sail, Snorkel, Swim Aruba & Swing’ package, which includes sailing to 3 beautiful sites: Malmok, Boca Catalina and WWII shipwreck, Antilla. If you enjoy sailing and snorkeling, this a perfect 4 hours tour to do during one of your days on the island!
Most beaches in Aruba are public beaches.
1. Boca Catalina It’s a small beach but it’s secluded and amazing snorkeling site!
2. Eagle Beach It is located centrally on the island in front of La Cabana Beach Resort & Casino It has calm waters, stunning colors and spectacular sunsets!
3. Renaissance Aruba Private Island Only guests of Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino have access to this private island. If you are not staying at this hotel and you still wish to see the pink flamingos, you will need to purchase (at the hotel’s front desk) a pricey daily pass in the amount of $75.
Don’t forget to share with me in the comment form below about your past or future Aruba travels!