Last week we headed to Aruba for some sun and fun before the start of Fall. The Aruba Tourism board contacted us to visit, and we jumped at the chance to finally see Aruba! We’d heard great things about the island while living in Amsterdam, since Aruba is actually part of the Netherlands. We rented a Jeep for the week because we always love exploring when we’re visiting an island. It definitely came in handy — though Aruba rarely gets rain, we ended up with some fairly stormy weather due to hurricane season in the states.
Oftentimes, the best spots are located away from the main parts of town. This was true for Aruba too — our favorite day was exploring the north side of the island, from the beautiful Arikok National Park to white sand beaches to the most unique swimming hole on the coastline! Read on for our Aruba Travel Guide, including our favorite restaurants, swimming spots, and more…
PRESET COLLECTION USED IN THIS BLOG POST: MASTER COLLECTION
Best time to visit – January through August, prices drop from April onward
Weather – usually consistent sun and warm weather year-round
Getting around – rental car or taxi
Currency – Aruban florin, but most everywhere accepts US dollars
Languages – Dutch and English; English is widely spoken
NEARBY AIRPORT – Reina Beatrix International Airport (AUA)
Where to Stay
Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba – $$ – we loved this small hotel, aka tropical oasis. Our room featured hammocks, an outdoor table and deck, and a tiny kitchenette that was perfect for cooking. Although you’re not beachfront, the atmosphere makes up for it (and the beach is just a short walk away). You can access the beach via the Ritz-Carlton hotel.
Renaissance Aruba Resort – $$ – the biggest perk of the Renaissance hotel is included access to Renaissance Private Island, which is where the Aruba flamingos are located! A day pass to the island will cost you if you aren’t a hotel guest (day passes are $125). Renaissance is modern and fully-equipped, plus it’s located right in downtown Aruba. Beware: they do play music throughout the day, so if you’re looking for somewhere quiet, opt for something else.
Amsterdam Manor – $$ – this was our second hotel and the highlight was its location. Amsterdam Manor is located on one of the most desirable beaches in Aruba: Eagle Beach. For the price, it’s hard to beat. Accommodations are basic, but the beds are some of the most comfortable we’ve slept in anywhere. If you stay here, you’ll probably be spending most of your time on the incredible beach out front!
Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort – $$$ – a friend of mine stayed at Bucuti & Tara and loved it. The hotel is adults-only so it’s geared more towards couples, which makes it a great choice for a more romantic getaway. It also features a spa and movie night on the beach! Tip: book an ocean view room for better rooms.
Manchebo Beach Resort – $$$ – this top-rated hotel was fully booked during our visit. Like the Ritz-Carlton and Amsterdam Manor hotels, it’s located on the desirable Eagle Beach in Aruba. If you’re looking for 1) beachfront access 2) comfortable, beachy rooms and 3) an all-around great experience, this is a top pick that doesn’t break the bank.
The Ritz-Carlton Aruba – $$$$ – if you’re looking to splurge, the Ritz-Carlton in Aruba has it all. Beautiful rooms, impeccable service, and beachfront access to one of the world’s best beaches! While we love our boutique hotels, if we make it back to Aruba one day, we’d love to stay here…
Where to Eat
Aruba has no shortage of restaurants, but you might find that reviews on Google and Tripadvisor are a bit misleading. To avoid the typical tourist pitfalls, scout for places that offer fresh-caught fish and daily specials. When in doubt — ask the locals for advice! Here were some of our favorite spots on the island.
Atardi Restaurant – Probably our most memorable meal of the trip. The restaurant is located on the beach, so you’re invited to remove your shoes as soon as you arrive. The fish is fresh and grilled to perfection, and we loved the wine selection. Perfect for a romantic dinner on the beach as the sun goes down.
Zeerovers – a local favorite, Zeerovers is a casual lunch spot with views of the boats that are used to capture the fish you’re eating. You’ll order before sitting down, and choices include: the catch of the day, shrimp, and a variety of tasty sides. No frills, but worth it for the authentic experience.
Pinchos Bar & Grill – this restaurant is located on its own dock underneath string lights and with views of the coast. It’s the perfect choice for a romantic meal on the water or for sunset. Trust us, you’ll want to order their fish (the mahi mahi was the best fish we had during our trip).
Eduardo’s Beach Shack – from açaí bowls to green juices to poké, this is the spot to grab a healthy, casual lunch and enjoy it on the sand. Located right on Eagle Beach.
Where to Go
Small Natural Pool – this swimming hole is located adjacent to the Bushiribana Ruins (you’ll see the ruins in the background of the first photo, below). To find it, look for a ladder down. The swimming hole is located to the right, and formed naturally when the rocks collapsed on one side to form a protected pool with ocean water. So worth the drive!
Renaissance Private Island – if you’re visiting Aruba, don’t miss the opportunity to feed the flamingos and spend the day on this incredible island! Located just off the coast from Aruba’s downtown, you’ll hop on a boat (they run every 15 minutes) to escape to this small island. There are beach cabanas, restaurants and other amenities there. A day pass is steep ($125 per person), but well worth it if you make a day of it. Buy tickets in person at Renaissance Hotel Aruba, and keep in mind there are limited quantities. If you’re a hotel guest, you can go for free…
Mangel Halto – a well-known beach on the island for snorkeling. You’ll enter the beach through a mangrove forest, which also makes for the perfect hideaway when the sun gets too hot. Lots of people were picnicking here, which I loved! The stairwell below is located just off the road before Mangel Halto, here.
Baby Beach & Rodgers Beach – these two beaches are adjacent to one another, and each offer some of the most pristine white sand on the south side of the island. Baby Beach features snorkeling, an ocean-front restaurant, and calm waters. Rodgers Beach is usually less crowded because the view isn’t as desirable (you’re facing the island’s refinery), but the sand and water is amazing. We loved visiting both, since you can also feed the donkeys on your drive over! Tips for this below…
Eagle Beach – Eagle Beach is known to be one of the world’s best beaches. The water here is turquoise, clear, and the long stretch of sand makes for beautiful photos. As you venture south down Eagle Beach, you’ll find a beach bar on the sand plus a few restaurant options. Since our second hotel was located on Eagle Beach, we spent each evening in the water here until sunset!
My Top 3 Favorite Aruba Photo Spots
What to Do
Feed the flamingos – as mentioned above, Renaissance Private Island is the place to go if you want to check this off your bucket list. You can buy a day pass at the hotel for $100, but keep in mind they sometimes sell out. If you want a guarantee of seeing the flamingos in person, book at least one night at the Renaissance Hotel Aruba! When you visit, make a day of it by heading to the island early (the boats run every 15 minutes starting at 7am in front of the hotel). You’ll want plenty of time to relax on the beach and have lunch while there.
Visit Arikok National Park – you can easily spend a half day exploring this national park, which is located on the south side of the island. Highlights for us were Guadirikiri Cave (a beautiful cave with an island legend attached), Fontein Cave (you can see bats and ancient Indian cave drawings in this one!), and the Natural Pool (great for swimming when the weather is good). Tip: the park rangers start to close the entrances to the caves around 3pm, so head over around noon to make sure you can see both!
Go paddle-boarding or kayaking – if you’ve never been before, I recommend Dennis at Aruba Surf & Paddle School. His tours start from Mangel Halto and take you through to some of the best coral reefs and clear turquoise water. It’s a great way to experience the beaches from a new perspective.
Take a boat tour – there are plenty of options to choose from on the island, whether you’re looking for a day trip or sunset cruise. Check out these top-rated boat tours to get inspired.
Explore the colorful downtown – there’s no shortage of shopping on Aruba. Explore luxury brands, boutiques, and more in the downtown area when you need a break from the sand & surf!
Feed the donkeys – if you follow us on Instagram, you might’ve seen the photo series we posted with these funny animals! As silly as it sounds, this was one of the highlights of our trip. To find the donkeys, head to Baby Beach. They hang out around here just off the main road, and you’ll have a better chance finding them if you go midday. Pick up carrots from a local grocery store like Superfood so you can feed them from your car!
What to Wear
Aruba is hot and humid, so I suggest sticking to clothes that breathe. I opted for a swimsuit and light fabric cover-up most days, usually a romper or cotton dress. Make sure to bring:
- Sunscreen with a high SPF – we’ve been loving this spray-on sunscreen from Sun Bum lately.
- A hat – this stylish baseball cap from Madewell is my go-to when packing light.
- Your favorite camera – check out our guide to choosing the best camera and lens for travel photos!
- Swimsuits, a beach cover-up, and a light jumpsuit – all essentials for a humid beach climate.
For more resources, check out:
- Trip planning advice, events and more: Aruba.com
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Thank you to the Aruba Tourism Board for hosting us so we could experience the beauty of Aruba! As always, all opinions from this trip are our own.