BON BINI NA ARUBA! One Happy Island indeed. Aruba is a tiny island with a little over 100,000 inhabitants yet brings in 1.5 million tourists a year. Perfectly clear water and white sandy beaches.
Fly into Queen Beatrix International Airport and grab a taxi for around $25 to get to the High Rise Hotels strip. The taxis stop is regulated and run by the department of public transport.
When you have internet, make sure to download Maps.me for a great offline mapping application and Arubiana which will help you track your excursions as you navigate through the island. Both applications are free, but I found that it was best to use a combination of both versus relying on one.
The Hotel Situation
Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino – 100% recommend staying at the Hilton. Not too crowded, great service (although we did have a mysterious plate of eaten ribs show up in our room) but still it was a wonderful stay. The beaches are not all private, you must stop by the towel kiosk every afternoon to reserve your Palapas or Tiki Umbrellas.
You’ll also have access to the awesome De Palm Pier that has freshly made ice cream, a mini store to grab sunscreen if you forget, and a full restaurant in the middle of the water.
Bon Bini Festival [only on Tuesdays from 7:00 – 8:30 pm]. The show is a combination of historical narrations, Aruban music, dance performances and displays of local artwork. Hop on the circulator bus and head to downtown. Walk through the stores, pass the renaissance hotel and get to Fort Zoutman. The bus costs about $3 per person per way and the entrance fee for the Aruban show is $10 for adults and $5 for children.
Do the full day sand buggy excursion. Be brave. It’s quite a feat if you’re not used to the outdoors or driving through a desert but the stops along the way are worth the bits of anxiety.
Along the ATV path, there are few spots worth checking out. There is a trip of rock formations and man-made stacks of stones.
Use the Arubiana app to discover hidden caves and stops along the desert path.
Arikok National Park is a stop along the ATV path, make sure to stop at the Natural Pool – definitely worth seeing. Entry is $11 per adult.
Check out the Lost Seamen Memorial Anchor on the outskirts of Seroe Colorado. You’ll be very close to Baby Beach which is just a small beach of shallow water. If you make it to the end of the island, stop by the beach where the locals typically hang out.
As you wrap up your day on the sand buggy, enjoy Aruba’s streets, nature, and beautiful homes. & of course you can’t miss the Divi Divi trees and cacti everywhere.
Sign up for a snorkeling excursion! We spotted a little activities kiosk (Delphi Watersports) across from the Hyatt hotel (on the beach). They offered a 4 hour boat excursion, two locations for snorkeling + open bar and small sandwich provided. We stopped at Boca Catalina, which was genius. Transparent water, colorful fish and vibrant corals. The second stop was an old sunken ship, visibility was low but you can certainly tell it was there.
Palm Beach Plaza Mall – Very unbeach like but this was a great evening stroll for us, although the shopping stores were closed there was restaurants, music, fresh ice cream truck and mini shopping booths. My favorite was Sea Salt (which mostly sold handmade Venezuelan jewelry/bags/shoes). Remember the fountain show is also here!
Go to Downtown Orjanestad – take a stroll by the water, see the yacht port, and enjoy the post-colonial dutch architecture. Take the bus from the High Rise Hotels strip same way as if you’re heading to the festival.
Where to Eat
- Wacky Wahoo’s – Whether you have the Barracuda, the Red Snapper or the Grouper – this place is hands down the best seafood restaurant on the island. It’s limited seating so make sure to reserve in advance, you can only call between 2 pm and 5 pm so plan ahead. It’s not directly on the strip, but a very short walk (8 minutes).
- Garden Fresh Café – I couldn’t eat fried fish and rice all week and was looking for a bit of a salad detox. Fresh pressed juice, salads, paninis, organic and GF options. It was perfect! Stumbled on this café which is hidden a bit in the Playa Linda Beach Resort entrance.
- Gelatissimo – in the smoldering heat it’s always nice to grab some ice cream. & this is the spot! They also had very good paninis for an affordable price.
- Craft Coffee & Bar – is just that, great coffee, cocktails & an excellent plate of waffles!
- Casa Tua – you can always grab a quick pizza at Casa Tua and be sure that it’s fresh and tasty.
- Sweet Peppers – are you obsessed with seafood as I am? Deep fried Red Snapper & a Grilled Filet Grouper. Excellent dishes in this rooftop restaurant by the Plaza mall. Make sure to be done on the hour as the fountain show starts 7:30, 8:30, etc.
- Tango Argentine Grill – in mood for steak? Argentinian it is. Great ambience right on the strip with live music.
- The Florentine is about 85 cents to every dollar.
- I had originally planned on getting to the Renaissance Hotel to spend the day on the Flamingo Island, however found out that in addition to the $100 entry fee – the hotel only passed out 20 tickets a day starting at 6:30 am.
- If you’re an animal lover check out Philip’s Animal Garden or the Ostrich farm.