What to Pack, See, Do in Aruba
When traveling to the One Happy Island there are a few things you need to know.
- On your Departing Flight you will want to arrive at the airport 3-4 hours early. You will go through local AND U.S. customs in Aruba before boarding your flight home.
- While Aruba is very developed and you can use your credit/debit card in lots of places, dealing in cash is quicker and much more convenient. Yes, they take U.S dollars.
- Aruba is actually one of the safest Caribbean islands in more than one way. It is rated as a Level 1 on the Travel Advisory. This just means to use normal precautions while traveling. Also, it is located south of the hurricane belt which means, no hurricanes! Well, very rarely anyways. The last one was a Level 2 in 2007 that caused minor damage.
Just like every travel destination, there are several MUST DO experiences in Aruba! We have set out to give you a guide to help you plan your own trip to the Happy Island!
5 Things You MUST See and Do in Aruba
1. Hit Up the Beaches!
The beaches in Aruba are bar none better than any beach we have ever been to. In our last post we talked a little about Eagle Beach and Baby Beach, but we really wanted to make a special note that you should definitely carve out time during your stay to lie on any beach and soak in the sun.
We recommend Eagle Beach for soft sifted sand and beautifully clear water. Some days, the waves were pretty exciting. There were only very strong swimmers out at these times when the waves began to pick up. This is the beach where our room was located. If it hadn’t been for our exploring minds, we could have easily lounged on this beach the entire week not seeking for anything else. It has everything a perfect beach day could offer. While the beach is hot, of course, Aruba’s wind makes being outside all day very comfortable.
Baby Beach, located on the southern end of the island in San Nicolas, AKA Chocolate City, is a beautiful lagoon for shallow snorkeling and easy swimming.This is a perfect place for children, hence the name Baby Beach. Big Mama Grill is located on the end where you can purchase food or rent chairs and snorkel equipment. We decided to simply lay out towels under a mangrove of trees and spend most of our time in the water. There is a spot farther out away from the lagoon that has a warning sign for strong swimmers only. Of course, Hilary had to check it out with her snorkel gear. There were tons of tropical fish so close she could reach out and touch them.
2. Take an ATV Tour Through the Desert
We booked an ATV tour with KiniKini Tours that allowed us to see several signature spots in Aruba. We loaded up on the ATV’s, which you can ride single rider or double, and we recommend that you ride single. We started riding through the town on paved roads admiring the homes and everyday life. However, once you get into the desert, the ride is rough and dusty. This only added to the thrill for us, but with two riders it can become uncomfortable after a while. You will also want a bandana or a cloth face shield of some sort to keep the dust out of all your lovely orifices. We purchased ours for 15 bucks a piece! Save yourself some money and bring one from home! Also, make sure you wear something you don’t mind getting dirty.
On our tour we got to visit a Catholic chapel on the hill still in use, an old Gold Mill ruin, a natural land bridge, and a natural pool! All of the spots were interesting and beautiful in their own way. Unexpectedly, the views between the rides were just as pleasing. To the right, desert landscape full of cacti. To the left, cliffs with waves crashing. It was simply stunning. The highlight of the tour was absolutely the Natural Pool. After walking down what seemed like 300 steps, you come to a clearing. Just behind slippery rocks that you have to climb over and slide yourself into the pool. The current was strong here, as well. The pool is surrounded by huge bouldering rocks that are blocking huge crashing waves. This was worth the work to get here.
We decide to swim over to the very distant edge to get an Insta worthy pic. About that time, the biggest wave of the day crashes over the rocks and onto our heads submerging us underwater. Off we go! The current takes us on a wild ride, when the second biggest wave of the day hits us. It certainly gave us quite the thrill and certainly no Instagram worthy picture for us. Back up the 300 steps we go!
3. Tour Oranjestad
Oranjestad is this lovely island’s capital city, and it is where you will fly in and out of Aruba. We spent one morning walking around the city. We found it to be unique because of the mix of cultures which include the indigenous people of the island, Spanish, Africans, and Dutch, just to name a few. The architecture is all different, as well, with touches of Dutch flavor since they are a country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. There are tons of places to stop and eat. We saw food trucks, restaurants on the water, and elegant fine dining. We could do an entire post about food. As a matter of fact, we will. Also, a variety of shopping is everywhere. We stopped at the local markets and browsed the high end retailers. Our favorite store: the local grocery store.
Transportation to explore consist of rental cars, cabs, and the trolley. We decided to walk, but the trolley would have been a nice option. It is free, after all, and begins at the cruise ship terminal at 10:00 AM. It runs downtown, and the doubledecker offers great views.
4. Explore Chocolate City
As we have mentioned above, San Nicolas is on the southeastern portion of the island. The locals of the city have nicknamed it Chocolate City because they are proud of who they are and where they come from, and rightfully so. This city will fill your artistic and eclectic soul with culture and appreciation of the roots in Aruba. This is where our friend, Jermaine, is from. Had it not been for him, we would have had no idea what San Nicolas is all about. With that said, if you visit here, we ask to please be respectful and courteous as this is not a very touristy location. This is where people live and celebrate their everyday life. It’s a colorful, vibrant place with restaurants and art galleries to wander into.
Strolling around downtown, the first thing that stood out to us were the murals. OH MY GOODNESS, THE MURALS! The buildings are covered with the most beautiful realistic paintings. They are all spray painted by the locals. Truly, jaw dropping skills here.
We can’t forget to mention San Nicolas is also home to one of the best Carnival celebrations in the world! This takes place around the time of Ash Wednesday usually in February or March. But, if you can’t make it at that time, they also have festivals every Thursday night in the months June through December. This consist of everything from food to crafts to performers to just plain culture.
We would like to state, we headed home before dark, ‘nuff said. That was just our judgement call.
After spending the day on the beach, or exploring nature, or wandering through an artsy city you might want to get cleaned up and go out on the town. We try to try out the night life everywhere we go, like we have mentioned before, we have exploring minds and just had to find out what was out there! There is a section called the High Rise area. There are restaurants, places to hang out, and laid back bars located here. We began walking the J.E. Irausquin Boulevard in Palm Beach where we found this lovely food boutique named, Picnic. This place was gorgeous. We quickly became friends with the bartenders there. They were so friendly and answered any questions we had about their life in Aruba and then some. After some time there, we were ready for some dancing. Our new friends sent us over to Gusto Night Club Aruba.
We passed a lot of interesting places you could dip into if you wanted, but our dancing shoes were on. We pushed forward to Gusto’s. This was our place. They had an inside bar with air conditioning that played Caribbean Dance music mixed with American rap. The room opened to the front area that was covered but felt like you were more outside. We danced, we laughed, we experienced.
Aruba was a place of fun and friends for us two cousins. It hit all of our travel senses: relaxation, adventure, culture, art, excitement, and food. Stay tuned for our next post: The Tastes of Aruba!