Aruba: One Happy Island – Advice from a local
On the southern part of the Caribbean Sea lies the small island of Aruba. Sunny weather, most beautiful beaches, rocky landscape and lots of nightlife. You can find it all on Aruba, which is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the locals will always treat tourists with a smile and are happy to show you around the island. Most of the locals can speak English, Dutch and Spanish. They also have their own language, Papiamento, which is a mix of different languages (Creole) with Portuguese as basis.
I, with Creole roots, personally lived 14 years as a local on Aruba and will give you some advice and information on how to get the most out of your upcoming trip to Aruba.
Before you go
Some students prepare their trip to the day, others prefer to follow along on how each day goes. Either way it’s always good to know how to navigate on the island.
Transportation wise, the best way to move to different locations (for example from your hotel to the lighthouse) Is by car. A car can be rented and are most easily available nearby the airport. If you like to hike regularly, you can also rent a jeep to access the rockier parts and National Park of Aruba. Aruba has one main road, that can take you from the most northern point (nearby California Lighthouse) all the way to the most southern point (nearby Baby Beach) of the island. Following this road, you will pass along hotels, beaches and the airport.
Alternatively, you can also take the bus or taxi, which you can encounter on the main road. Price-wise it’s best to rent your own car, but you can also go with the taxi and you will also get to hear stories from the local people.
There are endless places to reside during your visit; from 5-star hotels to hostels or renting a room form a local. Depending on your budget you can find your perfect place to stay. Most places do require that you make reservations in advance. No matter where you stay, the beach will always be around the corner.
The West Coast
There are endless things to do on the island. Aruba is popular for their beautiful beaches, with fine white sand and blue sea. With palm trees surrounding the area, every beach has their own unique view that is worth every picture as a reminder. Surely in the moment itself you can enjoy the day on the beach, just make sure to put sufficient sunscreen to protect yourself from the powerful sun (you will thank me later). I personally recommend to go to multiple different beaches. Eagle beach is the most popular with many activities like volleyball and watersports. At Arashi beach there are many waves to go surfing, and a nice beach shack for refreshments or snacks. Lastly Baby beach, at the southern part is also recommended to visit, with it’s shallow waters its worth a visit. As long as you don’t swim to the rough part, it’s safe to swim at the western part of the island.
A fun fact is that Aruba also has it’s mini strips of islands on the coast. A few that you can visit yourself, others are bought by the locals. De Palm Island, which is located approximately 10 minutes per boat, offers many activities that you can do, including snorkeling (beautiful exotic blue fishes!), scuba diving and relaxing on the beach. There is also unlimited food available, so that you can spend the whole day on this mini-island. Personally, I also visited a reef from a local, where I also spent the day (with no WIFI) that I still remember as a memorable day. Logically we arrived per boat, and assisted on painting the shack. At the end of the day we as a group ate some chicken and relaxed on our private beach. De Palm Island, but also Renaissance Island offers similar vibes.
Furthermore, is the capital Oranjestad nearby the cruise terminal, from there you can hop on the (free) tram that takes you till the end of the main street. There you can find different places to go buy clothing or shoes and eat at local or south-American restaurants. Don’t forget to look around your surroundings if you like the architecture, as there are a lot of multicolored buildings. In the city you can also find an Archaeological Museum with Aruba’s historical artifacts and collection of history. For a cultural event you can visit King Willem III tower every Tuesday night, whereby there will be local foods with cultural music and dances. You can also climb the tower and enter the museum to view different artifacts.
At night there are also lots of activities to do. You can go to the many casino’s that are around the city or different dance shows. These are nearby the (high-rise) hotel. You can also go bar hopping to all the different bars that are on Aruba, and meet many locals on the way. Just make sure you have a safe ride back to your accommodation, or alternatively experience it with others via a Karaoke Party bus.
At the southern part of the island you can find the city San Nicolas. A bay with shallow waters called Baby Beach is located here. You can also walk at the main street, where you will find various street art. The street art has been made by artists from the region. Some are even in 3D or have a similar effect. Nearby the water tower there is also a museum about the history of Aruba, including personal stories from past generations. At night there are many bars open, but it’s advisable not to go alone at this part of the island.
The rocky part of the island
There is much more to do on the island then just being at the western coast of Aruba. Going inland and to the east coast you will encounter wildlife, hills and can go hiking or on an adventure to different parts. At the end I will also tell you about a not so known part of the island where you can make stunning pictures and spend the day. For these parts it’s advisable to be good prepared with sun protection and bring sufficient water to keep yourself hydrated. The sea is rougher at this area, and strongly advised to not enter the waters.
At the middle of the island you can see a big hill, called Hooiberg. This is not the highest peak of Aruba, but can be seen from afar. Every day when I woke up, I could see Hooiberg from my kitchen window. If you are lucky, the bushes will turn from green to yellow. Unfortunately, this occurs only 1 week a year. It takes approximately 500 steps to reach the peak of the hill, and it’s worth the view. You can see a big part of the island, and if the skies are clear you can even see the mountain from our southern neighbors Venezuela. Nearby there are also natural rock formations at Casibari that is worth a visit. Afterwards you can go to Ayo Rock Formations, where you can also walk around and climb the naturally builders that are surrounding the area.
Furthermore, if you go eastward to the coast you will encounter some ruins. This is the Bushiribana Gold Mine Ruins, where gold was extracted for a short period of time until WW1. Following the road southward you will see the remains of Natural Bridge Aruba. Unfortunately it collapsed due to natural occurrences; over the years the strong water currents broke the rocks supporting the bridge. When I was younger, I frequently visited and walked on the bridge and stayed for refreshments at the beach.
Lastly is Arikok National Park a place that’s highly recommended to visit at least once. The park covers almost a quarter of Aruba, and can be accessed from different roads on the island. Mount Jamanota with an elevation of 188 meters is the highest hill of Aruba and is located in the park. There are also many places where you can go hiking and explore the wildlife of Aruba. At the coastline there are many bays and also a natural pool surrounded by rocks that is named Conchi. Conchi is best accessed by hiking or squad and it’s possible to swim in the pool of water, where the water currents are not rough. Nearby there is also a not so well-known place that is worth a visit. It’s a form of two bays, or “floating island” that is called Boca Keto. Generally, in the park you are alone with nature, as there are not many other tourist and locals around. It’s also possible to take tour guides with a group.
Last but not least
There are much more to explore on Aruba, as we have our own type of foods, outdoor sports, caves and many more activities. Sign up for our newsletter below to receive more information about your upcoming trip to Aruba!