10 Best things to do in picturesque Aruba
Aruba is the most touristed island in the southern Caribbean. That’s not really surprising given that it has miles of the best beaches, plenty of package resorts and a compact and cute main town, Oranjestad, which is ideally suited for the two-hour strolls favoured by day-tripping cruise-ship passengers. It’s all about sun, fun and spending money. But venture away from the resorts and you’ll find that Aruba offers more. At the island’s extreme ends are rugged, windswept vistas and uncrowded beaches.
Here are somethings to do while in Aruba:
Known as “Low-Rise area” for its low-to-the-ground hotels and timeshares, north-western Eagle Beach is one of the island’s top shores by default. Convenience aside, Eagle Beach truly is one of the best places to spend a day in Aruba.
If your hotel is near here, you can ask at the reception desk about renting water sports equipment or taking a sunset cruise on a catamaran. There are nearby restaurants should you get hungry. Plus, like many a Caribbean beach, Eagle Beach is great for just relaxing. If you come at the right time of year, you can interact with wildlife. Be sure to visit around June as the new baby turtles will hatch and crawl to the ocean.
Eagle Beach is open to the public 24/7 and access to the beach is free.
Some vacationers like their water for swimming, not sporting. If this is you, ditch the “Low-Rise area” at Eagle Beach and try the more tranquil turquoise waters along Palm Beach, located just above Eagle Beach on Aruba’s western coast. You’ll have fewer Jet Skis and wakeboarders to avoid as you wade in the Caribbean Sea. Travellers are usually impressed with the water’s bright, clear blue colour and the soft, white sand of the shoreline that varies by location. As you walk from hotel to hotel on the beach you will notice differences in the softness in the sand and the breath of the beach.
Palm Beach, also known as “High-Rise area,” plays host to the imposing Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, the Radisson Aruba Resort, Casino & Spa and the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino, among others. Even so, Palm Beach is open to the public at any time of day, and many of the hotels will allow you to change in their lobby bathrooms or purchase refreshments at their concession stands or beach bars.
Casino at Hyatt Regency Aruba
The Hyatt Regency Casino has 21 gaming tables, 255 slot machines and 30 video poker machines. In other words, gamblers beware; this casino has plenty of opportunities for you to win or lose some money. The gaming floor is part of the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino along Palm Beach, but the slots and tables are open for outside patrons to use as well. Those who’ve stopped by the casino to take their chances with Lady Luck find that its ventilation system helps to reduce cigarette smoke, making for plenty of fresh air between sips of tasty cocktails. Many gamers note that the casino’s small size is similar to others on Aruba but when compared to casinos in gambling havens like Las Vegas it’s tiny. Regular casino hours are noon to 4 a.m. daily. But prime time to visit is Tuesday through Sunday evenings when the betting house hosts “Carnival in Rio” nights featuring live music and dancing. You can watch the live entertainment for free, but it will cost you to partake in table games or use slot machines.
The Donkey Sanctuary ArubaThe Donkey Sanctuary Aruba is a non-profit organization devoted to saving the island’s donkeys and educating locals and tourists on their care. Donkeys used to be the main form of transportation on the island; now many of them are sick and injured. The lucky ones receive proper care and shelter in this donkey sanctuary in the Santa Cruz neighbourhood in Aruba’s northeast side about 8 miles from Eagle Beach. Visitors find the animals to be sweet, docile creatures eager to interact with people especially if you bring the right treats. The Sanctuary has feed cups you can purchase. However, bring a bagful of cut apples and carrots and the donkeys will be your friends for life.
The 24-hour Stellaris Casino has 28 gaming tables, 522 slot machines and a handful of race and sports kiosks. In other words, gamblers beware; this casino also has plenty of opportunities for you to win or lose some money. Stellaris Casino is part of the massive Aruba Marriott Resort complex along Palm Beach, but the slots and tables are open for outside patrons to use as well.
Arikok National Park
Aruban rattlesnakes, parakeets and whiptail lizards make their home in the Arikok National Park, as do numerous iguanas, goats, donkeys and migratory birds. So if you don’t like animals, stay clear of Aruba’s south-eastern quadrant, which is dominated by this ecological preserve and extremely popular tourist stop.
Many who visit Arikok make a day of observing the area’s wildlife, exploring the caves, sand dunes and limestone cliffs that populate the area, or examining the Amerindian art and abandoned gold mines that sit within the park’s limits. You may choose to drive through the park in a four-wheel-drive vehicle; you can also get out and hike in some spots. Considering the breadth of land and activity in Arikok, it’s best to pick one or two top things to do or perhaps visit the park again on another day.
Aruba Ostrich Farm
Did you know that ostriches lay the largest eggs of any bird species? Or that they only have two toes per foot? You can learn all kinds of fascinating facts of this sort during a day at the Aruba Ostrich Farm in Oranjestad.
In addition to trivia, the farm’s tour guides will educate you on the survival instincts and mannerisms of the ostriches and emus that live at the farm, plus you’ll get a chance to interact with them up close. Vacationers enjoy feeding the large birds. While you’re in the area, make the most of your time. After leaving the Farm it is suggested that you go to the Gold Mine ruins and the natural bridge as they are close by.
Hadicurari BeachLocated near Aruba’s north-western tip, just past the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, Hadicurari Beach’s strong winds beckon to windsurfers and kiteboarders. You’ll know you’re at the right place when you see beach shacks dotting a pebbly coastline; the beach here is nicknamed “Fisherman’s Huts” for that very reason. The area’s shallow, iridescent water is also good for snorkelling.
Like all of Aruba’s beaches, Hadicurari is free to visit all the time, but it’s an especially popular beach in late June or early July during the Aruba Hi-Winds kitesurfing and windsurfing tournament.
Ayo Casibari Rock FormationsNot everyone likes to stay camped out on a Caribbean beach, shopping in a duty-free store or diving deep to a bygone shipwreck. If this is you, visit the Ayo and Casibari Rock Formations, a cluster of cacti, boulders and hiking trails located in eastern Aruba. This is the recommendation repeated over and over again from recent guests of the region, who say the area, when judged in a vacuum, is unimpressive. But considering your big events on Aruba are limited to sea time, shop time, spa time or slots time, the Ayo and Casibari Rock Formations make an interesting enough stop and offer a good vista.
Ayo and Casibari are free to visit at any time of day, however you should stop by early in the morning to beat the heat and the cruise ship crowds. Avoid the area altogether at night, when it’s hard to see where you’re going — you never know what you might step on out in the Aruban wilderness.
Aruba has the remedy for the overhyped, overcrowded sprawl you might be experiencing along Eagle or Palm beaches. Take a trip southeast to San Nicolas and Baby Beach, a popular shore for Arubans due to its shallow waters and easy waves. Beachgoers recommend spending time snorkelling near the left, rocky side of the beach.
This authentic Aruban experience is accompanied by small snack shops, and cabanas and beach chairs are available for rent. You’ll see some smoke stacks in the distance as you lounge. Baby Beach is popular with families and a good alternative to the busy shores near the hotels.