Bon bini to Aruba, where sunlight dances on the rippling turquoise sea, palm and fofoti trees rustle in the salty breeze, and the soft sand stays perfectly warm year-round.
The southern Caribbean island is one of those spots so idyllic that a single glance at a photo will make you want to plan a trip to Aruba.
The draw here goes far beyond the beaches, though. At just 70 square miles, the island packs in everything from luxury resorts with lush pool decks and lively casinos to desert landscapes and rugged coastal cliffs.
Visit Aruba for the colours and calypso of Carnival season, the epic shipwreck dive spots, or the arid landscape that means few rainy days to spoil a beach vacation. There’s a reason Aruba calls itself “One Happy Island.”
Whether you’re visiting for a day from a cruise, or you’re planning a unique trip to the island, this Aruba travel guide will help you maximize your time on this stunning Caribbean island.
- Where is Aruba?
- When to travel to Aruba
- Things to know before you visit Aruba
- Things to do in Aruba
- Where to stay in Aruba
- Places to visit in Aruba
- Getting around Aruba
- Highlights of travelling to Aruba
Where is Aruba?
Aruba is in the southern Caribbean Sea, west of the Lesser Antilles islands and less than 20 miles off the coast of Venezuela. It is part of a neighbouring trio known as the ABC islands, along with Bonaire and Curacao, that are famous diving destinations.
When to Travel to Aruba
Like many of its sunny Caribbean neighbours, Aruba’s popularity peaks in the winter as vacationers look to escape the cold. The Aruba Carnival festivities also take place in this season, kicking off on November 11 each year and running until Fat Tuesday, a floating date in February or early March.
To avoid the inflated prices and crowds of winter, consider a visit between April and November, instead. The ABC islands do not often suffer the wrath of the Caribbean hurricane season, so Aruba is a safer bet in summer.
Weather in Aruba
Aruba experiences consistent and moderate temperatures year-round, with highs averaging in the mid to upper 80s and lows about 10 degrees cooler.
The island is outside the Caribbean’s hurricane belt, so summer storms are rare. Fall and winter get a few pop-up showers, but sunny days are almost guaranteed on the arid island.
Things to Know Before You Visit Aruba
With a population made up of more than 90 nationalities, there’s a melting pot of culture and cuisine to soak up and savour. Spanish and Dutch colonialism both shaped the island’s history, but Aruba is now its own country in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
From Aruba’s cultural landscape to things to bring, we’ve got you covered. Read these guidelines first before packing your suitcase and buying your tickets!
Traveling to Aruba
To get to Aruba, you have two options: arriving via air, or on a cruise ship.
Air travel: There is one airport on the island, the Queen Beatrix International Airport.
Cruise: Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity cruise lines all have itineraries that stop in Aruba.
Despite their close proximity, there are no ferries between the ABC islands, so if you want to do some island hopping, your only option is to take a short, 30-minute flight.
Aruba’s Visa & Passport Requirements
Aruba tourists must have a passport valid for the duration of their stay, which is limited to 30 days, and onward travel documents. Travellers from the United States, Canada, and much of Europe, South America, and the Caribbean do not need a visitor visa.
Flights to Aruba
Queen Beatrix International Airport is located in Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital city. About a dozen major airports in the United States and a few other international hubs have direct flights to the island throughout the week.
Is Aruba Safe to Travel To?
Aruba is typically considered a safe travel destination. Tourists should take common sense precautions from petty theft, not leaving valuables in an unlocked hotel room, car, or on the beach.
The U.S. Department of State warns that crime rates are higher in the popular San Nicolas entertainment district at night.
What Language is Spoken on Aruba?
The official languages of Aruba are Dutch and Papiamento, a local Creole dialect with elements of Portuguese, English, Spanish, and Dutch that is primarily spoken on the ABC islands. English and Spanish are also widely used.
Money in Aruba
The Aruban Florin is the official currency but U.S. dollars are accepted in most tourist spots. If you pay with U.S. cash, you might receive change back in Florin.
Is Aruba Expensive?
Aruba is often considered a luxurious Caribbean destination and big ticket items like beachfront resorts, water sports, and sailing or scuba excursions can be pricey. Accommodations vary widely, though, with some four- and five-star properties ringing in at three times the cost of more modest neighbouring resorts.
Tipping Etiquette in Aruba
A 15–20% tip is common, though some restaurants and all-inclusive hotels will automatically add a service fee or tip.
How to Pay for Things in Aruba
Cash, major credit cards, and travellers checks are acceptable forms of payment and ATMs are widely available.
Dress & What to Pack for Aruba
Pack comfortable beachwear, swimsuits, sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen for guaranteed warm and sunny days in Aruba.
Sandals are fine for most beaches and sightseeing, but water shoes come in handy for some rocky spots or boat outings. Bring tennis shoes if you plan to hike the sand dunes and rocky hills in the national park.
Casual evening attire like sundresses, silk blouses, and linen slacks are appropriate but you can also glam up for a night out at the casino. Pack a wrap or light sweater for the cool breezes at night.
Don’t forget these essentials for your carry-on bag.
Aruban Laws to Know
- The legal drinking age in Aruba is 18.
- You must be 18 to enter a casino in Aruba.
- Littering laws are strictly enforced and trash should not be left on the beach.
- All drugs and marijuana are illegal in Aruba.
- Most single-use plastics are banned on the island, including straws, utensils, cups, and bags.
Things to Do in Aruba
With miles of white sand lining the turquoise oceanfront, the pristine beaches are some of the best places to see on Aruba.
Famous spots like Eagle Beach and Palm Beach are full of tourist amenities. Boca Grandi Beach is perfect for windsurfing and Malmok Beach for snorkelling. Baby Beach has calm and shallow lagoon waters for families. And Mangel Halto Beach on the southwest coast offers an escape from the crowds.
Water sports are big here and vendors at popular Aruba beaches rent out surf boards, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and jet skis to vacationers. You can also book excursions for sunset sailing trips, water skiing, banana boating, and deep-sea fishing.
Scuba divers get their fill at the wreck sites just offshore. Two of the most visited, the Antilla and the Pedernales, sunk during World War II. Coral reefs swarming with vibrant tropical fish are also perfect for snorkelling and snuba, a hybrid underwater activity that lets you go deeper than a snorkel allows without needing scuba certification.
Beyond the beaches, Aruba has desert landscapes, rocky coastlines, and hilly hiking paths for outdoor adventures.
Where to Stay in Aruba
Most Aruba hotels and resorts are concentrated along the northwestern coast, starting just north of the island’s capital in Oranjestad West.
Eagle Beach and Palm Beach especially are saturated with everything from luxury all-inclusives just steps from the sand to boutique properties with colourful island decor. Many big hotels have a private pool and some resorts have casinos attached, too.
Elsewhere on the island, accommodations are mostly smaller hotels and vacation rentals in cottages and apartments.
Places to Visit in Aruba
The main point of entry to the island, downtown Oranjestad is known for its rows of colourful
Dutch colonial storefronts.
The Main Street strip near the cruise port packs in tons of shopping and dining. There is also a national theatre, an archeological museum, and a history museum housed in Fort Zoutman, built in the 1790s as a defence against pirates.
Most travellers end up at Palm Beach at some point during an Aruba vacation, either checking into one of the high-rise resorts that line the strip, lounging along the two miles of beachfront during the day, or hopping between the casinos and clubs after dark.
While it can get busy, this area is packed with amenities, so you don’t have to wander far to grab lunch from a beach bar or rent a waverunner. This northern end of the island is known as Noord, and also has the California Lighthouse and sand dunes.
Arikok National Park covers close to 20% of the island with desert and coastal gems like the Natural Pool, a swimming hole surrounded by volcanic rock. You can also see sand dunes, cacti, caves, rock drawings, and rugged cliffs along the east shore.
At the southern end of Aruba, San Nicolas is a small town with a local feel thanks to its distance from the resorts of Palm Beach. There are a few museums and murals to check out here. The calm and shallow lagoon of Baby Beach is also down this way.
Getting Around Aruba
Renting a vehicle from the airport is the best way to explore Aruba independently. Public transit and taxis are available, too. Buses connect downtown Oranjestad to most beaches, hotel zones, and tourist attractions on a regular schedule. A free trolley also runs along Main Street and to the cruise terminal in Oranjestad.
Highlights of Traveling to Aruba
Whether you’re still in the planning stages or you’re already on your trip to Aruba, it’s nice to learn what the locals know about the island.
Here are some things to know before you visit Aruba.
Best Festival: You do not want to miss Carnival season in Aruba. It begins in November and fills the days before Shrove Tuesday with calypso concerts, street parties, flashy costumes, and parades. Carnival Monday at the end is considered a national holiday.
What to Drink: An Aruba Ariba is a favourite on bar menus. It uses a local liquor called coecoei to jazz up a cocktail of vodka, rum, crème de banana, and orange, cranberry, and pineapple juices.
Under-Rated Attraction: The Bubali Bird Sanctuary is a wetland habitat south of Palm Beach that often gets passed over for the sandy oceanfront. Climb up the Bubali Watch Tower to spy dozens of migratory bird species here.
Local Favourite Restaurant: Zeerovers is a casual, oceanfront spot about 30 minutes down the coast from the busy Palm Beach resort zone. Fresh and fried seafood is the star of the menu and you might even witness the boats pulling up with the catch of the day.
Best Hike: Cone-shaped Hooiberg mountain rises 540 feet from the centre of the island. A walk up some 600 stairs leads to panoramic views as far as the Venezuelan coast.
Little-Known Fact: Most locals speak at least four languages — Dutch, Spanish, English, and Papiamento, a Creole dialect used mainly in Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. You might hear a local great you with “bon bini,” a Papiamento welcome.
Don't Forget to Pack: Bring your own mask, snorkel, and fins to save on rental fees and reef-safe sunscreen to protect the underwater environment. Sunscreens containing oxybenzone are banned from being sold on the island since the chemical is harmful to coral.