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What to do in Aruba? † 10 sights, tips and must-sees

Together with my best friend I did an internship on the beautiful Aruba† As a proud resident of this little piece of paradise, I enjoyed all the beauty on the island. In addition to the snow-white beaches around the hotel zone, Aruba has many fun and adventurous activities to offer! I'll take you to my 6 favorite spots.

General information about Aruba

Aruba is a small island in the Caribean Sea, located above Venezuela. With an area of ​​180 km², the island is even smaller than the Dutch one Vlieland† Did you know that Aruba belongs to the Kingdom of the Netherlands? Together with Curaçao, Bonaire, Saint Martin, Saba en St. Eustatius they form the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. 

Aruba has about 106.000 inhabitants, of which 80% are Arubans, 10% are Dutch and the rest are other Europeans and South Americans. 

Also read: 6x beautiful Caribbean islands that belong to the Netherlands

Practical Information for Aruba

The climate of Aruba

The maximum temperature in Aruba is on average between 30 and 33 degrees all year round. The northeasterly wind, which is present almost continuously, provides the necessary cooling.

Due to the little rainfall, the vegetation on the island consists mainly of cacti and dividivi trees. The dividivi trees are characteristic of the island and can often be found in photos. But don't be fooled, torrential rain can also fall from the sky during the rainy season (September, October and November). So keep this in mind when planning a vacation to Aruba. 

Manchebo beach
Manchebo Beach

Currency

The currency in Aruba is the Aruban Florin (a derivative of the guilder). In addition, the US dollar is also used and accepted everywhere. Prices in hotels, restaurants and for activities are often quoted in dollars.

Transportation

The best way to explore Aruba is by rental car, this gives you the freedom to go wherever you want. Yes, there are also buses, but not nearly to every place, and not very frequently. Although the island is small and you can cover some distances just fine by bike, I strongly advise against this. There are no cycle paths, which means that you have to cycle on or next to the motorway. Don't let the Arubans be the best and safest drivers. You certainly don't want to drive past it with your bike. Even if you choose to rent a car, you should therefore keep a close eye on traffic and other motorists.

Finally, you can choose not to arrange transport. Many hotels offer a shuttle service to and from the airport. When your accommodation is located on the beach, you simply step out the door every day.

Do you want to go? Then you can here book countless tours including transport. There are also plenty of taxis in Aruba, so do you want to go to a nice restaurant? Then let the reception of your hotel arrange a taxi for you. You pay a hefty price for this. 

Language

What is so great about Aruba is that you can simply speak Dutch. In addition to their native language, Arubans also speak Dutch and English. 

Also read: Traveling? This travel insurance has corona (Covid-19) coverage!

Things to Do in Aruba

1. Arikok National Park  

In addition to the beautiful beaches, Aruba also has a rough side, which can be found in the Arikok National Park, which covers about 20% of the island. The roads in the national park are unpaved and very bumpy, so it is best to go here in a 4 × 4 car (with or without a guide).

In the park you will find many cacti, caves, ruins, natural bridges and rock formations. A great place if you're not averse to adventure and dust.

Off-Road Trails in Aruba
Off-Road Trails in Aruba

2. Catamaran trip

One of my favorite activities in Aruba is catamaran sailing. During a trip of about 2,5 to 3 hours, the catamaran takes you to the most beautiful snorkeling spots in Aruba. While en route you can lie on a large hammock while enjoying the all-inclusive bar and fresh fruit. It doesn't get any better than that does it?! While snorkeling you will encounter schools of fish and colorful corals. A must do during your visit to Aruba!

3. Aruba's highest point: the Hooiberg

With a height of 165 meters, the Hooiberg is the highest place on the island. Although it's actually more of a hill than a mountain, don't underestimate the climb to the top. A total of 600 steps will take you to the highest point, and I can tell you that this activity is a complete workout. During the hike you can spot lizards, birds and wild goats. Once at the top you have a panoramic view over the whole of Aruba. 

Tip:: Climb the Haystack as early as possible in the morning. The average temperature in Aruba is around 30 degrees, in that heat you certainly do not want to climb a mountain. 

Haystack Aruba
View over Aruba from the Hooiberg

4. Flamingo Island

Okay, the official name of this island is Renaissance, but most will visit the island because of the flamingos that reside here. The island is part of the Renaissance Hotel and unfortunately it is not completely free to visit. For a day ticket you quickly pay 100 dollars, swallow! Yes, that's what we thought too. Still, we didn't want to let this small island with flamingos pass us by!  

What we did? We booked a hotel room at the Renaissance Hotel (for about $170) where we got 2 days 'free' access to the island. All in all, a lot cheaper! The island is wonderfully luxurious and of course we were able to take a picture with the 'famous' flamingos, an unforgettable activity during your visit to Aruba.

Renaissance or flamingo island, Aruba
Renaissance or flamingo island, Aruba

5. Fisherman's Hut

Fisherman's hut is the place to (learn to) kitesurf. My love for kitesurfing started here, during Hi-winds. Hi-winds is an annual event where non-professional wind and kite surfers compete for the title of 'best surfer'. I loved the speed with which the surfers glided over the water and their high jumps into the air. 

Not much later I was in the water myself to learn kitesurfing. To this day I still kite because I think it's such a great activity that gives you rest but also adrenaline.

Aruba is also a perfect place to learn kitesurfing. It blows no less than 300 days a year with an average wind speed of 16 knots. On the west side of Aruba (Fisherman's hut) the water is calm and shallow allowing safe practice. Experienced surfers will probably enjoy themselves better on the east coast of the island, (Boca Grandi) where the waves are sometimes several meters high.  

Fisherman's hut: the place for windsurfing and kitesurfing

6. Donkey Sanctuary

If you like animals, it is nice to visit the donkey sanctuary. This was set up in 1997 with the aim of protecting donkeys against the difficult living conditions in Aruba. The dry climate makes it difficult for the donkeys to find water and food. The donkey sanctuary is now the home of more than hundreds of donkeys, where they can lead a carefree life. During a tour you will learn more about the donkeys and the shelter, you can also cuddle with the animals. Would you like to help take care of the donkeys for a morning? Then sign up as a volunteer. 

Aruba
Donkey Rescue Center

7. Mangle Halto 

Half an hour's drive from the hotel zone is Mangel Halto, a secluded beach that is by far my favorite. Here the colors of the sea are at their most beautiful and bluest. What makes the place so special are the mangrove trees on the water's edge, through these mangroves you have access to walk into the water. The beach has not yet been discovered by most tourists, so you will mainly find locals here. 

Mangel Halto is a perfect place for snorkeling, but you need to bring your own gear for this. There are no rental companies, restaurants or anything on this beach. That makes it a nice and quiet place! 

The underwater world is very impressive. I often swam for hours on the surface of the water to admire the coral formations, which sometimes went several meters deep. In addition, there is a wide variety of (colored) fish to spot, including parrot fish, yellow-tailed snappers and surgeon fish. 

Are you going to Mangel Halto? Then bring your own food, drinks and snorkel gear. 

Aruba
Azure sea at Mangel Halto

8. (Scuba)diving Aruba  

If you want to admire the underwater world of Aruba even better, (scuba) diving is a fun activity. Do you have all your diving certificates? Then you can book a guided open water dive tour. However, if you are new to the diving world, then scuba diving is better suited. During the dive tour you will be taken to the best dive sites in Aruba, including Sponge Reef, Tugboat, Tire Reef and Skalahein. 

Another fun underwater activity is SeaTrek, also known as the Aruba Underwater Helmet Walk. This activity can only be booked on Palm Island. 

Palm Island is an all-inclusive island where you can go for a day of fun. You can use snorkeling equipment, a water park, banana boat trips, cable cars and air jumpers here. In addition, there are salsa lessons and you can enjoy the all-inclusive bar. But to come back to the SeaTrek. This is an underwater experience where you walk on the bottom of the ocean using an underwater helmet. You walk past a sunken jeep and bus and are surrounded by colorful fish. It also makes for nice photos. 

Aruba
Underwater world Aruba

9. Oranjestad 

Oranjestad is the colorful capital of Aruba. Although Oranjestad does not have many sights, it is still nice to walk through the city for half a day. Especially the boulevard, with the brightly colored houses, is worth a visit. In addition, you can shop well in Oranjestad for both souvenirs and clothing. 

10. Nightlife in Aruba

In addition to the beautiful beaches and fun sights, Aruba is also known for its vibrant nightlife. These are my favorite places for a night out for dinner, dancing and partying. 

Bugaloe Beach Bar & Grill

Let's start with my favorite bar; Bugaloe Beach Bar & Grill. This is a lovely place to enjoy live music while enjoying a snack and a drink. Bugaloe is located on a pier which gives you a beautiful view of the water. If you come around 18.00 p.m., you can also enjoy a beautiful sunset. 

What makes Bugaloe so much fun is the live entertainment. The staff is not only super welcoming and friendly, but also has good vocals. During the happy hours (17.00pm-18.00pm and 22.00pm-23.00pm every day) they provide live entertainment.

When we lived in Aruba (2016) there was also salsa night every Wednesday and karaoke night every Saturday. Especially the salsa evening is recommended! The basic steps are first explained and demonstrated, after which you can relax with the hips. Both young and old will have fun during this fun activity. 

Salsa night at Bugaloe, Aruba
Salsa evening at Bugaloe

Dutch snacks at Café 080 

Do you fancy a special fries or a tasty croquette during your holiday? Then you've come to the right place at café 080! The cafe was founded by two Dutch people in 2009. After living in Aruba for several years, it was high time to offer Dutch fries and snacks. And they do that successfully, both Arubans and Dutch enjoy all the goodies at Café 080.

Cafe 080 Aruba
Cafe 080 Aruba

You can sit outside, but there is also an old-fashioned favorite pub inside, which goes on until the late hours. Recommended!

Cafe 080, Aruba
Cafe 080, Aruba

Taste 

Around 23.00 pm the party starts at Gusto. You can compare this place with a disco in the Netherlands. Gusto has an indoor and outdoor area where you can dance. The bar is open every day of the week and you'll find a mix of Arubans, Dutch interns and American tourists. 

Moomba 

Moomba is a beach bar & restaurant located on the beach. Logical with that name of course. Every Sunday night (when I lived in Aruba in 2016) there was a big beach party here. The atmosphere is nice and you can dance with your bare feet in the sand. 

The Mill

Are Gusto, Moomba and Bugaloe closing? Then you can go to Thee Mill for the after party, here the parties go on until the early hours. The Mill owes its name to the old-fashioned Dutch windmill that is located here. In the Mill itself they usually play techno music, outside the bar the 'standard' party music is played. 

Finally, let's go!

With all those beautiful sights and the pleasant climate, Aruba is an ideal holiday destination. I can therefore strongly recommend everyone to visit this beautiful island. Are you also thinking about doing an internship in Aruba? Certainly do! If you have any questions about this, you can always contact me.

Also read: What to do on Bonaire? |17 sights, tips and must-sees

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Lieke Thijssen

?️ Latin America lover
??‍? Travel & hospitality copywriter
? Next: West Coast Mexico

1 comment

  • Hi, I'm currently in Aruba for a while, and was wondering about the Mill. I was here last week, but don't see anything about going inside the mill. Was this on special days or is this a thing of the past? Thanks in advance!

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Lieke Thijssen

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