Feel the warm, turquoise waters, pristine beaches, and dry, temperate weather of Aruba unfold around you. Somewhere on this dreamy island of powdery sands and warm tropical breezes, there is a beach chair with your name on it. But with sizzling nightlife, pastel-coloured, colonial Dutch buildings, craggy, limestone cliffs, and ritzy, designer shops, there is more than just the beach. This all-in-one island is about sun and fun, sure, but don't miss the vibrant island culture on offer here.
The island of Aruba is known for its fine, white sand beaches rimmed with turquoise blue waters. Separated from Palm Beach by a brief limestone outcrop is quiet, relaxed Eagle Beach, with its sugar white sand and gentle surf ideal for swimming. Boca Catalina features gentle, shallow waters filled with colourful fish and is a good spot for snorkelling. Farther south is Malmok Beach, offering tiny coves, white sand, and clear, shallow waters. At the eastern tip of the island is Baby Beach, shaped like a giant bathtub with shallow, warm waters perfect for inexperienced swimmers. For a deserted expanse of dramatic dunes, sea grass and sapphire waters, drive a few minutes north to Boca Grandi.
Covering about 18 percent of Aruba's total land area, this national park features arid landscape caves, abandoned gold mines, cacti, and divi divi trees. Explore the beaches and hike the rough hills to volcanic lava formations and a natural pool at the highest point in Aruba.
Situated at the centre of the island just north of Hooiberg, the Casibari Rock Formation is a cluster of giant, tonalite rocks. The rock formation rises from the desert soil and forms a peculiar dome shape. There are walking trails and steps through the rocks so you can reach the top, where you will find breathtaking views across the island and to Oranjestad below.
See the entire life cycle and metamorphosis of butterflies—from egg to caterpillar to butterfly—at the Butterfly Farm. Set in lush gardens where butterflies fly freely, the Butterfly Farm allows you to see atlas moths, tree nymphs, the monarch butterfly, and the blue morpho butterfly.
There are numerous shipwrecks and dive sites around Aruba, but the largest and possibly most famous is the wreck of the 122-metre German freighter, Antilla. Locally referred to as the ghost ship, the Antilla was scuttled by the Germans in 1945. The ship is situated in fairly shallow water (about 18 metres) with large compartments and cargo holds covered with giant tube sponges and coral formations. Beneath the crystal clear waters are a host of sea life, from octopus to seahorses and turtles to stingray. Colourful, tropical fish and exotic marine life dart through the water, making it a great place for advanced and beginner divers alike.
There are a number of interesting caves to explore on your travels in Aruba. The Guadirikiri Cave extends for about 30 metres, with two large, dome-shaped chambers illuminated by sunlight streaming through holes in the roof of the cave. Fontein Cave is probably the most well-known, featuring brownish-red, native Arawak Indian rock paintings on the walls and ceilings. The Huliba Cave, known as the 'tunnel of love' due to its heart-shaped opening, extends about 91 metres.
There are three main carriers offering flights to Aruba from the UK.
Direct Carriers: There is one direct carrier to Aruba from the UK which is Thomson seasonally from May to October from both London Gatwick and Manchester.
Indirect Carriers: American Airlines and KLM offer flights to Aruba from both London Heathrow and Manchester. KLM flights will go via Amsterdam and American Airlines flights via the States.
None for British citizens
You can exchange your UK Pounds prior to leaving the UK. The official currency in Aruba is the Florin, but the US Dollar and the Canadian Dollar are widely accepted, so you can choose whichever has the best exchange rate. When you pay in US or Canadian Dollars, you will usually receive Aruban Florins in change unless you specify you want US Dollars. Banks on the island exchange the UK Pound for Florins.
Most people on holiday in Aruba use US Dollars. There are plenty of cash machines at the airport, hotels, and throughout tourist areas. Most cash machines dispense both Florins and US Dollars. Traveller's cheques are still widely accepted in Aruba and there is no charge for using them in hotels, restaurants, and most stores, but be sure to keep a record of the serial numbers. Major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, but you will need cash for small purchases in cafes, smaller shops, and taxis.
Some, not all, restaurants include a 10 to 15 percent service charge that is shared between all restaurant staff. An additional tip isn’t obligatory, but since not all of the service charge goes to your server, it is generally expected that you leave a little extra cash, say 10 percent. If no charge is included you should leave about 15 percent for the tip. Tip 10 to 15 percent of the fare for taxi drivers, two US Dollars per bag for porters, two US Dollars per day for housekeepers, and about 15 percent for spa treatments.
April, May, June and September
Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid recommended.
The weather on holidays in Aruba is almost invariably warm, sunny, dry, and breezy. There is no monsoon season and no threat of tropical storms, and not a single month of the year has an average temperature lower than 29°C.
A wide-brimmed hat;
Converter and adapter (the power supply in Aruba is the same as the USA, 120 volts at 60 hertz);
Cotton or linen T-shirts and shorts that will keep you cool;
A light jacket for when it is very windy and for night time;
High factor sunscreen;
Camera (an underwater one if you plan on going diving or snorkelling).
With its borders containing so many diverse cultures, Aruban cuisine is an impressive amalgamation of Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, English, and native Aruban dishes. Traditional cuisine of Aruba includes dishes with goat meat, locally grown vegetables, fish, maize, beans, cilantro, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, and coconut. The dishes break down into three distinct groups: hot (Pica di papaya, a hot sauce made from green papayas); sweet (such as a coconut candy called cocada and bread pudding, also called pan bollo); and Dutch cheese (typically flavoured Gouda or sharp belegen kaas).
This classic Aruban dish is made in the shell of a scooped Edam (the thin rind remaining after the cheese has been eaten) and filled with chicken, onion, peppers, celery, olives, capers, tomatoes raisins, and sometimes cashews. The filled shell is then baked in the oven or steamed.
This seafood stew is prepared with conch, a shellfish like an oyster, and one of the most popular types of seafood in Aruba. Unlike an oyster, however, conch meat is firm and white and can be prepared in numerous ways. This stew is made with pounded conch meat rubbed with white wine vinegar and combined with onion, peppers, tomatoes, tobacco sauce, and beef bouillon.
Funchi is a staple in Aruba and throughout much of the Caribbean. The mixture is composed of cold water, corn meal, butter, salt, and boiling water, then stirred vigorously until very stiff and served on a platter or shaped into balls.
Served as an appetiser or a main, this dish of stuffed peppers is very popular in Aruba. The seeds and spines of bell peppers are scooped out then filled with a mix of cooked macaroni, diced celery, butter, garlic, salt, flour, milk, and shrimp (or any other meat). They are then sprinkled with cheese and baked in the oven.
Aruba is full of outdoor vendors selling authentic Aruban street food. Line up with the locals at market stands or roadside carts for some Aruban staples. Be careful to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean and fresh, as well as cooked right in front of you.
Pastechi are little pockets of fried, filled pastry that are popular for breakfast, lunch, and dinner across Aruba. The half-moon pastry is filled with a savoury filling like cheese, chicken, beef, or seafood, seasoned with allspice, thyme, paprika, garlic, and lime, folded into a turnover, then deep fried.
Iguanas run absolutely rampant in Aruba. The locals make good use of them by boiling them in this hearty stew. This local favourite tastes surprisingly just like chicken soup.
Thanks to its abundance in these prickly plants, Aruban cuisine has embraced the cactus. When fried, cactus takes on a nice juiciness. When added to soups and stews it tastes similar to okra.
Ayaka is a savoury tamale stuffed with stewed beef, green onions, capers, and roughly chopped prunes, then wrapped in banana leaves and tied with a string. Ayaka is usually served on holidays.
Aruba is an upscale island well known for its fancy hotels, exclusive boutiques, and ritzy restaurants. Prices are easily on par with similar places in New York or London. It will cost you about 15 to 20 US Dollars to get into town from the airport. A three-course dinner at a moderate restaurant without alcohol will cost about 75 US Dollars (although portion sizes in Aruba far outsize the UK's), although a casual beach restaurant will cost significantly less (30 to 50 US Dollars). A 1.5 litre bottle of water from the supermarket costs about 1.75 US Dollars.
Due to its impressively diverse amalgamation of nationalities, Aruba does not have one national costume. However, many Arubans identify their national dress as a carnival costume after Miss Aruba won the best national costume at the Miss International Beauty Pageant in 2008 and 2009. The costume is a carnival fantasy representing the joy of the Aruban people during the month-long carnival season. A traditional costume is worn on the holiday of Dia di San Juan, when you will see Arubans wearing a red and yellow shirt with black trousers to represent fire. The rest of the year Arubans dress style is influenced by America, including jeans and T-shirts at home, suits to work, and uniforms to school.
The small island of Aruba is home to 80 different nationalities, mixing the customs and traditions of America, India, Africa, Latin America, and Europe. This diversity is reflected in the food, the holidays, the architecture, the celebrations, the languages spoken, and even the customs and traditions.
Despite this diversity, there are some social customs and etiquette that should be followed on a holiday in Aruba, including:
• Don’t wear beach attire anywhere but by the pool or on the beach. Men should wear trousers and women should opt for dresses or trousers and a smart top. Jeans are not allowed in most restaurants.
• Don’t point with one finger; use your whole hand. Similarly, beckoning or saying hello or goodbye should be done with your whole hand.
• Greet people by saying hello, good morning, etc. when arriving and departing. Forgetting to do this is considered impolite.
• Make direct eye contact when speaking to someone.
• Ask before taking a photo of someone.
• While Aruba isn’t uptight about being on time, if you find you will be more than 15 to 20 minutes late, you should give notice.
Aruba features a dry, desert-like, rocky terrain with a gentle, rolling landscape peppered with cactus plants, aloe, and divi divi trees, standing in stark contrast to the turquoise seas and honey-coloured beaches. You will see no large mammals roaming around on holiday in Aruba, however, there are a variety of small lizards, geckoes, iguanas, wild donkeys, and goats. There are also dozens of species of birds inhabiting the island and a variety of tropical fish fill the oceans.
Sea Turtles Nesting
Between March and September you will notice some of the beaches of Aruba have marked off areas, particularly around Eagle Beach. These areas are the nesting sites of the Sea Turtles that lay their eggs in the sandy beaches of Aruba. Watch the baby turtles hatch, climb onto the sand, and work their way to the ocean’s edge.
There are around 200 species of wild and exotic birds in Aruba. Pelicans can be seen swooping into the sea for fish, or watch the island pigeons dig in the sand along the beaches for food. The Bubali Bird Sanctuary’s pond is home to numerous exotic birds at sunset, including the Caribbean Parakeet, tropical mockingbirds, cormorants, grebes, and egrets. The bananaquit is one of the most common birds you will see on holiday in Aruba. This tiny, chickadee-looking bird is mostly yellow and enjoys eating sweets.
The local burico (donkey) has been in Aruba since Spanish settlers brought them here, but modern diseases have greatly reduced their numbers. There is now a donkey sanctuary in Aruba, where you can even help with the daily chores of feeding and caring for them.
Iguanas and Lizards
The arid, dry heat of Aruba makes it the perfect place to find iguanas and lizards. In fact, half of all known lizard species live in Aruba. You will see iguanas and lizards just about everywhere, but especially in the rock hills outside of town. See the friendly, blue-green kododo blauw, the pega pega, the colourful cousin to the gecko, whiptail lizards, with their long strips down their back, or the green iguana, with its uncanny ability to change from dirt brown to bright green.
Thanks to its rich marine life, spectacular, colourful coral, tropical fish, and clear, blue waters, scuba diving is a popular activity in Aruba. The water off the south coast of Aruba is calm and tranquil, as this is the sheltered side of the island. The north side is a bit rougher, and the waves hit the island with a more momentum, but diving is still safe and spectacularly beautiful. Off the southern coast between Oranjestad and San Nicholas is a reef called Mangel Alto which offers an abundance of corals and colourful fish. Enjoy reef diving at Baby Beach, on the eastern side of Aruba, and Malmok Beach, to the north.