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Aruba

Aruba Travel Tips: Attractions, Beaches, Weather

Aruba California Lighthouse
The California Lighthouse is a popular attraction for photographers, especially because of sunset views. Credit: Pixabay license

Aruba travel tips include Oranjestad walking tours, day trips to Palm Beach, a long dry season and plenty of shopping and dining at the cruise port.

First-time Aruba hotel and resort visitors who are descending to land at the island’s airport shouldn’t worry about the arid landscape they see from their windows.

The interior is hot, dry and bare, but the rest of the island is full of energy and things to do. The relaxing warmth of the island extends beyond the weather into its people, beaches and festive atmosphere.

Aruba, which lies 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela, is famous for its Dutch culture and lengthy, powder-white beaches.

On our first night of our first trip there, we sat in the outside space of a restaurant in Oranjestad, listened to a live band in the park next to us and relaxed with the trade winds that washed over us. The island won us over in a matter of hours.

Here are four travel tips based on multiple lengthy visits to the island:

  1. Visit Oranjestad in the morning for shopping before the day gets too hot, especially in the summer.
  2. Spend afternoons and evenings at Palm Beach, one of the best beaches in the Caribbean.
  3. Choose a hotel at Palm or Eagle beaches.
  4. Go from January through October for the best weather.

Hotel and Resort Tips

Aruba is better known for hotels than all-inclusive resorts, although it has about a half dozen with prices around $400 to $500 a night. Hotels are more common than resorts on Aruba because of easy access to beaches, shopping, entertainment and restaurants.

Hotel and resort visitors fly into Queen Beatrix International Airport. It is only three miles south of Oranjestad and five to seven miles from most of the hotels. Getting to a hotel is usually a 10-minute taxi ride.

Nearly all of the hotels and resorts line the east side of the island, which has the best beaches and milder trade winds. They are especially packed in a short strip north of Oranjestad on Eagle and especially Palm beaches. Prices vary widely. For some of them, prices range between $350 and $550 a night depending on the time of year. Others go as high as $750 or more.

In the case of location, Aruba makes it easy to choose the east side. The west side of the island is rocky, unpopulated and often pounded with powerful waves and strong trade winds.

Tourist Attractions

Arikok National Park
The arid Arikok National Park covers 20 percent of Aruba. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

The capital city of Oranjestad is less thn 10 minutes from the airport. Most hotel and resort visitors will drive through it on their way to the places where they are staying. Oranjestad has several of its own hotels plus shopping, dining, a major casino and an active nightlife.

Popular land activities include the California Lighthouse and Arikok National Park. The park attracts visitors for caves, ATV rides, horseback rides and natural features such as The Baby Bridge. It is a natural bridge at the location of a much larger and famous land bridge that collapsed in 2005.

Aruba has 42 major scuba-diving spots. It also has the usual array of other water-based recreational activities including deep-sea fishing, parasailing, boating, snorkeling and windsurfing.

Beaches

This video explains the best time to visit Aruba and avoid the annual hurricane season.
Full-Screen Version | YouTube Caribbean Channel

Hotel and resort visitors don’t have to go looking for the best beaches. The hotels are right on them at Palm Beach and Eagle Beach. Cruise visitors need a taxi or excursion bus to reach them, but they are worth the trip.

The main hot spot of Aruba is Palm Beach. The beach is long, white and lined with resorts, hotels and restaurants. J.E. Irausquin Boulevard, which runs parallel to the beach, is active day and night with shopping, restaurants and even free entertainment.

One of the better experiences is the adults-only Renaissance Island, the only private beach on Aruba. Take an eight-minute water taxi from either Renaissance hotel to get there. It is free for Renaissance guests but costly for non-guests.

Getting Around / Transportation

We didn’t rent a car during our hotel vacations on Aruba because we didn’t need one. Anyone who stays at a hotel along Eagle and Palm beaches will find plenty to do along J.E. Irausquin Boulevard. Aruba also has inexpensive public bus transportation between the hotels and Oranjestad.

Otherwise, the island is small with few reasons for anyone to rent a car and go driving unless they want the freedom to wander the island. The island is 20 miles long and six miles wide, and 20 percent of it consists of Arikok National Park. Otherwise, excursion operators often pick up hotel visitors at their hotels.

Tourism / Best Times to Visit

Aruba tourism statistics
Stopover tourism by month. © 2022 Scott S. Bateman

Passports are required of U.S. and Canadian citizens who are staying multiple days at Aruba hotels and resorts.

The island ranks 11th among the 31 major islands in total tourism visitors, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization. The peak months for visitors are April and December. The low months are May and September. May is an excellent time to go.

Aruba receives more than 800,000 stop-over visitors a year and another 500,000 cruise visitors. So it is more of a hotel destination than a cruise destination.

The best months to go depend on the Caribbean hurricane season. Historically, the island receives the fewest visitors in September at the height of the hurricane season and the most visitors in March and December.

December is a popular month because the island still has temperatures in the 80s Fahrenheit despite the winter season.

For residents of the United States and Canada, Aruba is one of the longest flights to take in the Caribbean because it lies about 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela in the southernmost part of the Caribbean. But the flight time is usually worth it.

Aruba is also becoming a popular southern Caribbean cruise port. Cruise lines that visit the island include Carnival, Princess, Holland America and Norwegian.

Aruba Weather

Aruba monthly rainfall
© 2022 Scott S. Bateman

The average high temperature stays in the upper 80s Fahrenheit all year. Seawater is usually comfortable for swimming, although we found the water too chilly during a February trip. Other tourists also avoided the water.

Rainfall averages about one inch a month—the lowest in the Caribbean along with nearby Curacao—from January through October. It averages three inches a month from September through December during a mild rainy season.

The trade winds are wonderfully cooling and just as consistent as the temperatures. The island is part of the southern Caribbean ABC islands—Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao—and generally escapes the worst of the hurricane season, so there are many good times to go.

Currency / Tipping / Taxes

The local currency is the Aruba Florin. But we never faced a situation where dollars weren’t accepted. A service charge of 10-15 percent is usually added to a bill. A 6 percent accommodation tax is added to hotel bills.

Culture / Landscape

Aruba landscape
Aruba landscape is arid because of low rainfall. © 2023 Scott S. Bateman

The official language is Dutch, but English and Spanish are widely spoken and understood. The currency is the Aruban florin, but U.S. dollars are widely accepted.

Although English is widely spoken, the dominant language is Papiamento (a Spanish-Portuguese-Dutch-English dialect).

Tourism is the mainstay of the small, open Aruban economy, with offshore banking and oil refining and storage also important.

Aruba landscape is flat, riverless and renowned for its white sand beaches. Its tropical climate is moderated by constant trade winds from the Atlantic Ocean.

Don’t visit Aruba to see lush vegetation like Jamaica. The island is flat with a few hills and scant vegetation. This is an island for enjoying the white beaches, the active nightlife and the appealing Dutch influences.

Sources / More information

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
May 14, 2024

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