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Aruba

Aruba Beach Vacation Tips

Island Becoming Popular Stop for Southern Caribbean Cruises
Palm Beach is the hot spot of the island. © Aruba Tourism Authority
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 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 breeze that washed over us. The island won us over in a matter of hours.

Here are five travel tips based on several lengthy visits to the island:

  1. Visit Oranjestad in the morning for shopping before the day gets too hot.
  2. Take an eight-minute water taxi over to Renaissance Island.
  3. Spend afternoons and evenings at Palm Beach, one of the best beaches in the Caribbean.
  4. Pick a southern Caribbean cruise that includes Aruba as a port of call.
  5. 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. Choosing any hotel or resort on a Caribbean island is often a matter of budget and location.

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.

Nearly all of the hotels and resorts line the calmer west side of the island. They are especially packed in a short strip north of Oranjestad on Eagle and especially Palm beaches. Prices are surprisingly reasonable compared to some Caribbean islands. For many of them, prices range between $150 and $250 a night depending on the time of year.

In the case of location, Aruba makes it easy. The east 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.
The capital city of Oranjestad is only 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


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.

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 small at 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 in 2010
source: Caribbean Tourism Organization
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.

Aruba receives more than 800,000 stop-over visitors a year and another 500,000 cruise visitors.

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 MapThe 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 -- from January through October. It averages three inches a month from September through December.

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
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.

Aruba Hotel Map

 > Category: Travel Tips   

February 25, 2020
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