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Aruba

Aruba Cruise Port Guide - What to Expect

Take Taxi or Bus to Spend the Day at Palm Beach

Aruba iguana
Cruise excursion boats pass Aruba shorelines as iguanas enjoy the hot sun. © 2017 Scott S. Bateman
The Aruba cruise port of Oranjestad is a prime stop for southern Caribbean cruises. It is an easy island to tour in a short period of time, and the climate is almost always beautiful.

It doesn't hurt that Aruba also is one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean because of its weather, beaches and things to do. It is one of our favorite destinations.

A variety of cruise lines visit Aruba including Holland, Princess, Carnival, Fred Olsen, P and O,Royal Caribbean, AIDA and Pullmantur.

Regardless of the cruise line, passengers will find many shore excursions to take on their own when they disembark at the port of Oranjestad, which is the capital of the island nation.

Where is Aruba?


Aruba is one of the ABC islands including Bonaire and Curacao in the deep southern region of the Caribbean. It is only 35 miles from Venezuela.

The ABCs are the most isolated islands in the Caribbean. Because of the distance, most cruises that visit Aruba depart from San Juan, Puerto Rico, rather than the Florida or Gulf Coast ports of the United States.

Quick Travel Tips


  1. Taxis and buses provide quick, cheap and convenient transportation.
  2. Aruba is a beach destination. Definitely check out Palm Beach, only a 10-minute drive from the cruise terminal.
  3. The main shopping and dining are in Oranjestad (location of the cruise terminals) and Palm Beach.
  4. Likewise, nightlife is mainly found in the same two locations.
  5. The water sports are better than the land attractions.

Attractions and Shore Excursions


California Lighthouse
California Lighthouse
(© Big Stock Photo)

Walking Around Attractions


The Oranjestad cruise ship terminals are right next to the city's main tourist street of L.G. Smith Boulevard. Just about everything worth seeing on foot is right there. Passengers who take that brief walk from the docks and terminals to Smith should then turn right for the majority of shops, restaurants and attractions.

Shops are concentrated at the flea market that lines the waterfront, Royal Plaza Mall, Renaissance Mall, and Seaport Village Mall and Marketplace.

The flea market and Seaport Village Mall and Marketplace have the usual array of T-shirts, crafts and souvenirs along with less expensive restaurants. Royal Plaza Mall and Renaissance Mall have the higher end shops.

Several casual restaurants that include outdoor seating line the waterfront. Cruise excursion packages offer "walking and tasting" tours that usually cost less than $50 per person. Beaches within walking distance of the cruise terminal include Druif to the north and Renaissance to the south.

Shore Excursions


Palm Beach, which is four miles north of the cruise terminals, is the dominant attraction on the island. The beach is lined with hotels, resorts and restaurants that face Lloyd G. Smith Boulevard. The beach is great, and so is the nightlife. A simple shore excursion will cost around $30, but a taxi or the cheap public buses are better options for budget-minded cruise visitors.

The other side of the street in front of them is packed with shops and restaurants. Go to the Palm Beach Plaza at the north end of Smith Boulevard for free nightly entertainment.

A half-day or full island tour is an inexpensive way of seeing points of interest worth seeing on this small island with the help of a knowledgeable guide. A half-day tour will probably cost less than $50 while a full tour will cost about $60 to $75.

Quite a few cruise shore excursions go through Arikok National Park, which covers nearly one fifth of the island. It is a good option for touring a rough, arid and cactus-filled landscape via horseback, jeep or ATV.

One of the main attractions is the Natural Pool, which is a rock-lined pool by the sea that gets showered by crashing waves. Shore excursions via ATV that go to Arikok sites including Natural Pool usually cost at least $75 or more. A tour via horseback or jeep will cost $100 to $150.

Other attractions may include natural bridges, an abandoned gold mine, the Bushiribana Ruins and California Lighthouse.

Arikok also has the remains of a large and famous natural bridge that collapsed in 2005, but it still has a few baby bridges. The view of the windy sea from the rock shores provides a peaceful respite.

A bit farther north of Palm Beach is the California Lighthouse, one of Aruba's most famous landmarks. The stone lighthouse was built in 1910 and named after a ship that sunk nearby two years earlier. The site also offers fantastic sunset views.

More adventurous souls with a taste for recreation should consider scuba diving because Aruba offers 42 major dive spots.

Beaches Near the Cruise Port


Aruba beaches
Aruba beach; © Aruba Tourism Authority
Renaissance Beach is closest to the cruise terminal at about three fourths of a mile to the south. Druif Beach and Surfside Beach are the next closest to the cruise terminal. Both are walkable for energetic people who don't want to pay for a taxi, rental car or excursion bus.

Druif is about a 25 minute walk or nearly 1.5 miles to the north. Surfside is nearly the same distance to the south.

Otherwise, visitors should consider paying for transportation to the best beaches

Palm Beach is the best-known Aruba beach. It is famous and popular for its calm waters and location right next to a number of major resorts. The hotels and resorts have chairs, shade and watersports equipment for guests, while visitors may be able to buy refreshments.

Just south of Palm Beach is Eagle Beach, which has fewer hotels and people. It is wider than Palm and, like most beaches on Aruba, it has plenty of white sand. There are shaded picnic areas and parking spaces.

Other beaches include Arashi, Boca Catalina and Malmok have calm, shallow waters that make them popular for swimming and snorkeling.

Be aware there are no nearby facilities, but the beaches are easily accessible by vehicle.

The beach at Hadikurari is known for windsurfing and is the site of the annual Aruba Hi-Winds Competition for both kiteboard and windsurfing. It has picnic tables and shade huts.

The widest beach on Aruba is Punta Brabo, also known as Manchebo Beach. It is an extension of the nearby Eagle. The surf is stronger here, and no motorized water sports are permitted. Although accessible by vehicles, like Eagle it is quieter than Palm.

At the far southeast tip of the island are Baby Beach and Rodgers Beach. Baby Beach is a popular family location because of shallow and calm waters that are suitable for children. The nearby Rodgers is somewhat rougher and has limited facilities.

Shopping


Aruba cruise port
Aruba cruise port in Oranjestad;
© Aruba Tourism Authority
The city is easily accessible from the cruise terminal and offers a large number of shopping opportunities on L.G. Smith Boulevard and some of the streets that run parallel to it.

Royal Plaza Mall, Renaissance Mall, and Seaport Village Mall and Marketplace all line L.G. Smith Boulevard within a few hundred yards of the cruise terminal.

The street also has a number of high quality open-air restaurants that are worth a visit for lunch or dinner.

Passengers with more time available should consider taking a taxi to Palm Beach, one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. It offers a good opportunity for shopping, dining, relaxing and swimming in one visit.

Restaurants


Restaurants are mainly concentrated in Oranjestad and Palm Beach.

Oranjestad has a good supply of restaurants for the cruise visitor who wants to stay in town for a shorter period of time.

Many more restaurants are located on Palm Beach for anyone who wants to spend a longer day there eating, shopping and lounging on one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. Oranjestad restaurants include:

  • Cuba's Cookin', Caribbean, Renaissance Marketplace on L.G. Smith Boulevard
  • Driftwood, seafood, Klipstraat 12
  • Iguana Joe's, American, 94 L.G. Smith Boulevard
  • L.G. Smith's Chop and Steak House, chops and steaks, 82 L.G. Smith Boulevard
  • Le Petit Cafe, seafood, 87 J.E. Irausquin
  • The Paddock, international, 13 L.G. Smith Boulevard

Oranjestad restaurants include a mix of outdoor and indoor. Most of them are located on L.G. Smith Boulevard, the main thoroughfare, and are within easy walking distance of the terminal.

Transportation / Getting Around


Getting around Aruba is quite easy. The island is small and public transportation readily available.

Reliable and cheap bus service is available between Oranjestad and resort areas such as Palm Beach. Taxis are always available and have set rates.

The island is small and easy to navigate, so renting a car is a good option for cruise visitors who want to see it all. Most car rental agencies are based at the airport, but they usually have pickup and dropoff at the cruise docks.

Driving is on the right side of the road. Foreign and international driving licenses accepted. Free parking is available throughout the island. Drivers cannot turn right at red lights.

Weather / Best Time to Go


If you are simply planning a Caribbean cruise that might include Aruba, it's good to know what to expect with weather.

Aruba weather is one of the warmest in the Caribbean. It maintains an average high temperature ranging from 86 degrees Fahrenheit in January to about 90 from May through November.

The island is quite arid with the lowest rainfall in the Caribbean. It averages only about one inch per month except for October through December, when it averages three inches.

During one of our visits in February, we found the water a bit too chilly for swimming even though air temperatures were plenty warm. We were not alone in feeling that way. Few people spent time in the water.

Although Aruba lies below the Caribbean hurricane belt, it does feel the effects of nearby hurricanes and tropical storms during the peak bad weather season in the fall.

Other Cruise Tips


  • The dollar is widely accepted
  • English is widely spoken
  • Public transportation is widely available
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Cruise Ports   

November 29, 2019
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