Aruba is a relatively small island (180 square kilometres) just off the coast of South America. This “Happy Island”, the land of beautiful coastlines, amazing beaches and the desert, is one of my favourite islands to date. Aruba is a land of contrast, offering many great beaches and palm trees, but much of the island is also covered by cacti and desert. After many amazing experiences in Aruba, I have come up with some tips and a list of top attractions for your visit.
Getting around Aruba
Public transportation in Aruba is limited in regards to tourist attractions, but is easy to explore with a rental car. With a car, you can get to anywhere on the island in under an hour. We used Top Drive to rent a small vehicle ($247.00 USD for a week) and had zero problems. Keep in mind, you may need a 4×4 vehicle if you’re planning to drive in more remote areas.
Top Attractions in Aruba
We started most mornings in Aruba by exploring some of the land attractions while it was still relatively cool (25 degrees celsius). In the afternoons we’d stop at one of Aruba’s amazing beaches when the temperatures soared. Aruba has many amazing attractions and the following is an outline to get you started on your adventures.
Palm Beach and Eagle Beach
Beaches in Aruba are some of the main attractions on the island. Palm Beach is the most popular beach with tourists. Here you will find many chair rentals, restaurants, water activities and people! This stretch of beach is always packed as this is where islands high rise hotels are located. If you can handle the crowds, this beach is worth a visit during your stay.
Not far from Palm Beach, you will find Eagle Beach, another popular tourist beach. Eagle Beach is a beautiful stretch of white sand, but not quite as busy as Palm Beach. Don’t be mistaken, Eagle Beach can also be very busy.
We spent a full day walking between Palm and Eagle beach stopping for photos, to relax on the sand and swim in the ocean. During this walk you will pass many lovely stretches of beach, rocky coastline, conch shells and the famous Divi-Divi trees of the island. Of course, there are a number of other amazing beaches around Aruba that are worth a visit as well!
California Sand Dunes and Lighthouse
The California Sand Dunes are located in the northern part of the island, along side the California Lighthouse. The close proximity of these two attractions make them a great pair for exploration. The sands dunes are very unique, with white sand rolling in every direction, contrasting with the ocean in the background. Visitors are able to walk over the dunes or view them from the California Lighthouse. Driving over the sand dunes is prohibited, so please park your car.
You can climb to the top of the California Lighthouse for around $8 CAN. From the top of the lighthouse you get some epic views of the California Sand Dunes, the ocean and inland Aruba. For those of you that enjoy a good view, the California Lighthouse is a great place to do that.
Arikok National Park
Arikok National Park covers nearly 20% of the island, and 100% requires a vehicle to explore. The park highlights a rugged coastline with waves constantly crashing upon shore, making for an incredible view. Some areas of Arikok require 4×4 driving capabilities to visit. Our small car was unable to reach certain locations, so we opted to park our car and walk a bit. If you’d like to drive everywhere, check with your rental company prior to booking.
“Conchi” – Natural Pool
Conchi or Natural Pool, is one of the top attractions for adventures with visiting Arirkok National Park. When the water is calm, Conchi is a great swimming location. This is one of the locations our car couldn’t make it to and we opted to hike to. If you’re planning on hiking to Conchi, be warned that it is a very hot and in some locations a bit challenging to reach, but completely doable. Also note, that if you’re driving, it can still be very challenging to reach as we saw a few vehicles pop tires and nearly tip over. Please take your time either way!
San Nicolas is located in the south of the island is home to an old oil refinery. In places, San Nicolas looks a little tired, but its not an area to be missed! Anchored in the heart of San Nicolas rests some very unique sites, such as a large pet cemetery, wild donkeys, scenic costal views and beautiful Baby Beach.
Hooiberg is a volcanic formation that sits in the middle of the island and can be seen from surrounding areas. Sitting at 165 meters, Hooiberg has great views of the island. To reach the top of Hooiberg, you will need to climb approximately 500 steps, which isn’t a crazy amount, but it can be hot. Schedule your climb in the morning for reasonable temperatures.
Located fairly close to Hooiberg, you will find two unique rock formations, Casibari Rock Formation and Ayo Rock Formation. Both rock formations are free of charge for visitors to explore. You wont need more than a half hour at either formation, but they are something to look at while you’re in the area.
Oranjestad, the vibrant capital of Aruba, is home to many colourful buildings, casinos, shopping, restaurants and hotels. The city offers a free trolley ride through the downtown sector, stopping at tourist locations. The trolley allows you to hop on and off as you please. This is a great way to get a new perspective of the city and hit all the main attractions quickly.
Although Aruba is a small island, it is fully packed with adventure. During our 12 days on the island we explored as much as possible, and still didn’t see everything. You’ll find that Aruba is packed full of many attractions. Around every corner, there is something to be discovered. Enjoy your time on this happy island!
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