Cradled in the south Caribbean Sea, this desert island is home to colorful Dutch-colonial architecture, miles of soft sand beaches, and a wild national park.

By Bob Curley
January 10, 2018
Flamingos on Flamingo beach, Renaissance Island
Photo: Jane Sweeney/Getty

Cooled by constant trade winds and south of the Caribbean’s hurricane danger zone, Aruba is as reliably warm as the traditional “bon bini” welcome you’ll receive from the island’s friendly residents. Don’t expect to see many palm trees (this is a desert island), but the island has everything else you could desire in a Caribbean getaway, including a wide variety of resorts (including all-inclusives), local and familiar chain restaurants, casinos and other nightlife, and daytime activities from pirate cruises to horseback riding in the island’s rugged outback.

Divi divi trees on Eagle Beach
Photo: mikolain/Getty

The Best Beaches in Aruba

Palm Beach is the heart of Aruba’s high-rise hotel district—solitude is scarce, but activities are abundant. Despite the development, it is frequently found on worldwide top-beach lists, as is nearby Eagle Beach, where soft sand is dotted with divi divi trees.

Baby Beach, surrounding a lagoon in San Nicholas on the island's southeastern tip, is known for its kid-friendly placid surf and shallow water.

Hadicuri Beach’s shallow waters and high winds make it a great spot for windsurfing and kite surfing. In the summer, the spot plays host to Hi Winds Aruba, the largest windsurfing event in the Caribbean.

Andicuri Beach and Dos Playas in Arikok National Park, on the island’s north shore, have big waves and rough waters, making them more popular with bodysurfers than swimmers.

Cacti and rock formations in Arikok National Park
Photo: Ultima_Gaina/Getty

The Best Things to Do in Aruba

Explore Arikok National Park: Venture away from the beach crowds and into Aruba’s desert-like cunucu, or outback, at Arikok. The park has 20 miles of trails, and guided hikes by park rangers are free and can be arranged a day in advance. Another great way to explore Aruba’s wild side is by mountain bike or on horseback.

Take a Sightseeing Tour: An island outing with De Palm Tours hits most of Aruba’s historic highlights, including the California Lighthouse, Alto Vista Chapel (the island's first Roman Catholic church), and the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins.

Set Sail on a Snorkeling Cruise: A party atmosphere that includes jumping overboard on a rope swing makes the Jolly Pirates cruise an adventure-filled way to see Aruba's colorful underwater world.

Take Kids to Aruba Butterfly Farm: Little ones love the fluttery fun of the Aruba Butterfly Farm.

Colonial Dutch architechure near Main Street, Oranjestad, Aruba
Photo: Jane Sweeney/Getty

The Best Restaurants in Aruba

Aruba has a virtual rijsttafel (buffet) of dining options, from fast food to Dutch food, French fine dining, and everything in between.

Papiamento is located in a restored cunucu house and has been one of Aruba’s top restaurants for decades. Come for the clay-pot seafood and authentic Aruban food.

The Flying Fishbone has toes-in-the-water dining—well worth the cab ride from the resort areas to distant Savanta.

Anna Maria’s, located in a residential neighborhood and a true in-the-know “find,” has the island’s best Italian food.

Charlie's Bar
Photo: Holger Leue/Getty

The Best Bars in Aruba

The brash and colorful Kukoo Kunuku party bus whisks itinerant visitors between Aruba’s hopping, popular bars.

If you want to stay in one place for a drink (or a few), Soprano’s Piano Bar in Palm Beach, the historic (if a little rough around the edges) Charlie’s Bar in San Nicholas, or happy hour at the MooMba Beach Bar are can't-miss watering holes.

Related: Where to Find the World's Most Beautiful Pink Sand Beaches:

The Best Places to Shop in Aruba

The capital city of Oranjestad is home to jewelry stores and, thanks to a charming new streetcar that’s free to ride, a growing number of shops along Main Street. The Renaissance Mall (next to the Renaissance Aruba hotel downtown) has high-end retailers like Gucci, Rolex, Prada, and Burberry. The Paseo Herencia shopping center is right across the street from Palm Beach and has a movie theater, restaurants, and live entertainment in addition to shops. Too much time in the hot sun? Soothe your skin with some lotion from the Aruba Aloe Store, which has been soothing sun-kissed bodies with locally cultivated aloe vera gel since 1890.

Flamingos on Flamingo beach, Renaissance Island
Photo: Jane Sweeney/Getty

The Best Hotels and Resorts in Aruba

The Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino has the convenience of a downtown Oranjestad locale (plus a casino and trendy bar/nightclub) as well as the opportunity to escape to a private island beach club.

The Divi all-inclusive resorts on Aruba each has a slightly different character: the high-rise Divi Phoenix, the all-suites Dutch Village, and the Divi Village located on a nine-hole golf course.

The Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and Hyatt Regency, all with casinos, are standouts among the big resorts on Palm Beach.

Bucuti and Tars Resorts on Eagle Beach boasts eco-friendly practices and personalized service in an adults-only atmosphere.