I’m so excited to be sharing some of the highlights from our trip to Aruba! It’s the second of our Caribbean travel destinations and definitely a unique place to visit. The island is an independent Dutch colony so you will hear several languages and experience a wide range of food and entertainment all surrounded by crystal clear blue water. I wish our time there wasn’t over but reliving the trip through this post is so much fun! Keep reading to get all the deets of our Aruba Travel Guide. . .
For us, traveling is a MUST. It is something that will always be part of our savings plans and as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we made a commitment when we got married that we would go somewhere new every year! (Out of the country if possible). There is just something about experiencing a new place for the first time that we love so much! Our goal is always to experience the culture of the place we are visiting so we tend to avoid the touristy spots, and instead venture down the unbeaten path and anywhere the locals recommend. We always start planning our trips with the “must do’s” and the most expensive pieces and then fill in around that.
WHERE TO STAY // We stayed a total of 8 nights in Aruba, and chose this quaint and affordable Airbnb in the capital, Oranjestad as our home base for the week. We love staying in Airbnbs because most are fully equipped with a kitchen, and they have a wide selection of places that fit any travelers budget! (We highly recommend them and you can use this link to get a $35 credit on your first stay with Airbnb!) In Aruba, we chose this place because it was on the low end of the budget and would allow us to splurge on food and activities! It is definitely not the most impressive space, but the little 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment was all we needed to drop our stuff and come in and out throughout the day. One recommendation I would have is to make sure your place has adequate A/C because Aruba is a consistent 80 degrees or hotter so it got a bit stuffy in our apartment from time to time. Also, since we rented a car, it wasn’t a problem that this apartment is tucked back from most of the destinations on the island, but if you’re looking to skip on renting a car, I would definitely suggest finding a place closer to the Palm Beach area for easier access.
BEACHES // There are so many beaches in Aruba! I don’t even know where to start. Since we had 8 days on the island, there was plenty of time to check out most of the beaches, and we enjoyed every second of it! Some of the most accessible beaches are Divi Beach, Manchebo Beach, and Eagle Beach in the central area of the island. We didn’t spend much time at these as they are located on the resort strip but the small amount of time we spent at Eagle beach was very enjoyable! All of these beaches are filled with tanning chairs and are perfect for lounging or enjoying time in the water. There is a nice path that hugs the beach so you can walk to other resorts and you’ll find restaurants and shops along the way. If you venture a little bit more north, by car, you will find Arashi Beach and Boca Catalina nestled behind a more residential area of the island. These beaches are quiet and natural as they come right up to private property. You can park at a few lots along the road and walk out to the beach. Just make sure to bring a towel or chair of your own!
The most memorable beaches in our opinion though, were on the southern end of the island! Once you pass the airport, you will notice the island becomes a lot more rugged. Our three favorite spots on the southern end of the island were Mangel Halto, Baby beach and Boca Grandi. Mangel Halto was a small, secluded beach located just behind what looked like an abandoned building. When we pulled up I totally thought we were in the wrong place, but we walked down to sand and found a little bridge and beautiful shallow water. We hung out there for an hour or so before heading down to Baby Beach, which was breathtaking! Imagine a huge crescent shaped sandbar that goes out for several feet. Everyone hangs out in the water for hours with drinks in hand and just takes in the beautiful scenery. If you get hungry, there is a flinstones themed restaurant on the shore and places to rent beach chairs and little cabanas so you can relax and have a picnic on the sand.
WHERE TO EAT // I have to worn you, this is going to be a bit lengthy so brace yourself! I am, after all, a food addict and eating in new places is probably the only thing I need to consider it a vacation 🙂 . To start off our trip, we headed to the grocery store and stocked up on snacks, drinks, and some breakfast foods. I know this may seem strange to some, but I cannot tell you enough how much of a life (and budget!) saver this small step is. We made sure we had water, juices, and other foods in the apartment to take with us whenever we went out so we didn’t have to stop at restaurants and pay the higher prices for something as simple as a bottle of water.
FUN FACT: Aruba is home to some of the cleanest drinking water in the world. You don’t even need to filter the tap water because it goes through a multi-step process and is run through limestone before it makes its way to you. We were able to purchase a couple of water bottles at the grocery store and then refill them and place them in the fridge each night which was great!
For breakfast on most mornings, we cooked an egg and ham scrambled paired with local fruits and breads from the grocery store. (Head to Superfood for a fun grocery store experience!). We did have to branch out one morning though to try the famous Dutch pancakes the island is known for. We headed over to Linda’s Dutch pancakes and were not disappointed! Tim ordered the apple and bacon pancake and I got the strawberry and cream. From what I saw around us, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the pancakes on the menu, and you can even build your own! I would definitely recommend making the stop, just be prepared to be really full afterward 😉
Without a question, my top suggestion for food in Aruba is Madame Janette! It is slightly pricier than the other options but is hands down a one of a kind experience that I’m so glad we didn’t miss out on. This cute little restaurant is tucked back from the tourist areas of the island in a spot all its own. When you pull up in the evening, you are greeted with beautiful string lights and a live band. The eating area is entirely outside and sets a relaxing and romantic atmosphere. While we were there, we completely lost track of time! It was a couple hours later after a delicious meal and some of the best conversation we had on our trip, we hesitantly headed out. I swear I could have stayed there for so much longer!
With eight full days of food there was definitely no shortage of meals on our trip! I think we ate every type of food imaginable and none of them disappointed. Some other stops we recommend would be the West Deck. We made two stops here for their laid back ocean feel and delicious food. Definitely try the Fried grouper fingers and dutch inspired Fried Funchi (reminded me of a dutch style hush puppy but filled with cheese!). For middle eastern food, we headed to Sultan. Considering I am Lebanese and my standards are extremely high, this spot is a must visit in my book! The food was fresh and if I could have packed some of the pita bread in my suitcase to go home with me, I would have! We stumbled upon the cutest little Italian restaurant called Anna Maria’s and it was definitely high on my list of favorite restaurants. It is located around the back of a residential home, (so don’t worry when you pull up and think you are in the wrong place!) and has the sweetest little ambiance. Just make sure to make a reservation as the seating is limited.
Another local favorite that we tried out is Zeerovers, where you can order the freshest seafood on the island as they fry up whatever their boats have brought in that day. This place is right on the water and is an all natural environment so definitely don’t dress up. Tim really enjoyed the fresh fish, shrimp, and french fries, but this stop wasn’t my favorite just because it was difficult to pick through the bones and heads of the shrimp and the selection was small.
Lastly, if you need a little snack while you are out at the beach, head over to Eduardo’s Beach Shack for a smoothie or Acai bowl! It’s located right behind the Playa Linda Beach resort along the pathway. We shared one bowl between the two of us and it was the perfect snack in the heat of the afternoon. If Acai isn’t your thing, head across the street to the shops and stop into Gelatissimo for some Gelato. They even have Nutella flavor which is my favorite! 🙂
WHAT TO DO// Most of the activities in Aruba are centered around the ocean (of course!) We enjoyed lounging at the beach, offshore snorkeling, and took a full day island tour through ABC Tours. We met at their offices around 8am in the morning (they also pick up from most hotels) and checked in. Our group was organized into three different jeeps before heading off on the first half of the trip. In the morning we headed north to Alto Vista Chapel, the lighthouse, and the gold mill ruins on the east side of the island before heading back to the office for lunch at their adjacent restaurant. I was pretty impressed with the quality of the lunch especially for a tour guide company. We were given cold towels to wash off the dust from the morning, refreshments, and a small menu to choose from for our food.
Once we ate, we headed out once again for the second half of the day which was filled with several highlight stops. One of the main reasons I convinced Tim to book this tour was because of the cliff diving advertised in the brochure. It’s not one of their “official” stops but they take most tours there if they have time. We pulled up to the most beautiful spot known to the locals as Moro, where two 40ft cliffs pierce out into the water and create a beautiful clear beach in between. The jeep pulled up to the edge and we all filled out to hear the tour guides ask if we wanted to jump. This is what I had been waiting for! I don’t know why I was so excited, especially since the view from the top was terrifying but I knew this would be a once in a lifetime experience so I had to do it. Tim and I were the first ones in the group to jump (led by the tour guides of course), and I definitely didn’t regret it. For some reason I closed my eyes when I jumped which made the jump feel so much higher than it was, so I chose not to brave a second jump, but of course my adventurous husband did! 😉
We wrapped up the rest of the afternoon with visits to the rock gardens, natural bridge, some snorkeling in the natural pool and ended at baby beach for some relaxation in the evening. It was all around a great tour and we were confident we had seen all there was to see of the island after this day!
If you are looking for some fun evening entertainment, check out Bungaloe at the pier. We headed there for dinner one night and hung out for some fun karaoke afterwards. It was definitely an experience to have songs in multiple languages from Dutch to Spanish and English! There were so many cultures present which made for a really fun night.
If we ever make it back to Aruba I would love to take a yoga class with Yoga Girl and visit the flamingo filled Renaissance island for a couples massage! Aruba is a beautiful and unique island and I’m so glad we were able to vacation there this year. If you are headed there, let me know! I would love to hear how your trip is and what recommendations you have as well!
That’s going to be it for this post since it is so long already! If anyone is interested in the cost breakdown of our trip, shoot me a message 🙂 I would be happy to share some of our cost saving tips for your time in Aruba. Thanks for reading!