I’m so excited to share 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. Scroll down to read all the details of my Aruba Travel Guide. . .
Tim and I made a commitment when we got married that we would go somewhere new every year! (Out of the country if possible). So for us, traveling is a MUST. There is just something about the experience of a new place. We love it 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.
WHERE TO STAY //
Our stay in Aruba was a total of 8 nights, so we chose this quaint and affordable Airbnb in the of capital Oranjestad as our home base for the week. We love staying in Airbnbs! Most are fully equipped with a kitchen, and several other amenities. Plus there is a wide selection of places that fit any travelers budget! (You can use this link to get a $35 credit on your first stay with Airbnb!)
We chose this place because it was on the low end of the budget and allowed us to splurge on food and activities! One recommendation I have is to make sure your place has adequate A/C. 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. 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.
There are so many beaches in Aruba! I don’t even know where to start. The most accessible beaches are Divi Beach, Manchebo Beach, and Eagle Beach in the central area of the island. 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 is 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! We walked down to sand and found a little bridge and beautiful water so I quickly changed my mind. Our stay was about an hour or so before heading down to Baby Beach. 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.
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! 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. Whenever we went out we packed a couple snacks so we didn’t have to stop at restaurants.
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 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 refill them each night which was great!
For breakfast, we headed to the famous Linda’s Dutch pancakes, and were not disappointed! Tim ordered the apple and bacon pancake. 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! 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. I’m so glad we didn’t miss out.
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, beautiful string lights and a live band greet you. 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!
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. Its like a dutch style hush puppy but filled with cheese!
For middle eastern food, we headed to Sultan. Considering I am Lebanese, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality and authenticity! The food was fresh and delicious. If I could have packed some pita bread in my suitcase for the trip home, I would have!
We also stumbled upon the cutest little Italian restaurant called Anna Maria’s! It is located around the back of a residential home, and has the sweetest little ambiance. Don’t worry when you pull up and think you are in the wrong place! Just make sure to make a reservation as the seating is limited.
Another local favorite that we tried out is Zeerovers. They have probably the freshest seafood on the island! The menus is a selection of whatever their boats have brought in that day, fried to perfection. The location is right on the water 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. 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. 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. 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.
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!
For some fun evening entertainment, check out Bungaloe at the pier. We had dinner and hung out for some fun karaoke on one of our evenings. It is definitely an experience to have songs in multiple languages from Dutch to Spanish and English! There are so many cultures present which made for a really fun night.
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!