11 Best & Fun Things To Do In Aruba: Top-Rated Attractions 2022
Aruba is an autonomous island in the southern Caribbean, 29 km from Venezuela. Until 1986 it was part of the Netherlands Antilles and, although it is not currently part of the European Union, all citizens of Aruba have a Dutch passport.
The languages spoken on the island are Papiamento (a Creole language), Dutch, English and Spanish.
Aruba is famous for its beaches, crystal clear waters, and tropical landscapes. You can relax in Palm Beach; lie down and rest on the dream beach of Eagle Beach, one of the best in the world; snorkel between beautiful cliffs in the calm waters of Mangel Halto, or escape the chaos and crowds and enjoy the solitude and relaxation of Baby Beach.
The most famous island of the southern Caribbean vacation offers 360 ° to visitors: snorkel to discover the coral reefs or fun activities like crossing the island in 4×4 or diving into the underwater Atlantis VI.
The beauty of Aruba has strong ties to history. The first inhabitants of the island were the Arawak Indians. In 1499, the Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda claimed the territory for the Spanish crown. Almost 200 years later, the Dutch seized the islands of Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire from the Spanish.
Today much of that heritage can be discovered in typical European buildings and architecture.
1. Oranjestad: The Capital
Many destinations in the world are ideal for all water sports enthusiasts, especially snorkelling, rowing, or even fishing. One such site is the city of Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital and largest urban area, located on the southern coast near the western tip of the country.
It offers 12 kilometres of beaches and crystal clear waters. It is a beautiful city, thanks to the vibrant colours of its streets, and its name can be translated as Orange City.
Among the beaches not to be missed is Surfside Beach, where you can relax in the refreshing shade of the kiwis and enjoy a beautiful sunset.
It is a long and narrow stretch of beach, ideal as a starting point for an excursion and a picnic under the trees and near the calm waters that make this area a familiar and welcoming place. This central beach is located near the famous Linear Park.
The island is distinguished by great respect for the environment, the beaches are clean, and tourists are also sensitized by ecological work.
The construction of the city began in 1796. The first building to be built was a fort called Zoutman, which has been preserved until today and served to defend against pirate offensives on the coast.
The residential neighbourhoods were built around it: the tiny, colourful houses offer charm and simplicity, completing an already cozy atmosphere, with inlaid wooden doors and picturesque Dutch tile roofs.
One of the main attractions is Queen Wilhelmina Park, a tribute to the Dutch queen, who played an essential role in developing the city. One of the most important buildings is the Cathedral of Santa Ana, built in the 18th century, a true masterpiece of neoclassical architecture. The most famous monument is the statue of Simón Bolívar.
It is worth visiting the Archaeological Museum, which contains some utensils, household items and other ethnographic objects found on the island. Equally valuable collections are exhibited in the Numismatic Museum, where there are banknotes, coins and stamps that in total are more than 30,000 samples.
2. California Lighthouse
A guardian, a symbol of the island. Now it is a must-see attraction for tourists. We are talking about the old California lighthouse, made of stone, stands out for its 30 meters in the northwestern part of the island. It receives hundreds of visits from people every day, attracted by an unparalleled view, especially at sunset.
This lighthouse was named after the wreck of California in 1891, a British steamship that sank off the coast. To prevent further accidents, it was decided to build it.
Its position is studied: it is located on a plateau, 10 meters above sea level, with a panoramic view of the beautiful beaches and the coast. In addition to the natural beauty and unique landscape, you can also admire the lush gardens of the nearby golf club.
3. Arikok National Park
A spacious green area is rich in landscapes, natural beauty, caves, beaches and surprises. The Arikok National Park covers almost 20% of Aruba, and it preserved thousands of animal and plant species: snakes and birds deserve special mention.
Inside the Park, you will find a great variety of landscapes, including charming bays, picturesque creations made of lava and limestone, not forgetting the sites that contain ancestral cultural heritage, including the original engravings of the Indians.
A guide will accompany you through the dry river beds until the protected bays of Moro, Boca Prins and Dos Playa. A part of the entrance ticket price goes to the maintenance of the Park and special programs for the protection and preservation of animals.
Within the Park, there are also several caves, including the Quadirikiri Cave. Hidden at the bottom of a cliff, it stretches for 150 meters. It is a true spectacle that will surprise you with its light games in an almost heavenly atmosphere.
Sunlight passes through the holes in the cave ceiling and makes the atmosphere magical. Little ones live in the darkest parts of the cave and use this place to nest.
There is a legend about the cave, and it dates back to ancient times: An Indian chief supposedly locked his daughter here because she had fallen in love with a boy who had not been accepted.
The two young men died here, and their souls flew to heaven through the holes. You can also visit the Fontein Caves, with their stalactites and stalagmites, which are famous because they contain the engravings of the Arawak Indians along their walls.
The wonderful Boca Prins beach is along the Park, named after an old plantation. Access is through a wooden staircase, and once there, you can admire the contrast between the white dunes and the rocky coastline and relax, enjoying the lush vegetation.
The beauty does not end since, along the way, there is a natural pool where you can swim. There is also a restaurant where you can taste local specialties and enjoy the ideal climate and a pleasant breeze, as well as a spectacular view.
4. Aloe Factory and Museum
What is aloe? What type are your plantations? What is it for? You can discover it in the museum and factory that Aruba has dedicated: Aruba Aloe Factory, Museum and Store.
First, however, some historical information is needed. Aloe came to Aruba more than 180 years ago, in 1840. Within a few years, two-thirds of Aruba’s surface was covered by this plant, and the island became the world’s leading exporter. It was the Hato plantation that saw the first aloe vera plants planted: 60 hectares of land that is still used to cultivate it today.
In the museum and the factory, thanks to a guide and the visits organized every day, and you can visit the aloe plantation while you receive detailed information and tell you some anecdotes.
Inside the structure are the old tools, utensils and equipment, and a virtual library that will clarify the last doubts about aloe. You can buy all aloe products in the factory store, such as gels and lotions for the body, face, sun, and hair care.
5. Butterfly Farm
Aruba is a destination where animals are indeed the stars. There are places where you can have fun and spend a different day. One of them is the Butterfly Farm: away and an opportunity to get to know nature in all its beauty.
Imagine a tropical garden full of colourful butterflies and all species. You can observe its complete life cycle. The guides will tell you about its entire metamorphosis process: from the egg to the larva, from the chrysalis to the butterfly. In some cases, you can observe this last phase of transformation and see the butterfly’s first flight.
Another place especially suitable for children is the local ostrich farm, with more than 80 specimens. Here children can take photos and learn to care for these large birds.
Of course, the most awaited moment is when you will be able to feed them. Many rest areas on the farm are situated in a very picturesque natural area surrounded by mountainous landscapes. The farm has a shop where you can buy eggs and an African art market.
A third place that is undoubtedly very curious is the Sanctuary of the Donkey, a kind of reserve where there are more than 130 donkeys. Donkeys have historically been the primary mode of transportation for Aruba residents.
Now they have “retired”, but tourists can cross the same paths surrounded by cacti that were the usual routes of donkeys, pulling cars or carrying passengers on foot or by car. The idea of a protected reserve where animals can move freely was born in 1997. After almost 20 years in Santa Lucia, the reserve moved to a more prominent location in Bringamosa.
6. Casibari Rock Formations
The Aruba landscape in its interior is truly varied, alternating hills and wild nature with large jagged rocks. The Casibari rock formations are an example of the latter type. The vast cliffs occupy a residential area near the main road to Santa Cruz.
Here hikers can enjoy a breathtaking view from the steps and paths along the rocks. Two rock formations can be climbed: Ayo and Casibari. Experts have not formulated any hypotheses or theories about how and why these massive rocks are situated on Aruba’s flat, sandy island.
You will also find caves with rock carvings dating back thousands of years along the route. The substantial round rocks of the Ayo rock formations make an impression and create a bit of awe. They also make one understand why the area, according to various legends, was considered a sacred and inviolable place by the island’s original inhabitants.
Some are also shaped like a snake or a dragon and have a reddish-brown tint. The area also offers places where you can rest, and there are some places where you can take a break, with a snack or some typical dishes.
7. Fort Zoutman Historical Museum
Once you enter Fort Zoutman, you will feel suspended in time and want to read all the historical documents and see the collections of the finds. On the other hand, the Archaeological Museum is the first place where you will have the opportunity to study the history of Aruba. The fort owes its name to Admiral Johan Arnold Zoutman, who prevailed over the British in the North Sea.
The fort was built by African slaves (from Curaçao), while Amerindian slaves provided the building materials. After the expansion and reconstruction of the buildings (1826) and three underground prisons (1859), Fort Zoutman also functioned as a prison for slaves.
In 1868, the Willem III Tower (William III Tower) was added to the complex and underwent a significant restoration project in the 1980s.
Fort Zoutman is Aruba’s most prestigious historic building, located in downtown Oranjestad. Every week a cultural festival Bon Bini-Festival is celebrated, both for tourists and the inhabitants of the place. It is a kind of ” welcome “.
The Historical Museum receives visits from tourists and local people and has recently started educational programs for primary education. Management of the facilities has been in the hands of the Aruba Museum Foundation since 1983.
It receives assistance from various governmental and non-governmental organizations such as ONUCA and the Prins Bernhard Foundation.
8. Gold Mines
Not just pirates, but adventurers, petty criminals, and gold diggers. The history of Aruba is full of characters in search of treasure or well-being on the island. And that is why there are also several gold mines.
The Arikok National Park frames the remains of the historic gold mines Miramar. On the north coast is the abandoned Bushiribana mine, which processed gold from mines in the nearby hills during the Aruba gold rush of 1800.
A third site, the Balashi mine, was built at the end of the Spanish Lagoon. The remains of that foundry are still visible in the picturesque surroundings near the narrow rock canyon known as the French Pass.
In 1824 gold was finally discovered in Aruba, and in the end, the industry produced almost 1.5 million kilos of gold.
9. Natural Pools
Aruba is a place full of surprises and also of natural pools. In the Arikok Natural Park, you will find the famous wild collection of Conchi, which can only be reached by jeep on a dirt road.
It is one of the most favourite activities among tourists for the beauty of the place and the ” adventure ” necessary to get to it. The natural pool (also called Natural Pool) is a formation within the sea, with beautiful crystalline waters and surrounded by rocks against which the waves crash, creating a unique and charming spectacle.
Once there, you will feel great tranquillity, and you will be surprised by the beauty of the landscape.
10. Diving and snorkelling
The seabed off the west coast of Aruba is calm and rich in fish and marine vegetation, making it ideal for snorkelling or diving. The area offers protected beaches, clear sea and unpolluted waters. For this reason, all the dive sites in Aruba are located on the west side of the island. Most ideal locations are concentrated on the northern tip of the island, a few kilometres north of the main resort area.
With its beautiful reef areas teeming with colourful fish and good opportunities to see turtles, Boca Catalina is considered the best in this section of the coast. Still, Malmok Beach (a little further south) and Arashi Beach (a little further to the north) also offer good snorkelling and fantastic sand and various amenities.
In the same area, Tres Trap, where many starfish are found on the sandy bottom, is a place not to be missed if you like these fascinating marine animals.
Aruba’s fabulous underwater “tradition”, second in the Atlantic after Bermuda for the large number of shipwrecks that have occurred in its waters (from planes to merchant ships of World War II), offers the possibility of extensive dives. There are 42 dive sites, particularly on the west and south sides, that are more protected.
Among the fascinating experiences, even at night, is the discovery of a 122-meter German merchant ship. Another fascinating ruin is that of Pedernales, excellent for beginner divers.
The Arashi Beechcraft twin-engine boat is in shallow water and great for beginners, with lots of fish around it, or the Sonesta rotated into three parts and surrounded by corals and sponges. How cool would it be to dive on a plane? Here it is also possible!
11. Jeep Safari
Aruba has a wild character, and one of the best examples is the jeep safari through Arikok National Park. Do it with the guidance of a driver to think only about enjoying the view or capturing the nuances of the route.
You will be able to reach inaccessible and unspoiled places on the north coast of Aruba and see great little wonders like what remains of the Natural Bridge. Some offers allow you to visit the natural pool and several beaches.
Other tours depart directly from the capital, and among the various attractions are the Bushiribana Mine, the California Lighthouse, and several caves. A way to enjoy your vacation even with some adrenaline. The visits can last a whole day and are also aimed at groups.
Frequently Asked Questions: Best & Fun Things To Do In Aruba
What is Aruba best known for?
Aruba is one of the picturesque Lesser Antilles islands found just off the coast of Venezuela. It’s best known for its dazzling white beaches, but away from the beach, there’s fascinating desert-like landscapes, colorful architecture and a vibrant art and social scene to explore.
Is there a bad time to go to Aruba?
The best time to visit Aruba is from April to August – a huge window of time when the island’s high prices take a holiday. And since the island sits well outside the hurricane belt, there’s very little threat of tropical storms at this time. January to March features pleasant weather, but the room prices can soar.
How many days do you need in Aruba?
Although Aruba is a smaller island, there is a lot explore! Depending on how long you want to relax along the stunning shores, we’d suggest spending at least four days in Aruba, with the optimal vacation length being about five to seven days.
Is it safe to walk around Aruba at night?
For the most part, Aruba is safe. It’s actually considered to be one of the safest of all the Caribbean islands. Though relatively low in Aruba, crime still exists. We would still avoid walking around by yourself at night, especially in secluded areas (but we’ll get into that later).
Is tipping expected in Aruba?
Tipping in Aruba is not mandatory. If you feel like leaving a tip, the amount is entirely up to you. Some restaurants and bars add a service charge to the bill of 10 to 15%. At Aruba all-inclusive resorts, tipping is included.
Are there any waterfalls in Aruba?
There is lots of things to see including waterfalls, pitons,and plantations. Aruba is flatter, and outside the hotel areas it was very dry with lots of cactus. In hotel areas, there are lots of palm trees and flowers. There are lots of things to see including the natural pool, natural bridge, and caves.
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