Quite honestly, we were ‘forced’ to spend 14 days on Aruba as Covid-19 rules for the US prohibited us to get into the US directly. Having been to Curacao and Bonaire already and finding cheaper flights out to the US from Aruba we opted for this island to have our break. While it was not a deliberate choice, we have always enjoyed the other Dutch Antilles, so Aruba was not bad to go to at all!
Time of year: June/July
Time spend: 2 weeks
Means to travel: Tiny rental car
- Arikok National Park
- Baby Beach
- Mangel Halto beach outer reef snorkel
- Archeological Museum
- Butterfly farm
The journey – Where we went & Stayed the night
As you can see from the map above, we literally went right across the island in all directions during the 2 weeks we were there. Our accommodation was very centrally located, which was perfect with the rental car we had as the road can get quite clogged at times, especially along the coastline. We managed to circumvent that easily as we were not in a touristy area at all. If you do the same, do make sure you have a pool at your accommodation and air-conditioning, to make sure you cool off sufficiently after sightseeing or beachbumming.
- Oranjestad – Punto Di Oro Apartments; We found a good deal on Airbnb for this place, and had a great time there. All the amenities were there. The pool, BBQ and lounge area, as well as the spaciously laid out apartments are a great hideout from the touristy coastline. Our 2-bedroom apartment had 2 en-suite rooms so it is also great for 2 couples or a family. The service at the front desk (though limited in opening hours) is good, and an added bonus is their on site car rental at very sharp rates. We highly recommend staying here!
As Aruba is situated in the Caribean, everybody of course first thinks of the beach, and Aruba will certainly not disappoint! We enjoyed every single beach we went to, while they all had very different characteristics, so chose based on what your perfect beach day looks like. But as we had a good period of time to really check out the island, we found that it has much more to offer than just sun, sand and sea.
- Arikok National Park & Casibari/Ayo Rock Formations: These sites cover a lot of the geological diversity of the island, and give you a real feel for the origins of it. They are well maintained and easy to navigate, even in a small rental car. Check our blog on more insights.
- Archeological Museum, Oranjestad: A lovely interactive museum about the history of Aruba’s inhabitants, especially focused on the Amerindians. The museum is a great airconditioned break when strolling through Oranjestad (or coming passed it on the free streetcar), and gives you a good idea of the location of the island and how its people evolved over time. Ow… and it’s FREE.
- Reef snorkeling at Mangel Halto Beach: Not for the beginners, but the only patch of reef you can get to from the beach, with a fantastic drift snorkel all the way back to the beach. The coral is beautiful and teeming with fish such as trumpetfish, grouper, box fish, morays.
- Butterfly farm: Our kids favorite, they went 4 times throughout our stay (which is worth it as your ticket allows you to come back as often as you like during your stay) and enjoyed it thoroughly every time. The guided tour is great and gives you a good idea of the life of the butterfly, but the garden itself is a great hideout where the kids can feed fish and try to get those fluttery things to land on their hands/hats!
Aruba is dubbed the ‘Happy Island’, and with that you can expect friendly hospitality and a genuine laidback vibe across the island. Safety is not an issue (assuming you don’t do anything stupid), and crime rates are minimal. A few pointers;
- Island life does not come cheap: As pretty much everything has to be imported, prices are not what you are used to when you are a ‘mainlander’. Of course cooking your own meals (book an apartment with kitchen!) will be the biggest saver in terms of money spent, otherwise try out local food trucks to keep your budget in check. Ow, and very important: you can drink the tapwater!!! We have seen tourists bulk buy big bottles of water when the water coming from the tap is one of the best around – add the ever available ice from the ice machine, and you are good to go!
- Note that gas & parking IS cheap, which makes renting a car even more appealing.
- Ostrich farm… hard pass: While the monthly farmers market (every 1st Sunday of the month) made our visit still quite pleasant, the guided tour across the farm was a waste of time and money. The tour felt rushed and insincere, as you walk by a dozen pens with ostriches and get the explanation spat out at you at lightning speed. If you want to see animals, go for the butterfly farm or the donkey sanctuary.
Have a look at other Central American destinations or check our blog section for more on Aruba and the adventures we had!