Today’s post is something between a travelogue and a quick list of things to do in Aruba. I wrote a journal while I was away so I wanted to share it, but I also know that most of you are here looking for an honest list of vacation ideas!
So here are my 20 favorite things to do in Aruba, combined with travelogues from my recent trip.
As you can see, we packed a lot into just four days in Aruba. This time it was a press trip rather than a normal holiday, so we did a lot! It was a lot of fun, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that much every day. The activities and restaurants listed here will last you at least a week, and in between you’ll have plenty of time to relax and enjoy Aruba’s beaches.
Aruba Travel Tips
Before we move on, let me share some travel tips:
- We recommend renting a car for all or part of your trip in Aruba. The island is easily accessible by car, making it easy to get around and explore all parts of Aruba.
- Many restaurants recommend making reservations in advance. Many things can be booked online.
- Parking can be a little difficult in some areas, so arrive early for food and activities to give yourself time to park.
- Aruba has a nice warm breeze that is very nice, but sometimes you don’t realize how hot it is. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen and cover up.
- British Airways will launch new flights to Aruba in March. Direct flights from Gatwick Airport take 11 and a half hours and prices start from just under £600.
Day One in Aruba
- Stay at Boardwalk Hotel Alba!
Waking up in a plush king-sized bed and sleepily stepping out onto the spacious verandah was the perfect way to start the day. Emily usually already makes coffee and I take it outside to watch lizards flit across the already hot tiles and birds chirp happily as a warm breeze blows through the palm trees. I was looking at the.
As I breathed in the musty morning air, I noticed a small black kitten curled up on the couch outside. It was filled with unfamiliar tropical scents and the kind of humidity you can only dream of in England. It makes my skin feel greasy and makes my hair run wild, but I love it.
The large verandah has a large hammock swing, rocking chairs, BBQ facilities and sofas overlooking a tropical paradise of palm trees. The palms and trees below are nice, but what I really enjoy are the birds. So close, so colorful, and so noisy!
We had breakfast on the terrace with Shari, the hotel manager, for a relaxing breakfast served at the on-site restaurant, Eduardo’s. There was a fresh fruit platter, acai bowl, scrambled eggs, cake, toast, and plenty of coffee.
It was a relaxing start to the day, partly due to jet lag from the UK and partly because we were able to arrive a few hours early before heading to Arikok National Park.
This is the boardwalk reception area
this was our living room
This was our kitchen. It had everything we needed!
- arikok national park
Arikok National Park covers almost 20% of Aruba Island. This is the perfect place on Aruba to visit all the unique natural sites and see what makes this island different from other Caribbean islands. You’ll see the rugged interior of the island, where giant cacti form a thorny forest, and a dramatic rocky coastline unlike anything you’ve seen near the hotel.
Pay a small entrance fee to enter Arikok National Park. Afterwards, you’re free to drive and explore on your own, or hire a guide. A wonderful guide joined us and took us through some beautiful viewing spots before taking us on a tour of Guadirikiri Cave.
Travel Hack Tip: If you don’t feel comfortable exploring a national park alone or don’t want to rent a car, we have some fun tours that go further afield.
The main attractions of Arikok National Park are:
- Natural Pool (Conti) – More on this later!
- fontein cave
- Guadirikiri Cave
- boca prince
- dos playa
- Guadirikiri Cave
Guadirikiri Cave is 100% one of the most amazing and unique attractions in Aruba. Until 35 million years ago, Aruba was underwater, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Guadirikiri Cave.
The cave is filled with marine fossils and coral fossils. There is a hole in the roof of the cave, which would have been a fumarole when the cave was underwater.
Incredible stalagmites and stalactites create eerily beautiful natural sculptures that seem to grow from the ground and crawl down from the ceiling. These are a great reminder of how long these caves have been here.
Small fruit bats fly among the stalagmites and stalactites, reminding us that we are guests in their home and that this cave is natural.
There are four rooms inside the cave, one of which contains ancient art, but the cave has been closed to protect both the bats and the art.
Two rooms in Guadirikiri Cave are especially magical!
Sunlight shines through a hole in the ceiling, creating magical rays that look like angels reaching out from the heavens with their arms. Well, depending on what your beliefs are, it’s either angels or UFOs!
As our footsteps shook the earth beneath our feet, a cloud of dust rose into the golden light, just like in a children’s fairy tale.
These incredible natural attractions are often marred by long lines, safety barriers, and crowds of tourists with selfie sticks (I’m one of them). So, I know it’s ironic to say this!), this cave was incredibly quiet. A few tourists trickled in and out, giving us a chance to truly appreciate this natural phenomenon and properly absorb it all.
It was just magic.
As I left the cave, I looked back to get one last glimpse of the bats dancing above my head and saw the wind kicking up dust. It was as if the dust was flying up to the sky to meet the dazzling rays of the sun illuminating the cave.
This was one of those amazing travel moments that I will remember for the rest of my life.
- baby beach
Without a doubt, this is the most perfect beach in Aruba, so if you’re looking to spend a day at the beach, this is the place to be. It’s just perfect.
Baby Beach is located not far from San Nicolas and is a huge, sheltered bay with very calm waters and dazzling white sand. The beach has several trees for shade, and you can rent cabanas and umbrellas.
We recommend arriving early if you want shade. Otherwise, please bring an umbrella.
Baby Beach is regularly listed as one of the best beaches in the world, so it should be on your list of things to do in Aruba!
- rogers beach
We made a quick stop at Rogers Beach, a beautiful and very quiet beach most visited by locals. It’s not far from Baby Beach but it’s very quiet!
Most of the people here are locals because there is a picture-perfect white sand beach on one side and an oil refinery on the other. Still, I wanted to put it on the list because it’s so beautiful and there were only two people there when we visited, so if you’re looking for a really quiet and beautiful beach, this is the place!
- San Nicolas Culture Cafe
Kulture Cafe is a great example of a traditional cafe/restaurant in Aruba. It also has a museum-like feel, with historical artifacts on display inside, as well as gourmet experiences and art exhibitions.
You can casually enjoy the atmosphere of the cafe even during the day. The cafe comes alive in the evening, with floral lights illuminating the outdoor tables.
We visited on Taco Tuesday and the tacos were delicious!
- San Nicolas street art
From Culture Café, we explored the street art around San Nicolas. There’s so much to see and do, which gives the city a lively, cutting-edge, and interesting feel.
You can wander the streets on your own or take a street art tour with Aruba Mural Tours. Unfortunately, they weren’t there when we visited, but we would have loved to know more about each piece of art!
- Quinta del Carmen
That night we had a dreamy dinner and sat outside under the trees and twinkling lights. We went to Quinta del Carmen. Quinta del Carmen is an old farmhouse and was once the island’s first hospital.
The restaurant has different areas for romantic meals, large groups, families and locals who want to relax and enjoy tapas dishes. The food was delicious, and I went to bed thinking how lucky I was to be able to come to such a beautiful island.
Day two: Things to do in Aruba
- Morning meditation at the butterfly farm
Our second day in Aruba started out in the dreamiest possible way as we headed to the butterfly farm for a morning meditation session.
Side note: If you are visiting Aruba with kids, we highly recommend a visit to the butterfly farm. It is amazing to see such huge butterflies and pupae hanging in cupboards around the tropical garden.
It was an unusually rainy morning, but I quickly realized that the rain wasn’t going to stop anytime soon. At first I was disappointed as I thought the session would be cancelled. Little did I know that the rain added to the magic.
We walked through a tropical garden with lush palm trees and colorful flowers forming a canopy above our heads. But the canopy wasn’t enough for the tropical rain, so our meditation guide Shanti encouraged us all to bring umbrellas and form a circle.
It was warm and humid, so the rain was actually a refreshing splash, but a constant relaxing pitter-patter on the umbrella roof.
The umbrella became a safe little bubble as we closed our eyes and began our meditation session.
Shanti’s soothing voice encouraged us to notice the sounds, smells, and textures of our surroundings. With cold raindrops splashing on my toes, I took off my sandals and felt the wet wood and sharp raindrops hit my feet.
It was a peaceful 15 minute session. Each of us was then given a short poem to ponder before beginning the meditation of walking alone among the butterflies.
It was raining hard and we were all soaking wet, but it was warm.
While everyone else seemed to be floating in a little cocoon relaxing under the umbrella, I was so excited. Meditation has given me so much energy.
I flew around like a butterfly, exploring the plants, chasing giant butterflies from leaf to leaf, waiting excitedly for them to open their wings and take flight.
Travel Hack Tip: Butterfly Farm has a nice cafe so you can have breakfast after your meditation session.
- Buffet breakfast at Marriott’s La Vista Restaurant
If you prefer to cook for yourself or just want a change of pace for breakfast, go to a high-rise hotel and enjoy a breakfast buffet.
Marriott Aruba’s La Vista Restaurant is not only available to hotel guests, but the general public can also enter and pay for the buffet. A full buffet breakfast costs $32.95, but it’s even cheaper if you choose a continental or American breakfast. It was a delicious breakfast with a mix of local, American and European breakfast options, and by the time we finished eating, the sun was shining.
- SUP yoga
Our next stop was Vela Alba, a water sports shop just outside the Marriott Hotel. There is watersports equipment available for rent (and a lovely shop full of gorgeous beachwear too!) and we came here for a SUP yoga session with Veronique.
I do a lot of paddleboarding and yoga, but I’ve never had the opportunity to combine the two, so I was really excited to try this.
Veronique is a CrossFit champion who took up yoga after an injury. We first carried our boards to some buoys anchored about 100 meters from shore. We hooked ourselves to a buoy to keep us from floating away and began with some relaxed introductions.
I lay on my back and took long, slow breaths of warm ocean air, feeling the gentle waves rocking my board.
The first part of the session was not too difficult as I was either on my back or on all fours. We stretched out and held positions for an insane amount of time. Thankfully, the distractions of the ocean, my board, a brief rain show, and a pair of pelicans diving into the water were enough to draw my attention away from my trembling muscles.
Once the vinyasa flow and standing poses came in, things got really interesting.
Emily immediately fell off the board and I struggled to lift my arms off the board, never mind standing strong in warrior pose! But the water was warm and there was an inevitable moment when I would fall.
After our SUP yoga session, we had some time to play on the boards for a bit before heading back to the beautiful beach to relax.
- Dreamy beach picnics at Picnic Aruba
At lunchtime, we headed to Surfside Beach and enjoyed an idyllic picnic lunch with Picnic Aruba.
Now, when I say “picnic,” you probably think of a basic blanket, a small basket, and maybe a beach lorry, right?
Oh my god!
This was a next level picnic.
When we arrived, we found a tipi decorated with colorful flowers and a blanket strewn with cushions under the shade of a mangrove tree. A small table was set up and a picnic blanket was piled with sweets.
Just a few meters away, the blue ocean was rippling gently and it felt like a dream!
We drank prosecco and enjoyed a picnic of cheese, bread, crackers, meat, fruit, olives, nuts, chutneys and mustard.
Travel Hack Tip: If you are visiting Aruba for a romantic getaway or a girls trip, Picnic Aruba is definitely one of the best things to do. It was like a dream!
- Kayak and snorkel with Aruba Outdoor Adventures
After the picnic, we headed to the Aruba Nautical Club for a kayaking and snorkeling adventure with RJ from Aruba Outdoor Adventures.
Emily and I had a double kayak with a modern twist, complete with petals rather than paddles. It’s truly a game changer!
As someone who has strong legs but weak arms, this was amazing!
After steering with a small lever and relaxing in a comfy chair, Emily and I were soon soaring above the water. And wow, what great water that was.
The sea is so incredibly bright and blue that if kayaking across it wasn’t fun, I would have just jumped in and swam!
Once we anchored at a small pier and headed outside to start snorkeling, the opportunity to swim soon came.
There was a small protected area to practice and build confidence before heading out into the big blue ocean to see what was beneath the crystal clear waves. Wow, that’s just amazing.
During our 90-minute snorkeling trip, we saw more than scuba diving at some of the world’s “best dive sites.” I’ve scuba dived in Australia, Indonesia and Thailand and this was the best!
When we got back to the surface, we couldn’t believe we had been snorkeling for an hour and a half. There was so much to see that the time went by so quickly!
Our guide, RJ, was great at keeping us safe and leading the way while making us laugh. He was so much fun and made it a really special experience.
We returned to our kayaks where RJ opened the “bar” and handed out cold drinks and snacks from the cooler. We then pedaled back to shore, racing our kayaks and laughing the whole time.
- Romantic meal at Olivia Alba
We had dinner that night at Olivia Alba, a Mediterranean restaurant in Oranjestad. This candle-lit restaurant has an indoor-outdoor feel, with an open roof and lush, tropical atmosphere with plants and trees.
We had pumpkin ravioli and a delicious grilled shrimp dish, accompanied by delicious bread and wine. It was so gorgeous and the atmosphere was so relaxing and romantic.
Day 3 in Aruba
- Mountain biking by Aruba Active Vacation
I left early on my third day in Aruba and really appreciated Boardwalk Aruba’s fully equipped kitchen. We had a quick breakfast on the terrace before heading out on Aruba Active Vacation’s mountain bike tour.
Aruba is a fairly flat island, so I imagined that the term “mountain biking” would be a bit of a stretch, and I was mentally prepared for a more relaxed cycling experience. Alas, this was not a relaxing ride. It was incredible, but not relaxing.
From our beachside cabin, our bikes and guide Rudolph were waiting for us, and we headed inland to a side of Aruba that many visitors to the island don’t see.
Away from the beaches, Aruba is a very dry desert filled with giant cacti, forming the desert equivalent of a forest.
A dusty, rocky path winds through a cactus forest, up and down small hills, under cactus canopies, over rocks and studs, and over more rocks and hills. And finally we reached the shore. There, a dusty sandy road led along the beach into the city.
It was an incredible ride and we really enjoyed seeing a different side of Aruba and visiting the harsh and beautiful cactus forests and rocky and dusty trails that cut through the interior of the island.
Travel Hack Tip: The particular ride we did was definitely for more experienced riders than Emily and I. So please keep this in mind when making your reservation. If you are a beginner, please suggest a different route or let the guide know that you need a little help and will be going slowly. You can also rent a bike and go on an adventure on your own. Make sure to leave early before it gets too hot!
- Lunch at Garden Fresh
If you’re looking for a casual but healthy lunch in Aruba, check out Garden Fresh. This is a cafe with a relaxed atmosphere and a healthy menu.
In fact, we found that much of the food in Aruba is really healthy and fresh, with lots of vegan and veggie options. Usually when I come back from a trip I feel a little sick or like I’ve eaten too much unhealthy food, but I came back from Aruba feeling really healthy!
- Natural pool offroad jeep safari
Next we headed to the Ritz Carlton to wait to be picked up by De Palm Tours.
This company runs a lot of tours, but we went on an off-road Jeep adventure that took us inside the national park to see the Natural Pools, California Lighthouse, Altavista, Chapel, Natural Bridge, and Baby Natural Bridge. I did.
The attractions were all great, especially the natural pools where the protective rocks around the shore create natural pools. Periodically, large waves crash against the rocks and spill out, creating exciting swells and excitement for everyone in the pool. Everyone applauds from the water below as the brave visitors jump off the rocks.
The atmosphere was electric, with the excitement, beauty and adrenaline rush that comes from the power of the ocean.
All the attractions are great, but the real fun of the tour was riding through the national park in the back of a jeep with a madman behind the wheel.
We all knew we were perfectly safe, but we still clung to the bars, bumped into rocks, jumped off our seats, went around corners at breakneck speed, and the second jeep on the tour… It was still terrifying as I raced towards it.
It was a lot of fun, with lots of jokes and banter that got cheers and cheers. We were dropped off at the Ritz Carlton and had a short walk back to the Boardwalk Hotel where we finished our adventurous day. A few glasses of wine were much needed there.
- Dinner at Papiamento Restaurant
We had dinner that night at Papiamento Restaurant, another outdoor restaurant set in the lush gardens of a beautiful old museum-like house.
The owner used to run a restaurant in town, but when the rent went up, he decided to bring the restaurant into his home. She set up a table in a lush courtyard next to a sparkling pool. Currently, it is one of the best restaurants in Aruba.
We had a delicious meal starting with Kesi Jena, a traditional Aruban dish with cheese on top, something between mince pie and cottage pie. Yes, it sounds a bit like that episode of Friends where Rachel makes a boring cottage pie. It wasn’t supposed to work, but it did, and it was spicy, warm, sweet, and comforting. Who doesn’t love a dish topped with cheese!
Then I had a hot stone dish with lobster and shrimp!
Day 4 in Aruba
- A relaxing day in Tierra del Sol
After a massage in Tierra del Sol
On our last day in Aruba, we weren’t able to fly home until the evening, so we spent a luxurious and relaxing afternoon in Tierra del Sol.
Tierra del Sol is a country club, spa, and resort and is home to the only 18-hole golf course on the island.
You don’t have to be a guest to visit here. You can book a spa package that includes spa treatments and use of the spa facilities and pool.
We had a gorgeous massage, soaked up some sun at the end and had an early dinner overlooking the golf course. It was very nice and a great way to spend our last afternoon in Aruba.
- Aruba submarine tour
This is not an activity we did, but we had to add it to our list of things to do in Aruba. Because it looks amazing and is a great way to see the underwater world with kids or non-swimmers.
De Palm Tours offers two submarine tours, one going 130 feet below the surface in a complete submarine. The other, a more affordable and family-friendly option, is located 5 feet underground.
Personally, I choose the cheaper option because the sea is so transparent that you can see a lot of things just below the surface!