Caribbean Aruba 15 Best Things to Do in Aruba

15 Best Things to Do in Aruba

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Aruba, or as it’s affectionately dubbed, One Happy Island, is an island in the Caribbean full of stunning white sandy beaches, a rich history, and plenty of things to see and do. To help you plan your trip, we’ve ventured across the island to handcraft the ultimate list of the best things to do in Aruba. From enchanting cave pools to breathtaking viewpoints, we’ve got it all; so start scrolling to plan your ultimate Aruba itinerary!

Main shopping street in Oranjestad, Aruba
Photo: mandritoiu | Depositphotos

Visit the Capital of Oranjestad

The capital city of Oranjestad is a must-see in Aruba as there are some fantastic attractions to visit. Visitors can start their day off with a ride on the free trolleys, which run Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. The open-air streetcar is a great relaxed way to get a feel for the city as it runs from the cruise port to Plaza Nicky with several stops in between. 

Another great way to explore the city is with a walking tour. This is the best way to get more insight into the city and country as a guided walking tour will take visitors to all the points of interest and the guide can answer questions about local history, places to go, and local hotspots to check out. We recommend this two-and-a-half-hour downtown walking tour as you will get to see over 30 sites with a guide and the tour includes hotel pick-up, museum entry tickets, bottled water, and stops to enjoy local snacks.

Visitors could also opt to explore downtown Oranjestad on their own with a self-guided tour. Make sure to stop in at Renaissance Marketplace and Renaissance Mall to check out the shops and souvenirs and to the main square at Renaissance Marketplace to enjoy free live music and a bite to eat. One attraction tourists should aim to visit is Fort Zoutman, Aruba’s oldest building that offers a glimpse into the island’s past. Fort Zoutman was constructed by the Dutch in the late 18th century to protect against pirates and visitors can tour the fort and iconic red-and-white tower to learn more about Aruba’s storied past and colonization.

Eagle Beach in Aruba
fokke baarssen / shutterstock.com

Spend Some Time at the Beaches

OK, a beach day seems pretty obvious on an island renowned for its pristine sandy beaches, but there are several great beaches to choose from depending on what activities you’d like to enjoy. The most popular beaches to spend a day at are Palm Beach, Eagle Beach, and Baby Beach. 

Baby Beach is a curved sandy beach located in San Nicolas and is easily the best beach to snorkel due to its protection against waves and calm turquoise waters. This is also a great choice for families with little ones who want safe, smooth waters for their children to enjoy. Baby Beach also boasts plenty of shady spots to set up, food trucks, and bathroom facilities, making it a great location to enjoy a full day of fun in the sun. 

Those on the hunt for the perfect Instagram photo should make their way to Eagle Beach where the iconic Fofoti/Divi Tree sits with its intertwined roots winding into a large canopy hanging over the sand and sea. The sunsets from Eagle Beach are fantastic and there are plenty of water sports available at the beach as well, including jet ski rentals, parasailing, tube rides, and much more. Cap off your day at Eagle Beach with a sunset meal at Passions on the Beach

Palm Beach is a resort-lined beach located just north of Eagle Beach and offers plenty to see and do. Visitors can indulge in water sports like parasailing, snorkeling, and jet skiing, or hit up one of the beach bars, take the kids to the Butterfly Farm, or visit the Bubali Bird Sanctuary.

Another great beach option is the mangrove beach of Mangel Halto, which boasts fantastic calm waters for little ones to swim at ease but is not as great for those who want to spend all day sunbathing on the shore. 

Boca Grandi Beach is fantastic for those who enjoy the thrill of kite surfing, while Boca Catalina Beach and Tres Trapi offer great conditions for snorkeling. We recommend heading to Tres Trapi in the early morning for the best snorkeling experience.

Casibari Rock Formations on Aruba
Photo: Courtesy of Aruba Tourism Authority

Take in the Expansive Views From Casibari Rock Formations

Those who want to explore the interior of Aruba shouldn’t miss out on the Casibari Rock Formations. This is a cool, free thing to do in Aruba for the whole family, as you can explore this huge cluster of smooth boulders and the surrounding nature trails. Casibari Rock Formations are located roughly a 10-minute drive from Oranjestad. Once you arrive, there is a short trail that leads to the viewing platform on top of these gigantic tonalite boulders, offering jaw-dropping 360-degree views of the whole island. After exploring the trails and rocks, head over to the on-site barbecue bar to enjoy a cold drink in the shade or a bite to eat. This is a great short trip for the morning or afternoon if you’re wondering what to do in Aruba to fill a gap in your itinerary. Another rock formation not too far from Casibari worth visiting is Ayo Rock Formation.

Conchi Natural Pool at t
Photo: Courtesy of Aruba Tourism Authority

Explore Arikok National Park

Arikok National Park is easily one of the best tourist attractions in Aruba and for a good reason. Not only can visitors enjoy incredible hikes to caves and natural swimming pools, but they can also book horseback riding, Jeep, or ATV tours. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. and visitors should arrive early to get the most out of their day pass. 

A must-see in the park is the Conchi Natural Pool, which requires a tour, 4×4 vehicle, or hike to access but is well worth the visit. This rocky, protected swimming hole is situated along the coast and provides an excellent opportunity to cool off in the Caribbean sun. There are three different ways for visitors to reach the Conchi Natural Pool. The first option is to book a tour that includes a stop at the pool, available through ATV, horseback, Jeep, or UTV tours. The second option is to rent a 4×4 vehicle and drive directly to the Conchi Natural Pool. The third option is to rent a regular vehicle (without 4×4 capabilities) and drive to Parking Rancho. From there, it’s roughly a 30-minute hike on flat terrain to reach the pool. Please note that if you plan to hike to Conchi, you’ll need to purchase a pass or wristband for the park beforehand, as park rangers frequently check tickets on the trails and at the pool.

Photo: dz1958.hotmail.com | Depositphotos

There are several other areas of interest within the park, including Fontein Cave. This limestone cave is covered in pictographs and graffiti from inhabitants of the past like European settlers and the indigenous Arawak people. The dome-shaped Quadiriki Cave is as picturesque as they come with petroglyphs that line the walls and a ceiling that opens to the skies offering a spot to take excellent photos. 

Those looking for a unique and remote beach to visit can make their way to Boca Prins, which boasts strong waves, jagged cliffs, and few other tourists. The overhanging cliffs and large rocks also make for fantastic holiday photos. Additionally, Dos Playa stands out as another remarkable beach, offering beautiful ocean views from its cliffs and shoreline, along with a short hike up to the cliff edge to watch the crashing waves. While swimming is prohibited at Dos Playa due to the strong waves, it’s still a great place to watch and appreciate the power of the sea.  

Catamaran sailboat during sunset
Photo: lunamarina | Depositphotos

Book a Water Excursion

The ocean is never far away when you’re on the small island of Aruba, so why not make the most of your time on the island and join a water excursion? One of the most relaxing water activities in Aruba is to set sail on the Monforte III for a luxurious four-course sunset meal. The three-hour cruise sets off from Pelican Pier and includes a four-course chef-prepared meal and unlimited premium beverages while being serenaded to romantic music performed live by the onboard band. For those looking to set sail on a less romantic sunset cruise, check out the Octopus Aruba sunset catamaran tour. The catamaran sets off on a two-hour sunset cruise where you’ll get to enjoy open-air lounge views of the sea and sun while being served refreshing cocktails and snacks.  

If you are looking for a unique water excursion, then book a boat, scuba diving, or snorkel tour to visit WWII’s SS. Antilla Shipwreck. The Antilla is the biggest shipwreck in the Caribbean Sea and has an interesting story behind it. Although much of the details are debated as to how the ship sank and what it was doing in Dutch-owned waters, the main tale of Antilla is one of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The M.S. Antilla was a German freighter ship built in 1939 in Hamburg. During World War Two, Aruba served as a supplier of calcium phosphate, which was then used as a fertilizer and for explosives. Antilla was anchored just off the coast of Aruba on May 10th, 1940, when Germany invaded the Netherlands forcing the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina and her family to flee the country. Unaware of the invasion, Antilla then found itself in enemy waters and Dutch marines arrived to confiscate the enemy German boat. The conflict resulted in the sinking of Antilla not far off the coast of Tres Trapi Beach. Today, divers can explore the interior of the 400-foot boat as well as the portholes and deck fitting. If snorkeling a shipwreck doesn’t interest you, there are several other Aruba snorkeling tours that visit multiple beaches or attractions on the island.

Colorful butterfly with beautiful colours in the Butterfly Farm in Palm Beach on Aruba
Photo: matteo.bartolini | Depositphotos

Meet the Animals of Aruba

There are several lovely places to visit in Aruba that boast fun-loving and interesting animals to see. One of the most popular animal attractions on the island is the Butterfly Farm Aruba, located near Palm Beach. Here, you can explore the rainforest-like sanctuary home to hundreds of colorful butterflies. Head out with your group and explore the ponds and waterfalls of the enclosed mesh farm on your own or join a 30-minute guided tour to learn more about these beautiful creatures and the work being done at the sanctuary. We recommend wearing bright colors and sweet-smelling cologne/perfume if you want butterflies to land on you!

Another great animal attraction on the island is Philip’s Animal Sanctuary, located on the north end of the island. This is a great eco-friendly attraction as the sanctuary is exclusively home to exotic rescued mammals, farm animals, birds, and reptiles. Upon entering, you’ll get a cup of carrots to feed the animals like ostriches, pigs, horses, and more. You’ll even get to interact and pet many of the animals which is such a treat for kids and animal lovers alike. Some of the coolest animals found at Philip’s Animal Sanctuary include red kangaroos, Burmese pythons, jaguarundis, and capuchin monkeys.

Donkey Sanctuary Aruba is another great option for those looking to support an animal sanctuary. Here, you and your group can feed injured and abused donkeys that have found their forever home in this tropical haven. The sanctuary is also home to rescued cats, peacocks, chickens, and other quirky and lovable animals. While the Donkey Sanctuary Aruba is free, donations are appreciated to help fund the organization. 

The Ostrich Farm Aruba is also a fantastic choice to get up close and personal with emus and ostriches. You can sign up for the 20-minute guided tour to learn more about these feathered friends and then feed and snap pictures with them afterward.

If you can’t decide which of these animal attractions to visit, then visit three out of the four on this Meet the Animals of Aruba Tour. This four-and-a-half-hour excursion will take your group to the Ostrich Farm, Donkey Sanctuary, and Philip’s Animal Sanctuary. Plus, the tour includes transportation, bottled water, and entrance to all attractions.

Bushiribana Gold Mine in Aruba
Photo: littleny | Depositphotos

Discover Aruba’s Gold Mining Past at Bushiribana Ruins

If you’re sightseeing in Aruba then make sure to add Bushiribana Ruins to your itinerary. This cool heritage site was once a thriving gold mine in the 19th century and the well-intact ruins left behind offer a great place to indulge your inner explorer. The ruins are easily accessed by an (unmaintained) gravel road and many of the ATV tours make a stop to allow tourists to roam the ruins. There is plenty of room to park and it is completely free to visit, making it a great budget-friendly stop to learn more about Aruba’s history.

Cave pool in Aruba

Go For a Dip at the Cave Pool

One of the most important things to consider when curating your Aruba itinerary is just how bloody hot the island can get! It’s best to plan some cooling-off stops during your day trips and the Cave Pool down the street from Bushiribana Ruins is the ideal spot for a swim. The Cave Pool is set between a massive rock and the cliff wall, creating a calm body of incredibly bright turquoise water to swim in. Just like with Bushiribana Ruins, this is a popular stop on ATV tours and it’s accessible with any car. If you want to avoid the large groups, visit the Cave Pool in the morning as most ATV tours are in the afternoon. Once you arrive, you’ll find a small wooden ladder leading down between the rocks and cliff edge to the natural swimming pool where you and your friends can enjoy jumping into the beautiful clear waters!

California Lighthouse on Aruba
Photo: Courtesy of Aruba Tourism Authority

Visit the California Lighthouse

This iconic Aruba landmark is one of the best Aruba attractions. Located on the northern tip of the island, the California Lighthouse serves as a historical landmark dating back to 1910 and visitors can explore the surrounding cliffside, interior, and the jaw-dropping sunset views from the top of the lighthouse. Unfortunately, this is not an accessible attraction for all travelers as tourists are required to climb up narrow stairs to reach the top viewing platform. After cruising around the lighthouse, visitors can enjoy a meal or drink at the on-site restaurant or head down the street to hike some (or all) of the Westpunt Trail along the coast. Several ATV and bus tours also stop at the California Lighthouse.

Crab installation in San Nicolas, Aruba
Photo: [email protected] | Depositphotos

Take in the Street Art in San Nicolas

This colorful outdoor gallery of artwork is a great place to explore while out and about in the San Nicolas area. Tourists can find the exact location of the art-lined street by typing Aruba Art Fair into Google Maps. It’s located just down the street from San Nicholas Visitor Center and is well worth a stroll as the bright, colorful murals capture the essence of Aruba island life at its core. Take it from us, these murals aren’t your average graffiti street art and are totally worth a visit! Just make sure your cameras and phones are fully charged to document the experience.

Natural bridge in Aruba
Photo: matteo.bartolini | Depositphotos

See the Remains of the Natural Bridge

The Natural Bridge, also known as Baby Bridge, stood as a natural wonder on the island for many years. Unfortunately, when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, the main bridge collapsed into the waters below. However, some of the smaller natural bridges still remain and make for a great quick stop on a tour of the island. Natural Bridge is completely free to visit, and while tourists are not allowed on the bridge for safety reasons, it’s still a cool stop for photos and to awe at what nature is capable of. Next to the bridges is a small gift shop and restaurant to enjoy a snack or refreshing pint before jetting off to explore the rest of the island. There are some cool coves to explore on the way in or out of Natural Bridge, like Marieve’s Cove and Cairn’s Cove.

Women on the beach with pink flamingos in Aruba
Photo: fokkebok | Depositphotos

Meet the Flamingos of Renaissance Island

While many travelers have heard of Aruba’s pink flamingos, it may come as a surprise to learn that these beautiful feathered friends are not actually native to the island. You won’t find wild flamingos roaming freely, but there are two places where you can have an up-close encounter with them! Flamingo Beach on Renaissance Island is easily the most popular of the two. However, visiting this island and beach is not as easy as one might think, as the island is privately owned by Renaissance Wind Creek Aruba Resort, which offers exclusive and unlimited access to these pink feathered friends. Guests of this accommodation receive priority access. In short, it’s not free to see the flamingos but there are a few options on how to see the Flamingos on Renaissance Island. The first option is to book a stay at the four-star Renaissance Wind Creek Aruba Resort, which offers incredible bungalows over the sea and luxurious rooms with unlimited access to the flamingos and island.

Now, the most budget-friendly option for Flamingo Beach is to purchase the Renaissance Aruba Day Pass, which includes ferry transportation, a towel, and a food and drink voucher for the island. However, the Day Pass will not be offered if the resort is at full capacity and the passes sell out faster than free ice cream on a scorching summer day. The only chance tourists have of snagging these valuable passes is by heading to the resort’s website on Saturday at/or just before 9 a.m. (Atlantic Standard Time) when they release their weekly batch of passes for the following week (passes start Monday). Visitors will not be able to purchase passes further in advance than this or be guaranteed a certain number of passes.

The final way travelers can get access to Flamingo Island is by booking a Spa Cove Treatment through the Renaissance Wind Creek Aruba Resort. For this route to work, it must be the Spa Cove Treatment (any other treatment doesn’t include access to the island) and it must be booked through the official Island Spa Cove website. While this route guarantees access to Flamingo Beach, the spa packages often sell out months in advance, so it’s best to book as soon as possible!

Embark on an All-Inclusive Adventure at De Palm Island

Now, if the above route sounds like too much effort, we get it. The other area where you can see flamingos is on De Palm Island. De Palm Island is a private island located south of Renaissance Island that boasts a large all-inclusive resort, a small beach, and a waterpark. Day passes are available for tourists and include access to the pool, waterpark, and beach as well as unlimited drinks, food, banana boat tours, and snorkeling tours. They also have a flock of flamingos to see up close but the flamingos are not as pink as the ones on Renaissance Island. To be able to visit De Palm’s flamingos, tourists will need to upgrade their package to include the experience!

View at Hooiberg from Casibari Rock Formations in Aruba
Photo: disorderly | Depositphotos

Hike Up to Hooiberg Lookout

If you want to experience one of the most incredible viewpoints on the island, then make your way to Hooiberg Lookout located just a 10-minute drive from the Aruba Cruise Terminal. While the trail is only 0.6 miles (one kilometer), it’s not a hike for the faint of heart or out of shape. To get to the viewpoint, you’ll have to climb 650 stairs with an elevation gain of 315 feet (96 meters). However, the reward at the end of the climb is well worth your efforts as you’ll get an incredible 360-degree view of Oranjestad and the island, which is especially magical at sunset. There are side areas on the trail to step off and take a break, including a gazebo to rest in at the halfway point. It should be noted that a hand railing is only present for the first part of the climb, so a walking stick may be necessary for some, and good stable running shoes are necessary for all!

Immerse Yourself in Aruba’s Culture at Bon Bini Festival

One of the perks of traveling is immersing yourself in another country’s culture, and there is no better place to do this in Aruba than at the Bon Bini Festival at Fort Zoutman. This cultural festival is held every Tuesday from 7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. in the fort’s courtyard and features Aruban dancers in traditional costumes, typical Aruban bands and music, and delicious local cuisine. You’ll also get a chance to learn more about Aruba’s language and get a glimpse inside the famous fortress! This is basically like a mini Carnival held weekly and it’s not to be missed.

There you have it, the best things to do in Aruba! Before you know it, you’ll be sitting on one of the island’s sandy beaches with a cold drink in hand singing Kokomo. Just remember that wherever your adventures take you on Aruba, always bring sunscreen and water with you. It is a tropical climate, after all, and the heat doesn’t let up!

Want to make sure you’re fully prepared for your trip? Check out our essential guide on Things to Know Before Visiting Aruba next!

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