Aruba is an excellent destination in the Caribbean. It's an island with its own culture and unique landscapes, the water is perfect, there's great tourism infrastructure, you can drink the tap water, AND it's outside of the Hurricane Belt – meaning it's a great place to visit any time of year!
My husband Elliot and I planned a trip to Aruba to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, but this diverse little island makes a great escape for a friends trip or family vacation, too. (See my full 5-day Aruba itinerary, too.)
While Aruba only covers about 75 square miles, there's actually a lot to do! If you're planning a trip to Aruba, here are all the things you definitely need to add to your to-do list.
11 best things to do in Aruba
Here are my top picks for the best things to do in Aruba, based on my own trip there.
1. Visit Arikok National Park
There's only one national park in Aruba, but Arikok National Park covers almost 20% of the island! This park is known for is rugged desert landscape, and is best explored on a 4×4 safari, ATV tour, or on horseback.
Visiting Arikok National Park is a great way to learn more about Aruba's history and climate (for example, did you know that you'll find more cacti on Aruba than palm trees??), and there are a lot of cool sites to see within the national park.
A few stops within the park that you might make include limestone caves like the Fontein Cave and Quadirikiri Cave, beaches like Prins Bay, and of course the Natural Pool.
2. Swim in the Natural Pool
One of the most popular stops in Arikok National Park is the Natural Pool, which is exactly what it sounds like: a naturally-shaped pool at the edge of the sea that you can swim in.
The Natural Pool (or Conchi, which means “bowl”) is surrounded by jagged volcanic rocks that waves will often crash over, but the water within the pool is usually fairly calm. Getting to the pool requires traversing through Arikok National Park and then walking down to the pool (so sturdy sandals or water shoes are definitely recommended!).
Book a half-day tour like this to visit Arikok National Park and the Natural Pool as part of a jeep safari.
3. Explore the Bushiribana ruins
On Aruba's northeast coast, you can visit the Bushiribana ruins, which are the remnants of a 19th century gold mill. Gold was discovered in Aruba in 1824, causing a gold rush on the island that resulted in several gold mines.
Today, the Bushiribana ruins are nothing more than stacked rocks in the vague shape of a building, but they are interesting to explore, and the views from the ruins are incredible.
4. Visit rock formations
Aruba is a rugged, rocky island, and there are some famous rock formations worth visiting for history and great views. Some of these were likely used by the Arawak people (the earliest settlers on the island), and you can find petroglyphs still existing on some of them.
The main formations to see are:
- Casibari Rock Formations – A huge rocky hill in the center of the island with trails and stairs to a viewpoint with some of the best Aruba views.
- Ayo Rock Formations – You can find Arawak petroglyphs here.
5. Go beach-hopping
Aruba is an island known for its pristine beaches, so there are obviously lots of options if you want to spend time beach hopping. Some of the most well-known beaches in Aruba include:
- Palm Beach – This 2-mile-long beach is in the “hotel zone,” right next to a lot of the high rise hotels in Aruba. You'll find beach bars, water sports stands, shopping, and more at this beach. And the water is calm and perfect for swimming here.
- Eagle Beach – This is the widest beach in Aruba, and known for its soft white sand. Eagle Beach is close to a lot of the low-rise hotels in the tourist zone, but it's still a very nice beach. You'll find beach huts and water sports here, along with two of Aruba's famous fofoti trees.
- Arashi Beach – Located in the north of the island, Arashi is a great beach for snorkeling and relaxing. There are some beach loungers for rent, and plenty of soft white sand. Arashi Beach is also close to the California Lighthouse, which is also worth a visit.
- Baby Beach – Located in the south of Aruba near San Nicolas, Baby Beach is a shallow half-moon beach perfect for snorkleing and paddling. It's also a popular beach with locals.
Aruba full island safari
And if you want to do all of the above things (visit Arikok National Park, swim in the Natural Pool, climb some rock formations, see the mill ruins, and visit a beach or two) in one day, you can by booking a full island safari tour. This tour is a great introduction to the island of Aruba and packed with tons of cool sights. You'll get to the explore the island on an open-air safari-style vehicle driven by a local guide.
>> Book this tour here: Island Ultimate Jeep Safari
6. Hang out with flamingos
Another beach you can visit if you plan for it is Flamingo Beach – perhaps the most famous beach in Aruba. This beach is located on Renaissance Private Island, which is the only private island in Aruba — and it's more or less reserved for Renaissance hotel guests.
I recommend staying at the Renaissance Wind Creek Aruba Resort for at least a couple nights of your trip in order to have free access to the island.
The two beaches on the island are Iguana Beach and Flamingo Beach (a family-friendly and adults-only beach, respectively), the latter of which is home to six pink flamingos.
If you stay at one of the Renaissance hotels (read about them here!), you can take a free shuttle boat over to the private island in the morning, and then hang out all day. You can take photos with flamingos, swim in the man-made lagoons, grab food at the Papagayo Bar & Grill, maybe rent a kayak or some snorkeling gear, and watch planes land at the airport.
If you're not staying at the Renaissance resort, you CAN sometimes get a day pass to visit Renaissance Private Island. You used to only be able to get these in-person on the day you wanted to visit, but now there is an option to purchase day passes online in advance.
Island day passes are limited, however, and not available every day. So if you want to be guaranteed a visit to Flamingo Beach, I would just book a room at the Renaissance Resort for at least one night. That way you don't have to stress about whether you'll get passes or not!
7. Snorkel over a shipwreck
Another must-do while you're in Aruba is to get out on the water. The Caribbean Sea surrounds Aruba with beautiful turquoise water, and several companies offer fun sailing and snorkeling tours. I highly recommend a snorkeling tour – and specifically recommend this champagne brunch snorkeling trip, which includes both a champagne brunch and lunch on board a comfortable catamaran.
The trip we did also included three separate snorkeling stops, including one over the wreckage of the SS Antilla, a German merchant ship that was scuttled (intentionally sunk) by its German crew during the early days of WWII in 1940.
The Antilla is a popular dive site in the Caribbean, but the wreckage is in shallow enough water that you can also snorkel above it. This was our favorite snorkeling stop!
Book the same tour here: Champagne Breakfast and Lunch Cruise with Snorkeling
(The tour week took was a 4-hour one; if you're looking for a shorter and cheaper trip, this catamaran snorkeling tour is only 2.5 hours long.)
8. Take a sunset cruise
Aruba has some great sunsets, so of course there are sunset cruise options, too! This 2-hour sunset cruise tour is one of the most popular options, and includes some snacks and an open bar.
If you want something a bit more romantic that includes dinner, this sunset dinner cruise includes a buffet dinner onboard, while this cruise and dinner tour includes a sunset sail and separate waterfront dinner.
9. Explore Oranjestad
While Aruba is definitely known as a beach destination and many people stay in the “hotel zone” north of the city, don't miss out on exploring Oranjestad, the island's colorful capital.
Spend some time going for a stroll through Oranjestad and down along the city's small harbor. It's a safe place to wander, and the architecture is quite pretty.
There are amble opportunities to do some shopping (try the Royal Plaza Mall or Renaissance Marketplace), snap a photo with the “I Love Aruba” sign, and wander deeper into the city to get a feel for local life.
10. Go on a food tour
Food tours are one of my favorite things to do when I travel, as they give you insight into so much more than just what people eat. Food reflects culture and history, too, and food tours cover it all.
In Aruba, where a lot of the restaurants cater to tourists, it can be difficult to get an authentic taste of the local cuisine. Which is where. afood tour comes in.
This Fusion of the World food tour is the perfect way to experience the local culinary culture in Aruba. Guided by a local expert, you'll explore Oranjestad and try local dishes and beverages. Food tastings and drinks are included, and the evening tour will fill you up enough for dinner.
11. Visit the donkey sanctuary
One unique experience in Aruba that you can't miss is visiting the island's Donkey Sanctuary. This non-profit organization has been around for over 25 years, and it's dedicated to saving the island's donkeys.
Although not native to Aruba, donkeys have had a presence on the island for over 500 years and were the main mode of transportation for centuries. An illness threatened extinction of Aruba's donkeys in the 1970s, but now you can see an interact with the donkeys in their sanctuary.
This half-day animal sanctuary tour combines a visit of the island's Donkey Sanctuary with additional stops at the Aruba Ostrich Farm and Philip's Animal Garden.
When to visit Aruba
Aruba is a year-round travel destination. It has two “seasons” – wet and dry – with the dry season of January-May being the most popular time to visit. August and September tend to be the hottest months in Aruba, and November is generally the rainiest.
It's warm year-round, though, and with Aruba being outside of the Hurricane Belt, you really can't go wrong with a trip in any month. Visit June-December for better prices and fewer people.
Have you been to Aruba yet?