When I planned my first trip to Aruba, I’ll admit, I didn’t do much research. I knew the basics: it was a small island off the coast of Venezuela, it had beaches and casinos, and it was a generally popular tourist destination. Little did I know that Aruba would quickly become one of my favorite places in the world.
Since that first trip, I’ve been back to Aruba several times, and each time I’ve discovered something new and wonderful about the island. From the best places to eat and drink to the most beautiful (and remote) beaches, Aruba truly has something for everyone. In this article, I’ll share with you my top 13 picks for The Best Things to Do in Aruba, Attractions, and Activities. Read on!
Things to do in Aruba
Oranjestad is the capital of Aruba and one of the places that you cannot miss. Although it has grown a lot in recent years, it has managed to preserve its colonial style. The main streets are full of colorful buildings, and the atmosphere is very relaxed. It is an excellent place to stroll and do some shopping since most of the island’s tourist attractions are located here.
Start your tour at the Aruba Archaeological Museum, which will take you on a journey through the history of Aruba. In addition, you can tour the beautiful California Lighthouse, which is located on the northwest tip of the island.
If you are interested in taking a tour of the island, I recommend that you do it on the hop-on hop-off bus. It has different routes and stops at all the places of tourist interest on the island. Another option is to take a tour in an open jeep, which is perfect for lovers of adventure and nature.
As for shopping, you will find both expensive designer stores and more commercial places. The city center has two large malls: the Renaissance Marketplace and the Royal Plaza Mall. If you want to buy souvenirs or try typical Aruban food, I recommend visiting Local Market Aruba.
At night, the city comes alive with its many bars and clubs. If you want to experience the true Aruban party atmosphere, don’t miss a visit to Moomba Beach.
In short, Oranjestad is one of the best places to visit in Aruba, whether it is your first time on the island or not.
2. Arikok National Park
This is one of the top tourist attractions in Aruba that I liked the most. Not in vain, as it occupies almost 20% of the island. So if you are thinking about doing some trekking during your stay on the island, this is the ideal place.
You can do different routes through the park, varying the level of difficulty. The most popular and easy to do is the Quadiriki Caves hike. This tour lasts about an hour, round trip, and does not require a guide (although I recommend it).
In the park, you will find several places of interest, such as the Fontein Cave and the Arawak Indian Petroglyphs. In the first one, you will see stalactites and stalagmites formed by the dripping of water over the years. The second is a series of cave paintings dating around 1000 BC.
In the Arikok National Park, you will also find the Natural Bridge. Unfortunately, this natural curiosity collapsed in 2005 after a hurricane. Today, you can only see the remains of what was one of the most popular places in Aruba.
To finish the visit to this national park, I recommend that you make a stop at Boca Prins Beach. This is an excellent place for snorkeling since it is a natural reserve.
3. Visit Aruba’s Dive Sites
Aruba is one of the best places in the world to go diving. And this is because the island has more than 30 dive sites to choose from. Whether a beginner or an experienced diver, there is a dive site for you.
SS Antilla, Arikok National Park, and Jane Sea are some of the most popular dive sites. The SS Antilla is a WWII German cargo ship sunk by the Americans in 1940. This ship is now one of the largest artificial reefs in the world and is home to a variety of fish and other marine life.
Arikok National Park, on the other hand, is a great place to see staghorn coral and sponges. And finally, the Jane Sea is another shipwreck that was sunk in 1988 to form an artificial reef.
Aruba’s dive sites are world-renowned and attract divers from all over the world. So, if you are looking for the best things to do in Aruba, add diving to your list.
4. Soak up the sun at Aruba Beaches
You can’t say you’ve been to Aruba if you haven’t visited its beaches. After all, this is one of the main reasons why people visit the island. And with its turquoise waters and white sandy beaches, Aruba is the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun. There are many beaches to choose from, but the most famous and busiest are Eagle Beach, Palm Beach, and Baby Beach.
Eagle Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Aruba. It is located on the west coast of the island and is known for its fine white sand and clear turquoise waters. Palm Beach, on the other hand, is the busiest beach on the island. It is located on the north coast and is full of hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops. If you are looking for a lively atmosphere, this is the place to go.
Baby Beach is located on the southeast coast of the island and is one of the best places to visit in Aruba if you are looking for a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. As its name suggests, it is also a great place to bring your children as there are shallow waters perfect for them to play in.
If you’re looking for more action-packed activities, Boca Grandi is the place to go. This is the perfect spot for windsurfing and kitesurfing. There are also many restaurants and bars in the area where you can have something to eat or drink after a day of surfing.
I can’t mention all the beaches here, but suffice to say, there’s a beach for everyone. They are the top attractions in Aruba and one of the main reasons why people visit the island. So, whether you’re looking for a quiet spot to relax or a place to have some fun, you’ll find it here.
5. Alto Vista Chapel
A visit to Aruba is not complete without knowing its religious side. And one of the places that best represents this is the Alto Vista Chapel.
This small church is located in the northern part of the island and is considered the first Catholic chapel built on the island. This chapel was first built in 1750 by the Spanish missionaries who came to Aruba with the aim of converting the native population to Christianity.
Although the chapel has undergone several renovations over the years, it has managed to retain its original atmosphere. The current chapel was built in 1952, and since then, it has become a place of pilgrimage for many Catholics from all over the world.
One of the things that struck me the most about this place was the tranquility that is felt. Surrounded by nature and with a fantastic view of the sea, this chapel is the perfect place to disconnect from the world for a while and reflect on your life.
The chapel is open every day from 5:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. And the best of all is that the entrance is completely free.
6. Renaissance Island
I’m sure you’ve seen some pictures of that small island with a lot of flamingos. Yes, that place exists, and it is called Renaissance Island. This is a small private island that is home to three beaches; Flamingo Beach, Iguana Beach, and Coral Beach.
To get to this place, you have to be a guest at one of the two Marriott hotels on the island: Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino or the Renaissance Island Beach Club. If you are not staying at any of these places, don’t worry. You can also buy a day pass that gives you access to the island for the whole day.
This place is paradisiacal, and without a doubt, it is one of the top tourist attractions in Aruba. Of the three beaches that the island has, my favorite was Flamingo Beach. This is because, in addition to being very beautiful, it has a lot of flamingos. And as you can imagine, taking pictures with these animals is a must.
You can spend hours and hours there without getting bored. And in addition to flamingos, you will find other animals such as peacocks, iguanas, and tropical birds. There are also several places where you can buy drinks and snacks, as well as rent kayaks or paddleboards. I recommend that you take advantage of your stay and do some snorkeling because the waters of Renaissance Island are perfect.
Although I did not visit the other two beaches on the island, I have been told that they are also very nice. In any case, if you are looking for places to visit in Aruba, Renaissance Island is a must.
7. Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins
The Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins are located on the northeast coast of Aruba, about 20 minutes by car from Oranjestad. These ruins are the remains of a gold smelter that was built by the Dutch in 1825.
At that time, Aruba was an important producer of gold, and this smelter was built with the purpose of processing the gold ore that was extracted from the mines. However, the gold mines were exhausted after a few years, and the smelter was abandoned.
Today, these ruins are one of the most popular Aruba attractions. And it is not for less because they are really impressive. In addition, the views from this place are spectacular.
You can tour the ruins either by foot, ATV, or horseback. I recommend doing it on foot because this way you will have more time to enjoy the views and take pictures. But if you want to do it in a more adventurous way, you can also do it on an ATV.
8. Philip’s Animal Garden
Are you a lover of nature and animals? If your answer is yes, then you’ll want to add Philip’s Animal Garden to your list of places to visit in Aruba.
Philip’s Animal Garden is a small family-run zoo where you can see many different species of animals. The animals live in semi-natural conditions and have a lot of space to roam around. You will see turtles, peacocks, iguanas, goats, pigs, donkeys, snakes, monkeys, kangaroos, emus, and much more!
Oh, and did I mention that it’s also one of the cheapest things to do in Aruba? Admission is only $ 10 for adults and $ 5 for children.
9. San Nicolas
Aruba’s second-largest city is San Nicolas. This city is located in the southeastern part of the island and is the perfect place to get to know the more traditional side of Aruba.
San Nicolas is a very colorful city, and its streets are full of life. This is because it is a very traditional place with a large Afro-Caribbean community. Walking through its streets is like taking a trip back in time. One of the places that you cannot miss when you visit this city is Charlie’s Bar. This is the oldest bar on the island, and it is famous for being the place where the Aruban singer Ruth Jacott used to sing.
In addition to Charlie’s Bar, you will also find the Aruba Art Fair. This is a fair that takes place every month and in which you can find all kinds of art. From paintings to sculptures, passing through handmade jewelry. This is a great place to buy souvenirs for your loved ones.
One of the places that you cannot miss when you are in San Nicolas is Baby Beach. This is a small beach located on the outskirts of town. And despite its name, this beach is perfect for all ages and is one of the top tourist attractions in Aruba. The water is crystal clear, and the landscape is simply spectacular.
San Nicolas is also famous for its nightlife. So if you are looking for places to go out at night, this is the perfect place for you.
10. Butterfly Farm
This is one of the places to visit in Aruba that will surprise you the most. And it is that, as its name indicates, you will find an infinity of butterflies of different colors and sizes on this farm. The farm is located a few minutes from Palm Beach, in the low part of the island.
The farm offers guided tours in which they will explain everything related to the life cycle of these creatures. The tour lasts approximately 45 minutes, and at the end, you can stay as long as you want to take pictures.
The visit takes an hour and a half, but it is worth dedicating the day to this activity since the farm is located in a very touristy area. In its surroundings, you will find places to have lunch and do other activities. The entrance to the farm costs $15 for adults and $8 for children.
11. Take an off-road Adventure to a Natural Pool
Why not explore Aruba’s rugged terrain and go on an off-road adventure? A great way to do this is by taking a tour with an experienced guide who will take you to places you would never find on your own.
There are many tour and rental companies on the island that offer this type of tour. So you can easily find one that fits your schedule and budget. I did an off-road tour with Offroad Evolution Aruba Rental & Tours.
We rented ATVs, and our guide took us on tour to “Conchi,” also known as the Natural Pool. This Natural Pool is one of the top attractions in Aruba for a good reason. It is a natural pool formed by rocks that protect it from the open sea waves. As a result, the water in this pool is usually very calm and clear.
The tour to Conchi was one of the most fun and exciting things I did on my trip. We stopped at several places to take pictures and enjoy the breathtaking views. Our guide was very knowledgeable and fun. He made sure we had a great time.
At the pool, we had some time to swim, sunbathe, and relax. It was the perfect way to spend a day surrounded by nature. I would definitely recommend this experience to anyone looking for the best things to do in Aruba.
12. Donkey Sanctuary Aruba
Donkeys have been an essential part of the history of Aruba. For many years they were the only means of transportation on the island and helped with the work in the fields. Unfortunately, with the passage of time and the modernization of the island, these donkeys were no longer necessary, so many were abandoned and left in despair.
The Donkey Sanctuary Aruba is a nonprofit organization that takes care of these donkeys abandoned by their owners. When you visit the Sanctuary, you will be able to see these donkeys up close, learn about their history and, above all, help this great cause.
The entrance to the Donkey Sanctuary is free, but if you want, you can leave a donation. In addition, they have a small shop where they sell souvenirs and donkey-themed products. All the money raised goes to the maintenance and food of these animals.
I think it’s a great activity, especially if you travel with children. They will love to see and pet the donkeys. Also, it’s a great way to connect with the Aruban culture and learn about the important role that these animals have had in the history of the island.
13. Aruba Aloe Factory & Museum Tour
Do you know what the main natural product of Aruba is? No, it’s not pineapple or coconuts. It’s aloe! If you didn’t know it, now you do. Thus, one of the places that you cannot fail to visit is the Aruba Aloe Factory & Museum.
The Aloe Factory & Museum is located in the northern area of the island and is one of the best places to visit in Aruba if you want to learn about the origin and properties of Aloe Vera. The visit begins with a short film that tells the story of this plant and its relationship with Aruba.
After that, you will see how Aloe Vera is processed to obtain different products such as soap, creams, oils, gel, etc. The truth is that it was very interesting to know all these processes and what are the benefits of each product. Later, you will be able to visit the museum, where you will learn a little more about the history of this product on the island.
The entrance to the museum is free, and you can buy some products from the factory store. And if you want to buy any product at the factory’s store, I recommend that you ask for discounts because they usually give them without problems. Also, remember to bring comfortable shoes because you will be walking a lot inside the facilities.
What is your favorite place to visit in Aruba? All these places sound like a must-see to me. But if you have no time and have to choose just one, I recommend visiting Oranjestad. This capital city has a lot to offer in terms of history, culture, and architecture. And you can also find many places to eat, drink, and shop. All in all, I would recommend this list of the best things to in Aruba, attractions, and activities if you’re in the area.