Things to Do in Aruba
A steady pile of rock and cacti under the big open Caribbean sky, the Ayo and Casibari rock formations are, nevertheless, an Aruba highlight. They offer a unique perspective of the inner workings of the volcanic forces at work on the island of Aruba and make for a great day trip exploring the island and, for the intrepid traveler willing to clamber to the top of them, a great view of the whole of Aruba. A fun opportunity for exploration, bring the family to see what geologic forces can compose with enough time, pressure and Caribbean sun.
De Palm Island is a small island off of the western coast of Aruba that attracts people from the main island looking for a new experience. In addition to hosting an array of outdoor activities including swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and beach volleyball, De Palm Island also offers several options for those seeking rest and relaxation.
All-inclusive packages make it easy to spend an entire day in the water, lounging on the beach and having your fill of unlimited food and drinks. If you can pull yourself away from the cabana, grab a snorkel and get a glimpse at the beautiful coral reefs teeming with tropical sea life, including the blue parrotfish, native only to this area.
As far as family entertainment goes, this is a one-stop shop for water sports for the kids and cabanas with an open bar for the adults. You'll need to take a ferry or catamaran to the island, both of which leave regularly from Port De Palm.
Come along on the Island Tour Excursion, which includes stops for nature and history lovers. The Natural Bridge is formed of coral limestone and is one of the largest natural bridges in the world. See the old cities of Savaneta and San Nicolas, former capitals of the island. Or, you can marvel at the Ayo Rock formation and Cave, which display some of the oldest Arawak Indian drawings on the island. For a deeper look into the economy and local products of Arbua, try the Essense of Aruba shore excursion. Participants are educated in the history and process of Aruba’s signature aloe industry, cigar factory, and beer and rum production.
The 2 mi (3.2 km) long Palm Beach is best known as the home of Aruba's high-rise hotels. A bustling and ever expanding tourist attraction, the beach is covered with sunbathing vacationers, food and drink stands, and booths of water sport operators. There are also two piers lined with restaurants and shops, which offer entertainment as well as some much needed shade.
This stretch of beach, northwest of the capital Oranjestad, is the hub for day and nighttime activities. The trendiest place in Aruba, Palm Beach is where you go for great snorkeling as well as good people-watching.
The desert interior of the Caribbean island of Aruba is never more interesting than when visiting the Bashiribana Gold Mill Ruins. Set among the stark beauty of the Aruban desert and the blue Caribbean sky, the ruins are the stone remains of an old gold smelter.
Established by gold prospectors hundreds of years ago and once considered sacred by the Arawak Indians, this is a serene and unexpected step into the history of Aruba and a great exploratory photo opportunity for those that love history, desert beauty or just good old-fashioned exploration.
The Natural Pool is a tucked away basin formed by rock and volcanic stone circles that fills with ocean water. The pool is also known locally as "Conchi" or "Cura di Tortuga," because it is said that the pool was once used to hold sea turtles before they were sold (tortuga means turtle in Papiamento, the official language of the Caribbean).
Visitors can swim and snorkel here, although the area is really not that big. On calm days, the pool is great for a dip, but keep in mind that swimming here is risky when waves leap the rock barrier.
The waters of Aruba are lined with shipwrecks, thanks to the treacherous rock outcroppings that the Caribbean has long been notorious for. Luckily, these shipwrecks make for great tourist attractions and amazing dive and snorkeling sites, as they play host to scores of marine life, as well as enticing historical stories of bygone eras.
The Antilla Shipwreck is Aruba’s most popular shipwreck site, named after the SS Antilla – a Hamburg America Line cargo ship. Launched in 1939, the poor Antilla operated for less than a year before running aground. Today, however, it makes for a great snorkeling and diving opportunity, as it acts as a safe-haven for the abundant sea life of the Caribbean, and lobster, sea turtles and manta rays are regularly seen here.
Without a doubt one of the premier attractions of Aruba, Arikok National Park comprises about 18 percent of the island’s terrain and contains a variety of the island's natural geologic, historical and landmark attractions. Within Arikok you’ll discover natural caves, lava formations, stunning natural vistas and numerous tidal pools that are great for exploration. Aside from its abundant natural beauty, visitors will also discover important indigenous historical sites, as well as micro-climates that support Aruba’s two snake species and two unique bird species, which are found here on Aruba and nowhere else in the world.
More Things to Do in Aruba
Little could be more picturesque or more Caribbean chic than the Alto Vista Chapel on Aruba. With the big Caribbean sky and peaceful sea as your backdrop, the Alto Vista Chapel, or “Pilgrims Church,” is one of the most photographed attractions on the island.
Built by Spanish missionaries in 1750, the Alto Vista Chapel still conducts services and is said to be the oldest continuously operating church in the Caribbean. Sitting alone on a hill on an island in the Caribbean, the scene is instantly inspiring, and the grounds and gardens immaculately manicured. Easily one of the nicest stops while out exploring Aruba, the Alto Vista Chapel is not to be missed.
A testament to the power of the elements, the Natural Bridge of Aruba was created from the strength of the ocean carving through thick coral limestone. Thousands of years of water and wind pushing at the coral had created an opening in it that allowed the ocean waves to get through while leaving a layer on top that people could walk across. The location also boasted excellent views of nearby and ruggedly handsome Andicuri Beach. Sadly, on September 2, 2005, the power of nature and erosion finally won out and the bridge that thousands had marveled at collapsed in the early morning hours. Before its demise, the Natural Bridge was the largest nature created bridge in the Caribbean, stretching across more than 100 feet and rising 23 feet above the sea. The rocky remains of the bridge can still be seen and are located a short distance from the popular Natural Pool in Aruba, another nature-made wonder that is a large swimming hole located amongst huge rocks right next to the sea.
One of the northernmost beaches on the island, Arashi Beach is a somewhat secluded spot popular with serious divers and sunbathers alike. Arashi is also ideal for those looking to swim and snorkel due to its soft sandy bottom and generally calm surf. Many visitors choose to stop here on their way to the nearby California Lighthouse, located at the northwestern tip of Aruba.
To serious divers, Arashi Beach is known as the final resting spot of the WWII German freighter, Antilla. The ship has settled close to shore and is even visible above the surface at times. Another treasure found underwater here is elkhorn coral, which makes up a significant part of the reef and is a favorite of snorkelers.
Baby Beach, so-called for its bathtub-like waters that are shallow enough for young children, is a sheltered man-made lagoon on the southeastern tip of Aruba. The water is only as deep as 5 ft (1.5 m) and the soft sand is friendly to bare feet, making it a popular place for locals and tourists alike.
This beach is best suited for families with young children and people new to snorkeling. The shallow, calm waters offer a safe environment in which all beachgoers can enjoy their day at the shore.
Hidden amongst Aruba’s famous white sand beaches and tropical waters lies the Guadirikiri Cave system of underground tunnels, filled with centuries old rock formations. Stalagmites and stalactites (along with plenty of fruit bats!) sit quietly in the darkness and dampness of the two chambers. Light passes into the cave only through holes in the ceiling, creating a unique effect and feel. There are also Arawak Indian drawings on the cave walls that provide insight into the history and cultural roots of Aruba.
Legend and local folklore has it that the two caves once held a pair of lovers condemned by the girl’s father, an Indian chief, as an unworthy match. It is said that upon their death, their souls vanished to the heavens through the holes in the top of the caves. The main cave chamber stretches nearly 100 feet into the darkness.
You’ll dock in downtown Oranjestad, the capital of Aruba. You can walk to shops and restaurants, but you’ll need to drive to any beaches – take a taxi from the dock, or rent a car.
Of course you want to hit the beach, but spend your first hour or two in Oranjestad, admiring the Dutch architecture and getting your fill of duty-free shopping. Check out Seaport Village Mall first, as it’s just across the street from the cruise terminal, and then mosey up to Caya G. F. Betico Croes, the main shopping strip. If you’re interested in history, visit Fort Zoutman, which dates back to the 1700s and houses the Aruba Historical Museum.
Then grab a cab and head for the sand – your options are many, so narrow it down based on what you want for the day. Palm Beach is a typical postcard beach with white sand, high-rise resorts with casinos, plenty of beach activities and crowds to go with it all; Eagle Beach is an easy pleaser with the longest stretch of sand on the island.
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