Just 2 weeks ago I had the pleasure to visit my second Caribbean island this year together with 3 lovely ladies and Aruba Tourism, and I couldn't have been more surprised! Looking for tropics, sunny weather, white sands, bright turquoise seas, good food, friendly people and palm trees galore, in other words; pure paradise? Then Aruba's got you covered!
This slice of heaven is one of the smaller Caribbean islands located just north of Venezuela, and forms the ABC islands, together with Bonaire and Curaçao, also referred to as the Dutch Caribbean. For me as a Dutchie very interesting and convenient, as many Arubans still speak Dutch and our history goes way back!
Island of contrasts
I knew that I could expect great weather and gorgeous beaches, but also had lots of barren land, cacti, cruise ships and Americans in mind.
I actually found out that these contrasts are exactly what make this island so interesting! With unique wind-curved fofoti trees growing on the whitest beaches you've ever seen. Endless rugged sanddunes in the north forming a desert-like area right next to some of the prettiest turquoise stretches of sea.
With rugged coastlines and fierce shores in the east, lined with natural pools, caves, red, brown and black rocks, and cacti as far as the eye can see. And abundant corals, shipwrecks and marine life to discover in the south and west.
Get a small taste of some of the highlights of our Aruba trip already through my own pics in this gallery, don't forget to slide:)
Highlights of Aruba
Even though Aruba is quite touristic and American oriented, due to the big influx of American tourists and cruise ships, it also offers a big variety of high-and low-rise hotels, plenty of shops and a huge variety of delicious restaurants, from vegan, vegetarian, Asian, Italian to Mexican, and so much more! This island of colorful buildings and big natural contrasts with mesmerizing sunsets every night, all combined on just 70 square miles, truly amazed me!
Next to being gorgeous, tropical and quite windy too;), Aruba is also very relaxed, safe and friendly, with locals that are always in for a chat.
When you feel the vibe here you will immediately understand why Aruba's nickname; ‘’One Happy Island’’ is so appropriate! But the stunning views, good food and excellent facilities will certainly make you happy as well!
Exploring the island
We managed to do a lot in just 5 days, and next to relaxing, wellness and many culinary treats, we also did lots of exploring! That's why I decided to split this trip in 2, with a second blog dedicated to all the great lunchspots and restaurants we sampled, coming up soon.
My favourite things to do on Aruba also happen to be some of the most unique picture spots, perfect for photo addicts like me, and in general a bit more authentic! So naturally I will share my top 9 through many of my own pics.
Where to stay?
But first things first: what’s the best place to stay on the island? Do you like big chain hotels, authentic beach stays, or would you rather book a private villa or apartment? It’s all possible on Aruba!
I however prefer unique small-scale boutique hotels, preferably right on the beach, and that is exactly what we found at:
Manchebo beach resort & spa
This low-rise 2-storey resort with just 72 rooms all facing the ocean, on one of the best beaches of Aruba, is a must stay in my opinion when you visit the island.
Located in the more quiet part of Eagle Beach which is very white, tranquil and wide, with always enough space to find a quiet spot, even in the more crowded periods.
We stayed here for 5 nights which was an absolute joy. Their rooms are clean and decorated in a contemporary style with either a balcony or garden terrace. And the best part is that all of them have perfect views upon the tall palm trees and turquoise ocean right in front of it.
I love how relaxed this place was, with so many facilities, complimentary yoga and Pilates lessons for guests on the beach every morning. Excellent á la carte and buffet breakfast options and high quality food in several restaurants, a refreshing pool and such a friendly staff that I can highly recommend this resort to anyone!
Find out more on: Manchebo.com and get an impression in this small gallery:
However one of the best features of this resort is their Spa, which is also my first must do, regardless if you stay at the resort or not:
1. Massage/Wellness @Spa del Sol
I don’t say this often, as I have had my share of Spa treatments and massages already, but my 1 hour massage at Spa del Sol was seriously one of the best I had in a while!
After this I could easily understand why it has been recognized as Aruba’s number 1 wellness resort! The skilled massage therapists, the Spa's small oasis with open-air Balinese-styled massage rooms, several cozy lounge chairs and jacuzzi facing the sea ensure that you can relax and re-energize to the fullest! Truly a must do and perfect after a busy day exploring the island!
Although the beach of Manchebo is stunning I would also highly recommend to explore more and:
2. Rent a car for a beachy road trip
Aruba is quite small, but there is much to see and do, so renting a car is convenient and driving around the island is quite safe!
Just keep in mind that normal traffic rules don't apply here, but even I managed and survived, so I wouldn’t be worried ;)
The whole south and west coast of the island are lined with beaches all the way up to the north, so you can just drive by the coast and take your pick! We visited:
Go to the end of the beach, just opposite to the Amsterdam Manor, to find the often photographed fofoti trees which became iconic for Aruba:
A relaxed gem of a beach in the north just before the California lighthouse.
And yes Aruba is best known for its stunningly white beaches, but the east of the island will show you a totally different side, more rugged, yet no less exciting or photogenic in my opinion. To experience the true beauty of this area I would highly recommend to visit the National Park, which is protected but possible to explore on foot or by car, but due to the rocky roads even better by:
3. ATV or jeep safari through Arikok National Park
We did a half-day private jeep tour with DePalmTours.com, which took us through the National Park to the Natural Pool, several viewpoints and the Natural Bridge as you can see in this gallery:
Exploring the amazing turquoise seas of Aruba on the other side of the island is however also a must, we did a:
4. Boat snorkel trip
with TranquiloAruba.com, to the Spanish Lagoon, which looks like this:
Although relaxing and fun I must emphasize that Aruba is located very near the equator and you will get sunburnt easily, like I did, even after using a high factor sunblock.
Make sure to wear a cap and apply enough and high factor sunscreen throughout the boat trip.
5. Palm beach & Eduardo's
Next to Oranjestad, Palm Beach is where the action is! We went there mostly to sample the best breakfast, lunch and dinner spots, with a big offering of great restaurants, but this vibrant area is also the place to be for shopping, the more commercial beach in front of the high-rise hotels, and nightlife and quaint markets in the evening.
I loved the colorful buildings here and the delicious healthy vegan & vegetarian beach shack: Eduardo’s, which is a true must visit! See for yourself why:
More about this renowned breakfast and lunch spot in my next Aruba food blog!
6. Aloë Vera factory
Did you know that Aruba was nicknamed ‘Island of Aloes’ in the 1920s? Aloë Vera was one of Aruba’s first export products and has been among the best in the world for more than 150 years.
You can see one of the fields and the production of the original Aloë at this factory: ArubaAloe.nl, and buy some of the best products in their shop. Well worth a visit if you want to find out more about the island’s heritage.
7. Sup yoga
For a great exercise surrounded by beauty VelaAruba.com is the place to be! A very chill surf school that offers a wide range of watersports and lessons.
We did a SUP Yoga session here with Manon, which was a lot of fun, but also quite challenging on the ocean!
8. San Nicolas murals
Want to get some Instagrammable shots in a lesser known area and more authentic part of the island? Then this sleepy town in the south is THE spot!
Murals and artworks of some of the best artists of Aruba can be found throughout the town, so you will have no shortage of pictures, as you can see in this gallery:
9. Sand dunes & lighthouse in the north
Rugged nature and endless views can be found at the most northern tip of the island, with no-one around for miles.
Drive all the way up to the top to climb the lighthouse. Have some of the best drinks of the island at Yum Yums van, go to the restaurant, which is the former lighthouse keeper’s house, for beautiful views upon Arashi beach. And explore the surrounding sand dunes to find an even more authentic side of Aruba!
Where to eat?
And did you know that Aruba also has a big offering of delicious, but also healthy, vegan and vegetarian food available in many great restaurants and foodie hotspots?
You can find out where in this Top 10 Aruba food blog!
I hope you enjoyed experiencing some of my fave sights on Aruba with me, and have been convinced that Aruba truly is a must visit! Of course many Caribbean islands share the same beautiful features, but the big advantage of Aruba is that the weather is consistently good throughout the year! It's situated outside the Hurricane Belt, and receives the least rainfall in the Southern Caribbean, which will almost guarantee sun during your visit any time of year.
For more info to plan your visit to Aruba check: Aruba.com, let me know here if you need more tips, or find me on social media via the buttons below.