Best known for its beautiful Caribbean beaches and all-year-round Summer, Aruba is a gem in the Caribbean islands, often forgotten when compared to the Bahamas and Bermuda.
However, you only have to venture a short way from the beach to find many attractions and adventures to take part in. Whether it’s snorkelling, scuba, hiking, windsurfing, kitesurfing or paddleboarding, there is something for everyone on this action-packed and fun-filled island.
The Caribbean has for a long time been on my hit list of places to explore so when my boyfriend’s uncle and auntie moved out there a few years ago, I knew it was the perfect excuse to visit. Last summer I visited the island of Aruba with friends, for a week of fun-filled activities, food and new experiences.
Aruba, which is famous for its white sandy beaches, all-year sunshine and interesting history is the alternative destination for a million tourists, each year. The island is only 19.6 miles long and 6 miles across, with a total area of 70 square miles.
Unlike many other Caribbean islands, Aruba is below the hurricane belt so does not suffer dreadful weather and instead has a dryer climate without much rain at all. In the interior of the island, you’ll find a desert-like terrain and in Arikok National Park, with a variety of wildlife, cacti and rock formations.
How to get to Aruba
I travelled with KLM from Heathrow via Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam for six nights in the luxurious Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino. The flight took an hour to Amsterdam and then nine hours to Aruba, with a small stop at Bonaire, before landing at Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA).
Where to stay in Aruba
The hotel is situated in Oranjestad and is one of two hotels on the island under the same name, one which is a family hotel and one which is an adult-only hotel. I stayed within the adult-only hotel which boasts an array of amenities from the rooftop pool, restaurants, casino, spa, marina and much more.
As a guest of the hotel, you also have access to the beautiful Renaissance Aruba Private Island – a ten-minute speed boat ride from the hotel across the waters to a private island. This is where you can have your photo taken with the Instagram-famous family of flamingos. It’s a slice of Caribbean paradise.
Top Activities to do in Aruba
During the five day stay, we indulged in great food and an array of activities. Some activities you can enjoy, include: Windsurfing The Windsurfing World Championships were happening during our stay, and it was wonderful to see both windsurfers and kite surfers whizzing across – and above – the water, like enormous seabirds.
My fellow travellers tried stand-up Paddle Boarding with Dennis Martinez of Aruba Surf and Paddle School and did very well, especially as a rainstorm hit just as they were getting into their stride!
I’ve never seen so many colourful fish, except on the Great Barrier Reef, as we did on the reefs near Baby Beach, Aruba. It was astonishing to see so many beautiful fish, coloured in pink and purple hues with lime green and yellow stripes. There is also an opportunity to snorkel on the Jolly Pirates Boat Trip.
One of the most popular ways to see the island is on a 4×4 Safari Tour; we booked the half-day Natural Pool Land-Rover Adventure with De Palm Tours. Travelling in convoy, from the north to the south of the island, we experienced many of the island’s highlights, including California Lighthouse, Alto Vista Chapel, Wariruri Beach, Bushiribana Gold Mill and the ruins of Natural Bridge, before a breath-taking bumpy ride over the rocks and sand dunes of Arikok National Park to the Natural Pools.
Aruba’s geology means it is a great place for horseback riding. It offers a variety of exotic locations for adventurous visitors, from the challenging sand dunes to the desert-like plains that will make you feel like the star of your own Western motion picture. Tours include The Gold Mine Ranch, RanchoDaimari, Rancho La Ponderosa and Rancho Loco.
I thoroughly enjoyed exploring this beautiful island. From snacks at traditional beach shacks and staring across the ocean from the lighthouse to snorkelling at Baby Beach, awe-struck by fish hiding in the coral reefs.
I will be back very soon and cannot wait to explore more of this incredibly vibrant and exciting country.
Tips from a Local
Amelie – local living on Aruba
“When visiting Aruba, go off the tourist trail and do as the locals do. At weekends we get our families together and often head to Zeerovers in the fishermen’s town of Savaneta, for some fresh fish dishes, delivered from sea to plate within a few hours.
The food is amazing here with fresh fried fish and shrimps with side orders of fried plantain and pan bati. Everything is served to you in a basket as you sit on the dock overlooking the water.
If you are with family, head inland and explore Arikok National Park or the Donkey Sanctuary. And if you are after a beach day with the locals, we all head to Baby Beach. Located in the southern part of Aruba, close to San Nicolas, it’s a true Caribbean beach paradise.
The shallow waters make it a prime beach destination for snorkelling. For a real Aruba, experience have a BBQ on the beach or visit the beachside café!”