Guide to Adventure & Relaxation in Aruba

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Advisor - Jimmy Cunningham
Curated By

Jimmy Cunningham

  • Aruba

  • Adventure Travel

  • Beaches

  • Food & Wine

  • International Travel

  • Tropical Vacations

  • Hiking

  • Island

  • Outdoors

Beach chairs surrounded by palm trees on the beach in Aruba
Curator’s statement

Aruba is a tropical paradise that is easier to access than most. With direct flights from many major U.S. cities (I was able to get a direct affordable flight from Boston, MA), it is definitely one to add to your list. The island itself is very welcoming and fun to explore; we rented a car and covered most of the island in 6 days!

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Day 1: Check In & Relax at the Beach

White sand beach and blue ocean with blue skies in Aruba

Your first day in Aruba is a logistics day: getting to the island, situating the rental car and checking in to the accommodations. This is all very straightforward, so I highly recommend grabbing groceries after you are settled and then using the afternoon to lounge on Palm Beach or drive up to Arashi Beach in Noord to the north. There is a great beach shack here for drinks and snacks. The snorkeling at this location is also incredible!

Day 2: Hike, Animal Garden & Dinner on the Beach

Group of people hike amongst cacti in Aruba

The second day on Aruba is all about exploration. If you are active, the hike through Arikok National Park to the Conchi Natural Pools on the north shore is incredible. The hike is about 10 miles in total and there was lots to see (Dos Playas, Boca Keto, rolling hills of cacti, and more). An alternative to hiking to these great locations is to book an excursion to see them via Jeep, bus, ATV or by horseback.

After the hike, make a stop at Phillip's Animal Garden in the center of the island. This is a super cool animal rehabilitation center and zoo. When checking in, you will be given a bag of food and have the opportunity to feed all sorts of animals (camels, kangaroos, goats, deer, horses and more) as well as see some you can't feed (monkeys, cayman, snakes, ocelot and more).

After the busy day, head back and take a dip in the pool or ocean to cool down and relax. Around sunset, dinner should be at the Flying Fishbone in Savaneta on the southern shore. This incredible restaurant is situated on a beach overlooking the water. Several tables are even in ankle-deep water for an incredibly relaxing meal during sunset.

Day 3: Snorkeling at Mangelo Halto

Stairs leading down to bright blue waters in Aruba

Day three is an opportunity to explore beaches across the island. Each features a unique snorkeling experience, so if you are excited by marine life, bring your gear. Start the day at the eastern-most point of the island, baby beach. This is more of a local gem with a cove of crystal blue water protecting beachgoers from the rough ocean on this coast. Snorkeling up and down the rocks to the left offers some great sights.

The next stop back towards the hotels is Mangelo Halto. This pitstop on the southern shore doesn't feature an expansive white sand beach. Instead, it has steps leading right down to the still turquoise water. This is considered the best snorkeling location on the island. As you move out of the cove, there are reefs and drop offs that are exhilarating to take in. It also is a great location to float in the water and relax if that's more your speed.

Dinner on day three is another seafood location a short walk from the hotels of Palm Beach. This would be Wacky Wahoo. It is much more casual than the suave Flying Fishbone, but featured our favorite meal of the trip. If the catch of the day is Mahi-Mahi... get it.

Day 4: Catamaran Excursion

Octopus Catamaran in the ocean in Aruba with sun shining through clouds

Day four is great for a catamaran excursion. You can set sail at 9am for a 3.5-hour boat tour. For this experience, I recommend using the company Octopus Aruba. They were a great crew that interacted with all of the guests, but more importantly, the boat was less crowded, which made for a great experience!

We stopped first up by Arashi Beach again to snorkel in Boca Catalina Bay. The second stop was straight out towards the open ocean to the shipwreck sight of the S.S. Antilla. This was one of the coolest snorkeling experiences I've had. The sea floor was out of sight, but giant masts and parts of the boat rose up from the depth. We were encouraged to dive down and take a closer look and saw large fish and sea life.

Spend the rest of the day enjoying the beach and try a causal dinner at a beach shack on a pier. It is so nice to relax, drink and enjoy the music right on the water.

Day 5: Beach Day & El Gaucho for Dinner

Divi Divi tree on white sand beach in Aruba

Keep your final day reserved for what Aruba does best: more beaching. You can take a few scooters (such a fun way to get around on the bike paths) down to Eagle beach to see the Divi Divi trees on what is regularly a top ranked beach in the world.

Your last dinner of the trip can be reserved for a special one, El Gaucho. This Argentinian style steakhouse is located in the capital area of Oranjestad and offers a more casual dining experience than your typical Ruth's Chris or Capital Grill, but the steak was no joke. Massive cuts of flavorful steaks with three sides per dish. We left stuffed. The night was made even more special by a roaming guitarist that took requests from table to table.

Need to Know

Here are a few tips from my time in Aruba:

  • Rent a car (if you get a jeep you can off-road in the national park)

  • If you like nightlife, go to Gusto Night Club Aruba

  • Make time for a sunset cruise!

Advisor - Jimmy Cunningham

Travel Advisor

Jimmy Cunningham

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