blue water at the the cruise port of Aruba

What to See and Do in Aruba

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We love visiting Aruba, one happy island. Here is what to see and do in Aruba based on our travels there, by land and sea.

Aruba is known for its gorgeous beaches and turquoise water. It is easily one of the most exotic and lovely Caribbean destinations I have been to and features world-class beaches. Oranjestad, Aruba, is a top cruise itinerary port, and we have visited the country via cruise ship multiple times, and also by land. In our experience, here is what to see and do in Aruba. You’ll quickly see why Aruba is referred to as “One Happy Island“.

blue water at the the cruise port of Aruba

But First, Let’s Learn a Bit About Aruba

Aruba seceded from the northern Antilles in 1986 and the island became a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, sharing Dutch nationality. Aruba, together with Bonaire and Curaçao, is referred to as the ABC islands, the western-most islands of the Leeward Antilles in the Caribbean.

multi colors of water in aruba

Aruba’s waterfront is layered in hues of blue. It is so vibrant and beautiful that it looks like you are staring at a picture, even in person. I often wonder if there are enough names for the shades of blue even to name each color in these beautiful waters.

On the northern part of the island, coves cut out of limestone stagger the coastline because the water is very rough. Take caution as the waves and currents are no joke in Aruba. The water looks gorgeous, but it can be dangerous.

palm trees Oranjestad Aruba

Exploring Aruba’s Amazing Beaches

Aruba has gorgeous beaches around the entire island. Besides visiting the crowded local beaches near the cruise ship, consider renting a car to drive around the island and sightsee the different beaches on your own. 

sand dunes in Aruba

There are car rental kiosks steps from the cruise port. They are safe and affordable, plus the island makes a loop, so it is pretty impossible to get lost. If you wander to the back side of the island, or away from the heavy traffic areas, you’ll more than likely see many wild horses and donkeys roaming along the beach, and often the streets. They are inquisitive and will walk right up to your car. 


wild horses and donkeys Aruba

Caution: Aruba has many dunes. Do not attempt to drive on the beaches unless you have a 4W-Drive vehicle and the signs say that it is permitted. Lesson learned the hard way right here.

sand dunes in Aruba
Jesus lizard Aruba

I recommend going to Eagle Beach for the most beautiful scenery, though it can be quite crowded. Surfside Beach is the locals’ favorite family-friendly beach. Palm Beach, with its white talc sand, is bustling with luxury resorts and water sports, namely windsurfers.

One of the things we love about visiting Oranjestad, Aruba is lying on the beautiful beaches.

Great Shopping

People come to Aruba to shop, especially for international and quality goods. Cruise ship passengers alone are enough customers to support dozens of high-end jewelry stores. There are deals to be had, plus there is no sales tax– a win-win for international visitors. 

The downtown streets of Oranjestad, Aruba are typically busy and congested.

The first shopping complex you will see upon exiting the cruise terminal in the harbor city of Oranjestad will be the Port of Call Marketplace. There are several more shopping arcades and open-air markets throughout town. Running along the downtown waterfront, L.G. Smith Boulevard welcomes you with dozens of international luxury retailers and restaurants.

downtown shopping Aruba

Lots of Souvenirs

Popular souvenirs to purchase while in Oranjestad, Aruba are Delft porcelain, Dutch cheeses, and the exquisite Alexandrite jewel. You can find Alexandrite at the cruise recommended Columbian Emeralds or Diamonds International stores.

shopping area downtown Aruba

Behave Like a Tourist, A Must

If you are looking to do the cheesy Caribbean island touristy things, include a visit to Señor Frogs on Eagle Beach or Carlos & Charlie’s. Both venues feature live entertainment daily. The overpriced food is mediocre at best, and the drinks watered down, but you are sure to have fun. Both establishments offer cool t-shirts to take home as souvenirs.

marketplace in Aruba

Visiting Aruba’s Ostrich Farm

My friend, Julie, and I visited the Aruba Ostrich Farm via a cruise ship excursion. It is certainly something I think you should do in Aruba, and pretty unique as far as cruise excursions go. We had a twenty-minute guided tour that included a chance to feed the ostriches with help from the guides. The ostriches, especially the babies, were so cute and we learned a lot from our tour, plus got amazing photos. The Ostrich Farm also has an onsite restaurant (featuring ostrich-meat dishes) and an African artifacts gift shop. 

Fun fact: The ostrich is the largest and heaviest bird in the world and can run up to 70 MPH. 

One of the things we love about visiting Oranjestad, Aruba is the cool Ostrich Farm.

Admiring Aruba’s Natural Beauty

On the powdery sands of Eagle Beach, you can see the beautiful fofoti trees. They are the ones used in marketing campaigns for Aruba. Fofoti trees are different from divi-divi trees, which grow in the ground, not the sand.

One of my cruise ship excursions took me to the natural bridge. This naturally formed limestone bridge is only one-fourth of the size of the original natural bridge that collapsed in 2005. Still, it was pretty to see and take pictures of. Be sure to stack a rock on the rock towers near the beach and make a wish.

Along the drive to the bridge, you’ll likely see wild donkeys roaming the streets.

ostrich farm and natural bridge Aruba

Seeing a Landmark, Tasting the Cuisine

A famous Aruba landmark, the California Lighthouse, is named after a ship that sank in the year 1910. The lighthouse is located near Arashi Beach, where La Trattoria el Faro Blanco Restaurant overlooks the beach. It is also a tasty lunch stop.

Speaking of food, Aruba is known for pastiches, Antillean meat turnovers with dried fruits and spices. You’ll find gourmet salads, grilled meats, and a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables on most menus.  

oranjestad-aruba-california-lighthouse

One Big Happy Island

Between the swaying palm trees and jaw-dropping beaches, you are sure to fall in love with this fantastic vacation spot. Aruba is a place you’ll want to return to again and again. 

one happy island Aruba license plate

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things to see and do in aruba
what to do in aruba

Check out our other posts from fun in the sun destinations:

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