The Dutch island of Aruba, located in the southern Caribbean Sea, has long been a favorite destination of vacationers seeking guaranteed weather, calm blue waters, expansive beaches, good food, and the warm welcome of the locals. From the many Oranjestad beaches on the western coast to the colorful, laid-back charm of San Nicolas in the south, Aruba is a getaway to which most folks return over and over again. We’ve rounded up our favorite things to do, see, eat, and drink below — bon bini, or welcome, as they say in Aruba.Read More
11 Places to Explore in Aruba
Aruba’s only speakeasy, heavenly beaches, and the island’s best hiking spot
This expansive Oranjestad beach dotted with low-rise properties is considered one of the best in the world. It has consistently ranked in awards — for 2022, it was named one of the best beaches in the Caribbean and the fifth best beach in the world, thanks to its signature Fofoti trees, white, powdery sand, and crystalline, still waters. With shady nooks and beach huts for the sun-averse, as well as water sports for the adventurous, this is a beachcomber’s paradise. Some of Aruba’s best restaurants can be found off Eagle Beach, including many preparations of seafood at the breezy Screaming Eagle, and the Bavarian-inspired Chalet Suisse, a favorite of visitors and locals alike.
Infini by Urvin Croes
Those looking for some fine dining will be pleased with Noord’s Infini, which offers a 12-course tasting over three hours that doubles as fine art. At Infini, meaning “infinite possibility,” Chef Urvin Croes’ presentation is matched by decadent flavor profiles that focus on local, seasonal ingredients. The menu changes but recent dishes at this chef’s table include octopus complemented by blackberries, squid ink, corn, and sweet potato, and scallops with mushrooms, potato, and red cabbage.
Located in Noord, on the northwest tip of Aruba, the California Lighthouse is named for the S.S. California, a British steamship that sank offshore and is now one of the island’s amazing dive sites. Easily Aruba’s most iconic landmark, the pristine, white pillar stands nearly 100 feet tall, and if you’re courageous, you can climb the narrow 120 steps to the top for 360-degree views of the island. If you visit at sunset, do yourself a favor and book into Faro Blanco, an Italian restaurant next door with equally incredible views — and food — for dinner.
Bochincha Container Yard
Anchored by a circular center bar, the funky, colorful 11 shipyard containers that make up the very cool Bochincha Container Yard all excel in different cuisines and experiences. Music blares, drinks abound, and whatever you desire — tacos, pad Thai, pizza, empanadas, sushi — can be found. Sample the al pastor and barbacoa tacos from El Taco if you’re craving Mexican. Go for the chicken and cheese-stuffed arepas from El Parche de la 13 if you want something more South American-inspired, and sushi fans should check out Masago’s fried rolls. Their Dragon Roll is made of shrimp tempura, crab, cream cheese, and eel sauce, then fried for a crisp exterior. For a smoky finish, hit up JJ’s Cigar Shop or B/S Hookah Bar.
If your beach vibe leans more bustling and busy, head to Palm Beach, Aruba’s main drag. Lined with high-rise hotels, all-day happy hours, water sports, and dive outfits, Palm Beach is filled with vacationers lounging in oversized tubes in the ocean and massive hotel pools. Beach shacks serve everything from early morning egg sandwiches to lunchtime brats to anytime açaí and tuna bowls, but when the sun sets, beachside restaurants and lounges fill with life. Head to Azzurro Ristorante for beachfront views over spaghetti al formaggio (with Parmigiano prepared tableside in a massive Parmesan wheel), or the new Lobby, an open-air lounge restaurant featuring seafood-focused plates like lobster croquettes and octopus ceviche paired with an extensive wine list. After dinner, stroll the promenade, browse the many vendors and shops, and if you’re feeling lucky, duck into one of the casinos and try your luck at the blackjack table.
Off the Oranjestad Boardwalk, seek out Lima Bistro for an authentic Peruvian meal in a stylish space. Start with a maracuyá pisco sour, which amps up Peru’s national cocktail with passion fruit. Since Peru is known for ceviche, start with the featured ceviche of the day or the special ceviche that highlights calamari and rocoto, a traditional Peruvian pepper. If you’re a meat eater, try the beef anticuchos, or skewered beef hearts, a Peruvian delicacy. Carnivores also shouldn’t miss the lomo saltado, another classic steak dish, flavored with onions, tomatoes, peppers, and mixed with French fries.
Downtown Oranjestad is a great spot to spend a leisurely afternoon, capping off with dinner at the new Patio 15. Built in 1860 as an Aruban home, it is now an outdoor patio and lounge where wine, sangria, and signature cocktails – like the Key lime pie martini — flow. There are over 30 tapas on the menu, but a great place to start is with the cool, refreshing watermelon feta pizza, where a slice of watermelon subs in for dough and is piled high with feta and balsamic. Hot tapas such as the coconut shrimp mango shot which pairs three crunchy, savory shrimp with a sweet mango chiller, and the lobster mac and cheese, which is made with local rock lobster and served in cupcake form, don’t disappoint.
Dutch for apothecary, this swanky adults-only spot in downtown Oranjestad is the island’s only speakeasy, mixing up experimental cocktails in a sexy, dimly lit space. Choose from menu staples like the tequila sunrise (tequila, orange juice, grenadine), Boulevardier (bourbon, red vermouth, Campari), or corpse reviver (gin, Lillet, Cointreau, lemon, absinthe), or inspire your bartender with a list of the flavors and spirits that you crave and let them create the perfect drink for your mood. Reservations are essential here.
Hooiberg Volcanic Formation
Clocking in at about 540 feet, Hooiberg’s volcanic formation is made of an indigenous type of quartz diorite and centers the island. The second highest point in Aruba, Hooiberg is named after the Dutch word for “haystack,” and is considered an easy half-mile hike for most visitors. Climb the 600 concrete steps that lead to the top where, on a clear day, you can see Venezuela, the California Lighthouse, and Arikok National Park. There are places to rest as you ascend, so don’t worry if you get a little winded. If you have the stamina, just north of Hooiberg are the Ayo and Casibari Rock Formations, massive boulders that offer another view from above. Reward yourself with a drink and a bite at the snack bar at the base.
If it’s snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, or shore diving you’re after, you’re in luck; the breathtaking waters of Mangel Halto are awash in seclusion, shade, and shallow waters. Surrounded by mangroves and teeming with sea life, you may spot an eel, sea snake, turtle, or one of many species of fish on a quick dip into the water. Bring water shoes, as the shoreline is a bit rocky, and stay for the sunset — the view is sublime.
Arikok National Park
Comprising nearly 20 percent of the island, Arikok National Park is a hiker’s paradise located on the east coast. You can book a 4x4 tour, or don a backpack, walking stick, and good shoes to explore the collection of caves boasting ancient Arawak drawings, lava, quartz diorite, and limestone land formations. Guided nature walks that traverse the park’s many hidden bays can be scheduled. Highlights include Conchi, a natural ocean pool protected by dramatic rock formations, Quadirikiri Cave, where rooftop openings serve as organic skylights, and the Mira la Mar view, which overlooks the region’s abandoned gold mines.