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So, you’re in Aruba for the next 6 hours; now what? Your heart says, see everything! But your mind knows that’s impossible.
Maybe you’re even thinking, why bother? All the islands we visit are more or less the same… You’re only somewhat correct. Each island has its charm. It also depends on you. Are you doing the same activities at every stop? Switch it up! Aruba has a lot of different things to offer depending on your mood, activity level, and interests. We’ll help you balance your heart, mind, and soul in the post below. Are you looking for an adventurous pit stop or more of a laid-back shopping experience? We have some options for you.
A tour of the island with a local tour guide is the easiest way to fit Aruba’s sights in a small time frame. The most popular is the jeep tour, which will get you to the island’s most secluded and unique sight: Conchi, Aruba’s Natural Pool! Jeep tours will also take you to other incredible spots on the island, such as the California Lighthouse, Bushiribana ruins, Mysterious caves, Baby beach, Alto Vista Chapel, and much more. Picture it! Aruba’s desert-like outback, with the beautiful blue ocean backdrop. It’s a sight to see! With so many Instagram-worthy photo opportunities, it’s perfect for making and capturing memories. If you are more of an active type, you can also go the bike tour route. Aruba has so many adventure tours to choose from!
If off-road adventures are not your thing, many tour companies also offer air-conditioned tours of the island filled with history and culture. These tours also stop at some of Aruba’s must-see sights. However, they are limited to staying on the main roads. You’ll see our Butterfly Farm, the California Lighthouse, Casibari Rock Formations, and more! Aside from historical sights, you may also want to see the beautiful murals in San Nicolas! View mural guided tours here. You definitely won't feel FOMO for choosing the more laid-back version of Aruba’s island tour.
If you want to explore what our local tour companies offer, you can check out our sightseeing and tours page on Aruba.com.
*Please note that it is best to book these tours directly with the cruise lines as they have special arrangements with the tour companies for cruise passengers (keeping the timeline in mind). If you book a tour directly with these companies, please keep your cruise line schedule in mind and leave ample room to return to the port terminal for re-boarding. The ship can not come back to pick you up after they have left the dock.
Aruba is relatively easy to navigate on your own as is. With the myAruba app, it’s even more accessible. You can easily create a custom itinerary by saving your must-visit places and activities. These include places to explore, eat, stay, play, relax, and more. When you view your planned-out itinerary, myAruba will show you how to navigate your trip by foot or by (motorized) vehicle. If the sights you want to visit are not within walking distance of the port, we suggest you rent a car, bike, or electric scooter for your short visit. What’s great about using the myAruba app is that you can keep track of the time you have left before heading back to the cruise terminal and still try to fit an extra stop in if possible. You can, of course, create your own.
The cruise port is located right in the heart of Oranjestad. Perfect place for some light shopping and dining while taking the historic Dutch colonial architecture in. There’s so much to do within walking distance that you don’t have to leave the area if you don’t want to. Other adventures can wait until your next visit to Aruba! For now, let’s explore all downtown has to offer.
Let’s start at the Royal Plaza. You can’t miss it! It’s a big pink building with beautiful architecture, diagonally across from the cruise terminal. It’s the perfect all-in-one stop for shopping, from surf shops to jewelry stores and name brands. You will find something to take with you. Next is the wharfside flea market, where you can buy some Aruba souvenirs like t-shirts, local arts, crafts, and delicacies. This flea market used to be Aruba’s first public market, where farmers and fishermen brought fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish. Nowadays there are supermarkets at every corner it seems. But it’s still nice to know and see how simple life once was. So after that little history lesson, it’s time to go shopping again. Diagonally across from the flea market, you can see the Renaissance mall. Renaissance means revival, a time when interest in art, culture, literature, and education was reborn. That is the vibe you will get when walking into the open aired mall. You will find a wide variety of trendy shops and high-end retailers, such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton, but also one of the best spas on the island. Oh, and it also houses one of Aruba’s popular casinos. The Renaissance also has a smaller mall across the street called The Marketplace. There you can find Dutch cafés, Mexican yumminess, and pizza!
When your shopping bags and bellies are full, it’s time to head deeper into Oranjestad to explore some history and culture. Across The Marketplace, you can see the Willem III Tower built in 1868, and Fort Zoutman (Military Fort), initially built in 1798, is the oldest structure on the island. UNESCO now regards Fort Zoutman as a “Place of Memory of the Slave Trade Route in the Latin Caribbean.” Walking further down the street, you will come across our City Hall, which is home to the civil registration of Oranjestad. Don’t be surprised to see a wedding while walking by. The beautiful green building is definitely worth stopping for a picture.
If you still have some time on your hands after all the shopping, eating, and exploring, why not go for a ride in a submarine to see the Barcadera Reef and several shipwrecks? The Atlantis Submarine is located next to the Wharfside flea market on your way back to the cruise terminal.
What’s the best part of any trip? Of course, getting to experience new things, relax, and spend time with your loved ones! But what’s the 2nd best part? Getting to show off your adventures on your social media! Aruba is the perfect place to beautify your grid and make your followers just a little bit jealous. Take the perfect shot in front of the many murals in San Nicolas or the iconic stairs at Rodger’s Beach. This blog will help you choose the best Instagram spots on the island:
Island tours are primarily fun for adults and older kids. Entertaining toddlers is a whole different ball game. If you’re visiting with younger kiddos, Aruba has some fun activities for you and the minis in the family. Toddlers and younger kids don’t want to sit in a tour bus or even a jeep tour for long stretches at a time. They get bored quickly and are not old enough to appreciate sightseeing (yet). They need to get out there and explore!
Aruba Donkey Sanctuary
Donkeys have been a part of the island’s culture for 500 years. They are extremely affectionate creatures with a gentle nature, making them perfect companions for those seeking a stress-relieving activity. Visit the sanctuary for a private 30+ minute hugging and petting session with their friendliest, loving donkeys. Learn more about the donkey sanctuary here.
The Butterfly farm
A visit to Aruba's Butterfly Farm is an unforgettable encounter with nature in all its beauty and diversity. Step into a tropical garden teeming with butterflies, the world's most colorful creatures. Learn more about The Butterfly Farm here.
Philip’s Animal Garden
The only zoo on the island, Philip’s Animal Garden, is a must-visit with the kiddos. Philip’s is a non-profit organization that focuses on rescuing exotic animals in Aruba and the region. Philip’s Animal Garden offers interactive and educational tours, where you can enjoy an up close and personal experience with over 50 exotic animals. Learn more about Philip’s Animal Garden here.
Aruba Ostrich Farm
Although Africa is the native land of the ostrich, this intriguing bird finds a perfect home in Aruba's rugged landscape. You and the kids will learn interesting facts about the ostrich’s incredible speed, mating, rearing, feeding habits, and defense mechanisms they use against predators. You will even have the opportunity to hand-feed these amazing birds. Learn more about Aruba Ostrich Farm here.
De Palm Island
What kid doesn’t like a water park? What about a water park on a small island in the ocean? A few hours on De Palm Island will make you and the kiddos happy. You can also snorkel and swim with the beautiful blue Parrotfish! Learn more about De Palm Island here.
One of the perks of visiting different islands by cruise is the ability to explore all the various beaches in a short period. In just a few days, you can say you’ve been to many beautiful locations that others only see on social media and dream about. Let’s stop for a second and feel how lucky we are. Ahhh…mazing! You are not dreaming! Let’s start the beach hopping, shall we? You can easily take a bus (L10A) near the cruise terminal for the beaches mentioned on the North Coast. However, it can be a little tricky for the South side. You must take a taxi or rental car to visit those beaches. Remember that you can’t get on a bus or taxi if you are wet. Make sure you are completely dried off before stepping in.
TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Award Winner for #1 Best Beach in the Caribbean and 2 best worldwide! Eagle beach has to be on your beach-hopping list! It is the widest and longest white sandy beach in Aruba. You can stop by “Truck di Mama” for lunch if you're feeling snacky while there.
Tres trapi Beach
Some places take your breath away. Tres Trapi beach is one of those places. A small cove with a rustic set of stairs leading to the cutest little beach. The clear blue waters beg you to come in for a swim. You might even see turtles!
Arashi beach is popular among locals and visitors alike. Beautiful white beach on the way to the California Lighthouse. It’s great for swimming and families. If you want to do some snorkeling, this is the spot you need to be on the North Coast.
Speaking of snorkeling, Mangel Halto’s clear water is really something to write home about. Known for its calm, shallow waters, rich in sea life. You can also go kayaking, surrounded by mangroves. It is a magical place.
With its iconic stairs and beautiful blue ocean backdrop, Rodger’s Beach is a must-stop on your list. Just ignore the oil refinery in the back, okay?
One of the most popular beaches on the island, Baby Beach is truly a unique experience. Also known as “Little Lagoon,” Baby Beach has shallow water throughout the lagoon, making it fun for kids! Don’t let the shallowness fool you, though! Strong currents may pull you out if you go out too far. This may be dangerous to inexperienced swimmers.
Kiteboarding is a watersport that uses wind power with a large kite to pull a rider across water, land, or snow. You can imagine the sport as windsurfing meets snowboarding.🏂🏻The sport is gaining popularity worldwide, with over 1.5 million kitesurfers practicing the sport today. Many visitors even travel to Aruba solely to do so! First, you don’t need to be a strong man or woman, boy or girl, to start your kiteboarding journey. You can start as young as ten years old and up to 75 years young, depending on your weight, mobility, focus, and, most importantly, with the right equipment choice by your instructor. With the right kite and instructor, nearly everyone can learn to kitesurf. Basic swimming skills are, of course, necessary to practice any watersport. Learn more about kite surfing in Aruba:
Let’s be honest. Sometimes you just want to eat and chill. That’s part of what a cruise is about. Heck, that’s even part of what Aruba’s about. For me, at least. But let’s change it up! We’re going to get our lazy booties off the boat to eat and chill on the island. Aruba has plenty of good food to go around.
Let’s start with an Aruban classic: The Pastechi. You can find pastechis all around the island, including near the cruise terminal. You'll get many different answers if you ask a local where to eat the best pastechi. Everyone has a favorite!
Next up, you’ll have to get a taxi or rental car. Get ready to chill with fresh fish, seafood, drinks, and a view at Zeerovers. If you’re not in a seafood mood, let’s continue towards Seroe Colorado to Kamini’s Kitchen for some delicious curries and other Caribbean cuisines. The flavors and spices will blow your (metaphorical) socks off! Next stop, Rum Reef, for some refreshing island cocktails overlooking Baby Beach. Because, hey, it’s been an active day, and you deserve a break.
When you head back towards the cruise terminal, you can stop at The Dutch Pancakehouse at The Marketplace for a sweet treat. Have you ever had poffertjes? The mini pancakes served with powdered sugar are the best way to end your eat & chill day on the island.
If exploring the island on land is not your thing, why not explore Aruba underwater? Aruba snorkeling is an experience that is easy to do yet enriches you with memories for a lifetime. Lucky ones can even meet with one of the island’s four sea turtle species slowly swimming by. Check out the best beaches for snorkeling in Aruba.
Which activity are you going to try when visiting Aruba by cruise? Can't decide? You can always come back to Aruba to check some more items off your list in the future!
Adventurous tour, Shopping, Exploring, Island activities, Instagrammable spots, Donkey sanctuary, Butterfly farm, Eating & Drinking, Snorkeling & Diving
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