So, you’ve decided to take a trip to Aruba! Well, congratulations–you made an excellent choice for your vacation. It’s not only one of the safest islands in the Caribbean but also has some of the best weather year-round. Now, before you grab your swimsuit and sandals and head off on your trip, you’ll want to review my pro tips about Aruba. In this Aruba travel guide, I’ll share the ten most important things to know before visiting One Happy Island–plus a few extra travel tips at the end! Especially if this is your first time to Aruba, read carefully to guarantee that you have the best vacation ever.
You’ll most likely want to rent a car.
If you’re planning to stay at a beachside resort, you may wonder: do I need a car? Although some tourists can get by hiring taxis during their stay, I highly suggest renting a car. This way, you’re free to explore the island at your speed. Plus, one of the top activities in Aruba is to go beach hopping! A car will allow you the mobility to see some of the beaches on the southern end of the island, which typically aren’t as crowded. It also allows you to grab groceries, check out local restaurants, and even visit natural pools. Think of it this way: do you want to spend your vacation waiting around for taxis or buses?
Moreover, Arubans drive on the right side of the road–the same as Americans–which makes driving around the island easy and stress-free. However, be prepared for lots of traffic circles! You don’t need a special license to rent a car in Aruba, so make sure to bring your U.S. driver’s license. The great news is that car rentals on Aruba are quite affordable, so there’s no downside to having a car for your vacation. I rented an economy car from Thrifty Car Rental at the Aruba International Airport and paid approximately $350 USD for one week. It was super convenient to pick up and drop off the car at this location. Even if you rent a car, you may still want to consider a jeep tour at the beginning of your trip. These tours are a fantastic way to become familiar with Aruba’s layout.
You don’t have to stay at a resort to have a good time.
When you first start looking into taking a vacation to Aruba, it may seem like there’s no way to make your trip budget-friendly. In fact, most of the advertisements you’ll see are probably for the larger and more expensive resorts. If you have the funds, you may want to stay directly on Eagle or Palm Beach at exclusive luxury hotels. For example, Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort, or Hotel Riu Palace Aruba can be perfect options. However, you don’t have to shell out the big bucks for excellent accommodations in Aruba–there are plenty of affordable vacation rentals on Airbnb.
You can find the link to the Airbnb I stayed at here in case you’d like to check it out. My husband and I wanted to find a budget-friendly apartment that was close to the main beaches and the Renaissance Mall & Marketplace. This place was exactly what we were looking for! A huge grocery store was just across the street, there was plenty of street parking, and Eagle Beach was only a few minutes away by car. Plus, the apartment had a kitchen so we could cook our own food to save a little extra money as well. So, there you have it: your vacation to Aruba doesn’t have to be expensive and you don’t have to stay at a resort!
As an Airbnb Associate, I may earn a small commission when you book through the links in this article.
Flamingo beach is in Aruba and you’ll want to visit!
If you’ve ever seen pictures on Instagram or Facebook of people feeding flamingos, you’ve seen the famous Flamingo Beach! However, you might not realize that you can only find flamingos at one place in Aruba: the Renaissance Aruba Private Island. Here, you can spend the day relaxing on a private beach while surrounded by flamingos. Plus, the island also offers cabanas, a spa, and plenty of water sports. If you can only choose one excursion or activity to do on your trip, I would highly recommend this being it! So now that I’ve convinced you to go, how can you visit Flamingo Beach?
Well, the easiest way to see Flamingo Beach is to stay at the Renaissance Aruba Resort. If you’re a guest at the hotel, the entrance to the Renaissance Private Island is included in your stay. To go, all you’ll have to do is walk down from your room to the lobby with your key card and wait in the dock area. The water taxis pick up passengers approximately every 15 minutes to take them to the private island.
If you’re not staying at the hotel, you’ll need to secure island passes from https://renaissancearuba.idaypass.com/. Unfortunately, you can’t buy these passes in advance. Therefore, you’ll need to check the website early in the morning of the day you’d like to visit to see if any passes are available for purchase. The cost is approximately $125 USD per person and includes lunch, a cocktail, and towels. You can find more information about this experience on my guide to visiting Flamingo Beach.
The most tranquil beaches are the farthest from the cruise ports.
One of Aruba’s best-known attractions is Eagle Beach, which is frequently listed among the world’s top beaches. In fact, many of the resorts on the island are nearby, as well as on Palm Beach. Although Eagle Beach is much less crowded than Palm Beach due to its size, you may still want to check out the beaches on the other side of the island. Especially if you see lots of cruise ship passengers on Aruba for the day, the beaches farther from the ports will be the least busy options. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to have a rental car!
The drive from the Palm or Eagle Beach area to Baby Beach should take approximately 30-40 minutes. However, my favorite hidden gem would have to be Rodger’s Beach. This smaller strip of powdery white sand is the perfect spot for reading a book and escaping the crowds. Pro tip: pack a cooler and some of your own snacks for Rodger’s Beach as there are far fewer vendors than on neighboring Baby Beach.
18% of the entire island comprises a national park.
On your Aruba vacation, you’ll want to plan to spend at least one day at Arikok National Park. This attraction is open every day from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M. and you’ll only have to pay a small fee to enter (children under 17 are free!). Visiting Arikok almost feels like stepping foot on another planet, due to its desert landscape and particular fauna. In fact, you can even find certain snake and bird species in the park that are unique to Aruba. Additionally, the Fontein Cave at Arikok has some of the island’s oldest Arawak paintings on the ceilings. One of the most popular places to visit in the park is the Natural Pool (Conchi), where both visitors and locals enjoy swimming and snorkeling.
If you have a 4WD vehicle, I recommend entering the park at San Fuego and driving the Northern Loop. However, even if you don’t have a car, it’s still possible to visit the park for the day on a guided tour. Options include a hiking tour through Arikok National Park, a horseback riding adventure, and even riding a UTV to the natural pool. You can find more information about the park and its many attractions here.
Americans don’t need to exchange money before visiting Aruba.
While the Aruban florin (Afl.) is the official national currency on the island, U.S. dollars are also widely accepted. Furthermore, you can withdraw both florins and dollars from many of the ATMs in Aruba. Nonetheless, you’ll want to be careful if you prefer to have USD because certain ATMs only offer florins. Florin banknotes are available in denominations of 10,25, 50, 100, and 200. Meanwhile, coins are available in 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents, a 1 florin coin, and a 5 florin coin. Due to the use of both currencies in Aruba, you may receive change in both U.S. dollars and Aruban florins after paying in cash. I find any leftover florins to be a fun souvenir to bring home!
Personally, I decided to bring a small amount of USD in cash and paid for most expenses with my Chase Sapphire Preferred card. This credit card has no foreign transaction fees, so it’s perfect to use when traveling outside of the United States. In the end, I didn’t end up using much cash since most establishments in Aruba accept major credit cards.
Many Arubans speak English!
The official languages in Aruba are Papiamento and Dutch. Nonetheless, many Arubans speak English (and even Spanish!) as well. Papiamento, the mother tongue of Arubans, has been spoken on the island since the 16th century. However, it wasn’t declared an official language alongside Dutch until 2003. Papiamento is a beautiful creole language that has been influenced by Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and a variety of African languages. If you’d like to learn a few important phrases in Papiamento for your trip, check out this guide. Meanwhile, Dutch is also an official language since Aruba is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Therefore, Aruba is a polyglot society, where most locals speak at least two–if not three–languages. Due to the expansive tourism industry on the island, you shouldn’t have any problems communicating on your visit.
You won’t have to worry about hurricane season.
When planning a Caribbean vacation, you’ll typically want to take hurricane season into account. This time of year, which peaks from August to October, typically involves lower rates for flights and accommodations. However, there is always the risk of your trip being affected by a serious tropical storm. When it comes to traveling to Aruba, you most likely won’t have to worry about hurricane season because the island sits outside of the hurricane belt. In fact, the last hurricane that hit Aruba was back in 2007 (Hurricane Felix), and it only caused minor damage. Previously, Hurricane Ivan hit Aruba in 2004. Nonetheless, the storm only caused flooding, with no structural damage or casualties reported. Therefore, Aruba’s location offers a major advantage over other Caribbean destinations, such as the Bahamas, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.
According to the Dow Jones Island Index, Aruba is ranked among the five Caribbean islands least likely to be hit by a hurricane. Moreover, this index highlights the island’s relatively constant temperatures throughout the year. Thus, Aruba is also an ideal warm destination to escape the Northern Hemisphere winter.
Wearing sunscreen is absolutely necessary, so come prepared.
As with any vacation to the Caribbean, it’s a really good idea to wear sunscreen. So, save yourself some time and pack suntan lotion in your suitcase (30 SPF and up is best!). Since Aruba is a windy place, many travelers make the mistake of thinking that the sun isn’t strong. However, take a moment to remember that Aruba is also very close to the equator. The closer you are to the equator, the more direct sunlight is going to pass through the atmosphere. Plus, the white sand on Aruba’s beaches reflects the sun’s rays. If you’re planning to go swimming, make sure to bring enough sunscreen to reapply after you get out of the water.
As of July 2020, Aruba instituted a ban on suntan lotions that include oxybenzone. This chemical is unfortunately harmful to both coral and marine life. Therefore, when you go to buy lotion for your trip, be sure to purchase coral reef-safe sunscreen.
When leaving Aruba, get to the airport early.
While I always recommend getting to the airport three hours ahead of time for international flights, this is particularly key when flying out of Aruba. Most of the boarding process is normal: you’ll drop off your luggage and then proceed through security. However, you may not realize that Aruba has U.S. pre-clearance for travelers flying to the United States. Now, what does this mean? Well, you’ll pass through U.S. Customs & Border Protection in Aruba before boarding your flight. Therefore, you’ll want to get to the Queen Beatrix International Airport early and allot more time than normal to reach your gate.
Although this means you’ll spend more time at the Aruba airport, it also saves you the hassle of going through customs in the U.S. Furthermore, when you arrive at your destination in the United States, you’ll arrive as a domestic passenger. For me, this meant that I actually arrived from Aruba to the Atlanta domestic airport instead of the international airport.
More quick facts to know:
- Aruba is often considered to be one of the safest islands in the Caribbean. It holds an extremely low crime rate and is outside of the hurricane belt, making it an ideal destination for families.
- You can drink the tap water in Aruba–it’s perfectly safe! This makes staying hydrated a lot easier. I would recommend always carrying a bottle of water with you.
- If you’re American, you won’t need to pack a converter or adapter to be able to charge your phone, computer, or camera battery. Conveniently, Aruba adopted the same voltage standard of 110V. Plus, the plug types you’ll find are almost always the same as used in the U.S. (type A and B).
- As far as clothes to pack for your Aruba trip, plan to bring light, breathable options. You may also want a thin jacket to wear in the evenings.
- Gambling is legal in Aruba and the legal age for drinking and gambling on the island is 18.
- When eating at a restaurant, a gratuity between 10-20% is usually included in your bill. If not, or if you’d like to leave a little extra, a 15% tip is average.
- Iguanas are native to the island and you will probably see them while you’re out and about. Don’t worry though, they won’t bother you and typically run away as you approach.
- Aruba is only 15 miles from the coast of Venezuela. So, on a clear day, you might be able to glimpse Venezuela from some of the island’s highest points (for example, from Hooiberg).
- Americans need a valid passport to visit Aruba, but they don’t need a visa! You can stay in Aruba for up to 30 days at a time as a tourist.