Aruba is considered one of the Caribbean's safest islands. Although pickpockets/thefts are rare, it's best to keep an eye on your valuables. Never leave them unattended on the beach or in the car.
Getting around by rental car is easy. The excellent roads connect all the major attractions. Most of the major U.S. car rental companies are represented. A valid U.S., Canadian, or international driver's license is required. Two-wheelers - everything from mopeds to Harleys are also available for rent.
Taxis are not metered but rates are fixed. Tell the driver where you're going and ask the rate before you get in! Buses run daily from 6 a.m. to midnight and are an excellent way to get around inexpensively.
Although the local currency is the florin, U.S. dollars, euros, traveler's checks, and credit cards are accepted island-wide. ATMs are also widely available.
A valid passport is required to enter Aruba for citizens of the U.S. and Canada, and British subjects. Citizens of EU countries require a valid passport and an EU Travel Card. Other citizens may require a visa. Since this information is subject to change it is always best to verify with a local consulate. **Most cruise passengers who are not U.S. citizens but are U.S. permanent residents (green card holders) of countries that would require a visa do NOT need one when entering by cruiseship.
Almost everyone speaks English. Spanish is widely spoken as well.
Minimum drinking and gambling age is 18.
Average year-round temperatures are in the low 80s. Trade winds and low humidity may lull you into thinking you don't need sunscreen! Be sure to use sunscreen and wear a hat.
It's a beautiful island so enjoy!
Favorite thing: I felt totally safe while in Aruba. We walked almost every night to the Paseo Herencia Mall at night with not a worry in the world. We were not the only ones because the streets were busy until late at night.
Even though the climate here is quite extreme, there are a great number of plants and animals that live here.
The plants have small or leather-like leaves to resist loss of water through evaporation. Other plant species drop their leaves in the dry season to limit the loss of fluids. But the plants best adapted to the climate are the Cacti.
In addition to the pipe organ cactus and the prickly pear cactus (photo 3) there appeared to be two barrel shaped cactus (photo 4), and we even saw several different birds. One was a dove type bird and the other one looked sort of like a Baltimore oriole in that it had some orange on it (photo 5)
Fondest memory: I saw at least two kinds of lizards - one brown and one a brilliant teal (photo 2). They were very hard to take a picture of because they moved so fast (as I would if I was barefoot on the hot ground). The rocks were a rusty color - it was almost as though the ground was made of iron which had rusted.
My favorite place on Aruba was the Seroe Colorado Lighthouse. This is mostly because very few people know about it. Getting there was an exploration and adventure. Seroe Colorado Lighthouse is probably named for the town of Seroe Colorado which is nearby. We never did get to the town.
It was confusing because the lighthouse at the north end in the California Lighthouse and this one is the Colorado Lighthouse. Taxi drivers almost universally either did not know what we meant and insisted that it was the California lighthouse that we wanted, or else, when we explained that it was NOT the California lighthouse that we wanted, they did not want to go there. They insisted that there was no lighthouse at Serio Colorado, and that it would take an hour to go down there and an hour to come back. They wanted $40 an hour to take us there and another $40 to bring us back.
In addition to looking up the lighthouses, I had looked up the rental car rates, and we could have pre-booked on the internet for $32/day. But Bob had been against that, even though they drive on the right. When he heard what the taxi drivers wanted, he decided that renting a car was a good idea after all. So we went back to the car rental places at the dock. The first one in the line was Hertz and the lady was saying that she had only one car, a station wagon. Other people who had been asking her apparently wanted a smaller car, and also wanted to keep it to 8 or 9 oclock (the boat didn't leave until 10 pm). So they left.
I asked how much it was ($60) and whether she would give us a AAA discount which was in the AAA book. She said she would give us 5%, and did we want the car. I said yes. The other people came back and were negotiating with her also, and she asked if we were together. I said no. We got the car and they didn't.
When we got to the coast, we saw a large red anchor, and we could see the lighthouse from here, so we headed for it. The road was indeed narrow and surprisingly winding considering that Aruba is such a flat island. I did have the advantage of having seen photos of this lighthouse, so I knew what to look for.
To provide some sense of scale, the lighthouse is approximately 26 foot tall post light with a square wire cage enclosure surrounding the beacon. The wire enclosure is designed to prevent vandalism of the light. The original light was on a wood tower, and the second was a square masonry tower. Ruins of the second tower are visible near the present light (photo 4).
Fondest memory: Part of the lure of lighthouses...finding them.
Aruba has lighthouses. The one that most people know about is this one called the California Lighthouse near Arashi Beach on the northwest tip of Aruba. When we come in by cruise ship, we can see this lighthouse from quite a distance.
The Dutch word for a lighthouse is vuurtoren. The lighthouses are probably maintained by the Aruba Ports Authority, a corporation owned by the government. The nickname is from the British steamship California, which wrecked here in 1891.
On our first visit, Bob couldn't snorkel because he had just had a melanoma removed from his wrist so he took a land tour. I went on the snorkeling tour. We both were at this lighthouse.
Fondest memory: The 1-story keeper's house has been greatly expanded into a popular Italian restaurant with a multilingual name, La Trattoria el Faro Blanco. On our second visit, I had thought we might have lunch here, but we didn't get here in time, so we missed doing that, but I got to see the lighthouse close-up for the first time.
The one thing I did not like about Aruba is the US chain restaruants are well represented here along with the inflated prices. Being the cheap backpacker that I am (I'll spend money on a meal for good food but not this chain garbage). Away from Palm Beach off the main drag there are smaller stores and even large one where you can load up on fruit and other things to eat or drink..then NYer's head over here when they arrive at their Timeshares rather than pay inflated prices at the beach bars and buy food for their kitchens. Sho around a bit and you can pick up fresh fruit at decent prices or other stuff your stomach may desire.
With the money you save you can buy a beach drink during happy hour or something else.
Fondest memory: They do have fresh fruit here. Picked up some crunchy sweet apples in one store
Favorite thing: The official currency is the Aruban florin, but U.S. currency is widely accepted, some ATMs will even give out USD. On our second trip we only used US cash at the grocery store, they gave us some change in US currency and some small change in Aruban florins. You can use US currency on the bus so bring some small change with you if you plan on using it.
One of the best places for information on what to do in various ports is
Cruise Critic. The Cruise Critic Aruba forum board was very useful in planning shore excursions, whether the ones offered by the ship or independent, and there is also Aruba port information with hints on where to go, what to do, where the ships dock, where to eat and how to get around.
To find out how many other cruise ships will be in town along with you, check
Cruisett.com. The more ships in town, the more competition for independent guides and tours and the more crowded the main attractions will be.
The city center is quite busy with quite a lot of traffic at times, especially when large Cruise liners arrive at the island. Expect a lot of people and visitors up for shopping and most stores will keep open even during holidays and Sundays for this.
The center appears clean and concentrated, and is an ideal place if you are looking for a good shopping or a good night out. Prices are average high in general, mostly because you have many US tourists arriving, and the fact that the island at certain times of the year seems overbooked.
Expect a high price tag on hotels and resorts especially during high seasons.
One hotel appear to be a better budget option than others; "Talk Of The Town Hotel And Beach Club" and is a great choice if you only stay there for one night or so (book well in advance). It is also close to the city and the airport at the same time. Statue of Simon Bolivar on a horse right behind the hotel, and a beautiful beach on the other side that is not so crowdy as the beaches on the west side of the island.
Aruba is a great place to stop by if you are traveling on to Colombia or other Latin American countries.
Fondest memory: The best thing with Aruba is the good and stable weater conditions.
Always a North East strong breeze that cools you down.
My husband and I visited Aruba Aug-22-Sept 2, 2009. One of our favorite activities is snorkeling. We snorkled at Baby beach, Malmock, Arashi, and Boca Catalina. Except for Baby Beach, these areas are all within two miles of the high rise hotels on the north end of Aruba.
You can take the Aruba bus ($1.30 U.S.) from the hotels to Boca Catalina or Arashi. The buses are reliable and safe. We also took them into downtown Oranjstaad.
Baby Beach is quite pretty and has good facilities (lots of shade cabanas and a snack shop with decent food). The water is shallow and calm. If you bring frozen peas to feed the fish, you will be swarmed by fish at this beach. It was really cool. However, the beach is fairly crowded and the reefs are dull.
If you are serious about snorkeling, get to Boca Catalina and snorkel north toward Arashi. These are the best areas for seeing fish and slightly more appealing coral formations. Unfortunately, it seems the reefs in Aruba have been damaged like much of the rest of the world and consist mainly of brain coral and other dully colored coral. However, near Arashi you do find some hints of reef recovery with a few bits of colored coral here and there.
Please be very, very careful when snorkeling. Do not touch or stand on the coral or these places will no longer be worth visiting.
Boca Catalina and Arashi have no facilities, but they do have the shade cabanas. The beaches are much less crowded and the Snorkeling is probably the best we found in Aruba.
Bring peas to feed the fish here as well, but you must stay close to the shore for them to eat it. My husband and I swam quite a distance from shore, to a depth of about 30 feet to see if we could see larger sea creatures (rays, sea turtles, baracuda, etc.) but had no success. The majority of the fish seem to stay closer to shore. We did see some squid, one spotted ray, blue and yellow Tang, and three extremely beautiful black/dark blue triangular fish with iridescent purple/blue spots. Don't know what they are, but they are gorgeous! Also, saw a kind of scary looking worm-like creature. Again, no clue what it is. Pelicans also hang around here.
The water at Arashi is a bit choppier than Boca Catalina and definately more so than at Baby Beach. However, it is still easy to snorkel there. I am not a strong swimmer at all, but with fins and a mask and the will to just bob with the waves, anyone can enjoy this area.
One other nice snorkeling area is at De Palm Island. However, you have to pay to get there and they only let you snorkel a small distance from shore without a guide. The best thing here is the large Blue Tangs. They will readily swarm you for food. If you want to visit De Palm Island, I suggest you take the kayaking trip. This business picks you up at your hotel and takes you to their location where you ocean kayak for about an hour to get to De Palm Island. If you have never kayaked before, the wind on the ocean can be a bit challenging. However, even for two only moderately in shape 50 years olds, it was doable. (We have kayaked before, but only on rivers). At De Palm island, my husband and I were the only two people on the trip to keep up with the guide when going further from shore. This young man's name was John and he was very nice. When it was time to head back, we asked if we could stay out longer and he readily agreed. We got to explore further from shore and were rewarded with some great fish sightings. So, my advice, if you take this trip and want to get in some quality snorkeling, keep up with your guide and ask to stay out longer.
The rest of DePalm Island consists of a few stores, a buffet restaurant, a bar, and a water park. Free use (yes, including food and drinks) of everything on De Palm island is included in the price of the kayaking trip (around $100 U.S. per person). However, you only have about 2 1/2 hours on the island and, in our case, we spent almost an hour and a half of that snorkeling. Therefore, we only had time for lunch and not much else.
Since the island is small you don't have to stress which attractions you have time to see as you will see all of them =)
I recommend to rent a car since driving is really easy in Aruba.
Fondest memory: To me, Aruba was everything I wanted from a perfect holiday, I could go back anytime!
...especially I enjoyed the white beaches, great food, the atmosphere in Oranjestad, iguanas, flamingoes, all the attractions, everything!!
Although "discovered" by Spain in 1499, Aruba has a much longer history with the Dutch, they took control of the island in 1636 until 1805, briefly ceded control to England until 1816 when the Dutch took permanent control. Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba, the Netherland Antilles, became a self governing entity in 1954 under the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In 1986 Aruba broke away from the Netherland Antilles and became a separate autonomous member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The population of Aruba is around 100,000.
Papiamento (a Spanish-Portuguese-Dutch-English dialect) is the dominant language, Dutch is an official language, Spanish and English are widely spoken.
Tourism is the main source of income, other sources of revenue are offshore banking and oil refining.
The island is about 20 miles long and 6 miles wide, slightly larger than Washington DC.
Although it's tempting to believe that these piles of rocks have a foundation in some sort of ancient custom or religion, our guide told us that tourists started this tradition, they come, stack these rocks and make a wish. Nothing mysterious about that!
I've seen something similar at Stanley Park in Vancouver, there the rock piles were done by an "artist". And also Hawaii.
Aruba has an arid climate most of the year, you'll see a lot of catcus once you get away from the beach and not a lot of other vegetation. The tradewinds keep the temperature from being unbearable and blows away the bugs, the only bugs I saw were the ones that slipped into our hotel room when we opened the balcony door.
Although I read that it rarely rains, we saw quite a bit of it, but once again the tradewinds blow the weather in and then blow it right back out again, wait 15 minutes and there is a whole new weather system.
Favorite thing: They say that even though the streets are not marked well in Aruba that you always know which way west is by looking at the divi divi trees (also known as watapana) which are always pointing southwesterly, thanks to the trade winds that blow in Aruba.
LG Smith Boulevard 55-B, Oranjestad, Aruba, 1347, Caribbean
Good for: Business
My husband and I enjoyed our honeymoon here. There is a great restaurant on site and the staff are...more
Palm Beach Road, Noord 43E, Noord, Caribbean
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Couples