I would highly recommend renting a jeep for the day if you are going to see the sites around town. If you rent a standard car, you will only be able to see about half of the sites. We took a full day rental and went to several locations that were only accessible by jeep. You could have taken a car to most of the locations, but not comfortably, and the speed you would have to drive to avoid the rocks would have taken much more time.
We went with Hertz through the hotel, and it ended up being 158.00 for the day. When you factor in the fact that we also took the car out to dinner, which would have been a $30 cab ride each way, then we definitely came out a head for the whole day's travel.
10% off for online reservations, must make them 48 hours in advance.
Cruise ships dock in Oranjestad, Aruba's capital. Disembarkation takes you thorough one of three terminals where you will find shops, information, and various services. Just outside the terminal you will find taxis offering private tours and vehicle rental agents. The main bus terminal is just across the street. This will also be the meeting point for tours (booked privately or through the cruise line).
It's a short walk from the terminal to the main street (Caya G. F. Betico Croes) in Oranjestad where you can shop, eat, and/or gamble!
There are various possibilities for getting around Aruba. We rented a regular car. The roads on the west side of the island are paved, but on the east side, they are sometimes sand or dirt (photo 4). You can't really get lost as the island is not very big, but not all of the signs are what you will be accustomed to. Some were easy to figure out (stop, no left turn), but some were unfamiliar to me. A yellow/orange diamond meant that it was a right-of-way road. A triangle bordered in red with a big black vertical line with a little cross in the middle mean that you have the right of way at the intersection.
I had a little difficulty with the frequently seen signs that had two cars next to each other, the right one black and the left one red. I discovered that this one meant "No passing". And a dark blue circle rimmed in red with a red slash across it was "No Stopping or Parking". Photo three shows an interesting variation on a traffic light.
You can rent a Land Rover Defender Jeep and go on a Safari (photo 5 - billed as the most fun you've had driving). Or you can get a a fully automatic All Terrain Vehicle (A.T.V.). Quad racer (photo 2).
The bus system in Aruba is so very good! The buses have many convenient stops all over the island. Visible on the Bus is a sign denoting the Hotel area, Hotel or town where the bus will stop. The buses are clean and the drivers are friendly. The cost for a trip to downtown from Palm Beach, which is a good distance away, is only $1.25. They do prefer exact change, if possible. If you get a round-trip, it's only $2.00....a steal! The buses run till late at night also....stopping at most big hotels and resorts or at least within a short walking distance. The streets are well lit for the most part too.
Unless you have your own boat forget about any regular ferry service to Curacao or Bonaire.
The non-US destination flights depart out of a separate terminal to the left at Aruba. If you are headed to Curacao or Bonaire you will have to pay a $32 facilities tax..cash/credit cards accepted. There are two other primary competitors to the NAs. DAE which flys ATRs and Folker 100s between the islands and Tiarra Air which flys Shorts 360s and is the probably the best way to get to Coro in Venezuela for the 15 min flight. We paid 401 AWG RT per person for the following routing a day and a half prior to departure..airport taxes/transit fees ($2 if you transit Curacao to Bonaire) AUA-CUR-BON-CUR-AUA. Flights left on time more or less except for our CUR-AUA flight which was late due to late arriving crew. Longest flight is 20 min or so..don't expect food or drinks served on the plane due to the short flights. Staff was very nice.
Want to visit Aruba and don't have a yacht to get you there from S. Florida? Then you get to fly from the East Coast of the US, Europe or Central, S. America. Aruba's Queen Beatrix Airport is served by all major US carriers including low fare carriers such as Spirt and Jet Blue, Copa, KLM and a couple from Venezuela also serve the island. US carriers have their own terminal since you clear US Customs/Imigration in Aruba and don't have to go thru the hassle when you land in the US. If you are flying thru ATL this can be helpful as you may need the extra connection time. Duty Free in the airport is not much to write home about as you can get better stuff in town. Keep in mind that there is better shops in the main terminal on the ground floor..eat/shop here prior to going thru security and heading upstiars to the gate area...there is also a smoking area next to a coffee stand in the food court on the lower level.
Our cruise docked in downtown Oranjestad along with at least 3 other large ships, the two docks are next to each other. From both docks you can easily walk to the shops and restaurants in the city. If you want to just go to the beach there are taxis or the bus station is just across the street from where you exit the port. We walked to the nearest beach as we wanted to stop by the grocery store and get a little exercise, but I don't recommend that for most people as it took us at least 30-40 minutes, there's not much to see in between the two and you need to know where you are going.
In addition to taxis, there appeared to be folks selling organized tours and renting cars right after you left the port, I didn't pay much attention to them as we knew we were going to the beach.
I tried to find a direct flight to Aruba from London Gatwick, but was not successful. I think if you are on a package tour, you would be lucky, but as we are visiting on route to Venezuela, the best price and option was to get a flight to Amsterdam and fly KLM from there. Flying to Aruba was cheaper than flying to Caracas and means the Opra Singer doesn't have to make the long trek from Punto Fijo to Caracas and back to collect us (6hrs each way). It also means of course, that we get to spend the difference on a few days in Aruba on route :-)
Aruba's modern Queen Beatrix International Airport can accommodate commercial jet aircrafts as large as the Boeing 747. The island is served by a number of airlines, and connections can be made to any part of the world.
The journey to Aruba on KLM was the worst long haul flight I have ever had. Service was terrible. See my warning or dangers tips for details.
Handy hint : Take some of your own food supplies !
In Renaissance Resort it's possible to book helicopter trip around the island or choose from many excursions.
What could be more romantic than helicopter coming to pick you up and take you to a distant restaurant where you could enjoy the night and great food together and then flight back to your resort with "own" helicopter...
Oneway flight from Curacao to Aruba is about 90 USD...it varies depending whether you book in advance or from the airport...
Airlines operating from Aruba are Tiara Air, Insel Air and Dutch Antilles Express
These airlines have connection to several Caribbean islands (via curacao) and for example to Venezuela.
Although many people may opt for a car rental and taxis can get expensive after 6 days, the bus routes are a great alternative. They run all through the island and stop in downtown "O". Stop signs are located all over and are easy to spot not too mention the price per person was around $1.10 US. It got us to downtown and the grocery store just as fast as a taxi and much cheaper. I do love the taxis though and they were great tour guides when asked.
Chicago has direct connections to just about everywhere, but I could only find one direct flight a week on United so I had to book a layover. We went through Miami, one choice was a 50 minute layover which seemed too risky with the possibility of snow in Chicago and only one flight to Aruba from Miami. It turns out that flight from Chicago to Miami was late but they waited for the passengers anyway. Well, at least I got some good Cuban food in Miami...
There's only one airport in Aruba, Reina Beatrix, and it is small but the bags took a long time to get to us, it was late so we went outside and hailed a taxi.
On the way back to Chicago, they said it was mandatory that we were at the airport 3 hours in advance, not sure if this is true. The sign over the American airlines desk said it was mandatory to check in 60 minutes before your flight. It only took us about 20 minutes to check in and go through passport control and US customs.
I read that they were improving the dining options at the airport, right now there is a Sbarro before you go through customs that looked like it had decent slices of pizza, a Sbarro past customs that had crappy looking pizza for way too much money and a place that sold sandwiches, burgers and hot dogs that had been sitting for an indeterminable amount of time. Do your eating before you get to the airport if possible and also do your souvernir shopping as nothing is cheap at the airport.
We used the bus several times to get from Palm Beach to Oranjestad and back again, the one way fare is $1.30, $2.30 for a round trip. The drivers do take USD but give change in Aruban currency so it's best to bring along lots of small bills and some change if you plan on using the bus and not exchanging currency.
You can see the schedule on the attached website, the main bus station in Oranjestad was very close to Iguana Joe's.
We arrived rather late into the airport in Aruba so we didn't want to fuss with waiting for a shuttle or figure out where the bus stop was so we took a cab. We shared a ride with another couple so it seems it should have been split between the two parties but when we asked she said $22 to the Palm Beach area and I thought the fare would be around $20 so I suspect she gouged us a bit. On the way back to the airport, the driver quoted us $20.
I think it only took about 15-20 minutes even with a bit of traffic.
Always ask what the fare is before you get into the cab so you don't have a surprise at the end. The drivers readily accept US dollars so don't worry about getting Aruban currency. I read that you should tip 10-15%.
The DePalm airport shuttle is another alternative but it's only slightly less expensive if there are two of you traveling, $18.25 per person round trip. Plus you have to wait until everyone is on board and you may have a lot of other hotel stops so I didn't think it was worth saving a few dollars.
If you are planning to spend more than a few days in Aruba, you might consider renting a car for either the week or a day. Taxis can become quite expensive if you are shuttling into town, to the store, to other beach areas and to restaurants so having your own transportation might save you some money. Do the math and consider if it's worth it, especially if you are traveling in a group and can split the cost.
In addition, most people never travel off the hotel route and miss out on the rugged beauty of the northern part of the island, where fewer tourists travel. Unfortunately the natural bridge is no longer around, but the change in terrain on the island is interesting and worth to see the violent crashing waves on the north in stark contrast with the calm waters fronting all the hotels.
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