Aruba, one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean, welcomes almost one million visitors each year. Most visitors come over from the United States, nearby Venezuela and the Netherlands, but lots of travellers from the UK also book flights to Aruba. The minute you step off your Aruba flight and drive to your hotel the long stretches of white sand beaches will take your breath away.
Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital, is where all the action is. It’s full of restaurants, casinos, nightclubs and shops and strolling through this small town is delightful. Dutch and Baroque architecture with a Caribbean twist are dotted along the streets and the bustling waterfront welcomes cruise ships, yachts and fishing boats, some that dock for a day, some that stay for months. A 20-minute walk west of Oranjestad is the beach town of Eagle Beach. There you’ll find a variety of accommodation from small boutique hotels to large all-inclusives which tend to cater more for the budget-conscious. Or, for those looking for a little more glitz and glamour, the next town after Eagle Beach is the swanky Palm Beach with upscale resorts along the famous Waikiki strip.
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Aruba is tropical and averages 28 degrees year round. Cooling winds make for a very pleasant stay. The rainy season lasts from October through January, but the rains are generally short-lived.
The Arubus departs from Oranjestad to destinations through the island. Pay the bus driver as you enter, and hold on tight. Roads are poor in most of the country and the drivers can seem foolhardy to tourists… The service, however, is cheap and the buses connect with many of the beach resorts.
Taxis can also be taken from the town and main resorts.
To see much of the island, you’ll need to hire a car. Four-by-fours are recommended due to the bad roads.
What is good to know if travelling to Aruba?
- Most of the tourism in Aruba is concentrated round Oranjestad. To explore the island further, you’ll certainly need to hire a car. Four-by-fours are necessary as the roads are poor. It’s well worth the effort though. On the North coast you can visit a natural pool – a swimming pool created by an enclave of rocks from the sea – and enjoy the landscape of a much more craggy coastline of rocks and crashing waves.
- Aruba has one national park, which covers approximately 20 per cent of the island. Arikok National Park includes a lava formation, a quartz formation and a limestone formation as well as wildlife. There are also the oldest Arawak cave paintings on the island. Again, you will need a four-by-four to visit. Once you arrive you can continue offroading, or follow one of the well-marked hiking trails.
- Aruba’s carnival is a popular event, which lasts for months, rather than just weeks. The event starts with the New Year celebrations on January 1 and carries on all the way through to Ash Wednesday. It’s a lively, colourful, buoyant couple of months, filled with dancing, music, floats and celebrations. Inevitably, it is also when many tourists visit the island, so if you are planning on arriving in this time make sure to book accommodation and flights well in advance.
- Oranjestad is the capital and the main arrival point for holidaymakers. Many choose to stay here. It’s also the point where the cruise ships arrive so the town can become very busy when a ship is docked. The town is where many of the excursions or water sports can be booked – snorkelling, windsurfing, even a trip in a submarine. Away from the beach, however, there are lots of museums, shops and restaurants to explore.
- To save money on lots of tourist activities, get a VisitAruba card, available from the tourist centre. It offers money off car rental, accommodation, entrance to water sports parks, restaurants, shopping and more…