Ah, what a relaxing vacation! I have to say, Aruba is unlike any other Caribbean island I’ve ever been to. If you want to relax in a stunningly beautiful locale and never leave the hotel grounds, Aruba is the place for you. If you’re seeking a vibrant local culture with lots of activities and a lively nightlife scene, you might want to look elsewhere. Here’s my Aruba travel guide!
What to Know
Aruba is an absolutely gorgeous Caribbean island, but it is also a desert. And extremely, I mean extremely, windy. Like, the trees are all slanted because of it. Aruba is only 20 miles long and 6 miles wide and most of it is desert. There are more cactuses than palm trees, and there are a ton of palm trees.
Communicating and Spending
Aruba is probably the easiest Caribbean island I’ve ever been to when it comes to communication and spending. Everyone is completely fluent in English and while they do have a local currency, I never even learned what it was because everything–ie menus, price tags, etc.–are in US dollars.
If you’re in Aruba, you’re probably not there to explore and if you are, you’re in for a rude awakening: there’s not much to do besides relax on the beach. No, I’m exaggerating, but it’s really not the place for adventuring; it’s definitely more of a beach paradise than anything else. One really popular way of getting around is to rent a UTV which is basically like a combo of a golf cart and a 4-wheeler. UTV tours are super popular and will run you about $200 for a day, though that does come with a tour guide and lots of specific stops. We opted to rent a car for around $50 for the day. We were able to go to all the same stops except the natural pools, which are very popular.
Since the island consists of mostly tourists, it is very safe. Since we rented a car, we did drive around the entire island and felt completely safe the whole time. At night, we only stayed in the touristy areas which were extremely safe. I will say that when we were out at a bar at night, there were a ton of creepy guys. My bestie Meghann and I like to joke that we saved lives on this trip by intervening–not sure how much of a joke that really is.
What to Pack
Aruba really is mostly a relaxing island destination, so obviously the primary thing you need to bring is a ton of bathing suits. There is absolutely no need for heels and for nighttime, flowy dresses and shorts should do the trick. If you do plan on doing a UTV tour, definitely bring work out clothes. It’s super windy and there’s tons of sand everywhere.
Where to Stay
I am so lucky that I won a fun little game at a PR event and got a 3-night stay at the Aruba Marriott for free! It was an absolutely amazing experience and we loved it! I do have to say though, that the power on the “entire island” went out for about 5-6 hours. I put that in quotes because every other building we saw had their lights fully on except the Marriott. When I called the front desk, they said it must be because the other hotels have generators. But why didn’t ours? For it to be the only one without a generator was pretty disappointing. They did absolutely nothing to apologize or rectify the situation.
While the power outage did put a major damper on our trip, the rest of the time at the resort was nice. It has an all-inclusive vibe to it. They have everything you could need on site, so there’s no need to really leave the resort. Which is perfect for Aruba since there’s really not much to do on the rest of the island! It would be a great choice for a relaxing getaway with lots of beach lounging. Plus, there’s a Starbucks in the lobby – score!
Where to Eat & Drink
If you really want to leave your hotel, check out these places:
Atardi – this was at our hotel, but if you’re not staying at the Marriott, it’s still worth a visit.
Pinchos – dining on a dock!
Flying Fishbone – tons of people recommended this to me! It’s only open for dinner but supposedly amazing!
MooMba – the food? Nothing special. But the party on a Sunday night? Pretty freakin fun. And just a short walk from the hotels!
Salt & Pepper – this restaurant is in a cute little walkable area with lots of restaurants and live music. If you go, get the fried brie! My best friend also said the grouper ceviche was the best she’s ever had in her life, and she’s from Florida!
If you’re into trying local beers when you travel (like me!!), then you’ll want to try Aruba’s Chill beer. It’s light, refreshing, and oh so good. Plus I love the branding, so you know I’m in.
What to Do
The most popular thing to do in Aruba is a UTV tour. As I mentioned, we opted out, but apparently it’s really cool. There’s also a beach that has flamingos on it. It’s owned by the Rennaisance hotel (which is amazing, by the way) and guests of that hotel can go free of charge. For the rest of us? Just a casual ole $100 per person. That’s gonna be a no for me dawg.
If you’re up for venturing away from the crowd and want to check out another beach, Baby Beach is a great option. It’s gorgeous and a pretty cool drive through the desert. It’s on the opposite side of the island of the high rise hotels, so even just going there would be a tour of the island.
My favorite thing we did was shopping in the city. Right where the Rennaissance hotel is, there’s a ton of luxury stores including Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Cartier. Of course, I opted for my trusty go-to: Zara. There are also plenty of local little souvenir shops in the area where we scored some super affordable goodies.
The California Lighthouse was another cool attraction we checked out. It was right after a day of shopping and perfectly timed for sunset. It was absolutely gorgeous! There’s a little restaurant right where the lighthouse is, so that’s a great option for a nice sunset dinner. It’s very close to the high rise hotel strip, so super convenient!
Overall, it was the perfect girls getaway with my best friend. We relaxed, we talked, and we had a ton of fun. We loved it! But to be honest, I wouldn’t go back. I prefer more of a local culture and less tourism!