Sun, beaches and excitement in this Caribbean paradise
Getty Images, Lex Corbach, Luis Mejia, Julien de Bats, Ronald Caro, Isaiah Stomp, Artn Photography, Barbara Kraft, Divulgação, Papiamento Restaurant
Three days to experience the best of this colorful Caribbean island by sea (and by land)
Day 01 • Beach menu
9 a.m. - Pristine scenery
The row of sun loungers in front of the ocean looks so perfect it seems like something out of a travel catalog. On this Caribbean island with a Dutch accent (though independent, the territory is still of the kingdom of the Netherlands), spending hours in the sun gazing at the turquoise immensity is an irresistible activity. Palm Beach is one of the most popular, located 3.7 miles [6 km] from the capital Oranjestad, where some of the resort-style hotels are found. If you're up for a drink, head for the restaurant/bar Moomba Beach.
12 p.m. - Sun and breeze
More idyllic beaches? One good bet is Eagle Beach, voted the third best in the world by TripAdvisor users this year. There, you'll get a guaranteed shot of the island's trademark tree, the divi-divi. Known for their twisted trunks, these trees are shaped by the winds. The region also has options for more intimate accommodations.
2 p.m. - Lunch at the lighthouse
In the far northwest of the island – which stretches 19 miles [31 km] from end to end –, the California Lighthouse is a can't-miss excursion located near Arashi Beach and Malmok Beach. The place has great panoramic views thanks to the elevation of the land. It's also ideal for enjoying the cool breeze that blows on the entire island of Aruba, making it so the highest temperature never surpasses 82 °F [28 °C]. The trattoriaFaro Blanco, which serves quality Italian food, is an excellent option for lunch or a drink at sunset.
4 p.m. - Aloe vera in the museum
The forever sunny, dry weather blessed Aruba with aloe vera, which develops easily in this environment and has become the island's main export. To give you an idea of the plant's importance there, it was given its own museum and factory, Aruba Aloe, where you can learn about the 160-year history of its use. One fun fact: all over the island, there are structures decorated with the image of the aloe plant. Take advantage and buy some sunblock, creams and other cosmetics made with aloe – they make great travel gifts.
Day 02 • Local adventures
9 a.m. - Off-road
The sea in Aruba is incredible, but one of the island's most fun activities takes place on land. Aboard a Land Rover, travelers get to drive along the northeast coast with their hair blowing in the wind. You get to see the rugged landscape, beautiful natural pools, the ruins of a gold mine dating from 1500, the California Lighthouse and the charming Alto Vista chapel.
2 p.m. - Simple beer
How about having lunch at an authentic restaurant which attracts tourists and locals alike? In the vicinity of Savaneta, 7.5 miles [12 km] from San Nicolás, the second oldest city in Aruba, you'll find Zeerovers. There, right by the waves, you can savor some fresh-caught fish and fried shrimp accompanied by a Balashi (a local beer made from desalinated water). Delicious and unpretentious.
4 p.m. - Baby Beach
When a beach has the word “baby” in its name, it's a pretty safe bet that it's appropriate for families with kids: warm water that's as still as a swimming pool, perfect for snorkeling. It's also less crowded, since it's located in the extreme southeast, far from the hotel districts of Palm Beach. If you feel like a bite to eat, Big Mama’s Grill has some good dishes. Next to Baby Beach is another one worth visiting: Rodger’s Beach.
7 p.m. - Charlie's Bar
Also in the San Nicolás region, around 10.5 miles [17 km] from Oranjestad, Charlie’s Bar is the place to relax at the end of the day. Opened by a Dutch married couple, Charles and Marie Brouns, over 75 years ago, it's an Aruba institution thanks to its great food and décor that consists of knickknacks from all over the world.
Day 03 • Sailing and shopping
9 a.m. - Underwater
Seeing the small fish that color the ocean in Aruba up close is a task that's easy enough for beginning divers. There are excursions that last a half-day or a few hours that lead to the best places for snorkeling, including the locale where the famous German ship the Antilla sank in 1940. The boat trip is also an excuse to party, since the activity usually includes food and an open bar with fluorescent cocktails.
2 p.m. - Water sports
Aruba is a great destination both for those who prefer to stretch out on the beach and occasionally enter the water, as well as those who play sports and are looking for an active vacation. Hadicurari Beach, on the northwest coast – also known as Fisherman’s Huts –, is the spot for windsurfing and kitesurfing thanks to the wind. More advanced sports enthusiasts, or those who simply want to observe the maneuvers, can head for Boca Grandi Beach in the extreme southeast.
5 p.m. - Shopping and dinner
The low taxes in Aruba are an invitation to do some shopping. Jewelry and luxury brand-name products are the items that most stand out. In the center of Oranjestad, there are free trolleys that connect the port area (where the big cruise ships dock) to stores and shopping centers like the Renaissance Mall and the Royal Plaza Mall. After dark, one great place for dinner is Papiamento (whose name refers to Aruba's language, an African-Portuguese hodgepodge language with elements of Dutch, English and Spanish). Enjoying an elegant dinner by the pool on the patio of this enchanting restaurant is a great way to bid Aruba farewell.