If the only thing you know about Aruba is that it’s where Natalee Holloway disappeared, you’re going to want to definitely check out this island nation. It’s absolutely beautiful, and it should be known for more than just the tragic disappearance of a young woman.
Did you know that it’s considered a dependency of the Netherlands? That’s right — it’s not actually an independent nation. The Dutch influence over Aruba is pretty strong.
What’s really awesome is that you have plenty of white sandy beaches. Some people prefer and beaches to pebble ones. If you’re looking for the clearest water possible, you’ll find it in Aruba.
One thing that you have to realize early on if you try to travel here — it’s HOT. We’re talking 27 degrees Celsius, or 81 degrees Fahrenheit. Either way you say it, it’s a very warm climate.
You have two different coasts when it comes to Aruba. The south west coast is where you will probably want to be — it’s where the beautiful white sand beaches and warm water is. The north east side has cacti, rough waters, and a very rocky shoreline.
There are a few cities of Aruba, including Oranjestad, Noord, and Palm Beach. The capital is Oranjestad, and it’s got most of what you’d be looking for if you decided to take a vacation there.
The off season in Aruba is April – December, which means that there are some travel deals to be found right now if you’re really ready to look. This is also a very flat island, with very few resources. What this means for tourists is that you’re going to want to really bring money along with you. Things in Aruba tend to be more expensive because just about everything has to be imported.
Aruba is a very small island place and it’s considered rude not to be polite. Seriously, the Aruban people take it very seriously if you don’t greet people you pass by. Also, this is a place where you dress up. Wearing your beach clothes into a restaurant just isn’t done, if you’re trying to blend in.
Entrance into Aruba is pretty tight. You’re going to definitely need your passport, and depending on what country you’re coming from, you’re going to need a visa as well. You also need to be able to prove that you have a return ticket or a ticket that gets you out of the country somewhere else. In addition, you need to show that you have somewhere to stay for the entire length of your stay. This is designed to keep people from trying to immigrate to Aruba illegally.
Getting around is as matter of your budget and preferences. You’ll want enough money to get out of the airplane without problems, but you’ll want to make sure that you have enough to do the traveling that you want as well. Aruba is incredibly small, and that means that you might not want to rent a car. For one, it’s a waste of money if everything is in walking distance. You will also need to have at least an International Driver’s License, but some people ignore this and just drive anyway.
English is widely spoken, so if you need help…ask someone. Everyone is so friendly that they won’t mind at all.
Now, let’s shift gears and talk about everything there is to see on the island. You will be able to check out a huge natural pool. It’s a sight to see, but the terrain is VERY rough.
There’s a beautiful lighthouse at the very north of the island. The views are gorgeous, and you can look at just about everything on the island on a “macro” level. Pretty cool.
There are ruins of an old gold mill, which is pretty nice. There are also a few natural bridges in Aruba, and you can see the ruins of old bridges as you go along. Interested in neat wildlife? You can check out an ostrich farm. Don’t worry, the cute ostriches at the farm aren’t for eating, but people on Aruba do enjoy ostrich meat. It’s just not done on the island. 🙂
There’s a windmill to view, a donkey sanctuary, a national park, a huge “haystack mountain” with over 561 steps…the list of quirky things on the island is endless. You definitely need to make sure that you bring your camera.
So, what do travelers really do on the island? There are a few things. For one, you can go horseback riding. The people of Aruba love horses, and you’ll find places to indulge in a few rides. You can also go on a wild Jeep Safari if that’s what you really want to do. There’s hiking, cycle tours, off road stuff, rock climbing, windsurfing and kayaking…and of course, just lying around on the beach! Keep in mind that this isn’t a place where you can be topless on the beach. Please keep your clothes on if you want to stay out of trouble!
The list of beaches is just too long to mention — Boca Catalina, Dos Playa, De Palm Island, Santo Largo… it just depends on what type of activity you want on the beach. If you want to surf, there’s a beach for that. But if you just want to have some peace and quiet, you’ll need to dig around.
If you’re going to shop, you need to realize that the shops are only going to be open from around 9 in the morning to noon, then only from after lunch to right before the dinner hour. This is done on purpose so that shopkeepers can enjoy lunch and dinner with their families. The cost of buying things in Aruba is high enough that the average tourist doesn’t mind at all.
Don’t waste your time with the souvenirs. Most of them are imported rubbish. There’s a big mall in Oranjestad if you’re really interested in shopping, but the prices aren’t necessarily stellar.
You might be surprised at how commercialized the food in Aruba is. However, they do have some nice traditional restaurants that serve some incredible food. There’s baked cheeses and weird stuff like iguana soup on the menu. If you go to some of the places that aren’t as fancy, you’ll find many of the locals, and that’s also where the cheaper food will be. You can’t blame a country that depends on tourism for milking visitors that don’t know any better, can you?
Again, we repeat: this is not a bargain island. Accommodations tend to be pricey, but there are some deals that pop up occasionally.
If you’re willing to have an open mind, you’ll find that Aruba really does offer a lot of neat stuff, given how small it is. You don’t have to give up the chance to have a great time on the island, so make sure that you check it out as soon as possible. Good luck!