Who said that during a cruise you don't get to see or experience the real side of the destinations you visit along the way? Shop owners, tour guides, local experts and other island specialists alike do their utmost to provide you with a most enjoyable time and authentic experience in Aruba.
Aruba has been the recipient of Cruisers’ Choice "Top-Rated Southern Caribbean Destinations" for three years running (2016 to 2018), and for good reason, too.
"One Happy Island." This is the official motto of Aruba, and Arubans are happy to see cruisers: Aruba's economy is fueled by tourists' dollars, and much of the island is heavily developed for them. Aruba is just 20 miles long, so island splendors and adventures are within easy reach of a shore excursion. Indulge in luxury shopping, try local cuisine, relax on world-renowned pristine beaches, experience unforgettable natural wonders, rejuvenate your mind, body and soul – your cruise vacation is at its best in Aruba. With most of the cruise ships that call on Aruba featuring their own on board fitness and wellness programs, a visit to this tropical "Wellness Paradise" will complement your on board experience.
Aruba, together with neighboring Bonaire and Curaçao, make up the ABC chain of islands in the western-most part of the Leeward Antilles in the Southern Caribbean Sea. All three islands are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Aruba is a tiny Dutch Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela with a population of 100,000 and nearly 100 different nationalities happily living together. European influence shows in the architecture that features Dutch gables painted in tropical pastels. It’s also evident in the languages, with English, Dutch and Spanish spoken alongside the local tongue, Papiamento. Papiamento is based largely on Portuguese language with some elements of grammar and vocabulary deriving from African languages, a strong influence from Spanish, and some vocabulary from Indigenous American languages, as well as English, and Dutch. It is the most-widely spoken language on the Caribbean ABC islands, having official status in Aruba and Curaçao.
The Aruban population is mixed with people from South America (mainly Venezuela and Colombia), China and The Netherlands. These bring their own traditions and culture to the island. Some believe this degrades Aruba's culture, but the Arubans see this blend as being one of the more unique features about their culture. Old traditions are mixed with modern influences, but the Arubans have their own way of making the Aruban culture their own. Some original Aruban festivities include Betico Croes Day (in remembrance of the father of the Aruban nation, Gilberto Francois "Betico" Croes), Dera Gay (Bury the Rooster) in celebration of St. John the Baptist, and the National Flag and Anthem Day in celebration of Aruba's independence.
Aruba's trademark divi divi trees always point in a southwesterly direction due to trade winds that blow from the northeast, but the locals like to think the trees are pointing the way to the blond sandy beaches and gentle surf that ring the island in the shape of a cheery smile.
Best of all, there really is no bad time to visit Aruba. Located only 20 miles north of Venezuela, temperatures are consistently pleasant (lows in the 70s, highs in the 80s), there's no "rainy" season, and its location is far below the Atlantic hurricane belt, so it's less likely to be impacted by storms.
Cruising Around Aruba From the Cruise Port
Situated on the southwestern end of the island, there's something wonderful about approaching the port of Oranjestad, Aruba's capital city, by cruise ship and spotting buildings in shades like cotton-candy pink and deep, ocean-blue. Most cruise ships arrive early morning to make most of the day in port. Upon arrival at the air-conditioned terminals you will find friendly and welcoming staff at the information booths. They will assist you with any information you might need for your Aruba visit.
Aruba's 70 square miles of happiness is the Caribbean's theme park with nearly all the attractions easily accessible to cruise visitors. You'll enjoy casinos, duty-free shops, more than two dozen dive sites, noteworthy shipwrecks and a championship golf course lined with cacti and populated by friendly iguanas. Saddle up on horseback, take a tour, hike or mountain bike through Arikok National Park and discover the island's fascinating natural wonders, from rock formations to natural bridges.
Great shopping, fabulous dining and bar-hopping are within walking distance of the dock. Several malls are located right across the street from the modern cruise terminal, and a stroll along the waterfront is a great way to take in the Dutch colonial architecture and tropical pastels. A recent addition to Oranjestad is the trolley or streetcar which offer free transportation to and from the main street downtown area.
Aruba is the perfect shopping island where you can shop 'til you drop! Shopping in Aruba is most known for its various selections. Shoppers often visit Aruba for its shops devoted to jewelry, table linens, perfumes, leather goods, designer fashions, electronics, locally made handicrafts, Cuban cigars, Dutch Delft (pottery), Dutch Cheeses, and many more superior and favorably priced goods.
Aruba's cuisine has been influenced by Amerindians, merchants, pirates, colonial powers of the Netherlands and Spain, African slaves, as well as Eastern and Asian immigrants. Lots of fresh locally-sourced fish and seafood, fried delicious goodies, light fish soups, and hearty stews. Award-winning chefs from all over the world spin their magic, adding new dimensions to Aruba’s culinary stew pot.
Don't leave Aruba without trying sopa di pompuna (pumpkin soup), which is a typical Caribbean food delicacy that can be found in countless restaurants across the island. One of the classic Aruban dishes to try is keshi yena, or a large, round ball of cheese served steamed or fried and stuffed with minced meat. Take a bite at every “cuminda di truck” (food truck), and be surprised what the streets of Aruba have to offer you! If you are into cocktails then all you need to say is “Aruba Ariba” and you will be served a glass of a very exotic-looking cocktail. It’s a sweet drink prepared with Coecoei, a local red Aruban liquor, mixed with Creme de Banana (banana liquor), followed by local rum and vodka.
Aruba's world-renowned beaches are a big attraction, and although it's great to spend long days just relaxing on the beach and listening to the ocean, there are also plenty of opportunities to get to know Aruba's most attractive sights, historical and natural attractions, and museums.
You have not lived until you have experienced the spirit of Carnival as it is celebrated in Aruba! Carnival means weeks of events that bring you colorfully decorated floats, contagiously throbbing music, luxuriously costumed groups of celebrants of all ages, electrifying Jump Ups, Torch Light Parades that wind their way through the streets at night, the Jouvert Morning Pajama Parade, and the Children's Parades! Where else can you find Antillean "tumba" music, the Calypso and steel bands of the English Caribbean, the salsa beat of Latin countries plus marching bands and a smattering of Dutch oom-pa-pa? The 2-month-long celebration culminates with the all-day Grand Parade on Sunday, with everyone and everything all decked out. This has got to be the greatest party ever!
A Beach Lover's Paradise
The beaches of Aruba are considered to be among the cleanest, widest, and most spectacular in the Caribbean. An Aruba beach typically consists of powder-fine, white-sand, perfect for soaking up the Caribbean sun. All you need is plenty of suntan lotion and a refreshing cocktail – both of which are not hard to come by on Aruba!
Popular beaches are an easy 10 minute drive from the cruise pier by taxi or bus and feature facilities for wet 'n wild adventures including snorkeling, deep sea diving, windsurfing, kitesurfing, parasailing, beach volleyball and banana boat rides. Many of the large resorts are located right on the beach, so gamers can duck into one of the hotel casinos for an added diversion.
Famous Aruba beaches include Eagle Beach which has been singled out as the number one Caribbean beach in a USA Today survey of travel writers, travel agents and frequent travelers and was featured in National Geographic's 24 Best Spots in the Caribbean in 2018. Palm Beach, set against a backdrop of Aruba's leading resorts, was voted best family-friendly beach in the world by The Travel Channel and by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the best beaches in the world! Other breathtaking beaches include Mangel Halto by the unique Spanish Lagoon, Baby Beach on the Southeastern side and Arashi Beach on the Northwestern part of the island.
The happiest island in the Caribbean is so much more than just sun, sand and sea. Aruba's exotic, yet desert-like island is covered with diverse terrain, landscape, vegetation, wildlife, and a whole-lotta room for adventure. If you want to see an authentic side of Aruba that only locals know, Aruba is also home to beautiful hidden swimming holes, spectacular private coves, on the QT off-the-beaten path activities and much more you can experience on an organized tour with a local guide.
A Wellness Paradise
Aruba is a wellness lovers paradise. Aruba is that perfect place to decompress and find nourishment for your mind, body, and heart. Digging your toes into the sugar-white sand, wading into the aquamarine water, listening to the swaying palms, soaking up the Caribbean sun, and enjoying the refreshing trade winds – now this is truly wellness!
If you already practice yoga or meditation, you know how effective they are in cultivating wellness of both mind and body. And if not, you're in for a real treat! Aruba features a number of wellness centers that offer yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, and meditation classes, each of which promises an incredible wellness experience. The yoga options alone are impressive – from gentle yoga, to hot yoga, power yoga, SUP yoga, sunset yoga, you name it! There are also a growing number of yoga experiences that draw on Aruba's natural beauty as well, offering perfect options for a day-long retreat. Join a jeep tour that takes you to various breathtaking spots along the island's north coast to practice yoga.
Connecting with nature is certainly one of the paths to wellness. Aruba's nature, in particular, has an almost otherworldly aspect to it – the desert terrain filled with cactuses, huge stacked-up boulders, wild goat herds, and other unexpected curiosities – and perhaps the best way to explore it all is by foot.
One of the best places on the island to do some nature hiking is within Arikok National Park. This sprawling nature preserve covering almost 20% of the island, is crisscrossed by a number of walking paths that put you up close and personal with Aruba's flora and fauna. While you're in the park, take the time to explore several caves, a freshwater spring, several beautiful beaches, and the famous Natural Pool. What better destination could there possibly be for finding a truly relaxing wellness experience?
For a healthy dose of relaxing indulgence Aruba's spas offer the ultimate wellness experience and are on par with some of the best in the world. Spa-goers can choose from a wide range of treatments, including massages, body wraps, scrubs, hot stone therapy, and aromatherapy treatments. Vichy showers, saunas, cold plunge pools, and other amenities round out the spa experience, providing a perfect opportunity to experience some serious wellness.
A huge part of wellness is eating fresh, healthy food. In Aruba’s restaurants, visitors can choose from many healthy food offerings, including locally-caught fish, organic fruits and vegetables, vegetarian dishes, and more. Stop at one of the many local “batido” stands for a fresh fruit shake, or ask the hotel bar to whip up something healthy and delicious.
Why you should visit Aruba? With friendly people eager to welcome and embrace you, with surprising natural wonders to explore, and countless ways to relax or indulge your wild side, on Aruba, it’s easy to find your happy place.
Experiential and Wellness Travel are where it's at. Experiential Wellness Travel is a hybrid of both. But Transformative Travel is the next evolution in travel. Like many land-based resorts, the global cruise industry has kept apace of this current trend with vacations that are fun, authentic, and meaningful by offering travelers on board and on shore fitness and wellness activities, healthy meal options, local cooking classes, culturally immersive shore excursions, participation in the local communities they visit, and a variety of tailor-made experiences that are transformative in a deep and personal way.