Flamingo Island - Aruba

Beginner’s Guide to Aruba

As a first timer to Aruba, I didn’t know what to expect. Aruba has always struck me as a place for Americans to day drink, lay on the beach and not much else. It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic that I considered visiting; it was one of the few countries opening their borders to Americans. Once I started planning for my trip I realized there’s much more to the Happy Island, than I thought!

Basics

Visa Requirements – None for United States Citizens.

Language – Arubans learn 4 different languages while in school; English, Papamiento, Spanish and Dutch. They usually speak 2 or 3 of the languages fluently; English being spoken by most.

Currency – The official currency of Aruba is the Aruban Florin. However, American dollars are widely accepted as are all major credit cards.

Tipping – Most restaurants will charge a 15% service charge, that you will see on your bill and usually goes to the wait staff. If you would like to give your server more for great service, an extra 5-10% cash tip directly to your server is suffice.

Transportation – Best bet is to rent a car. The island is small but not really walkable. There are many rental companies around, so do your due diligence and research before you go. If you plan on going to certain areas on the island with rough terrain, renting a Jeep (or other 4×4 vehicle) is highly recommended.

Weather – Aruban weather is probably the most consistent compared to any other place I have visited. Usually in the 80’s (Fahrenheit) with a cooling cross breeze, it’s perfect weather to explore the national park, do some adventure sports or relax on the beach or by the pool.

 

Where to Stay in Aruba

Before deciding where to stay in Aruba, try to decide on the type of vacation you are planning. Each location has something special to offer. Are you looking for a romantic getaway or a fun family vacation? Are you looking for some adventure or immersing yourself in the culture? All of these decisions will factor into where you choose to stay.

Hotels – Every major hotel chain has a property on Aruba and the rates vary widely. Most are located near or on the beaches and downtown areas. Start doing some research a few months before you plan to visit.

Vacation Rentals – If you’re looking for some hotel amenities with more privacy and less of a crowd, Aruba has plenty of vacation rental options available.

Airbnb – Airbnb’s are mostly located more inland in the heart of the island. If you like to immerse yourself in a destination and veer off the beaten path this might be the option for you.

Timeshare – Timeshares are wildly popular in Aruba. Many times you can find them for rent by the owners especially in the off season. 

 

Where to Eat in Aruba

Aruba is a great destination for any foodie like myself. Anything your tummy desires can be yours. I usually prefer sticking to the local cuisine as much as possible whenever I travel. Here are my top recommendations.

Zee Rovers

Zee Rovers is a local restaurant on the water. Their menu is limited to shrimp and the fish of the day. They cook either one way: fried. It may not sound like much but damn was it good! Lightly fried to perfection, both the shrimp and fish were delicious with a little kick that pair well with an ice cold Balashi.

Big Mama Grill

We came upon Big Mama’s Grill after deciding to see Baby Beach on the south end of the island. Honestly, 

Passions on the Beach

Eating a delicious meal with your feet in the sand while watching a beautiful sunset. What more could you ask for? Just go.

The Dutch Pancake House

Great breakfast to start off the day. Try the Shanghai pancake. 

West Deck

Great appetizers and frozen drinks after a day on the beach!

Things to do in Aruba

I learned that there is much more to do in Aruba than lay on the beach sipping piña coladas (not that there is anything wrong with that). From water sports to hiking to fishing, Aruba has something for everyone. Here are my favorites:

  1. Donkey Sanctuary – One of Laurie’s Must-Do’s we visited the Donkey Sanctuary which ended up being much more fun that I thought. Read about our experience here.
  2. Relaxing on a Private Island
  3. Rent a Jeep and go off-road – Actually a highlight of our time in Aruba, we spent 2 days making the most of our Jeep rental. We explored the wild part of Aruba
  4. Water Sports – You’re on an island. So take your pick of water sports. Anything from jet-skiing to kite surfing is available. 
  5. Food Tour – While we didn’t do an official food tour per se, you can treat yourself to some exotic cuisines local and foreign right on the island. So plan your own little food tour while you’re there.

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