Aruba holidaysThe sample prices are per person based on two people travelling!
With Aruba being a constituent country of the Netherlands, Dutch is the official language. However, the predominant language spoken by the locals in their everyday lives is Papamiento, a Creole based on Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish and West African languages. With Aruba having been a British protectorate, English is also widely spoken, especially in tourist areas.
The currency used in Aruba is the Aruban florin (AWG). However, US dollars can be used in many establishments. Travellers’ cheques are a good form of payment as they are accepted in hotels, shops and restaurants without any additional charges. ATMs are widely available and accept Cirrus or Visa Plus cards. Visa, MasterCard and American Express are the most widely accepted credit cards in the country.
Citizens of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia and EU countries do not need to obtain a visa in order to enter Aruba. Presenting a valid passport along with a return or onward ticket is enough to gain entry to the island visa-free for up to 30 days.
The climate in Aruba is tropical and because it lies south of the hurricane belt of the Caribbean, the country experiences sunshine throughout the year. Constant trade winds keep the climate cool. There is no monsoon season in Aruba but some rain occurs from October to January. The average year-round temperature is a balmy 28 degrees.
The main gateway to Aruba is Queen Beatrix International Airport. Travellers can rest assured that the airport is modern, clean and organised. Passengers are processed quickly, although the airport may be busier at weekends. The airport receives regular flights from many hubs in North America and South America, as well as a few airports in Europe. Seasonal charter flights fly direct from the UK to Aruba.
Thomson Airways has seasonal direct flights from London-Gatwick to Queen Beatrix International Airport. A number of major carriers from continental US fly to Aruba. American Airlines flies from Miami, Delta flies from Atlanta and New York-JFK, JetBlue flies from Boston and New York-JFK, and United flies from Chicago-O’Hare, Newark, Houston-Intercontinental and Washington-Dulles. Those coming from Europe may fly from Amsterdam year-round via Dutch airlines Arkefly and KLM. Typical flight time from London to Aruba is around 9.5hours.
From August to September, temperatures are at their highest in Aruba as the trade winds die down slightly during this time. However, this period is still technically the low season and prices are about 20 to 50 per cent lower, including air fares. Plus, tourist spots in the country are less crowded. Thus, those who do not mind the heat will be able to save up on fares when travelling in the low season. Taxi fares from the airport to the capital, Oranjestad, and resorts are reasonable
Flights are the only way to reach Aruba. However, Caribbean cruise ships often include the Aruban capital of Oranjestad as a port of call. The dock is close to the commercial centre of the city but those heading to the beach may want to take a taxi from the port area.
Aruba has no airport other than Queen Beatrix International Airport. Neither does it have a railway system. However, the island is small enough to cover by land. Buses are an excellent and affordable way of getting between tourist destinations. Taxis, which use fixed rates, are popular with tourists as they are readily available outside hotels. Car hire easy to arrange, with both international and local companies well-represented.
The main bus line in Aruba is Arubus, whose services are excellent, reliable and cheap. Buses run about every 20 minutes and have stops near most large hotels. The central station is at Zoutmanstraat in Oranjestad. It is best to check with your hotel reception desk as to bus times and schedules.
Taxis are a popular way of getting around as they are widely available outside most hotels. Ironically, however, it is difficult to hail them on the street. Thus, it is best that you arrange a pick-up in advance if you travel to an area outside of the usual tourist areas. Taxis in Aruba are not metered but rates are fixed. The cab driver will have a copy of the official fixed rates but it is recommended that you ask how much the fare will be before getting in.
Renting a car is easy in Aruba. Major international companies are well-represented, while local companies are available, too. Roads in and around the touristy areas are generally in good condition. Plus, the major car hire companies honour valid driver’s licenses issued in the UK, the US, Canada and Australia so long as the holder is at least 23 years old and has held their license for at least three years.
The capital of Aruba, Oranjestad, is a good place to begin any holiday as the city is well developed for tourists. Even in the capital, water activities such as swimming, snorkelling and boating are possible. Eagle Beach is a popular public beach which is close to Oranjestad and known for its low-rise resorts.
For a country of its size, Aruba is replete with historical and natural landmarks, many of which are considered must-sees for tourists spending their Caribbean holidays here.
The scenic California Lighthouse, located close to the island’s northwest tip, stands sentry on top of a hill overlooking the sea. Many tourists come here not only to see the lighthouse, but for the marvellous views of the coastline.
Visitors to Aruba can also head to the beautiful Chapel of Alto Vista near Noord. First built in 1750 and reconstructed in 1953, the chapel is the island’s first Catholic Church.
With Aruba being the top exporter of aloe and aloe products in the world, tourists are sure to discover more about this industry at the Aruba Aloe Museum, one of the most visited tourist attractions on the island. Tours of the museum take in the history of aloe processing on the island as well as the many health benefits of this wonder plant.
As for natural landmarks, tourists can climb and explore the Casibari Rock and Ayo Rock Formations. The presence of these oddly-shaped, huge stone boulders adds mystery to the otherwise largely flat and dry island.
Seeing Aruba’s trademark tree, the divi-divi, also known as the watapana, is another popular activity in the country. For this, visitors can head to the land of cacti in Cunucu, in the island’s northwest.
Combining both history and natural wonder, Guadirikiri Cave, Huliba Cave and Fontein Cave are worthy tourist stops. Here, visitors can explore huge rock chambers full of stalactites and stalagmites. In the case of Fontein Cave, visitors can marvel at the drawings of Aruba’s first settlers, the Arawak Indians.
The main areas to sample the island’s nightlife are the capital, Oranjestad and high-rise hotel area Most of the hotels and resorts in and around the city offer their residents drinks and night-time entertainment in the form of live music of all genres, from jazz to classical. For a more upbeat and dance-filled night out, tourists can head to LG Smith Boulevard near the harbour or South Beach.
Almost nothing is sourced locally. Beef is imported from Argentina, while other produce is commonly brought in from the US and Venezuela. This can mean prices are at the high end of the spectrum, but the quality of the food makes dining out here worth every penny.
Tourists staying in the resort areas have a wealth of choices when it comes to dining spots, as do those staying in the city centre of Oranjestad. Apart from the usual international fast food chains which are widely available, there are Caribbean, Argentinean, Mexican, Cuban, Asian, French and naturally, local Aruban restaurants. The roads backing the beaches are often the best places to look for eateries.
Local snacks and dishes are aplenty and worth a try for any visitor to the country. A famous snack is the pastechi, an Aruban version of the British pasty. The Aruban version is made with flour and filled with spicy meat or fish as well as cheese. A smaller version of this is the empanada, which is instead made with cornmeal and is of Spanish influence.
Keshi yena is another local speciality worth trying. Originating from the Dutch colonisers who made sure every scrap of food was consumed, the keshi yena is a dish made with cheese rinds stuffed with meat or seafood along with olives, capers, raisins, bread crumbs and basically anything that is available.
Stews and soups are popular on the island. Sopinan, which is also a favourite in neighbouring Curacao, has made inroads to the Aruban palate. The soup made with pork, beef or seafood combined with potatoes, tomatoes, garlic and many spices is a must-try. Other soups to try are stoba, a hearty meat soup, as well as giambo, the Aruban version of the Cajun speciality of gumbo.
With at least 19 beaches to choose from on this tiny island, visitors are sure to find something to their liking. Perhaps the most prominent one is Eagle Beach. Located right close to the capital city of Oranjestad, it has often been listed as one of the best beaches in the world. Then there’s Palm Beach with its fine white sand and calm waters to tempt holidaymakers to relax and enjoy the Caribbean sun.
What could be more perfect for honeymooners or a couple on holiday than a sun-soaked tropical getaway in the Caribbean? Many of Aruba’s beach-side resorts provide that romantic luxury experience. Couples can finish their day with a romantic dinner date at one of Aruba’s fine restaurants, the majority of which serve excellent food from all over the world.
Baby Beach is where families usually go as the shallow waters and calm waves here are perfect for children. De Palm Island is another beach which is known for its calm waters and nearby water park. As for daytrips, families can head to the Ostrich Farm, the Butterfly Farm or the Donkey Sanctuary for animal fun.
The desert-like interior of this dry and windy island is where adventure-seekers can find excitement. Hikers can climb to the Hooiberg or Haystack mountains, located in the centre of Aruba, to get fantastic views of the island. They can also trek around Arikok National Park to see spectacular boulders, crevices and rock formations, as well as plants and animals which are indigenous to Aruba.