Looking for the best things to do in Aruba on your cruise? You won’t be bored. We listed the top 15 activities, excursions, and sights to check out on this beautiful island oasis in the southern Caribbean Sea.
Aruba is a 69 sq. mile island that is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is located just north of Venezuela. Together with Bonaire and Curacao, Aruba helps make up the illustrious ABC islands. With luscious beaches and emerald forests, the consistently sunny and arid island has become a favorite destination for cruisers.
Whether you are into relaxing and taking in the sights as you stroll through town, or you want to take a trip into the natural wonders of the area and have a wild adventure, you can do all that and more in Aruba.
Before we get into the 15 best things to do in Aruba, here are some helpful tips about where your cruise will dock and what to expect when you get off the ship for the first time.
Your cruise ship will stop at the Aruba Ports Authority near Oranjestad and allows for a short walk to nearby shops and restaurants. The port is close to town buses that will take you around the downtown area, and there are taxis available to escort you to whatever excursion or beach is on your to-do list.
This port can get quite crowded since it is large enough to house up to five ships at once, so its best to plan your trip before getting off the ship so you know where you want to go right away. There are ATM machines close by where you can take out cash, if you haven’t already, to use at the local shops and stores around town.
Also, many of these excursions below are less than half an hour away from the cruise port, making them easily accessible while on a cruise.
1. Arikok National Park
This park is less than a half-hour from the cruise ship port and offers a short ride to a great all-day destination. With hiking trails, land formations, and many other sights to see, you can spend the entire trip checking out this park.
Arikok National Park is protected by the National Heritage center and is well over 7900 acres. As an alternative to the many beaches that can be visited on the island, this park offers a natural option where you can hike, ride ATVs, or take in a large number of cacti.
If you choose to hike, you can go to the top of one of the two peaks and see a fantastic view of the island. On the way, you will be able to view the many formations of limestone and quartz that have formed on the trails.
2. Guadikiriri Caves
These natural caves are for the adventurers out there who want to spend time exploring the interior of the most popular caves, which are situated in the Arikok National Park and see the bats that fly around or get a guided tour to find out more about the history of the caves and the people who once lived in them.
The bats that live inside are harmless, so you are able to walk around without worrying about them. The Guadikiriri caves are famous for their illumination at different times of the day that make for great pictures to capture.
There are three different caves to explore while at this part of the park, so you can make a full day of adventure just in this particular area, so give yourself time to look at everything these caves have to offer.
3. Tour of Oranjestad
As the capital city of Aruba, Oranjestad is the heart of the area. With cute colonial houses, local shops and restaurants, and plenty of other things to do and see, you can spend the day walking around the wide streets and get a feel for the city.
There is also a large number of historical sights and museums to visit, which can all be done with a tour through the city with a local guide. Take pictures at each of the monuments you visit and stop for lunch at one of the local eateries or cafés in the city before you head back to the cruise ship.
Plus, with the city of Oranjestad being only about ten minutes from the cruise ports, you can get a quick taxi ride, or choose to get some extra exercise and walk there.
4. Palm Beach
If you are up for an exciting day at the beach, then Palm Beach is the place to go. This area is just over ten minutes from the cruise port and will get you on the warm sand faster than other options that will require more travel.
This spot is part of the resorts in the area and can have lots of people, but with that comes a lot of excursions and things to do throughout the day as well. There are water sports, nearby bars and grills, and there are also a few casinos for those who want to try their luck at some card games during their stay.
The water is calm in this area of the ocean and that allows for activities like snorkeling to be done in the waters with a clear view of the sea life that lives in the coral reef below. Underwater cameras are great to bring in this area so you can document whatever sea creatures you find along your journey.
5. Flamingos at Renaissance Island
At the Renaissance Resort in Oranjestad, you can see some of the most famous creatures of the entire island: the pink flamingos. There is plenty of mystery that surrounds these bright pink animals on the shore because it is not known exactly how they can onto the island. However, since their arrival, they have been a major sight for tourists and visitors alike.
The Renaissance Resort offers day passes to the private island, to ensure the safety and temperament of the flamingos, which can make a pass fairly difficult to attain. With hotel guests getting the first priority, if there are many that choose to see the flamingos, then very few day passes will be handed out, so you might have to get there very early in the morning.
However, if you are lucky enough to snag a day pass, you can feed the flamingos with food that is purchased from nearby vending machines and get a close look at these magnificent creatures.
6. Shipwreck Diving
In Aruba, one of the most interesting things you can do is go diving to see SS Antilla, which is one of the biggest shipwrecks in all of the Caribbean. This German cargo ship was set on fire by its crew and captain so they would not be taken over by Aruba military forces in 1940.
If you dive and swim by this shipwreck you will find an abundant amount of unusual sea creatures that you won’t easily find elsewhere, and this spot is known for the ability to take photos because of the still waters.
Whether you are interested in the history of the wreck itself, or you would like to get a good look at the colorful coral and fish nearby, everyone in the family or group will be happy with this adventure.
7. Kite Surfing
Aruba is known for its windy nature, which may not be the best weather for your hairstyle, but makes an incredible spot for kite surfing. This fun and active excursion is good for beginners and those who have done this excursion before, and you can even get lessons from local kite surfing schools.
With a few lessons on how to kitesurf properly, you can get on the water and try out your newfound skills while taking in the look of the island from a new perspective. This is not an adventure that you have at many other places, so you will want to have a friend or family member capture your surfing on camera for proof!
8. Eagle Beach
If you want to stick close to the cruise port, but also want to layout on the sand, then heading to Eagle Beach is your best option. This beach is just a few miles away from the port and has a laid-back environment that is perfect for relaxing and laying out in the sun.
There are a ton of trees at this beach that offers an escape from the hot sun when you need it and are great for having picnics under for lunch. You can bring your own lounge chairs and blankets to sit or lay on, but if you don’t have any then you can rent some at one of the hotels nearby.
9. The Butterfly Farm
In the mood to see something interesting? Then check out Aruba’s Butterfly Farm. This attraction is a popular one on the island and offers guides through the farm with tours that give you information on the cycle of these little insect’s lives and other interesting facts.
You will take a walk through the area and get the chance to see colorful and unique butterflies as they flutter around the cages. If the timing is right, you may even be able to see a caterpillar turning into a beautiful, full-grown butterfly in front of your very eyes.
This is a family-friendly choice that kids and parents will love.
10. Explore the Dunes
These sand dunes are unlike any that you might have seen before, and are a big draw for travelers all over the world. With sand dunes are covered in snowy white sand that seems to have a shine to it, and has brightly colored plants around the area that make the scene almost magical.
These dunes are a great place to walk around and explore what’s in the area with the chance to see the giant rocks that lay around the sand. Between the huge rocks, colorful plants, and glittery sand, this scene looks like it came straight out a fantasy movie.
You can also check out the California Lighthouse right near the Arashi Dunes. This is at the northernmost part of Aruba.
11. Sail Tours
For the nautical travelers out there, you will want to check out the sail tours that Aruba offers. With a slow and relaxing boat ride that makes stops along the way for snorkeling dives, or a luxury option that will take you out on a larger boat that allows you to stretch out and have a few drinks on the water.
There are tours that you can take during the day that will show you the sunny side of Aruba while staying cool out on the sea, or – if you’re cruise ship stays docked until later in the night – you can choose the sunset sailing tours that take you out just in time to see the bright orange and yellow sunset right on the horizon
12. Eat at Local Restaurants
In Aruba, there are a lot of different local spots where you can grab a small bite, a sweet treat, or a cool drink during the hot day that you can check out during your stay. Restaurants in the area will serve local catches for the freshest seafood you can get with a side of hot papaya sauce – which is an Aruba must-try condiment – and freshly cooked rice and beans.
There are many specialty cocktails that are served at these local eateries that are made and topped with fresh fruit from the island. With the freshest ingredients and the most interesting mix of flavors, you will love walking from place to place to try each restaurant’s specialty.
There are many that are within a short walking distance if you would like to spend the day walking off the food you’re eating, but other places are a taxi ride away if you want to trek a bit further out. Just ensure that you leave plenty of time to get back to the port.
13. Visit a Donkey Sanctuary
No, this is a real thing! You can hitch a ride to the sanctuary and get the chance to see over 100 donkeys being raised there. After coming close to extinction with only 20 animals left of their kind, this sanctuary has raised many donkeys out of those few and kept them safe from disease and accidents.
At this sanctuary, you will be able to pet these adorable and loving creatures and let them eat from the bags full of fruits and vegetables for them as you want the space. With these furry animals walking around and begging for visitors to pet them, you will fall in love within minutes.
This sanctuary doesn’t have an entrance or ticket fee to enter the premises, so it is great for families on a budget, but you can offer a small cash donation to support the important work that they are doing to keep the donkey population from dying off.
14. Baby Beach
Unlike some of the bigger beaches that are close to the cruise port, Baby Beach offers a more remote area that allows you to get away from the crowds for a day of fun in the sun. With palapas and umbrellas for rent, you can pay for either without the rush of beating other tourists to the beach and settle in for a day of sunbathing and splashing in the clear water.
The sand is silky smooth at this beach and is great for walks along the shore and the water is extremely clear in this area, which makes for amazing snapshots of your time here. There are bars nearby where you can order a drink to sip while on the sand and you can even go snorkeling in these waters.
However, if you do decide to snorkel here, you want to watch out for signs of blocked-off areas where the current will get too strong for such excursions.
15. Balashi Ruins
These ruins were once sights where miners searched gold, but after being devastated by World War I, they began to collapse and create the sight that stands there today. Going to the ruins will give you a good sense of the history of the area and getting a glimpse of the original structures before they completely disappear.
The peaks of the ruins offer amazing views and the surrounding area is the perfect place for ATV and off-roading vehicles to explore the land. These ruins are also on the path to the dunes, which you can also take ATVs to, and works as a great first stop on the way.
These ruins are not likely to be seen within the coming years, so take your chance to see them while you can!
Aruba offers plenty of chances to see the beautiful landscapes and natural treasures that the island has to see. Whatever adventure you choose to embark on, you can have a wonderful on your cruise excursion while in Aruba.
This guest post was written by Justin Stewart.