The day has finally come, and the island of Aruba is just one flight away and suddenly all these questions start to pop up: What if the island is too small for the three weeks we have booked? What if the kids get bored? What if unexpected, foul weather turns our dream vacation into a nightmare? What if... we get kidnapped by aliens?
Aruba from a bird's eye view — Photo courtesy of Henk & Ali Braamskamp
Relax. That’s the first word that should come to mind and body when traveling to the Caribbean. And if you've set your sights on Aruba, then say this out loud: “chill!” A cool head will come in handy.
In Aruba, it’s summer all year long, with an average temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit and about eighteen inches of rainfall each year. When visiting in October, November or December, you can expect a few tropical showers, but don’t sweat it. Rain comes in quick bursts, or not at all. Since Aruba lies outside the hurricane belt, be prepared for lots of sunshine.
Aruba Sunsets — Photo courtesy of Paul Double
Of course, most people visit Aruba for its climate, its beaches, its friendliness and its snorkeling and diving spots. But there’s much more to discover on this island, even on a rainy or a stay-out-of-the-sun day.
To learn about Aruba’s history, culture and people, plan a day in downtown Oranjestad. Start with an early stroll along Aruba’s linear park to enjoy the coastal views and continue to Wilhelmina Park, where the statue of late Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands awaits. Across the street, there’s the colorful Willem III Tower and Fort Zoutman, both are part of The Historical Museum Of Aruba and worth a visit.
Before moving to the main street area to get more glimpses of the Dutch colonial architecture, pass in front of the House of Parliament. Don’t forget to take a picture with the “I LOVE ARUBA” sign!
The Aruba Sign — Photo courtesy of Paul Double
Up the street there are two outdoor flea markets, one along the harbor and one next to the bus stop, offering all kinds of souvenirs and people-watching.
Done walking? Get to the Cruise Terminal, hop on the new tramcar for a ride through downtown and make a stop at the National Archeological Museum Of Aruba before hitting the shops in Caya G.F. Betico Croes (the Main Street).
For a quick and local bite, try a warm pastechi (pastry filled with Gouda cheese or meat) at the Pastechi House, or a batido (fresh fruit smoothie). And to top off this first introduction, Aruba says “bon bini” (welcome) to its visitors with the Bon Bini Festival, every Tuesday evening in Fort Zoutman’s open-air courtyard. On Thursday evenings, take a tour to Aruba’s “Sunrise City” San Nicolas to celebrate another welcome party: the Carubbean Festival.
A guided jeep tour is a perfect way to get an overall view of the island. One full day of island touring and off-roading covers most of Aruba’s landmarks and highlights, like “Conchi” Natural Pool and the Fontein Caves in Arikok National Park, the rock formations at Ayo and Casibari, Alto Vista Chapel, California lighthouse and Bushiribana’s gold smelter ruin.
For underwater touring, there are plenty of tour operators offering sailing plus snorkeling or diving packages, including interesting historic sites and ship wrecks. And if this vacation is all about relaxing and chilling in the sun, Aruba has an impressive list of gorgeous beaches, beach bars and sunset cruises to discover. Or you can unwind at a beauty spa in case of a sunburn, a hangover or both.
Whatever is on that bucket list, Aruba is more than happy to oblige.