When I first found out I was going to get to travel to Aruba, all I could think of was the beaches. I think if you ask anyone around the world what they think of when they hear the word “Aruba”, beaches will probably be their answer. While the beaches here ARE beyond stunning and the colour of the water is this deep turquoise that makes it difficult to want to look at anything else, I quickly discovered that there are so many unique things to do in Aruba beyond the beach.
Most importantly, it is at these unique spots moments away from the beach where you will find Aruba’s true charm…and it is that charm that makes this island truly special.
It is that walk through Arikok National Park with a passionate guide, learning more facts about Cacti than you knew existed. It is being invited to dinner with a local family, discussing BBQ techniques with a new friend, and indulging in a snickers cheesecake that tastes better than anything else you’ve ever tasted. It is meeting famous yogis, trying out meditation for the first, getting a history lesson in St Nicolaas and learning to blow glass. These are the memories you will never forget, and the just a small taste of the incredible activities in Aruba available to you throughout the year.
27 Unique Things To Do in Aruba
27. Photograph the colourful architecture
One thing that surprised me most about travelling to Aruba was how vibrant and colourful all the architecture was. This is especially the case in Oranjestad, the official capital and main city on the island. You might even be forgiven for thinking you’ve arrived in the Netherlands thanks to the beautiful Dutch architecture and houses painted calming, pastel colours similar to those in Amsterdam. There’s a nice mixture between old and new that gives this town its unique charm!
26. Surfing on Eagle Beach
One of my favourite things to do during my stay in Aruba was to watch the locals surfing down on Eagle Beach at sunset. While some had short surf boards, others had this special kind of skim board that allowed them to skim over the top of the waves in shallow water. Sitting on the beach with a cold cocktail, watching the sun set and some party boats sail past in the distance while you watch these beautiful silhouettes surf the waves is the perfect way to end the day.
STAY: The Manchebo Beach Resort – Check prices here
25. Fontein cave
Fontein Cave is situated inside Arikok National Park and just a short walk from one of the most spectacular beaches and cliffs in the island. The cave itself is known for the native Arawak drawings that adorn the walls, its large population of bats and the colourful stalagmites and stalactites to be found inside the cave.
24. Kayaking in the Spanish Lagoon
While it can get a little rough and windy, kayaking on the Spanish Lagoon is a fun way to get active on your trip to Aruba is is great for both newbies and more advanced adventurers! You get to see the island from a new perspective, make new friends and end of on a secret beach hidden behind the reeds.
23. Spa Session at Manchebo Resort
Nothing beats waking up knowing you’re about to have one of the most tranquil pamper sessions of your life! Be it a massage or a facial, a spa session at your resort (I was in Manchebo Beach Resort) is a great way to start your day on a good note. There are always relaxing smells and if you can hear the sounds of the waves crashing on the shoreline, there’s no better way to feel relaxed.
22. Fresh seafood at Zeerovers
One of the best seafood joints in Aruba, Zeerovers is a great local spot to go for lunch or dinner. The location is what makes this restaurant so special, and the fact that you won’t find fish any fresher. There isn’t really a menu, it all depends on what has been caught that day, and how much you fancy eating. This is a real local spot, so a bit further away from the main tourist strip, but well worth the visit!
21. Snickers Cheesecake at Barefoot
I’m normally not that much of a dessert person but MY GOODNESS the Snickers Cheesecake at Barefoot Restaurant was to die for. I would fly back to Aruba and drive straight to Barefoot just to have more of this delectable cheesecake.
20. Picnics on the beach
When in Aruba, do as the locals do…and bring a picnic to the beach! This won’t be your average picnic, is should have beer, wine, cold drink and hopefully lots of locally sourced food. Bring / borrow some chairs and a picnic blanket, find a spot under the shade of a Divi Divi tree and spend the afternoon eating, drinking, laughing and soaking up the knowledge that things don’t get much better than this!
19. Dine al fresco in Papiamento
My favourite restaurant in Aruba and one of the most unique eateries I have ever eaten at, it’s a real treat to get a table outside at Papiamento Restaurant for dinner. It was almost like being guests at a wedding we didn’t know was happening, with beautifully decorated tables and chairs covered in white covers, surrounding a glowing swimming pool. The food, and the drinks, were of course amazing but it’s the atmosphere, the twinkling lights hanging on the trees and the fact that a local family actually live in this museum-turned-house-turned-restaurant that make it such memorable dining experience.
18. Befriend some locals
If you somehow manage to spend a week in Aruba with out befriending some locals, you’ve gone wrong somewhere! People are what make a place so special, and Aruba is no different. We were lucky enough to spend out last night having a BBQ with a local family, eating delicious home cooked food, drinking local wine and admiring the incredible view from the balcony outside their home. It was the perfect end to the perfect trip!
17. Visit the Aruba Aloe Factory
Aloe was introduced to the island of Aruba as far back as 1840, and has been an important product on the island ever since. At one stage, Aruba was the largest exporter of Aloe in the world and two-thirds of the island were covered in Aloe plants! The Aloe Factory is a fun morning or afternoon trip, and it’s fascinating to see how the aloe vera is made and all the different products that can be made with aloe.
16. Scuba dive Pedernales wreck
If you are totally new to scuba diving, Aruba is the perfect place to try it out, have a test dive or even do your first diving course to get qualified. For more experienced divers, there are some incredible wreck dives to explore such as the famous Pedernales wreck, an oil tanker that was torpedoed by a German submarine during World War II. If you are keen to do more wreck dives, this site sums up the best dive sites.
15. Do a sunset cruise
You can’t go to Aruba on holiday and not do a sunset cruise! This island has some of the best sunsets in the world, with the sunset each and every night lighting up the sky and horizon. Whether its a party boat or a chilled out cruise, a sunset sail is a must at least once in your life! Red Sail Aruba do trips from as little as $55 per person – book here.
14. Aruba Donkey Sanctuary
Love animals? Love super cute animals? A visit to the Aruba donkey sanctuary is a really unique thing to do in Aruba, and can result in helping some in need animals! As donkeys used to be one of the main methods of transport on the island, there’s a lot of sick and injured donkeys in the sanctuary. Bring along some cut up apples or carrots, and you can feed the donkeys at your leisure. The sanctuary is open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. While there is no admission fe, you are encouraged to make a donation.
13. The flamingos on Renaissance Island
Thanks to Instagram and other social media, the flamingos that live on the Renaissance Hotel’s private island are now some of the most famous and most photographed birds in the world. They live happily on Flamingo Beach, where hotel guests and visitors with a day pass can swim in the water with them feed them, or get that much coveted “flamingo selfie”! It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon and flamingos aside, this island is paradise.
**Check prices and availability here**
12. Yoga sessions with Island Yoga
Have you ever heard of Yoga Girl? What rock have you been hiding under? One of the most influential yoga practitioners on Instagram, Yoga Girl, Aka Rachel Brathen, is the brains behind Island Yoga, a brand new and beautifully designed yoga centre in the middle of the island. Complete with a small clothing and gift store, healthy cafe out back and of course bright and airy yoga studios, this is the place to go for a yoga class. They also do SUP yoga, a fun new trend to try out for intermediate yogis!
11. Glassblowing at Terrafuse Aruba
Did you know there is an incredible glass blowing studio in Aruba, and visitors can actually sign up to a glassmaking course while on holiday? This has to be one of the most unusual things to do in Aruba, and miles away from the beaches packed with tourists. The couple that run the centre also live in a very cute cunucu house, traditional to Aruba, further adding to the uniqueness of this art centre / studio. For more info and classes, sign up here.
10. Stay healthy at Nourish Cafe
Nourish Cafe is the super healthy cafe attached to Island Yoga where you can have made to order sandwiches, salads and smoothies from a menu that has been carefully crafted by a nutritionist turned chef. Great spot for lunch!
9. Admire the murals in San Nicolaas
Looking for something a little more quirky to do one day? Rent a car and drive to the colourful town of St Nicolaas in the south of the island which is famous for its large murals that adorn many of the buildings. Much of the street art here has been commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, and it’s a great way to brighten up shop storefronts and to give local artists somewhere to display their talent.
8. Do a photo tour of Oranjestad
As already mentioned, the unique pastel colours and Dutch architecture makes Oranjestad a photographers paradise. There are also lots of great shots to be got of local store fronts, the huge cruise ships coming in to dock in the harbour, the marina and the magnificent Renaissance Aruba Hotel, which brings a little bit of Venice to Aruba with its canal and boat service that connects the hotel reception with the ocean! The views from their infinity pool are also pretty spectacular.
7. An afternoon meditation session
I always said I was never going to be one of those hippy types that spends their holidays doing yoga and meditating on the beach. WELL, I’m now eating my words. I decided to give it a chance, to swallow all preconceptions and sign up for a meditation session. It was one of the most calming things I’ve done in a long time and our instructor just made every one feel at ease. If you are feeling a little stressed and need a way to detacch yourself from life for an hour or two, a meditation session in Aruba is the solution you need.
6. Sunrise yoga on Eagle Beach
This is something you could easily integrate into every morning of your holiday, especially if you’re an early riser. I had never done much yoga before so was worried I would make a total fool of myself but most of the moves were perfect for beginners and there was something real special about starting the day on the yoga deck, watching the sunrise, and listening to the worlds most soothing voice!!
5. Hike around Arikok National Park
If you really want to go beyond the beach and explore all that this incredible island has to offer, than a day trip to Arikok National Park is a must. The guides here are unbelievably knowledgable and you can either do a short walking tour or a four wheel drive tour, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous! I thought the views were spectacular and loved learning about all the different types of plant life, their medicinal properties and ha dun trying to identify all the different types of cacti that live on the island.
4. Snorkelling at Mangel Halto
No trip to Aruba would be complete without spending a time checking out the colourful aquatic life! Snorkelling here is like a dream and there are so many multi-coloured fish and sea life to be viewed. If you get lucky, you’ll spot rays and turtles and often on the way to certain snorkelling posts you might even see a pod of dolphins! Mangel Halto is a reef just off the Spanish Lagoon with some of the clearest water on the island and the perfect spot for some snorkelling. The marine life here is phenomenal so a great place for anyone who loves to snorkel!
3. Cycle to California Lighthouse
A fun way to get active on your holiday is to tour the island on two wheels. One great outing is to California lighthouse at the north end of Aruba. Named after a steamship that crashed here in 1891, this 30 meter high stone lighthouse has stood tall on this spot for over 100 years! You can get more information about doing a lighthouse tour here, with prices starting from $8. Need to rent a bike? You can find a whole selection here and can rent them per day or per week.
2. Test the nightlife
If you’re like me, you probably did not go to Aruba to party, but rather to unwind and relax. That said, it can be fun to go out for a few drinks, especially at the weekends when locals are also out and about. My friend Alice wrote about Charlie’s Bar, which she absolutely loved, so that could be fun place to start. Be it casinos, beach bars or clubs, there really is something for all tastes in Aruba!
1. Plan your return visit
There’s something real special about Aruba, and anyone reading this who has already visited will know what I’m taking about. It’s not the kind of island you can only travel to once, and every time you return it will steal another small bit of your heart.