When researching Caribbean holiday destinations I came across Aruba, honestly I hadn’t even heard of it! It promised pristine beaches, amazing year round sunshine and sublime cuisine.It was all that and more when I visited in summer 2018 with one of my best friends. It really is the most exquisite place!
We went for 10 days of downtime, rest and to recharge from our respective busy lives. We would have been hard-pressed to find a better spot to hang out!
It was such a good trip and included feeding flamingos in a tropical paradise, read on to find out a bit about this beautiful location and recommendations for anyone planning a trip here.
- Aruba is a Caribbean island 15 miles north of the coast of Venezuela, and is one of the four “countries” that together form the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
- It’s the westernmost of the Dutch ABC islands — Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao.
- It’s less than 20 miles long.
- Aruba lies outside the hurricane belt and generally has good weather all year round, with very little rainfall.
- The official local currency is the Aruban Florin; however, U.S. dollars are widely accepted.
- Aruba has an international airport that has flights arriving daily from numerous major cities around the world.
- Aruba is a relatively expensive place to visit, so it tends to attract the reasonably well-off. Food and drink are expensive as most goods are imported.
- Aruba is generally a very safe place at any time of day or night.
- Aruba lives up to its slogan of “One Happy Island” which is largely based on the fact that most people who live in Aruba are middle class which controls the cost of living reducing inequality, offering a more level quality of life throughout the island.
- Gambling is legal in Aruba and there is a big casino culture some open 24 hours a day!
- Aruba has some of the cleanest water in the world, so drinking the water is fine.
- Aruba is famous for its beaches.
Aruba is about sun, fun and spending money. Its beaches have the whitest sand and clearest blue water I have ever seen, just paradise.
We stayed at the Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino which is right on Palm Beach. The view from the balcony was picture perfect. We hung out at the adult pool most days, where they had someone who made your sun-lounger up with towels (a really nice touch!). The hotel had a number of dining options and also a Starbucks/casino/spa. There is a Ruth’s Chris Steak House, La Vista (International cuisine), Atardi (Seafood) and more casual dining at Waves Beach Bar & Grill. There is also a delicious ice cream shop in the lobby called Gelato & Co.
On one of our first nights in Aruba we found this amazing bar / restaurant right on the beach called Moomba we spent many more nights here listening to live bands, highly recommended! We found Aruba to be very casual in the evenings, no need to bring any fancy clothes as the vibe is relaxed (think maxi dresses and flip flops for dinner on the beach).
While in Aruba we really wanted to meet the flamingos we had heard so much about. I had researched going to the private island where the flamingos lived before our trip and found it quite confusing working out how to go about it. I had read that they only release a certain number of tickets each day and that the only way to guarantee being able to visit on your chosen day was to stay at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino.
If you are a hotel guest you can visit the island, without paying any extra. If the hotel is not full (less than 80% occupancy), they sell guest passes for $125 per person. When we were there last year you had to queue up very early in the morning and first come first served for any tickets released for that day. Obviously there is an element of luck involved. I have since learned that now you can book tickets online here – you can only purchase passes for the next day and they go on sale at 7 am the day before. They are always sold out within minutes!
So we simply booked a night at the hotel (we reckoned it was actually cheaper to stay and guarantee our spot than to try and get hold of a day pass), packed an overnight bag and got a taxi straight over there. This hotel is located in downtown Oranjestad, and this is where the main shopping areas are, so if you want to hit the shops this is the place. The hotel is lovely and was a nice contrast to our main hotel as it had more of a city vibe rather than being at the beach. We had a nice meal in the bar area when we arrived, before heading to bed with an early start in mind.
The next morning we took the first boat (water taxi) over to the island (takes about 10 mins) and it was everything we had hoped for. On one side are all the flamingos and the other side iguanas (flamingo beach is adults only and iguana beach is for all, although there is an hour between 9-10am each day where children can visit the flamingos). There are plenty of sun loungers on both sides, towels and hammocks here and there. You can also rent a private cabana/bungalow for an additional cost. As we were one of the first people onto the island that day we were able to get right up close to the flamingos and hand feed them, a once in a lifetime experience. Later in the day it became very busy and the flamingos were not on such good form! We also got an amazing breakfast included in our room rate.
We flew from Edinburgh with KLM. Edinburgh-Amsterdam-Aruba (flight time was around 13 hours door to door) Direct flights from London to Aruba take 9 hours. We just got a taxi from the airport which worked well with no issues 25US dollars (flat fee) and took around 20 minutes.
The two main beaches in Aruba are Eagle Beach and Palm Beach. We spent a lot of time on Palm beach, just relaxing in the sun outside our hotel and one day we took a taxi to Eagle Beach which is where you can see the famous Divi Divi trees. In a place as small as this its really easy to get around, the island’s hotels stretch along the back-to-back shores of Eagle Beach and Palm Beach, a couple of miles west of Oranjestad (the capital and largest city in Aruba)
- The weather – good all year round, very little rainfall and outside the hurricane belt.
- The beaches – the pictures don’t look real, but they are.
- Luxury resorts and boutique hotels, something to suit everyone including a number of all inclusive chains.
- The food – Aruba has some great culinary offerings. But as mentioned above it’s not cheap.
- Casinos / Bars / Live music / Parties its all here, if you want it.
- Almost everyone speaks English.
- Its safe, obviously still have your wits about you but crime stats are seriously low.
- Its small – so easy to get your bearings and see everything on offer.
- Highest repeat-visitor rate in the Caribbean, that has to say something.
- Its ‘One Happy Island’ pretty much everyone is happy and nice!
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