The Ultimate Aruba Travel Guide
Aruba is one of the most beautiful spots in the Caribbean for honeymoons, group trips, couples trips, or a family vacay. I went this year to celebrate my birthday and I can’t imagine a more perfect island getaway. With four nights and five days on the island, I had the best time exploring in partnership with the Aruba Tourism Board, and I’m so excited to give you all the lowdown on all my favorite spots! From where to eat in Aruba, the best places to stay in Aruba, and the best things to see and do in Aruba! So, without further ado, here is your ULTIMATE JETSET TRAVEL GUIDE TO ARUBA!!!!
Sing it with me, now… “Aruba, Bahama, Come on pretty mama…”
Where to Stay in Aruba
If you’re looking for the ultimate in luxury in Aruba, with a swanky casino to boot, you’re definitely going to want to stay at the Ritz-Carlton. I love all Ritz-Carltons, as they always seem to go above and beyond when it comes to service, but the Ritz Aruba was incredible. Not to mention one of the most beautiful resort pools on the island, and servers who serve you your drink on beach segways (yes, seriously, so funny). I think this is the perfect hotel for couples or families with kids and teens.
Renaissance Aruba may be famous for its private island (accessible to all guests or you can buy a day pass), but the hotel itself is beautiful too! It’s in a perfect location downtown, with lots of restaurants within walking distance, a gorgeous bar and infinity pool, and beach access just a quick boat ride away (the boat comes right into the lobby to take you out to the private island… pretty cool!) If I were traveling to Aruba with a group, or a few couples, I think this would be a great hotel to base from. It’s lively, young, and fun, with a gorgeous private island (and FLAMINGOS!)
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly hotel in Aruba, the Boardwalk hotel is your spot! These adorable colorful casitas are located just across the street from the beach (and have full beach access through the Ritz-Carlton). They also feature a mini kitchen, and some 2-bedrooms that are perfect for families. They’ll set you up with a palapa on the beach, a cooler, and a home-away-from-home in Aruba. What more could you want!
I don’t necessarily recommend staying at an all-inclusive in Aruba because the food and activities off of the resorts are to die for, but if you are going to stay anywhere, it should be Barceló Aruba! Barceló is one of just two five-star all-inclusives on the island (the other being Hotel Rui Palace Antillas, which also looks nice!), and it also happens to be a great bang for your buck. Splurge for the “honeymoon suite” with the giant outdoor jacuzzi — it is to die for!!
How to see the Flamingos in Aruba
This adorable, super instagrammable flock of flamingos (that are basically now the ambassadors for Aruba) live on the beaches of Renaissance Private Island (affectionately called “Flamingo Island”), which is part of the Renaissance Aruba hotel. If you’re staying at the hotel, you can easily take a boat over (they run every 15 or so minutes) anytime you wish, but even if you’re not staying at Renaissance Private Island, I definitely think this is one of the top must-dos in Aruba!
For those of you who do not stay at the Renaissance, you have three options to get to Flamingo Island:
- You can buy a day pass ($125 per person, includes lunch and a drink).
- You can book a spa package through Renaissance’s Okeanos Spa (the best bang for your buck IMO!!!).
- You can rent a cabana for the day.
Where to Eat in Aruba
For casual, local seafood:
This was easily the best food in Aruba in my opinion. It’s a casual local joint tucked into a pier. The menu is super simple (catch of the day and/or shrimp + sides of your choice) and everything is lightly tossed in the frier and brought out to your table along with the most delicious local papaya hot sauce you could ever imagine. The lines are always long at this hot spot, but the wait SO WORTH IT. This place IS SO GOOD. If you go to Aruba and don’t go to Zeerovers, you are crazy.
For the best breakfast in Aruba:
You guys I loved this super-casual breakfast place so much I went back twice in my 4 day trip to Aruba, and wish I went more. Being a Dutch island, Aruba knows it’s dutch pancakes – and this place is the best. It’s walkable from the Renaissance Aruba (so if you’re staying there, it will be your go-to, or going to flamingo beach, it’s a perfect spot to stop on your way!). Definitely order some sweet silver dollar pancakes (I love cinnamon + banana), but DO NOT miss out on the savory pancakes, as well. The bacon/onion/mushroom one was to. die. for.
For healthy breakfast and juices:
This adorable little beach shack on the main resort strip (located at the Playa Linda Beach Resort) has the best acai bowls in Aruba, and some seriously good fresh juices, avocado toast and other little breakfast eats. It’s run by a sweet Australian woman, and was always the perfect healthy way to start the day. It’s about a 15-20 minute walk from the Ritz-Carlton (on the beach!)
For a special occasion, or a swanky date night:
This is where we went to celebrate my birthday in Aruba, and it was SUCH an experience. First of all, the food is delicious. More importantly, they serve it to you IN BED. that’s right, they do dinner in bed. It’s fabulous. You don’t have to eat in bed (of course) they have real tables, too, but it was so much fun to do. Also, they hands down have the best wine list in Aruba. I saw SO many of my Napa favorites on the list!
We went last year for my birthday and it was just the best. Highly recommend!!!!
Papiamento is a 126-year-old cunucu house that has been turned into a tropical dining oasis! Here, you will dine in the lush garden under beautiful twinkling lights (be sure to get a reservation for after sunset for the best experience!). The surf and turf at Papiamento is to die for — it comes out on a searing hot block! Oh, and did I mention that they have a 33-page wine list?! Sign me up!!!
For a beautiful sunset view:
With calm of the ocean waves and your toes in the pearly white sand, what’s better than watching the sunset with a side of a top-notch gourmet dinner? Love this spot.
Ask for a “feet in the water” table at sunset!! This is such a cool experience.
Located at the tip of the island, just under the California Lighthouse, is this beautiful Italian gem. You’ll want to make reservations at sunset, because it is super popular (for good reason!) and always known as one of the best places to eat dinner in Aruba
What to do in Aruba
The best way to see the island is to rent a car (for the day, or for a few days). I used Amigo rent-a-car and got a white jeep that was just PERFECT. I mean is this not the perfect island road trip car? I loved exploring with the jeep because you get out of your resort and get to go to more off-the-beaten-path spots. Here are my favorites:
- Eagle Beach
- Mangel Halto (for snorkeling!!)
- Arashi Beach
- California Lighthouse
- Natural Cenote (right across from the Bushirabana Ruins — SO cool! Just be sure to wear shoes because getting down to the cenote is a little bit of an adventure!)
- Donkey Sanctuary
- Alto Vista Chapel
- Conchi Natural Pool
- Baby Beach (natural lagoon with no waves!)
- Boca Catalina Beach (another great snorkeling spot)
Snorkel trip or Sunset sail around Aruba with De Palm Tours!
For either a fun snorkel day trip, or a sunset open bar booze cruise, De Palm Tours is the best! You’ll board a gorgeous catamaran and sail around the island, soaking up views and sipping on cocktails the whole way. Sign up ahead of your trip by contacting them on Facebook, or organizing it through the concierge at your hotel.
What to pack for a trip to Aruba
Swimwear and cover-ups! (and a flamingo one piece of course)
Wearing my Watercolors Swim reversible-to-solid flamingo one-piece, and Kenny has on his Kenny Flowers flamingo trunks! We also designed the perfect bright blue bikini with the most comfortable fabric you will ever feel in your life. It’s called “The Aruba,” so you have to wear it here!!
All the water in Aruba is drinkable from the tap, so you’ll want to have a good reusable water bottle on you for your trip. I love my BKR water bottle, available on Amazon here!
A good beach bag
A sun hat
Whatever you decide to do in Aruba, you’re going to have a great time. It’s one of those islands where there truly is something for every type of traveler and every type of group. From couples to families to groups of friends. Always feel free to reach out to me in the comments here or on instagram if you have any specific questions about Aruba! XO
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