Aruba is a popular Caribbean island just off the coast of Venezuela for holidaymakers looking for their very own slice of sun. But alongside the all-inclusive resorts and cruise ships, there are a lot of natural wonders to enjoy here.
From near-deserted beaches off the beaten track to desert-like landscapes in the interior – even mangroves and bird sanctuaries – fans of the outdoors will love this place. Activities range from kitesurfing to snorkeling.
This Dutch island also has a lot going for it in terms of history. Colonized for over a hundred years by Spain, since 1636, Aruba has been under Dutch rule. Old houses and ornate, centuries-old Dutch colonial architecture in the capital, Oranjestad, jostle amid casinos and large hotels.
Map of Aruba
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With plenty of places to stay, a port that happily welcomes cruise ships, an international airport, and a whole string of beaches, beach bars, and history, Aruba packs a lot into a relatively small space; this island is 20 miles long and 6 miles wide. Even so, when it comes to where to stay in Aruba, it is still important to choose wisely.
The atmosphere and amenities change depending on whether you book a place in the bustling capital, a beach resort area, or one of the island’s smaller villages. To give you an idea of what you might find, here are some of Aruba’s best areas to stay in when you visit.
Palm Beach is an area boasting the eponymous two-mile-long stretch of sand situated on the northwest coast of Aruba. Eagle Beach is located to the south – with Bubali Bird Sanctuary separating the two – and is the widest beach on the island. There are no less than four species of turtle that nest on this beach, too.
With the main bulk of accommodation in Palm Beach – ranging from high-end luxury chains to small boutique offerings – there are good times to be had here. This means banana boat rides galore and stand-up paddleboarding, along with lively bars and restaurants.
Eagle Beach, on the other hand, features less in the way of accommodation, though there are still a few hotels, restaurants, and bars found here. Interestingly, because of the wide stretch of sand here, beach tennis is quite popular on Eagle Beach. A more secluded option than Palm Beach, this is where you should head for beachside dining, romantic sunsets, and a relaxing vacation.
The capital of Aruba, Oranjestad is set on the southern coast of the island. This is the most urban environment you’re going to find in Aruba, where government offices are located and most locals go to work. Here is the place for late night entertainment, nightclubs, casinos, and boutique shopping. There’s also a selection of restaurants and bars. As a popular port of call for cruise ships, it can get a little busy at times.
Aside from the culture after the sun goes down, there is a smattering of colorful Dutch colonial architecture to marvel at, too. The Historical Museum – set inside a former fort dating back to 1798 – is the place to go to learn about the history of the area. Oranjestad also boasts a sandy beach and even a water park for more entertainment.
Accommodation in Oranjestad is varied. Visitors will find everything from hostels and low key hotels to resorts and historic hotels to stay in on this Caribbean island capital. On top of that, this is where the island’s international airport is located.
A district of Aruba which officially includes the party central and watersports area of Palm Beach, Noord also encompasses a small peninsula that juts out to the north – hence the name (‘Noord’ is ‘North’ in Dutch). Staying here provides a selection of high-rise hotels with sea views. This part of the island is also where you will find the sprawling Tierra del Sol golf course, which is perfect if you’re a keen golfer, of course.
For other active things to do in the area, head to Fisherman’s Huts. This small beach is perfect for windsurfing and kiteboarding. For snorkeling, try out the beautiful Arashi Beach. And if you’re interested in history, take a trip to the California Lighthouse or visit the Alto Vista Chapel, built in 1750. A number of bus networks connect the northernmost parts of Noord with Palm Beach and the rest of the island, via the L.G. Smith Boulevard.
Savaneta is situated on Aruba’s southwestern coast, between Oranjestad and San Nicolas on the southernmost tip. Though it may be hard to believe nowadays, Savaneta was previously (circa 1797) the island’s first colonial capital. Today, the village is all about local life and a casual, easygoing atmosphere.
If you are a fan of stunning beaches, you should try out Mangel Halto; featuring a barrier reef and crystal clear waters edged by thickets of mangroves, Savaneta is also an excellent spot for fishing. But most of all, this area of Aruba is a very authentic spot; the sort of place where you can rub shoulders with locals while tucking into fresh fish at local eateries.
Connected to the rest of the island by the main road, Route 1, you won’t find much in the way of upscale resorts here. Savaneta is mainly about small boutiques and family-run bed-and-breakfasts to match the local vibe.