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
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.
Where to Stay in Palm-Eagle Beach
- Blue Residences – Blue Residences are spread across two beachfront buildings overlooking the infinity pool, garden, and ocean. The luxurious ocean-facing condos sleep up to eight people in total for both short and long-term rentals. They come with air-conditioning, a private bathroom, and a balcony with a superb sea view. Some of the rooms have self-catering kitchens, seating areas, and even an outdoor Jacuzzi. Hotel facilities include a concierge desk, fitness center, tennis court, a Wellness Spa, and free parking.
- Holiday Inn Resort Aruba – Located mere steps from the ocean, the 4-star Holiday Inn Resort Aruba is the ultimate beachfront escape. Nestled beneath coconut palms and spread across multiple buildings, there are three swimming pools, four restaurants, and a casino. Each room and suite comes with a lavish pillow menu, complimentary tea and coffee, free Wi-Fi, and a private terrace or balcony. With nightly live music, a 24-hour fitness center, and an on-site shopping mall, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy.
- Eagle Aruba Resort & Casino – Spread across several honey-colored buildings, the 3-star Eagle Aruba Resort & Casino complex is a holiday paradise. Surrounding the central lagoon pool dotted with palm trees, a swim-up bar, and waterfalls, you’ll find one, two, and three-bedroom suites, as well as a penthouse. Each suite comes with creature comforts such as air-conditioning, a full-service kitchen, a living room, and a private balcony or patio. There’s fun for all ages with a 150-foot waterslide and an on-site casino.
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.
Where to Stay in Oranjestad
- Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino – The L-shaped Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino encircles a palm-fringed lagoon pool in an enviable location directly on the beachfront. With its own 40-acre private island and beaches dotted with sun loungers, the 4-star hotel is divided into two sections: a family-friendly area and an adults-only zone. There’s everything you could need right here – three pools, eight dining options, a full-service spa, a 24-hour casino, a large fitness center, and a jogging trail – to name just a few.
- Wonders Boutique Hotel – Tailored for two, the adults-only Wonders Boutique Hotel is tucked around a pool fed by a natural spring. With just ten rooms, there’s an intimate feel to the resort. Each room comes with all the comforts you’d need, such as a private bathroom, your own parking bay, and a minibar restocked daily with wine, beer, and soft drinks. While the pool tempts you to relax right here, guests can also take advantage of a free daily shuttle to Eagle Beach and Palm Beach.
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.
Where to Stay in Noord
- Arawa Houses – Spread across multiple low-rise buildings built in the traditional Aruban style using clay and stone, Arawa Houses offers an authentic Caribbean experience. A small array of budget guest units are tucked away within a tropical garden alongside a swimming pool. While modestly furnished, they offer all the comforts you could need, including a living room and dining area, a kitchen, an outdoor space, free Wi-Fi, and housekeeping services. The hotel also offers a shuttle service to the airport, beach, or downtown area at extra cost.
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.
Where to Stay in Savaneta
- Serene by the Sea – The 3-star Serene by the Sea offers a toes-in-the-sand holiday experience overlooking the brilliant blue ocean. The colorful adults-only boutique hotel has a private white-sand beach, BBQ facilities, and a lush garden. Guests staying here will have access to free Wi-Fi, an en-suite bathroom, and a private balcony or patio in their bright but modest rooms, as well as free snorkel gear, paddle boats, beach chairs, and a complimentary daily breakfast every day of their stay.