No worries if you’re only here for a short time,
Aruba is a compact treasure trove of pleasurable pastimes and
awesome adventures all within easy reach of the cruise pier.
Do-it-yourself downtown tour
Hope the free eco-trolley right off the cruise pier to get a sense of what there is to enjoy in colorful and cosmopolitan downtown Oranjestad. Modern high-end shopping emporiums like the multilevel indoor/outdoor Renaissance Mall beckon with upscale jewelry, designer clothing, electronics, and more, all with
no tax and low-duty. There are also colorful arcades like the Royal Plaza Mall in beautifully restored Dutch colonial buildings for unique gifts and souvenirs.
Downtown is also dotted with international eateries surrounding the port and a bit farther up at the Renaissance Marketplace, as well as exciting casinos, and some interesting museums. You can hop on and hop off the trolley at leisure, and don’t forget to take home some of Aruba’s famous aloe products; this island exports some of absolute best quality aloe in the world!
Want to make it double duty day?
Shop and sunbathe? No problem. Head past the Renaissance Marketplace along the water to find The West Deck grill and
beach bar part of the new linear park – a perfect spot to stop and sip a signature cocktail on its own beach so close to your ship that you can wave to the passengers still onboard! If you only have a few hours,
downtown Oranjestad has lots to offer by way of a perfect Aruba day.
For those who take their beach bumming seriously, Aruba is absolutely awash with spectacular stretches of sand that are
easy to get to from the pier and they are all open to the public! You can grab a cab or take Aruba’s public transit from the main terminal right downtown. The air-conditioned buses are modern and affordable and stop at every major resort along both of the most popular beaches. Eagle Beach is the first, it’s laid back and relaxed,
lining the lowrise resort stretch, while Palm Beach is the more active surfside playground cresting the highrise stretch chock full of watersports, activities, beach bars, and dining spots.
You can try your hand at beach tennis there, or get some windsurfing and kitesurfing instruction at Fisherman’s Huts beach nearby. Everything is within an easy walk back to a bus stop or a taxi stand.
Surreal surf and turf trips
Aruba’s tour operators and activity directors are first rate, and some adventures combine the best of both worlds with snorkeling or swimming at spots like the unique natural pool or beautiful Baby
ons and ancient bat-filled caves. And Aruba’s interior is very arid, cacti-studded, desert-like, and dotted with gnarled trees, lounging lizards, feral goats, and even wild donkeys.
Easy-going tours include air-conditioned motor coaches and even party buses turned day-tour-tripping vehicles to famous
landmarks like the lovely Alto Vista Chapel, the California lighthouse, the Gold Mill ruins, and the wildly, romantic North Coast.
There are all kinds of terrestrial oddities to discover on this island such as bizarre rock formatiBut if you really want to tour the rugged outback and get the authentic “shake and bake” experience as locals call it, then a tougher form of transport is required like an ATV, a jeep, or even a monster truck. But no worries, there are tour operators that offer those options.
If you’d rather take it slower, there are horseback tours, cycle and swim tours, or guided walks and hikes. Or stop in to the visitor center at Arikok National Park for maps and information about the island’s inherently elusive nature. It all depends on your interests, but it’s easy to mix and match adventures all in one day.
Sensational sea escapades
Though you might have arrived by ship, to really enjoy Aruba’s seas you have to get closer to the waves, or even under them! This island has some of the best diving in the Caribbean and there are many dive operators eager to take you out, but even if you’re not certified to dive, you can still witness an underwater shipwreck just by snorkeling as the sunken Antilla is very close to the shore and in very shallow waters. Most of the snorkeling trips include this site and also stop at two other fish-filled spots. Or if you don’t snorkel, there are party boats and dinner/sunset sails available, too. You can also get close to Aruba’s resplendent reefs without even getting wet via a semi-submarine or a real submarine tour under the sea. And you can also enjoy the island sights riding the waves with serene sea kayak tours.
Creature and critter encounters
The Butterfly Farm is a must for nature lovers with hundreds of winged wonders to admire, or you can get up close and personal with some funny, flightless birds at the Aruba Ostrich Farm.
A visit to the Donkey Sanctuary is also enlightening, and Philip’s Animal Garden offers interactive and educational tours with over 50 species of exotic animals. Visit on your own, or take Kukoo Kunuku’s special tour tailored to visiting many of these animal attractions the same day.
Escape to a private island!
Just off the coast, De Palm Tours has its very own delightful island with all kinds of cool and unique adventures like Sea Trek – walking underwater with an air helmet, snorkeling, and snuba (air supplied snorkeling) with giant electric blue parrotfish and Aruba’s only water park. There are also banana-boat rides, a spa, an all-you-can-eat buffet, an open bar, and fun stuff like salsa classes and beach volleyball. Complimentary transportation to and from the island for cruise visitors is also included.
As you can see, there are lots of great things to do in just one day on Aruba. But chances are good, once you get a preview of this island’s appeal, you’ll want to return for a much longer visit. We’ll be waiting. Bon voyage!