Aruba is a small Dutch island off the coast of Venezuela, captivating tourists with its natural beauty and laid-back vibe. You won’t be able to get enough of the beaches, where impossibly white sand meets enticing turquoise waters. While some beaches are lined with glitzy restaurants and buzzing bars, travel away from the resort areas and you’ll have them all to yourself.
But Aruba isn’t all about the beaches. The rugged landscape of the Arikok National Park houses craggy mountains and subterranean caves, some painted with ancient designs. Meanwhile, the island’s towns are a compelling mixture of Dutch architecture and Caribbean culture.
Popular Ports in Aruba
The only cruise port on pint-sized Aruba is located near Oranjestad, the island’s compact capital city. As you wander around the city, you’ll see the Dutch influence in the gabled houses and iconic clock towers. Hit up the colourful main street, Caya GF Betico Croes, to enjoy some of the city’s best shopping and dining opportunities.
Another prime shopping spot is the local market near the bus terminal. More than 40 stalls exhibit fantastic local artwork, including sand art and seashell jewellery. You can also tuck into fantastic local street food, including tender barbecued meat and freshly squeezed juices.
Newly revamped Linear Park stretches from downtown to the airport, passing some stunning beaches. There’s a smooth, car-free trail which you can explore by bike or on foot. You’ll discover plenty of shaded rest spots and refreshment stands along the way, as well as access to the beaches.
What are the best cruise ships for an Aruba cruise?
An Aruba cruise covers a vast distance, so you want to make sure you choose the right boat to take you across the ocean. These two ships are an exquisite balance of luxury and affordability.
The sophisticated Marella Explorer is decked out to impress, packed with state-of-the-art amenities. As well as a dedicated Kid’s Club, there are lots of family friendly activities too, including a Sport and Family Deck and a cinema. Of course, there’s plenty of space for romance too, with an adults-only sun deck, and a spa offering a range of treatments for couples. The Marella Explorer also boasts 10 bars and 10 restaurants, so you can eat food from a different country every day of the week.
Marella Discovery 2
The newest addition to the Marella fleet, Marella Discovery 2 provides intimate luxury with a big wow factor. Whether you’re watching a concert while drinking Champagne in the high-vaulted Atrium, or sunbathing by one of the two pools, you’ll feel like the guest in a five-star hotel. Enjoy a range of different cuisines, from tasty Italian fare to fragrant south Asian curries. And once the sun goes down, go up on deck to enjoy a movie by moonlight.
Shore Excursion Ideas
Aruba is renowned for its watersports, so the most highly recommended shore excursions have an aquatic theme.
If you can’t decide what to do while at port, this tour around all of Aruba’s highlights is highly recommended. Begin at Schooner Harbour, where you’ll see historical sites including the 19th-century Gold Mill Ruins.
Head inland to the otherworldly Casibari Rock, a huge, surreal rock formation caused by strong trade winds. Then its time to travel to the Natural Bridge Ruins, the remains of a limestone bridge formed by years of pounding waves. The views of the rugged, windswept coastline are spectacular. You’ll then visit California Lighthouse and the Alto Vista Chapel, two of the island’s most iconic landmarks, before returning to Oranjestad.
For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, we recommend this fascinating excursion. Climb on board the Atlantis Submarine and sink to depths of 40 metres. You’ll discover an eerily beautiful underwater world as you float past shimmering shoals of fish, unusual sponge gardens and fields of coral. There are even some atmospheric shipwrecks on the ocean bed. This is one of the most unforgettable experiences on an Aruba cruise.
De Palm Island
Kids and grown-ups alike love De Palm Island, a fantastic all-inclusive island located just offshore from Oranjestad. Start the day with a Sea Trek, where you’ll be able to walk along the ocean floor, thanks to a transparent, oxygen-supplying helmet, and a slightly weighted suit. Stroll along the seabed, passing shoals of luminous fish and a sunken aeroplane.
There are so many other activities. From a banana-boat ride to a trip to the fun-filled waterpark, snorkelling or just relaxing on the white-sand beach. A delicious buffet lunch and refreshments are also included.