One Happy Island is open for happiness and we wanted to share with you our local insider knowledge of what and where should be on your Aruba bucket list!
1. FEED THE WILD DONKEYS IN THE COLONY
Get up close and personal with the local wildlife! As you make your way down to Baby Beach be sure to bring a bag of carrots as you most likely will see the small population of wild donkeys roaming freely on the road between the Red Anchor and Seroe Colorado. They are super friendly and are used to tourists. Just remember to drive slow as they are often spotted meandering down the middle of the road sometimes with a fluffy newborn baby donkey in tow.
2. VISIT THE NATURAL POOL
Arikok National Park makes up 20% of the island and it's in this rugged terrain that you will find Conchi, the natural pool of Aruba. A small naturally formed pool surrounded by huge black boulders is waiting for those who dare to enter. Taking a plunge in the clear pool after the trek down the steep steps is a welcomed and refreshing reward after a day exploring in the hot Aruban heat. Be warned though, the epic waves that crash over the rocks are strong here!
3. EAT LUNCH AT ARUBA EXPERIENCE CAFE
This female owned cafe is located in an authentic traditional cunucu house on the back streets of Oranjestad. This once derelict building was restored to it's former glory and now serves tasty arepas, breakfast, lunch, coffee and juices. When you step inside you will notice many of the original features like the tiled floor and stone walls making it even more quaint and charming.
4. VISIT A HISTORICAL MUSEUM
It's always cool to get educated on a trip to a foreign land, that's why I highly recommend visiting one of Aruba's museums. If you are a bit of a history geek like me you will love Fort Zoutman, the National Archaeological Museum Aruba and the Museum of Industry.
5. GALLOP ACROSS THE BEACH ON HORSE-BACK
There's nothing more exhilarating than galloping across the beach on a horse with the wind sweeping through your hair and the sun beaming down on your face. This is such a great activity for all the family and Aruba has some great ranches to choose from. Rancho La Ponderosa and The Gold Mine Ranch Aruba are two of the top rated places to book a tour.
6. GO OFF-ROADING
If you want to explore the island then Isla Aruba Tours is the way to go! They offer a truly authentic tour which focuses on giving guests a real local experience. They can tailor-make a tour specifically for you or you can take one of their recommended routes. Sit back and enjoy the (bumpy) ride as they take you off the beaten track through the beautiful national park of Aruba stopping off at Conchi, Fontain Cave, secluded beaches and an old abandoned plantation house where you can even get a free fish pedicure!
Get closer to nature with a unique kayak tour that will showcase the diverse ecological system that Aruba has to offer. The calm waters around the mangroves are perfect for a tranquil day of exploring Aruba's pristine coastline. The Shack Aruba is a local owned business offering eco-friendly and sustainable tours.
8. SET SAIL
Grab your squad and jump aboard the Jolly Pirates! This is my absolute favourite boat trip because it's such a good vibe. Me and my friends always have the BEST time. You get to snorkel at the Antilla shipwreck, rope swing in to the Caribbean Sea and sip on rum punch whilst dancing on deck to party tunes... What's not to love?!
9. GO LOCO ABOARD THE KUKOO KUNUCU PARTY BUS
Shake your maracas on Aruba's most famous brightly painted party bus! The fiesta starts from the moment you take your seat and continues in to the late hours as you bar hop around Aruba. Kukoo Kunuku is the perfect way for the old and the reckless and the young and the restless to spend an evening in paradise.
10. EAT A PASTECHI FOR BREAKFAST
These little half moon shaped pockets of pastry are filled with either, cheese, ham and cheese, chicken, ground beef or tuna. This cheap eat is a staple and you will often see a line of school children outside a takeaway spot each morning waiting patiently for their hot grab-and-go breakfast snack. We recommend the Pastechi House in downtown Oranjestad, Niaska Snack on the corner of Vondellan and George Madurostraat, and Groteberg Snack located on the sunrise side of the island for the best Johnny Cakes, another traditional Caribbean breakfast dish.
11. LEARN SOME PAPIAMENTO PHRASES
It's always handy to know a few local phrases wherever you travel to in the world. The locals really appreciate it and it's good manners too!
Here's a few of our favourite Papiamento words and phrases that you can put in to practice on your next trip to Aruba.
BON DIA - Good morning
BON TARDI - Good afternoon
BON NOCHI - Good evening
BON BINI - Welcome
AYO - Goodbye
CON TA BAI - How are you?
MASHA DANKI - Thank you very much
POR FABOR - Please
PLAYA - Beach
POCO POCO - Take it easy/Little by little
DUSHI - Sweet/Tasty/Sweetheart
MALA MUCHA - Bad girl/boy (naughty kid)
12. VISIT THE NATURAL CAVES
Inside Arikok you can access a number of caves once inhabited by the Arawak Indians many years ago. Nowadays they are home to hundreds of bats but the mark of those who once dwelled here can still be found on the walls in the form of ancient cave paintings.
13. FEAST ON FRESH FISH
Zeerovers is a local hotspot that's gained popularity among tourists in recent years. I can remember frequenting this laid-back shack over the water and watching old men play dominoes as the catch of the day came in. This place is way more crowded now but still retains the island charm of a bygone era. Deep fried shrimp and fish are served in a basket with a side of plantain, pan bati and fries that taste even better when eaten with your fingers. Zeerovers should be added to your Aruba bucket list for sure!
14. VISIT AYO AND CASIBARI ROCK FORMATIONS
These monolithic boulders kind of look a little out of place on Aruba. Despite their odd appearance they are still well worth visiting. For those with an adventurous spirit you should make them a stop off on your island travels as you can climb up, over and in between these rocks. The view from the top is pretty cool too!
15. TAKE A MOMENT OF PEACE AT THE ALTO VISTA CHAPEL
This tiny chapel stands on top of the hill overlooking the north shore of Aruba. The atmosphere is so peaceful here and is the perfect place to escape to if you are seeking serenity and solace during your visit to One Happy Island.
16. SNORKEL AT TRES TRAPI
By far one of the best snorkel spots to see turtles and starfish in the whole of Aruba. These steps have been carved in to the rocks to give you easy access in to the crystal clear water of the Caribbean Sea. There are no facilities at this tiny sandy beach so make sure you pack a cooler full of ice, drinks and snacks and make a day of it dipping in and out of the beautiful turquoise water.
17. EXPLORE SAN NICOLAS
Dubbed at the Street Art Capital of the Caribbean, San Nicolas is a town that's bursting with culture due to it's colourful past. This boom town sadly went in to a rapid decline when the refinery closed it's gates but thankfully there is regeneration happening and one of the biggest attractions that is drawing the crowds is the exceptional murals that adorn the walls of the "Sunrise City". Take a stroll down the side streets and see what art you can discover.
18. SIP ON A FRESH COCONUT
Aruba has many roadside coconut trucks where you can purchase a fresh coconut for around $5. My personal favourite is the one by the Red Anchor, Super Coco. I usually drink it whilst it's still cold and then ask the guy to chop it in half with his machete so I can snack on the delicious tasting coconut flesh when I get to Rodgers Beach.
19. PAMPER YOURSELF AT A DAY SPA
Indulge in the ultimate self care activity of pampering at one of Aruba's luxury day spa's. Most hotels offer this service on site but my personal favourite is Nafanny Spa tucked away down a dirt road in Alto Vista. I have been coming to this spa since they opened about 13 years ago and I can honestly say that I always leave feeling rejuvenated and reenergised after a full body Swedish massage at this little private oasis.
20. WATCH THE SUN GO DOWN
I know I say this ALL. THE. TIME. But Aruba's sunsets are seriously epic! No matter where you are on the island you have to stop and take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the sky. Each evening you will be dazzled with fiery tones of orange or cotton candy hues. The best places to watch the sun go down is Malmok, Palm Beach or Eagle Beach.
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