Where To Stay: Airbnb & Resorts
I stayed in an Airbnb in Oranjestad. This was $35 a night for a studio apartment with a pool and walking distance to Surfside Beach. It was located right by the airport which was convenient and walking distance to downtown Aruba. The main bus station is located downtown which was also super convenient because we walked there everyday to pick up the bus to go around the island. Due note, the majority of tourists stay in the high rise hotel area which is on the NW side of Aruba by the famous Eagle Beach. I would highly recommend staying up there because this is where the nicest beaches, most restaurants, and excursions are. However, if you do want more of a “local experience” the area around Surfside Beach is a local and safe place to stay.
Our final night, we decided to stay at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino located downtown. The standard rate is around $350 per night (plus resort fee and tax). When staying at this hotel, you have full access to the private Renaissance Island which is where the famous flamingos roam around. There is a boat that picks you up from the hotel and takes you to the island every 15 minutes starting at 7 am. If you don’t decide to stay at this resort you can still get to Renaissance Island by purchasing a day pass. However, only 20 guest day passes are handed out per day and they cost $125 pp (this includes lunch, cocktail, and trans to the island). Ticket sales start at 7 am and sell out very quickly so plan on getting to the sales office very early if you choose to go this way!
***My recommendation is to stay at the resort for at least one night so you can enjoy the flamingos and island without stressing for a day pass. If you are with one other person, you can split the hotel ($175 each for hotel, instead of $125 each for day pass) and have a luxury experience with two days to explore the hotel and island AND have a comfy bed :) ***
Top Things To Do: Flamingos, ATVs, Shipwreck
Renaissance Island is a MUST! It wasn’t crowded either days I went (I did go on a Tuesday & Wednesday). Read places to stay for more info on how to get to the island. The island was vast with more than one beach, bars and a restaurant, a few nature trails and many cabanas on the water for rent. Do note, Flamingo Beach is adults only expect from 9am-10am when children can come and feed the flamingos. The flamingos roam freely around and there is a small vending machine where you can get food for the flamingos for 25 cents. Furthermore, when visiting remember to be respectful of the flamingos and their space!!
An ATV rental to explore the East side is another MUST! I did a full day (8 hour) rental but honestly wished I had done the rental for at least two days. There is so much to see and explore on the east side and while you can definitely see everything in one day, you must do a two or more day rental in order to spend time and really take in each stop. To get to the East side you must have a jeep, ATV, or UTV (UTVs seemed to be the most popular). Whoever you rent your vehicle from will give you a map and explain the path to the most popular destinations on the coast. I recommend starting at the California Lighthouse and making your way down South. After the lighthouse comes the Alto Vista Chapel, baby natural bridge, Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins, new natural pool, natural bridge, natural pool (Conchi), sand dunes, and two caves. The top three I would highly recommend are bolded and those are the stops you will probably want to spend the most time at so prepare accordingly. Also note that there is no physical road on the east coast and it is a gnarly ride especially going down to the natural pool. If you don’t feel comfortable exploring on your own, there are many UTV tours that are guided. Below is a map of the island:
If you are an ocean lover like me, definitely do some snorkeling or scuba! There is great snorkeling off Arashi Beach (I recommend the South side of the beach by the rocks). It is very shallow snorkeling about 10-15 feet, so it is perfect for snorkelers of all levels. There are many colorful fish here and we even saw a group of squid glide past. In addition, the SS Antilla, one of the biggest shipwrecks in the Caribbean, is located right in Aruba! There are snorkeling and scuba options for this wreck. I did a 3 hour catamaran that went to the Antilla shipwreck and another snorkeling spot that was only $45 which included small snacks and an open bar on the catamaran.
Taxi: Rates are fixed and set by the government. With this being said, taxis are still very pricey but are quick and easy to flag down. For example, a taxi to our Airbnb which was about 5 minutes from the airport was $20.
Bus: Many tourists take advantage of this cheap and reliable option around Aruba. One round trip ticket is ($5) and an all day bus pass ($10). I used this way of transportation everyday expect for the day I did the ATV rental. The main bus hub is located by the Renaissance Hotel in the downtown area. Do note that the buses south of downtown were a little harder to pick up and manage because it is mostly locals hopping on and off, definitely still doable though.
Car Rental: Many people rent cars or scooters to venture around the island. I did not go with this option because there was only two of us and we decided to take the bus but if you have more than 2 people traveling with you or do not like public transportation this would be a great option! Compact car rentals are around $35 a day.
ATV/UTV Rental: There are many rental places with tons of different rates for ATVs and UTVs. The cheapest we found was with Justin’s Rentals which was $130+ gas for an ATV full day rental. Gas was only about $20 for the entire day. I highly recommend this company, they picked us up and dropped us off where we were staying and were SO helpful! Be careful when choosing where to rent, another company wanted to charge us $240 for the SAME EXACT RENTAL. (Pro tip: Always call around when trying to book something when traveling).
Places to Eat:
Eduardo’s Beach Shack: Poke & Acai Bowls, Juices, Smoothies, Fresh Fruit $$
Super trendy hut on the beach located in Palm Beach, very Instagrammable :)
Barefoot Restaurant: Seafood, TRY THE SNICKERS CHEESECAKE $$$
Elegant dining with your feet in the sand as you eat
Driftwood: Seafood, Authentic Aruban $$
Casual and local food with great food specials