Updated: Nov 6
The One Happy Island is so exciting and inviting, jump and journey with me to Aruba!
Bon Bini or Welcome to Aruba! The three western-most islands in the Caribbean Sea are Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao (also known as the ABC islands). Aruba is the place to be any time of the year (although peak season is from April through August). From the crystal blue waters to the soft, white sand beaches, Aruba has it all. I was impressed by the food, hospitality, and variety of things to do across the island.
Aruba is a fairly small island but this makes it easy to see most of it in one visit, especially if you rent a car. In fact, I recommend renting a car if you plan a trip to Aruba, to make the most of your experience there. I rented a car from Top Drive Aruba and they have great deals on compact, economy cars, and Jeeps. A representative from Top Drive picked me up at the airport in a shuttle and drove me to the rental car location, which is about 2 minutes from the airport.
Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA) is the only airport in Aruba. It is located in Oranjestad, the capital of Aruba. It's also known as Reina Beatrix International Airport, as "Reina" means Queen in Spanish. The airport was named after Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, the retired Queen and former head of state of Aruba. Flying into the airport went fairly smooth and going through customs only took about 30-45 minutes.
Aruba requires visitors to complete the ED card to enter the country. Non-residents entering Aruba must provide proof of the COVID-19 vaccination, along with the booster shot. If a traveler is unvaccinated or does not have a booster shot, then they must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 3 days prior to arrival in Aruba.
Non-residents must also purchase travel insurance for $15 USD and proof of purchase must be submitted to the ED card portal. Travelers will receive a QR code that certifies that they have completed all requirements to enter the country.
Travelers can use VeriFLY, an app designed to make it easier to keep track of travel documents needed for entry.
I traveled to Aruba to celebrate my birthday with friends. We booked an Airbnb in Noord, a town in Aruba in close proximity to Palm Beach and Eagle Beach. The Airbnb was private and spacious, fully-equipped with a pool, hammock, and outdoor furniture. We enjoyed spending time outside by the pool. The morning of my birthday we woke up to a beautiful spread for breakfast by the pool. Picnics by Aimy provides amazing breakfast baskets and charcuterie boards for any occasion.
One of my favorite things about Aruba was the food. There are so many great options to choose from, with plenty of variety. Here are some recommendations for local restaurants in Aruba:
Pika's Corner Aruban Cuisine: We ate here on the first night for low-fare seafood and good drinks. While customer service wasn't the best, the food was pretty tasty. I had the Red Snapper and it was served in a good portion with a side of vegetables.
Wacky Wahoo's: This restaurant is owned by local fisherman and it gets pretty busy, so reservations are strongly suggested. It is located right across the street from Pika's Corner and they serve lots of great seafood platters and dishes.
Yemanja Wood-fired Grill: This place is wonderful! With all the great food and great vibes, we came here for my 29th birthday dinner. The food was amazing with great presentation. Reservations are not required, but strongly suggested, with the option of dining indoors or outdoors. We ate outdoors and the ambiance was so serene with plenty of lights and greenery surrounding us. 10/10 I highly recommend.
The Lazy Turtle: This restaurant is located in Palm Beach, in the heart of the shopping and dining area. The food was great and they even had drink specials (double win).
Out of all the meals during our stay in Aruba, Yemanja was my favorite dinner spot. The restaurant staff at Yemanja made my birthday dinner so special with their outstanding service and of course, the food and drinks were top tier.
Yemanja Wood-fired Grill is located in Downtown Aruba, which is where the cruise port is located. Here you will find the cruise ships and lots of activities for the tourists who stop in Aruba during their cruise.
Just some happy girls on One Happy Island...I love it here.
Aruba is known for its plethora of aloe plants in throughout the island. For many years, Aruba has been one of the largest exporters of the aloe vera plant in the world.
The climate in Aruba is ideal for the aloe plant to grow, especially in dry areas, like the National Park. There are also plenty of cacti and other plants growing at the National Park and all across the island. We visited the National Park, the Butterfly Farm, and several beaches during our stay in Aruba.
Travel Tip: When driving to the National Park, drive carefully, as there are many gravel roads. We rented a standard compact car (Hyundai Elantra), but it is recommended to rent a 4X4 Jeep or SUV if you plan to do a lot of off-roading during your stay in Aruba.
You can also book UTV Tours to explore the National Park, which are different from ATV tours, because two-four people can ride in one vehicle. The UTV tours give tourists the option to see the natural cave pools and go cliff jumping. Since you are unable to drive a car past a certain point in the National Park, many tourists opt to take an ATV or UTV tour for the best off-roading experience and to see spectacular views of the island.
Our trip to The Butterfly Farm was so cool! We got to see so many colorful butterflies flying around, as well as caterpillars, birds, and butterfly cocoons. There were also rows of butterfly chrysalises hanging for us to view the butterflies starting to come out. Most butterflies and moths stay inside their chrysalis or cocoons for about 8-21 days.
We had a fantastic tour guide who gave us so many little known facts about butterflies and moths. If a butterfly lands on you, you're supposed to make a wish.
Butterflies go through a process called metamorphosis, in which they fully transform in 4 stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Butterflies also love to drink the nectar from rotten or overripe fruit. Because the fruit is fermented, butterflies actually get a little "intoxicated" from drinking this nectar all day.
The ambiance at The Butterfly Farm is so serene and once you pay for your admission to the farm, you can go back to visit as many times as you'd like during your stay in Aruba.
The Butterfly Farm is located in Noord, just a few blocks away from Palm Beach. You can also visit the Bubali Bird Sanctuary and observe over 80 species of birds in their natural habitats from an observation tower.
Although we missed out on seeing the flamingos, if you search online for Aruba vacations, flamingos are probably one of the first things you'll see. However, don't travel to Aruba expecting to see flamingos hanging out everywhere. They are not native to the island and while in Aruba, you can only find them at Flamingo Beach, which is a private island with limited access. Unless you are staying at the Renaissance Hotel (where Flamingo Beach is located), you will only be able to access the private part of the island with a day pass for $125. The pass includes lunch, one drink, and access to the boat that will take you to the private island where the flamingos are. We did however get a great view of these adorable parakeets, with some of the prettiest feathers I've ever seen.
Of course we couldn't come to Aruba without spending some time on the beaches. Aruba has some of the prettiest beaches by far. Each beach has a different vibe and they are all fairly easy to get to with a car. Palm Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Aruba, with a busy tourist area full of local shops and restaurants. Eagle Beach is not too far from Palm Beach. Divi Beach is primarily a resort area, with plenty of Divi Trees lining the beach. Baby Beach and Tres Tapi are some other beaches you can visit to snorkel and swim with turtles.
Did you know that the Divi Trees in Aruba lean sideways because of the strong winds that have blown them that way? With Aruba being so close to the equator, the trade winds blow across the island from the north-east, making the trees always lean in the southwestern direction.
The cool thing about the resorts in Divi Beach is that you can pay for food and drink tickets to enjoy the restaurants on the beach without actually staying at the resort.
The water is so crystal clear blue, I couldn't stop basking in all of the beauty around me! The beach bars are everywhere and some of them have happy hour specials. There are also plenty of adventurous activities at the beaches that are sure to give you that rush of adrenaline for all my thrill-seeking readers.
I went parasailing for the first time ever and it was definitely quite the adventure! A little known fact about me: I have a slight fear of heights, so flying from a parachute over water certainly helped me conquer my fear. For those who may be unfamiliar with parasailing, you are in a harness attached to a rope that is strapped to a parachute, which is connected to a boat. The boat captain drives the boat way out in the ocean and hooks your harness to the parachute and lets go...then the wind just takes you up higher as the captain drives the boat.
I watched several videos of people parasailing on vacation before doing this in Aruba, but no video prepared me for what I experienced. It was exciting and thrilling, up until...the wind started to pick up and take us higher in the air. I was holding on tight and bracing myself, until my friend told me to look down at the turtles below us. It was so cool to see big sea turtles swimming in the ocean from so high above.
Parasailing wouldn't have been the same without my friends experiencing the adventure and joy with me. I had an awesome birthday celebrating with my friends and taking on an adventure like parasailing. Just a message of encouragement for anyone reading: you can conquer any fear, all you need is a little faith.
Aruba is known as the One Happy Island, because of the white sand beaches, consistent days of 82-degree weather, and all the locals who greet everyone with warm and welcoming hospitality. Good vibes are all around Aruba and hopefully you'll bring the good vibes back home with you after your stay.
Fresh coconut water is available for purchase on the beaches. It is always so refreshing to drink the water straight from a fresh coconut to stay hydrated and take in all the nutrients and potassium.
If you're looking to stay in an all-inclusive resort during your stay in Aruba, Palm Beach is where most of the resorts are located. We chose to stay in an Airbnb to have more access to the local spots, but the all-inclusive resorts allow for quick beach access, with everything in walking distance.
Aruban currency is called florin. Though the rates change daily, one Aruban florin is equivalent to about $0.56 USD. You can exchange your currency to the local currency or use U.S. Dollars to spend on the island.
Colorful flora grows all across the island. Some of the popular flowers that can be found in Aruba are plumeria, morning glory, and Aruba's national flower, the Wanglo.
While we were in Aruba, we celebrated my birthday, which falls on St. Patrick's Day (a holiday primarily celebrated in the U.S. and Ireland). However, we also celebrated Aruba's national anthem and flag day which falls on March 18th, the day after St. Patrick's Day.
"Dia di Himno y Bander," or the day of the anthem and flag, is celebrated all across the island. On this day you can see all the Arubans showing their pride for their flag, by wearing shirts and displaying the country's flag on their cars.
We got to watch a performance by a local dance group in celebration of Aruba's National Anthem and Flag Day. You can tell the residents have a lot of pride in their country and their country's flag.
"Golden Hour"did not disappoint, neither did the Aruban sunsets.
Although our stay in Aruba was short, we made the most of every day we spent on this beautiful island. The weather was perfect during our entire stay and the vibes were unmatched.
Cheers to more sunshine, more good vibes, and more time on the beach all year long!
Plan your trip to Aruba today, you'll be so glad you did.