Photos: Michael Salazar; Design: Kyra Thompson/Thrillist

A Local Photographer's Guide to Aruba's Most Beautiful Spots

As a wedding photographer in Aruba, Michael Salazar meets a lot of visitors to the island, and his biggest piece of advice to them is to make sure they venture outside of their hotels to experience the many wonders of the island.

“When you go to different spots of the island, you'll be able to understand how beautiful every single part is," he tells Thrillist.

Though Salazar was born in Venezuela, he moved to Aruba when he was four years old, and has lived on this “happy island” ever since. He’s been taking photos for 14 years, eight of those as a professional photographer shooting weddings and commercial work. “Ever since my dad bought me this point-and-shoot camera, I would always have a camera with me and would be photographing everything, basically,” he says. After borrowing a DSLR camera from a friend, he began to take the hobby more seriously.

In his own photography, he’s most attracted to shooting sunsets, sky, and clouds, which is why his favorite spots in Aruba — and those that visitors shouldn't miss — are its natural landscapes. To help you know where to go, Salazar is highlighting his favorite spots on the island to photograph, along with when and why you should visit, too.

Michael Salazer

Tres Trapi

Best time to go: early morning

Also known as “the magical turtle garden,” Tres Trapi is a hidden gem in Malmok and a spot Salazar loves for its underwater beauty — namely the turtles that nest nearby, who, if you’re lucky and patient, will let you swim with them (and photograph them, if you’re Salazar).

“The water there is very clear, and when the water is calm, you’ll be able to see everything,” he says. You can snorkel (bring your own equipment) or just swim around.

“When there’s not a lot of people, the turtles tend to come closer to the shore, so you don’t even have to go out to be able to see them,” Salazar says. “A lot of times if you just sit on the rocks before you go in the water, you’ll be able to see them peeking their heads out of the water to catch some breath.”

While you can visit anytime, early morning, when it's quieter, is best if you’re hoping to spot turtles. Salazar recommends to “just swim around them really calmly and eventually they’ll get comfortable,” he says. Just remember to be respectful and never touch the marine life!

Michael Salazar

Best times to go: early morning or noon-1 pm

These powdery soft dunes at the northwestern tip of the island (so named because a ship named the S.S. California sank offshore over 100 years ago) were one of the first spots Salazar photographed and it’s been a favorite of his ever since. “I love how when you’re in the middle of the dunes, it's like you’re not in Aruba anymore,” he says. “It’s a beautiful spot for anything really, from photos to just walking around or catching sunsets.”

To avoid the hot sun, he likes to visit in the early morning, but visiting at midday also brings its advantages. “When it's really sunny, the whole sand is going to be super white. That's what makes it really beautiful,” he says. “You're going to see only sand all around you.” Visitors can also spot the California Lighthouse from here, as well as enjoy the view of the rocky coastline meeting the Caribbean Sea.

Michael Salazar

Manchebo Beach

Best time to go: 9-10 am

Salazar has been coming to this spot on the south end of Eagle Beach since he was young, when it was the place he and his friends would go to bodyboard and skimboard. But hanging out on the soft sand is beautiful in itself.

“I love the long wide lines on this beach, it seems like they’re endless,” Salazar says. “The water is so crystal clear, and the small waves crashing on the shore creates a beautiful scenic view. You can also pretty much see the whole coast line to the light house from here.”

Michael Salazar

Best time to go: Anytime

This local favorite nestled in Aruba’s super-chill beach town of Savaneta is Salazar’s favorite for three reasons: It's quiet, shallow, and gorgeous. “When I want silence with a beautiful view, this is the spot to go,” he says. “Catching sunsets here is so relaxing, just sitting on the shore with your feet in the water.”

Beyond the peace and quiet, the beach is also home to many mangrove trees. “You can walk through and take pictures, which is what I do a lot of times to be able to get shadows from the sun coming through the mangroves.”

The shallow and calm waters are perfect for sunbathing, snorkeling, or swimming, especially for families. “If you have kids, it’s perfect. [The water is] not even going to reach their knees.”

Michael Salazar

Seroe Colorado

Best times to go: sunrise, sunset, or late night

This rustically beautiful spot on the southern tip of the island with views of Boca Grandi and Baby Beach, “is basically magical, especially when you go during sunrise,” Salazar says. “Seroe Colorado tends to be very windy, but you have such a beautiful view of the ocean there and the waves crashing on the rocks.”

The area boasts many photo-worthy spots, which you can hike to over the rocky terrain (because of this, and the nearby cacti, he says wearing good shoes is a must). Once there, you can walk around and explore one of Aruba's most breathtaking natural arches. It’s also one of the best spots on the island for stargazing.

“I’ve done photos in the night when it’s pitch black there and you can see all the stars in the sky. It’s very beautiful,” he says. “I once did a time lapse with the Milky Way there that was amazing.”