16 Places to Find Your Happy Spot in Aruba
This tiny island is home to plenty of supersized fun.
With crystal clear waters, trade wind breezes, and endless amounts of sunshine, it’s no wonder Aruba is frequently referred to as “One happy island.”
This tiny island is home to plenty of supersized fun thanks to pristine beaches plus rugged adventures like hidden caves, giant sand dunes, and a volcanic rock formation that creates a tranquil tide pool perfect for snorkeling. Aruba is filled with so many surprises, it’s hard to keep count, but we think we found 16 really good reasons to plan an escape here soon.
Just remember — no vacation here is complete without savoring some fried snapper (obviously it was caught fresh this morning) and paired with a local Chill beer or Aruba Ariba — the island’s signature (and booze-filled) drink.
Towards the northern end of the island sits one of Aruba’s stunning beaches, and it’s perfect for sunbathers. You can lay idly in a palapa or hammock, or practice some stand-up paddle boarding in the calm, clear waters of the Caribbean. But you’re not just SUP-ing like the rest of us.
At this beach, you can do SUP Yoga to challenge your body (are those my abs?) and liberate the mind. It’s also a great spot to rest your head for the night with hotel options like the luxurious casita-style experiences from Boardwalk Boutique Hotel Aruba or the seaside suites at The Ritz Carlton Aruba.
The sights, sounds, and flavors of Eagle Beach bring beachgoers looking for a good time. This is the island’s widest stretch of beach, and it’s famous for soft white sand and beautiful fofoti trees, shaped by the trade winds.
Eagle Beach also offers thrill seekers something fun: You can charter a catamaran, parasail, or enroll in a kitesurfing school for the day. After working up an appetite after a day at the beach, you’ll find some of the best oceanfront dining right here. Elements Restaurant offers a 5-star dining experience and Matthew’s Beachside serves up more casual fare.
Boca Catalina is a secluded beach just steps from a parking area alongside the road on the northernmost end of the island. It’s a great beach for snorkeling with sea turtles and other aquatic life. (No touching!)
The protected waters provide a clear and calm place to float around for hours. It’s also a popular place for families looking for a less crowded beach. Cap off your visit here with a drive up to the California Lighthouse, located about five minutes by car and within eyeshot of the beach.
Find this hidden gem situated in lush mangroves. Yes, it’s an off-the-beaten-path spot, but it’s also a prime beach for snorkeling and water sports. Just offshore is a sunken ship, and a reef rich with sea life, including snappers, blue tangs, and parrotfish. You can even paddle the waters in a glass-bottom kayak.
Of course, you could also spend the day enjoying a picnic on the beach. If you’re more in the mood for a sit-down meal, just up the road is Marina Pirata. It’s a somewhat secret seafood spot, located next to one of Aruba’s open-air fish markets, so you know the snapper will be boat-to-table here.
A perfect crescent shaped beach on the southern tip of the island makes for the most relaxing spot to feel miles away, and that’s by design. Baby Beach is distanced from the hustle-and-bustle of downtown Oranjestad. But it also offers tasty eats and drinks in a breezy open air setting. Hit Big Mama's Grill for barbecue and seafood platters on the beach, or Rum Reef for a booze-filled rum punch and conch fritters with a view.
Geo-nerds will love the island of Aruba for its natural rock formations. It also makes for some pretty amazing views for an island that is otherwise pretty darn flat. One of the largest natural rock formations is Casibari. To get to these gigantic tonalite boulders, you’ll need to navigate to a quiet residential area, just off the main road in Santa Cruz. It’s an easy diversion as part of a day trip, and the cacti-lined trails and steps lead you to some breathtaking 360-degree views of the island.
Seroe Colorado is an open expanse of otherworldly landscape that’s truly an explorer’s delight. You’ll pass plenty of cacti, whitewashed houses, and cliffside views.
Along the way, you’ll spot a giant red anchor dedicated to those lost at sea, and a natural bridge that’s a bit of a trek — but isn’t that what travel is all about? To get there, you’ll need to park at the lot adjacent to the Seroe Colorado Lighthouse and follow a path (look for the white marked stones) to a cliff where you’ll spot the Seroe Colorado Natural Bridge, where the sea meets this majestic arched formation.
Donkeys are not native to Aruba, but they’ve been here for over a half-a-century, and were used to get from point A to point B, especially on the island's rockier parts. Today, they’re largely roaming and wild animals, and The Donkey Sanctuary ensures that more than 120 of these animals are protected and cared for when needed. Visitors can come to volunteer or spend time feeding and hugging these adorable furry friends at the sanctuary, which sits near the edge of Arikok National Park where many more donkeys roam in nature.
Sunshine meets serenity at Alto Vista — a historic parcel of land that overlooks the eastern side of the island. This is where Aruba’s first Catholic church was built in 1750 by Spanish missionaries and a newer chapel now sits on the land along with an outdoor labyrinth to collect your thoughts. You can also visit the Philip's Animal Garden, a petting zoo for all sorts of creatures including goats, camels, and tropical birds.
Attention Instagrammers: this is the spot to stroll at sunset in the surroundings of a white sand dune landscape. It’s emblematic of Aruba’s dry and arid environment and it’s yet another natural wonder this island has to offer. The dunes can only be explored on foot, which means this area is largely untouched by tourists.
San Nicolas is a village filled with colorful street art and historic architectural buildings, which include the Museum of Industry and Community Museum as well as the Carnaval Euphoria exhibition.
Walk around Aruba's "cultural capital" long enough, and you’ll realize that this is a top spot for muralists and artists, who come here mainly because of the Aruba Art Fair. Join the daily art tour led by the fair’s organizer, Tito Bolivar, or take a walk through the historic city of San Nicolas to spy works by local talent, like the 16-year-old street artist Rasheed Lowe.
This building is the oldest structure on the island and was originally built for protection from pirates. Today, the museum pays tribute to Aruba’s multicultural history and you can browse a collection of Spanish and Dutch artifacts and documents, plus ever-changing exhibits that highlight the island’s rich past. Be sure to climb to the top of the Willem III tower for a 360 view of Aruba's colorful capital, Oranjestad.
Nab that perfect vacation selfie at Quadirikiri Caves, a cave system known for its two chambers illuminated by beams of sunlight that pop through the cave’s ceiling — giving your photos an epic halo effect (flashes not allowed, or needed!). This is a must-visit destination as part of a day trip to Arikok National Park. You'll be amazed — don’t be too surprised if a friendly Aruba bat photobombs your shot!
The Savaneta neighborhood is a hub for fishing boats bringing in hauls of fish caught fresh, so it only makes sense that one of Aruba’s best seafood spots is also located here. Zeerovers is a casual bar and restaurant with a menu that changes by the day’s catch. It’s also where locals gravitate for happy hour.
As you enter, there is a counter where you can buy fresh fish to go, or enjoy a tasty basket of peel-and-eat shrimp with a Chill beer on the pier. The menu keeps it simple — just a few fish options per day — but the backdrop and vibe are truly one-of-a-kind.
This bar is a legendary marker in the neighborhood of San Nicolas. It’s been around for eight decades, and the first thing you notice are the tchotchkes that hang on the wall. It’s a well-decorated bar with a reputation for last call lingering into the wee hours of the morning, but don’t be fooled, this isn’t a dive bar per se. Charlie’s is known for its shrimp scampi, churrasco, tenderloin, burgers, and fresh catches that come battered and fried. There are also off-menu vegetarian options if you ask.
Along the walkway of Palm Beach next to the Playa Linda Beach Resort sits this tropical smoothie stand that’s been a mainstay for years with tourists and locals alike. Eduardo’s serves up healthy and colorful smoothie bowls in addition to fresh-pressed juices, coffee, raw treats, and frozen yogurt soft-serve.
There are also meat-free breakfast and lunch items, like vegan tacos, vegetarian pad Thai, and a poke bowl served with tofu. If you also had a long night at Charlie’s Bar, with a few too many, then might we suggest the Hangover Crusher? It’s a blended juice that includes watermelon, mint, beets, ginger, and bananas.