Aruba’s white sand beaches and acquamarine waters are well-known throughout the world and for good reason. But there’s more to do on this small Dutch Caribbean island than working on your tan. From an elegant restaurant set up on the beach to a very quirky dive bar to a gorgeous national park filled with desert landscapes, Aruba has much more to offer than first meets the eye.
Here are five of the most worthwhile things to do:
5. Dine on the beach at Simply Fish. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more gorgeous setting for a dinner than at Simply Fish. Located directly on Palm Beach– you’ll feel the sand between your toes while biting into your heavenly seafood risotto– this restaurant offers a meal you’ll always remember.
Yes, the food is a little pricey (entrees are in the $30-$40 range), but you’re paying primarily for the excellent location, one that has inspired more marriage proposals than unexpected pregnancies probably have.
4. Windsurfing on Palm Beach
Hailed as one of the world’s top 12 beaches by Conde Nast, Palm Beach is a great place to practice your sit, stare, and swim routine for days on end. But for the more active among us, Palm Beach’s constant breezes and shallow water also make it the perfect place to take your first windsurfing lesson. The folks at Vela Windsurf provide excellent, affordable instruction and they allow you as much time as your body can handle to practice what you’ve learned.
3. Stellaris Casino Aruba is an idyllic Caribbean paradise, but paradise, alas, does not come cheap. Why not try to make some of that money back (or lose even more!) by visiting the Stellaris Casino, located inside the Aruba Marriott Resort.
With all the table games you’re accustomed to, like craps, roulette, and blackjack, as well as a sportsbook and hundreds of slot machines, Stellaris has enough to keep even the most compulsive gambling addict entertained. Be sure to pick up your VIP card if you’re interested in earning comps and cash back.
2. Charlie’s Bar Started in the 1940s by a Dutch immigrant named Charlie Brouns and now operated by the founder’s grandson, Charlie’s Bar is an absolute institution in San Nicolas, Aruba’s second city.
The decor is eccentric to put it mildly: the bar is chock-full of thousands of vintage signs, photographs, and bizarre garage sale finds. The seafood is excellent and reasonably priced (well, for Aruba). Bring a camera and have your picture taken behind the bar.
1. Stack rocks at Arikok National Park. How did a vast arid desert come to occupy one-fifth of the tropical island of Aruba? We don’t know either, but we’re glad it does. Arikok National Park is rocky, filled with cacti, and the last thing you’d expect when visiting a Caribbean island. But its dramatic location on Aruba’s northeastern coast makes it stunningly beautiful.
The bumpy roads through most of Arikok mean it’s best explored by Jeep, and DePalm Tours offers excellent guided Jeep tours where you (yes, you!) are behind the wheel. A standard compact car will allow you to see much of the park as well. Don’t miss walking on top of one of the natural bridges, exploring the ruins of a gold mine called Miralamar, and locking lips with your significant other in the heart-shaped Tunnel of Love.
You’ll also find thousands of rock stacks (like the ones above) throughout the park. Go ahead and build a little tower yourself– it’s supposed to bring good luck.
For more about Aruba, check out my quick ‘n dirty guide to the island from earlier today.
This trip was sponsored by Marriott Hotels. All opinions expressed above are my own.