Located 30 kilometres off the coast of South America, this sunny Dutch Caribbean island offers white-sand beaches with still-secret coves, loads of family-friendly attractions and a wealth of sophisticated hotel and restaurant options. Whether you’re keen on exploring its unique culinary heritage, chilling out in style or looking for an adrenaline-packed getaway, here’s how to make the most of a trip to Aruba.
Where to stay: Adventure is guaranteed at the Divi & Tamarijn All-Inclusives, where bike rentals, non-motorized water sports and tennis are complimentary. A challenging rock-climbing wall, four freshwater pools, a manicured golf course and a prime setting on Divi or Drulf Beach round out the offerings.
What to do: Grab wheels at one of Green Bike Aruba’s eight bike-rental docking ports and pedal Linear Park. The longest trail of its kind in the Caribbean, it runs along the coastline near Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital. Make a stop at Splash Park Aruba just off Surfside Beach to play on the inflatable jungle gyms.
Where to eat: Tuck into grilled fish, Dutch pea soup and other Caribbean fare at the fully loaded buffet at De Palm Island, an all-inclusive adventure park where activities include snorkelling, ziplining and banana boat rides. Wind down from all the action with a cocktail (or two) on the beach.
Where to stay: Stay at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino’s swanky Marina Hotel and you’ll score access to adults-only Flamingo Beach on the resort’s private island. Up the luxe factor by splurging on a VIP Cabana outfitted with an overwater deck, hammock and champagne delivered by a private butler.
What to do: A mani-pedi with an ocean view is just one of the perks at Pure Indulgence Spa at Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort. Sip mimosas during your rose petal foot bath, then bask in an island-inspired treatment such as the Green Tea and Seaweed Body Exfoliation Wrap, followed by a waterfall shower.
Where to eat: Kick off your heels, sip champagne and do dinner in a luxurious lounge bed at Screaming Eagle Restaurant-Lounge. This stylish venue is where locals and visitors go to see and be seen while noshing on French-fusion dishes such as ahi tuna tartare and decadent chocolate mousse.
Where to stay: Located on a private beach cove, the overwater or beach villas at Aruba Ocean Villas are bursting with creative touches such as crystal chandeliers, outdoor conch shell showers, heirloom Indonesian furnishings and beautiful silk kimonos hand-painted by owner-artist Osyth Henriquez.
What to do: Browse the murals at the new Art Walk in San Nicolas, a former oil refinery town undergoing a cultural renaissance. The streets are filled with colourful murals painted by artists from all over the world—don’t miss a photo-op in front of the 3-D green iguana, created by Portuguese artist Bordalo II.
Where to eat: Explore Aruba’s multicultural cuisine—a legacy of Dutch, Chinese and South American immigrants—at Papiamento Restaurant, located in an Aruban cunucu (country home) that dates back to 1886. Order the keshi yena, a traditional casserole featuring melted Edam cheese, raisins and spiced ground meats.
Where to stay: The diversity of on-site dining options—four bars and five restaurants, including the legendary Ruinas del Mar with its resident black swans and modern Aruban cuisine—is reason enough to stay at The Hyatt Regency Resort, but it’s also located just steps from the island’s trendy Palm Beach Strip.
What to do: Head just south of Oranjestad for a tour of Balashi Brewery, the island’s only local beer producer and the only brewery in the world to make beer from desalinated sea water. After checking out the state-of-the-art laboratory, visitors can taste Balashi’s brews, including its premium HopiBon lager.
Where to eat: Hop on one of Kukoo Kunuku Tours’ brightly painted, open-air party buses for its Wine on Down the Road tapas tour. It’s a fun, full evening of food-and-wine pairings at a rotating list of Aruba’s top restaurants such as White Modern Cuisine, helmed by local chef Urvin Croes.