The Caribbean island of Aruba, located north of Venezuela, is a popular tourist destination for a variety of reasons. In addition to enjoying consistently warm and relatively dry weather conditions, the island boasts a bevy of blonde beaches and wind-sculpted desert landscapes.
However, it’s more than just an island getaway destination with beaches and warm waters. Aruba has numerous cultural attractions and festivals as well as nature parks and historic landmarks. Below are five of its must-visit attractions:
1. Arikok National Park
It’s hard to avoid Arikok National Park due to both its size and scope and its natural wonders. The park comprises nearly 20 percent of the island and offers breathtaking coastline views with cacti-covered landscapes, sand dunes, caves, and unique rock formations. Regarding the latter point, the park has several large boulders enriched with Indian paintings that are known among locals as Ayó.
Other unique landmarks include the Bushiribana Ruins, Casibari Boulders, and the National Bridge at Anicouri, the latter of which sits just over 7 meters above sea level and was carved out by wave erosion. The park also features the two highest points of elevation on the island: the Jamanota and Arikok hills, which reach 188 and 176 meters in height, respectively. Wildlife found in the park include parakeets, lizards, snakes, iguanas, and goats.
One of the most popular attractions in the park is the natural pool, also known as Conchi. Protected from the sea by surrounding rocks, the pool is an ideal location for both swimming and snorkeling. However, it is relatively secluded and should only be accessed by ATV or with a tour guide. Boca Prins, meanwhile, is a beautiful stretch of coastline that can also be accessed via ATV. Swimming isn’t recommended, but it’s a great spot for a picnic.
A vacation in Aruba isn’t complete without visiting some of its pristine beaches. On its northwest coast is an 11-kilometer stretch of unimpeded white-band beaches alongside clear jade waters. This stretch includes Malmok, Druif Beach, Palm Beach, and Eagle Beach.
The latter is the site of two of the country’s most photographed fofoti trees which are often featured in tourism campaigns. In addition, the beach, which was named 2019 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award Winner for 3rd Best Beach in the World, features plenty of sea turtle nests, shaded areas, beach huts, and opportunities to participate in water sports.
Other beaches include Bachelor’s Beach, Boca Grandi, Dos Playa, and Black Stone Beach. These, however, are more suited to wind and kite surfers rather than swimmers as the waters have more intense currents and larger waves. Baby Beach, on the island’s southeast coast, is an ideal destination for inexperienced swimmers given its calm waters and shallow basin.
3. Rancho Daimari
A former plantation with a history dating back to the 17th century, Rancho Daimari is situated on the island’s remote northeast coast and overlooks Daimari Beach. It offers a signature horseback excursion across Aruba’s beautiful landscape. The three-hour journey takes visitors through Arikok National Park, Andicuri Beach, and Moro, also known as Little Aruba, among other attractions and landmarks.
4. Philip’s Animal Garden
This attraction is actually a nonprofit organization established in 2009 with the goal of rescuing and rehabilitating exotic animals. Philip’s Animal Garden houses more than 50 species of animals, including snakes, monkeys, kangaroos, and ocelots. The organization was founded by Philip Merryweather, who built the shelter on his own.
It works toward developing a sustainable system for ensuring the safety and high quality of living among exotic animals facing extinction on the island. Merryweather’s interest in exotic animals began with snakes. To that end, the garden has an Albino Burmese python, which was one of the first animals in his ever-growing collection.
Visitors are permitted to take photos of the animals providing flash isn’t utilized. They can even hand feed or carry animals in instances in which the garden’s rangers are handling the animals. Educational and interactive tours are also offered. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children. All proceeds go toward the welfare of the animals.
Oranjestad is the capital of Aruba and the first sight for tourists arriving on cruise ships. The stand-out feature of the city is its Dutch colonial architecture, which includes pastel-hued buildings along the tidy downtown streets. Visitors can find diverse boutiques and international luxury retailers.
The city is also home to several historical landmarks and attractions, including Fort Zoutman. Built in 1798 to protect Oranjestad from pirates, it is the oldest building on the island. The nearby Willem III Tower, meanwhile, is more than 150 years old and has been utilized over the years as a public clock tower and lighthouse. It now serves as the home of the Aruba Historical Museum.
Other attractions in the city include the waterfront Wilhelmina Park, National Archaeological Museum, Butterfly Farm, Access Art Gallery, and the Aruba Aloe Factory.