I visited this ABC Island back in 2002 on a Carnival cruise ship and let me tell you: it was my favorite port of call. The mix of cultures was quite a feat. Moreover, its spectacular beaches and eerie desert landscapes took my breath away. And so this week’s Beach Thursday is all about travel tips and unique day trip ideas: things to do in Aruba off cruise ships!
Things to do in Aruba off cruise ships: Unique port of call day trips
Did you know that there are over 92 different nationalities represented on this island? This is quite evident in Aruba’s museums, architecture, and food. However, its natural beauty is just as stunning. Thus, I recommend you delve deeper into Aruban culture and go off-the-beaten-path during your visit by taking one of these unique day trips:
DIY Aruban cuisine foodie tour
No foodie tours available in Aruba? No problem! Rent a car, plot a route, and spend a few hours on this port of call sampling some of the dishes and restaurants below:
- Keshi Yena at Old Cunucu House and/or Tulip restaurant
- Gasparito chicken with a side of history at Gasparito Restaurant & Art Gallery
- Aruban-style seafood such as Wahoo & Kingfish at Wacky Wahoo’s
- Whatever is the day’s special at The Aruban Chef
- Fine dining and wine at Papiamento Restaurant
- The pork chop with salsa criolla at JoAnn Snack:
Take part of one of Aruba’s weekly events
It’s quite surprising the amount of cultural events going on a weekly basis on this Dutch island! So if your cruise ship doesn’t leave until late that night or the next morning, I highly recommend you experience Aruba’s culture through its arts, music, and drinks by attending one of the following:
Tuesday evenings – Bon Bini Festival (USD $5, excluding food and drinks)
Rain or shine, this festival starts around 6:30 PM with some of the food vendors and artisans presenting their crafts at the outdoor courtyard of Fort Zoutman. Then, the big show of musicians, dancers, and other artists takes place between 7 – 8:30 PM. Aruban dancing, foods, drinks: what else do you need?
Wednesday evenings – Aruba Food and Wine Festival (FREE admission)
What others do on an annual basis, Arubans do on a weekly basis! At least 8 different restaurants present an assortment of tapas or small bites of their best dishes to The Village Mall, located right across the street from the Radisson Resort, between between 6 and 10:30 PM. This is the Caribbean after all, so also expect colorful costumes, dancing, and lively music!
Thursday evenings – Carubbian Festival (FREE admission)
Yet another weekly event where Aruban food, music, art, and culture convene. Perfect for people watching, sampling cheap street food, listening to great steel drums. Also great for the whole family, as there’s an interesting parade/Carnaval of sorts and even a tent for the kids. From 6 to 10 PM, but most of the action happens around 7:30 – 9:30 PM, at San Nicolas Main Street. Recommended you either hail a cab or take the local bus — parking will be too horrible even for your rental!
TIP: Definitely say no to a pre-booked tour here! Why? They charge you an astounding amount (around $64) just to take you there and back, bring you one cheap meal that would have cost you no more than $5 anyway, plus you aren’t able to leave as you please. NOT worth it.
Additionally, make sure you check out the Cas di Cultura (Cultural Center) and see whether there any indigenous performances or special exhibitions during your visit.
DIY Aruban adventure tour
Adventurous at heart? Then rent a car and try to visit some forgotten ruins, national parks, and other hidden gems around the island! Hike the Hooiberg volcanic formation, visit Bushiribana, the stunning Dos Playa (for photography, surfing, bodyboarding!), Seroe Jamanota, National Park Arikok and its secluded Boca Prins beach, etc.
Need more ideas? Check Aruba Tourism’s natural gems list!
DIY beach hopping tour
This one is for the beach bums and water lovers! Aruba has a myriad of gorgeous beaches, so rent a car and snorkeling gear to hit a couple of them. My favorites include Arashi Beach (swimming), Eagle Beach, Boca Catalina, Baby Beach, Spanish Lagoon (snorkeling and sailing), and Andicuri (surfing).
More traditional Aruba cruise ship day trips
Some of you prefer a more traditional, guided tour in order to take Aruba’s most popular attractions and sights. If this is you, please know that you do not have to book directly with your cruise ship! Those cruise ship day trips are usually more expensive — plus won’t give you the same experience — as, say, local Aruba tour operators. So check out this list of attractions and tour agencies (most will pick you up right at the port) or pick one that includes some of my favorite spots below!
Culture: Alto Vista Chapel, California Lighthouse, Plaza Daniel Leo, Fort Zoutman and King Willem III Tower.
Nature lovers: The Natural Pool, Daimari Beach (horseback riding), Fishermen’s Huts (people watching, kite surfing, windsurfing), and Spanish Lagoon (snorkeling, sailing, fishing).