Things to do in Aruba off cruise ships: Unique port of call day trips

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 ship, Baby Beach

Baby Beach, Aruba by Chris Ford, Flickr

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:

things to do in Aruba off cruise ship, eat Keshi Yena

A MUST? Trying Aruba’s national dish, Keshi Yena (stuffed cheese shell, typically including chicken, vegetable’s, and raisins as well). Photo by Sonja Stark, Flickr

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?

Bon Bini Festival, things to do in Aruba off cruise ship

Bon Bini Festival show by pizzatrain11, Flickr

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!

things do in Aruba off cruise ship, eating and drinking

succulent Aruban grouper by Diana Schnuth, Flickr

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!

things to do in Aruba off cruise ship, Carnaval

Aruban Carnaval by fotocastor, Flickr

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!

things to do in Aruba off cruise ship, hiking Hooiberg

Hooiberg volcanic formation and Aruba’s semi-arid landscape: STUNNING! (Photo by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, Wiki Commons)

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).

things to do in Aruba off cruise ship, divi tree beach

Aruba’s Divi Tree by Serge Melki, Wiki Commons

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 PoolDaimari Beach (horseback riding), Fishermen’s Huts (people watching, kite surfing, windsurfing), and Spanish Lagoon (snorkeling, sailing, fishing).

things to do in Aruba off cruise ship, Lagoon snorkeling

PHOTO by Sonja Stark, Flickr

Got more day trips or things to do in Aruba off cruise ships? Share!

Christmas traditions around the world + photos!

In the Western & Christian worlds, we celebrate Christmas this weekend. In celebration, I decided to compile some unique Christmas traditions around the world! Since our globe has more than 200 countries, the list below includes only the ones I have personally visited and/or lived in. This way, we keep the number close to 30 😉 Hope you enjoy it!


Christmas traditions around the world, ajaca

Ajaca: Traditional food eaten during Christmas in Aruba, it is made of plantains and stuffed with pork, chicken or beef (

In this beautiful Caribbean island, it is commonplace for families to go to church together on Christmas Eve. Then, families gather again for Christmas dinner the next day and sing Aruban songs as they eat ajaca (also eaten in Puerto Rico, but known as “pastel”), salted ham and salmon.


Christmas traditions around the world, Austria markets

Christmas market in Vienna, Austria (Photo: Manfred Werner)

While Christmas markets are very popular in several cities across Europe, they are particularly important in Austria. The most popular in this quaint country are found in Vienna (in front of the City Hall), Innsbruck (in square by the Golden Roof), and Salzburg (by Residenzplatz/the big Cathedral).


Christmas traditions around the world, Barbados

Christmas Pantomime by St Winifred School, Barbados (

In the Barbados, a curious tradition is that children put on a pantomime show (instead of a traditional Christmas play) for school. This is also common Christmas tradition in Jamaica.


Christmas traditions around the world, Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas (Dutch Santa Claus) and his helper, Zwarte Piet (Black Peter). Photo: Looi at nl.wikipedia

In the Dutch Caribbean (including the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao) they celebrate what it’s called Saint Nicholas Day. What’s really special in this region, however, is Sinterklaas: The Dutch Santa Claus! He makes an appearance on December 5th and gives out the gifts then! Oh, it is also feast day 😉

Dominican Republic

Christmas traditions around the world, Three Kings

"Los Tres Reyes Magos," meaning "The Three Magic Kings" (Photo:

While many Latin American countries celebrate both December 25th (Santa Claus/Christmas) and January 6th (Three Kings Day), only the latter is celebrated in Dominican Republic. There might be some exceptions to the rule, such as wealthy families exchanging gifts on both days. This, however, is rare. What, then, happens on January 6th? Children leave grass for the “camels” of the Three Kings to eat under their beds (not tree!) and then see their gifts there the next morning.


Christmas traditions around the world, fattah

Egyptian fattah (Photo:

Christmas in EGYPT? That’s right! While more than 90% of the population in Egypt are Muslims, there is still a Christian minority, called the Coptic Church. Also, as an Orthodox Church, so they actually celebrate Christmas on January 7th, a day after Three Kings Day in Latin America (Epiphany). Then, on Christmas Eve, everyone goes to church midnight service wearing a brand-new outfit, then goes home afterward to eat delicious fata (pictured above).


Christmas traditions around the world, Boxing Day

Keswick Boxing Day Hunt, Market Square, Cumbria, Lakes District, England in 1962 (Photo: Phillip Capper, Wiki)

Some peculiar Christmas traditions in England are the Queen of England’s speech (radio and televised) on Christmas Day and the celebration of Boxing Day on Dec. 26th, which nowadays involves giving small amounts of money as gifts to those who have helped you throughout the year (i.e. the mailman, the newspaper boy, etc.). When it comes to food, Christmas lunch includes a chestnut-stuffed turkey, Yorkshire pudding and roast beef or roast goose.


Christmas traditions around the world, suckling pig

Suckling pig: Traditional German dish eaten on “Dickbauch” feast day (

As in several European countries, the day that German kids actually receive gifts is December 7th. Thus, on the night of December 6th, children place a boot or shoe by the fireplace (similar to the mistletoe tradition!) and wait for St. Nicholas to fill it with gifts! Another funny fact? Christmas Eve is called “Dickbauch” (which means “fat stomach”) and if you do not eat well on that day, you will be haunted by DEMONS! Say wha!? Interesting Christmas superstition indeed!


Christmas traditions around the world, Yule Lads

Two of the Yule Lads on a billboard in Iceland (Photo:WikiCommons)

Icelandic Christmas is great, as it lasts 26 days and brings about 13 different “Santa Clauses” (also called “Yule Lads”) and they start bringing gifts 13 days before December 25th! The story behind them is that their parents are mean mother Grýla (who takes away the naughty kids in town!) and father Leppalúði, who is not that bad. Their children then are the infamous Yuletid, and each day of the Icelandic Christmas a different one comes to town, either bringing gifts or a prank, or both! 😉 on December 12th, children place a shoe by the window and expect one of the many “Santa Clauses” to leave gifts – but if you have been naughty, you get a potato instead! The major gift exchange and Christmas celebration, however, happens on Christmas Eve, when many Icelanders also go to midnight mass.

Israel & Palestine

While Jews celebrate Chanukkah around the same time, a minority of Christian Arabs do celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, on December 25th. Celebrations are particularly evident in Bethlehem and the Church of Nativity, where it is believed to be the location of the manger where Jesus was born more than 2,000 years ago. See the video above to get a taste of Christmas in the West Bank/Palestine!

For part 2, and many more traditions from other countries, CLICK HERE!!

What are your favorite Christmas traditions around the world? Why?