Are you looking for somewhere warm and sunny to go this holiday season? Do you dream about white sand beaches and aquamarine oceans? If your answer is yes, look no further then Aruba. The Caribbean island is a popular spot to visit for a multitude of reasons. Here are a few reasons why you should visit:
• The beaches look surreal. They literally look like a post-card. From my personal experience, they look exactly the way they do on Instagram, which blew my mind. #NoFilterNeeded
• If you’re worried about a language barrier, don’t! There is none since most island residents speak four or more languages; if you’re lucky, some locals might even teach you a bit about their local language, Papiamento.
If you need even more reasons to visit this island paradise, look no further then below. I had a chance to check out the best spots to stay, eat, drink and shop.
Where to stay:
Manchebo is home to part of the world-famous Eagle beach, which is ranked as one of the best beaches worldwide. It’s one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen in my entire life. It has white sand, and the ocean is a gorgeous shade of blue. The resort has countless amenities, including multiple restaurants (there’s a restaurant for everyone’s taste, I promise.) The hotel also has an incredible spa, where you can book a treatment in a cabana. The cabana’s face the luscious beach, which is sure to leave you feeling fully immersed in vacation mode.
What to do:
Arikok Park takes up 19 percent of the entire island of Aruba. There is so much to see and explore in the park: from its otherworldly landscape to its historic sites – there is something for everyone here. When going to Arikok, I recommend booking a jeep tour with De Palm Tours. You can also hike within the park; in fact, there are countless miles of trails within the island. Some highlights of the park are the Natural Pool, which is a stunning none humanmade pool filled with ocean water, where you can swim around safely. Another highlight for me was a Bushiribana Gold Mill, which you can go in and explore (make sure to wear proper footwear). The caves are another cool spot to explore, and within the caves, you can witness perfectly preserved cave drawings. When I visited, I spoke to Julio Beaujon about the park, and he told me that within the park, “… you’re getting to know the real Aruba.”
If you’re an urban explorer like me, you need to check out a tour of San Nicolas. San Nicolas used to be known as a more run-down part of the island. But in the past few years, it has had a renaissance when it comes to art. A man named Tito Bolivar saw an opportunity to help grow the art culture on the island and started Artisa, a gallery, shop, events and tour company. You can book a guided tour of all of the striking street art in San Nicolas. Bonus: It makes for a killer Instagram photo.
Where to eat and drink:
The Secret Garden
If you want to get seriously local, starting in January, you can book a dinner at The Secret Garden, where you can dine on a meal prepared by local chef, Tina Causey-Bislick. You can opt for three different dining experiences, which include vegan tastings twice a week and two Cunucu Table tastings a week (not-vegan). The Cunucu Table tastings focus on local cuisine with a gourmet flair. I had a plant-based meal, and it was incredible. I spoke with Causey-Bislick and she said she was inspired to create this experience because, “Arubans love to share their homes, they love to entertain locals not just in the resorts but all the time you’ll find Arubans inviting tourists to their homes and entertaining them and sharing their family with them,” and she wanted to do the same.
Another wonderful local spot, owned by a family for close to twenty years. This restaurant is situated on the water, and you can get some famous local dishes such as the full fried red snapper, Keshi Yena (my favorite Aruban dish), and their famous plantains at this hot spot. If you’re looking for a bit of a break from the beach but still want to be outdoors, this is the spot for you, since you can enjoy a delightful picnic.
Apotheek: remedy cocktail bar
The brand-new bar is the first speakeasy on the entire island of Aruba, how cool is that? The bar is inspired by an apothecary, and in fact, when you first enter the space, that’s precisely what it looks like. They have a few main cocktails, but they rotate out additional cocktails seasonally. I spoke with the head bartender of Apotheek, and he told me that if you come to visit, he suggests testing out their Doctor on Duty cocktail or their Watermelon kick drink.
Zerovers is a famous spot on the island and a local favorite, the lines are always long, and that’s for a good reason. At Zeerovers, you can see the entire ocean to table process from the butchering of the fish to the frying of the fish. The food is excellent (make sure you try the cornbread), and while you’re there, pick up the island brew called “Chill.” The beer pairs perfectly with everything on the menu. NB: this spot is cash only.
What to buy:
Local artist, Naomi Landgraf creates mini versions of traditional Aruban-style homes called Cunucu’s. The houses are beautiful and vibrant, and they can still be spotted across the island. If you love small, easy to travel with local items, this is the perfect souvenir. You can pick up her items from Cosecha Aruba.
Tangerine is a single-man operation, owned by a gentleman named Ash. He creates handcrafted bags that are super sturdy and perfect for any traveler. His bags are inspired by the colors of the Caribbean, and many of his bags feature sailing material. Pick up his bags at his storefront, Tangerine.