Located just 18 miles off of the Venezuelan coast, Aruba (also known as “One Happy Island”) is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It makes up 1/3 of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, & Curaçao) and at around 75 square miles it’s also the smallest of the three islands. While that is all very intriguing, one of the facts that people find most surprising about Aruba is that it is a desert island! Yes… You heard that right. A desert island. For that reason, we highly recommend taking some time on your visit to explore the interesting and unique landscapes that Aruba offers, and what better way to do that than on a self-guided UTV tour?? Yes, you can opt for a guided tour from many of the more than qualified tour operators, but we love being on our own schedule and stopping whenever and wherever we want. So, if you're like us and like to take adventure into your own hands, then you’re in the right place! In this blog, we’ve put together what we think are 8 of the best stops (from north to south) for a self-guided UTV island tour. While this itinerary can be achieved with a half-day (4-hr) rental you would really be pushing it to fit everything in (like we were lol), so we recommend a full-day (8-hr) rental to get the most out of the experience. That said, some of these will be quick 10-15 minute stops while others could take 45 minutes or more (mostly the “Secret Pool”), so plan accordingly… Especially if you opt for a half-day rental.
Note: If you are looking for a reputable company to book your rental through, we highly recommend Arubiana. We have no affiliation with them, we just had a great experience and felt they were fair and honest. Plus, they have an excellent app for Apple and Android with helpful information on all of these stops and more! So, even if you don’t book your UTV through Arubiana, we recommend purchasing the app for your tour.
If a self-guided tour sounds overwhelming, then check out this guided tour from GetYourGuide!
Be sure to check out our “Adventure Day in Aruba” vlog for a closer look at our self-guided UTV tour along with a snorkeling catamaran cruise!
1. California Lighthouse (JW7X+GF Noord, Aruba)
Recommended Time: 15-30 mins
Cost: Free or $5 if you want to go to the top of the lighthouse
Quite possibly Aruba’s most famous scenic landmark, the California Lighthouse was named after the S.S. California which sank previous to the lighthouse’s construction in 1910. Perched on a hill on the northwestern tip of the island, the lighthouse offers incredible views of the island's western coastline. At the time of writing this (December 2022) Lighthouse tours are offered daily from 9am-7pm for $5/person which allows visitors to go to the top of the lighthouse for 360° views.
Pro-Tip: Don’t miss Yum Yum’s Place (AKA The Smoothie Bus) while you’re there! They have a variety of snacks and delicious fresh coconut and fruit smoothies as well as milkshakes and iced coffee!
2. Alto Vista Chapel (HXGQ+9JC, Noord, Aruba)
Recommended Time: 10-15 mins
The present Chapel of Alto Vista was completed in 1952 and stands in the same location as the original chapel, which was built in 1750, making it the oldest church in Aruba. Although the chapel is quite small at only 50’x16’ this "Pilgrims Church" as it’s called is worth a visit.
3. Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins (H23F+C9F, Noord, Aruba)
Recommended Time: 15-30 mins
Constructed in 1872 by the London-based Aruba Island Gold Mining Company the Bushiribana Gold Mill closed its doors for good in 1899. Having been vacant for 120+ years now, the only structure that has withstood the harsh elements of the island is the natural stone walls. Visitors to the site nowadays can walk freely throughout the abandoned structure and carefully climb the remains of a staircase on the mill’s southern wall to enjoy beautiful, sweeping views of the Caribbean.
4. Cave Pool Aruba AKA Secret Pool (H22G+W4 Santa Cruz, Aruba)
Recommended Time: 45-75 mins
This (not-so) secret pool is located just south of the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins. In fact, you can see the tour groups parking near the entrance to the pool from the ruins. And when I say “entrance”, I mean a rickety wooden ladder that you’ll have to climb down to access the pool. The “entrance”/ladder is easy to miss, especially if there are no other vehicles parked at the top, so be careful not to miss it! It’s also worth noting that this is the only pool accessible by UTV since Arikok National Park banned ATVs and UTVs in June of 2020. The more popular Conchi Natural Pool is inside the national park boundaries and is only accessible by foot (at least a 2-mile round trip hike depending on where you start from) or 4x4 (no ATVs or UTV’s). The Conchi Natural Pool also comes with an $11/person national park entrance fee while the Cave Pool is free to enjoy. And while it is “secret” it can get quite busy as many of the guided tours make stops here, but with a little patience and time, it’s not unusual to have the entire pool to yourself for a little while between tour groups. That’s one of the benefits of being on a self-guided tour!
5. The Natural Bridge (G2RR+9Q Santa Cruz, Aruba)
Recommended Time: 15-20 mins
There was a time when the Natural Bridge was a must-see on the island, but the original, famous natural bridge collapsed in 2005 leaving only a smaller bridge called “Baby Bridge”. And while seeing “Baby Bridge” is pretty cool, this site is not nearly as impressive as it once was. Nonetheless, it is a good stop for a snack and/or bathroom break… Although either one will cost you at least $1.
6. Ayo Rocks Formation (G2JH+GP Santa Cruz, Aruba)
Recommended Time: 30-45 mins
These monolithic rock boulders are a unique site for an otherwise flat and sandy landscape. The Arawak people (the earliest settlers on the island) used to visit the Ayo Rock Formations so that they could hear incoming thunderstorms closing in on the island. To this day, you can still find their carved paintings in rocks (petroglyphs) dating back thousands of years.
7. Mangel Halto (F27J+V97, Savaneta, Aruba) 30-45
Recommended Time: 30-45 mins
This secluded beach is popular with locals and tourists as it is a perfect sunning and snorkeling spot with calm, shallow waters that are rich in sea life due to the impressive network of mangroves. And while it is beautiful and offers the fairer-skinned visitors a break from the sun with the shade cast by the mangroves, the thick vegetation also attracts more bugs than many other areas, so if you do plan to make a visit to Mangel Halto, be sure to pack some bug spray!
8. The famous Fofoti Trees at Eagle Beach (HW3V+RX7, Noord, Aruba)
Recommended Time: 30-60 mins
These famous Fofoti trees which are often mistaken for Divi Divi trees (an honest mistake… we did it! Lol) are an Aruban icon and 2 of the most famous ones can be found on one of the island's most beautiful beaches, Eagle Beach. Once you’ve gotten your photos of the beautiful trees, take some time to enjoy the beauty of Eagle Beach. That is if you have enough time left on your UTV rental!
We hope that this blog has helped you plan and make the most of your time on this beautiful island! If you did find it helpful, please consider heading over to our YouTube Channel and subscribing for more travel content, and following us on Instagram. It would mean the world to us!
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