Located just 18 miles off of the Venezuelan coast, Aruba (also known as “One Happy Island”), is 1/3 of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, & Curaçao) and at around 75 square miles it’s also the smallest of the three islands. But don’t let its small size fool you! This slice of paradise definitely lives up to the hype! From its award-winning beaches to beautiful Dutch architecture to world-class water sports and SO much more, Aruba has something for everyone! We had the pleasure of spending a week exploring this beautiful and unique desert island (yes… That’s right, it’s a desert island!) and we truly enjoyed our time! For that reason, we want to share what we think is the perfect way to spend a day in Aruba! Whether you’re stopping through on a cruise ship or you’re looking for ideas on what to do on your Aruba vacation, then you’ve come to the right place!
Looking for accommodations for your time in Aruba? See some of our suggestions HERE!
Be sure to check out our “One Day in Aruba” vlog for a closer look at our time on the island!
Now, let’s get to why you’re here…
8:00 am: Coffee/Breakfast
The Dutch Pancake House (where we went - Lloyd G. Smith Blvd 9, Oranjestad)
You may be thinking to yourself, “Why DUTCH Pancakes??” and rightfully so! We are in the Caribbean after all aren’t we? Well… Aruba is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and while it is a separate self-governing part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and has been since 1986, the Dutch culture is still very much alive here in Aruba. And that includes its pancakes! There are many places around the island where you can experience Dutch Pancakes, but The Dutch Pancake House is one of the most popular. For that reason, you can expect to wait upwards of 1 hour to get a table if you visit during peak breakfast hours (9-10:30 am), so be sure to get here early if you don’t want to waste precious vacation time in a line! That said, the food here is worth the wait! The Dutch Pancakes are thin and packed with flavor offering toppings like bacon, salami, mushrooms, onions, eggs, cheese, and much more! Or if you’re more of a sweet over savory kind of person, you can opt for some of their sweet toppings such as blueberries, pineapple, Nutella, powdered sugar, bananas, whipped cream, and more! Another great option to satisfy your sweet tooth is their Poffertjes (pronounced Pah-fur-jess from what we were told)! These mini, bite-sized pancakes are a popular treat in the Netherlands and have made their place here in the Aruban culinary scene as well! Just like the regular Dutch Pancakes, you can have these topped with a plethora of sweet toppings, but we kept it pretty simple with cinnamon and sugar and Nutella and we were not disappointed! They were light, fluffy, and cooked to perfection! And the cinnamon/sugar and Nutella was a delicious combo!
Eduardo’s Beach Shack (J.E. Irausquin Blvd 87, Noord)
Popular for their acai and pitaya bowls but offer other options as well like fresh mixed fruit bowls, vegetable juices, and smoothies.
Tip: Check out Eduardo’s Hideaway (Saliña Cerca 9N, Noord) for smaller crowds and indoor AND outdoor seating. Sure the views aren’t the same since it’s not located on the beach/ocean, but the menu is the same and lines tend to be shorter.
Island Grind Coffee (Palm Beach 13a, Noord)
Specialty Coffee Roaster serving delicious locally roasted coffee and teas as well as locally made pastries.
Linda’s Dutch Pancakes (Route 3 Palm Beach 6-D, Rte 3 6, Noord)
Another excellent option for Dutch Pancakes that’s located in a less touristy/popular area, so you might not have to wait as long but won’t sacrifice quality and flavor.
9:15 am: Explore Downtown Oranjestad
Serving as the capital of Aruba, the colorful city of Oranjestad is worth exploring while on the island. The brightly colored Dutch-style buildings house an abundance of shopping and dining. Also, be sure to see if you can spot all 8 of the blue horse sculptures around town. Yep, you read that right… Blue horse sculptures! In the 17th century, the horse trade was a large part of Aruba’s economy. The 8 blue horse sculptures you see in Oranjestad represent the important historical moment when the horses jumped from the ship deck into the Caribbean Ocean and swam to Aruban Bay. Another thing to note about the downtown area is that it is fairly small and easily walkable, but if walking doesn’t sound ideal to you, there is a free trolley to and from the main street downtown area in a loop with the cruise ship terminal and the streetcars can be boarded right outside the cruise port's main gate!
10:30 am: Hike Hooiberg Trail (12°31'10.4"N 69°59'37.4"W, Oranjestad)
At 541 feet, Hooiberg (also known as Haystack Mountain) is the 2nd highest peak on the island and probably the most interesting and fun one to climb. And while this hike is only a 0.5-mile out-and-back trail, the 587 stairs up the side of the mountain with 314 feet of elevation gain make it a little more strenuous than most 0.5-mile hikes. That said, it is totally worth the pain for the views at the top! Just be sure to bring plenty of water and wear your sunscreen! It gets HOT! It’s also worth mentioning that this hike is 100% free! No parking fees or park entrance fees! Just park in the small gravel lot at the trailhead and enjoy the hike!
12:00 pm: Aruba Aloe Factory, Museum, and Store (Pitastraat 115, Oranjestad)
Founded in 1890, Aruba Aloe is the oldest Aloe company in the world. All of the products that they sell are produced on-site using aloe grown in the Aloe fields that surround the Aruba Aloe Factory Museum and Store. The 30+/- minute factory and museum tour is free and runs every 15-minutes. It also includes a demonstration where you’ll see exactly how they harvest and “filet” the Aloe and you’ll learn about the history of Aruba’s Aloe industry and the many benefits of Aloe Vera (as a topical agent and ingested). They also have a store on-site where you can purchase all things, Aloe! From chapstick to soaps to after-sun creams, and anything else you can imagine, they’ve got it! I will say, we found the prices to be a little outrageous. We would have loved to buy so many items, but we just couldn't justify it. We did end up purchasing a small, 8.5 ounce bottle of the "After Sun Lotion" (for $25) and it really did make a difference with our sunburn. All-in-all, we truly enjoyed our visit here and learned more about Aloe than we even thought there was to know! Definitely worth a visit.
1:30 pm: Lunch
The West Deck (where we went - Lloyd G. Smith Blvd, Oranjestad)
Located on Governors Bay Beach (next to The Queen Wilhelmina Park-adjacent to The Renaissance Suites), The West Deck offers a relaxed, island vibe with incredible views and delicious dishes! We decided to go with 2two of their “Small Plates” and ordered the Pan-fried Island Mahi Mahi (served with a chunky mango and black bean mojo) and the Island Coconut Shrimp (battered in Balashi Beer & coconut then deep-fried, and accompanied by homemade mango chutney). Both the Mahi Mahi and the Shrimp were extremely fresh and cooked to perfection. The Mango Chutney with the Coconut Shrimp was the perfect combo of sweet and spicy and the mango and black bean mojo was an excellent touch of sweetness and acid to compliment the pan-fried richness of the Mahi Mahi. The West Deck also has a full bar offering tropical cocktails, frozen drinks, beers, wines, fresh local juices, and their island-wide favorite: the“Beer-Rita” which is tequila, triple sec, lime juice & a bottle of Balashi Chill (local beer)!
Zeerover (Savaneta 270, Savaneta)
Local bar and restaurant situated on the waterfront in the fishermen's town of Savaneta serving fresh fried fish and shrimp with side orders of fried plantain, french fries, pan bati (local version of cornbread), onions in vinegar, and tartar sauce.
Local Store (Palm Beach 13A, Noord)
A local favorite hang-out spot serving some of the best burgers in Aruba as well as Wings, Wraps, Craft Beers, and more!
Pelican Nest Seafood Grill (On Pelican Pier, J.E. Irausquin Blvd 237, Noord)
Located on the popular Pelican Pier on Palm Beach, Pelican Nest Seafood Grill opened its doors in 1994 and has been a favorite place for locals and tourists alike ever since. The views here are spectacular at any time of the day and the sunsets are second to none. The restaurant offers a wide variety of fresh seafood and they even offer the option to feed the fish while dining!
3:00 pm: Donkey Sanctuary (Bringamosa 2-Z, Santa Cruz)
Serving as a safe haven for injured and/or abused wild donkeys, The Donkey Sanctuary is one of the most unique experiences of the island and is a must in our book! At the time of our visit (July 2022), they had 127 of the approximately 160 on the island of Aruba in their care. When you visit, you have the opportunity to pet, feed (they offer feed for $1 & $3), and interact with the donkeys either from the other side of the fence or right in the action… The choice is yours! And since the Donkey Sanctuary is a 100% volunteer-run, non-profit organization, the entire experience is FREE! For that reason, we recommend purchasing something from the gift shop or making a donation to their cause. A couple of pro tips to make the most of your visit… 1.) Purchase some apples and carrots before arriving. It’s a welcomed change from the pellet feed and hay that the donkeys regularly eat. 2.) Do NOT try to feed the donkeys from inside the fenced area. They WILL swarm you. We made the mistake of not reading the fine print on the sign as we entered and had quite the stressful and overwhelming experience of being harassed by 20+ donkeys! Lol… 3.) Wear closed-toed shoes. If you plan to get up close and personal with the donkeys, you’ll want to protect your toes because getting stepped on by a 500+ pound donkey doesn’t sound like fun.
4:15 pm: Super Food Plaza (Bubali 141 A, Oranjestad)
You might be wondering why there’s a grocery store listed as a stop on this itinerary, and I wouldn’t blame you! But I promise that there’s good reason! One… This isn’t just any grocery store! At Super Food Plaza, in addition to your normal grocery needs, you can buy everything from high-end cosmetics at Bliss Beauty and Health to alcohol at Cheers Wines and Liquors to delicious prepared foods at Jack's Cafe Aruba and MORE! Two… This is the perfect place to get all the fixin’s (yes, I said “fixin’s” because I’m from the south) for your sunset picnic/dinner that you’ll be having later! Some of the things that we loved about Superfood Plaza were the readily available supply of freshly made bread (especially the baguettes), the high-quality Dutch meats and cheeses (think charcuterie board), and the stroopwafel stand! Yes, they have a designated area where they make fresh stroopwafels daily! So amazing! If you couldn’t tell, we loved this place. And we think you will too!
5:00 pm: Beach Time
The beaches in Aruba are world-class and no visit to this beautiful island would be complete without experiencing at least one of them! Here’s a list of some of our favorites!
Eagle Beach (Oranjestad)
Palm Beach (Noord)
Arashi Beach (Noord)
Boca Catalina Beach (Noord)
Malmok Beach (Noord)
Hadicurrai Beach (Noord)
6:45 pm: Picnic Dinner/Sunset on the beach
This is where your haul from Superfood Plaza comes into play, and we can’t think of a better way to end your day in Aruba… A relaxed picnic on the beach while watching an incredible Aruban sunset. What more could you ask for?
We hope that this 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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