Aruba, located in the Netherlands Antilles, is white sandy beaches, clear water, colorful fish, and picturesque views. Pastel colored Dutch houses juxtaposed against this backdrop transport you to a tropical Amsterdam. Like most other Caribbean islands, Aruba is very expensive, as a destination where grandmas and honeymooners go to relax. You will pay a premium for hotels, food, and activities, but by eating locally and staying in guesthouses, there are ways to make your trip to paradise a bit more affordable (like in this guide!).
Accommodation – Accommodation is extremely expensive in Aruba. Hostels aren’t really an option here, and a night in a guesthouse will cost from 90 AWG per night. If you’re feeling fancy, a night in a budget resort hotel will start at 200 AWG. This is a place where Airbnb is a great resource – locals rent their apartments or spare rooms and will definitely help you find a beautiful place for less.
Food – Lunch and casual meals begin at 27 AWG. Dinner and drinks in a moderately priced restaurant will start at 54 AWG.
Transportation – The Arubus goes all around the island, and a ticket will cost you around 4 AWG (one way). Taxis start at 10 AWG. If you’re staying a while, think about getting a Smart Card that saves you each trip.
Activities – Jet skiing will cost you about 115 AWG for half an hour, and parasailing will be about 105 AWG for 15 minutes. A two tank scuba dive will cost around 160 AWG.
Money Saving Tips
Eat local – Local specialties such as grouper, mahi mahi, and snapper are less expensive than other seafood options – and fresh!
Supermarkets – Buy food in the supermarkets, and cook your own meals. Restaurants are expensive here as they cater mostly towards travelers with a large budget.
Travel off-season – September-November is the low season when accommodations and activities are markedly cheaper.
Get free stuff – Many hotels offer free use of snorkeling equipment, included breakfasts, and organized excursions that can reduce costs.
Top Things to See and Do in Aruba
Snorkeling – Snorkeling is pretty much the number one thing to do on the island. The shores are filled with brightly colored coral, angel fish, clown fish, and even the occasional octopus. Many hotels offer their guests free use of snorkeling equipment.
Scuba diving – There are a few dive sites such as the Antilles wreck and sunken airplanes just off Renaissance Island. You’ll see a lot more coral and fish than you would just snorkeling. Expect to pay around 160 AWG for a two tank dive.
Kayaking – For a relaxing way to explore Aruba’s coast, try kayaking. Many hotels offer their guests free use of kayaks. Otherwise, expect to pay around 45 AWG per hour for a rental. The coastline has a lot of little coves to explore, so take your time!
Sailing – Outside of snorkeling and diving, sailing is probably the most popular activity here. For the best experience, take a sunset cruise on board a catamaran or hire a skipper with a group of friends.
Golf – Expensive holiday resorts and golfing go hand in hand, right? Expect to pay up to 180-285 AWG for a round at the island’s Championship Course, Tierra Del Sol, or just 54 AWG for a round of 9 holes at the Aruba Golf Club.
Oranjestad – Aruba’s capital city is styled in typical Dutch architecture and plenty of pastel colored buildings. The downtown area is good for shopping, with stalls and small boutiques, while the harbor is the place to buy fresh fish. There are a couple of museums in the city that highlight the history of the island, but these are smaller destination.
Jeep tours – One of the best ways to view the island is by taking a 4×4 tour that allows you to see parts of Aruba that lie off the beaten track, including the rugged north coast of the island. Renting your own jeep is a better and cheaper way to do this, however – let the adventures begin!
The Collapsed Natural Bridge – Once extending over 100 feet across and 25 feet high, this bridge was carved into the coral naturally by the sea, until it collapsed in 2005. A very popular tourist attraction, this is an awesome viewpoint and lookout. Despite the collapse of the main attraction, there are many smaller bridges surrounding it where many of the guided island tours stop for a photo-op.
Peace Labyrinth – Sitting atop a bluff that overlooks the Caribbean Sea is the Peace Labyrinth, a place for silent and respectful contemplation’.
Rent a quad – A quad really lets you get off the beaten track and explore some of the smaller beaches and jungles on the island. While getting a guide is an option, you are also free to roam around the island on your own.
Donkey Sanctuary – Once a major mode of transportation, donkeys now live primarily within the sanctuary. This is a fun place to spend the afternoon, especially if you have kids along. Watch over 100 donkeys wander around while you grab some munchies and feed the floppy eared creatures.
Horseback ride – Another way to tour the island is by horseback. There are various companies to choose from, all of which have very well-cared-for and very well-trained horses that give you the opportunity to ride through the hillside and along the coast.
Archaeological Museum – This museum displays a variety of stone, shell, and ceramic artifacts from Aruba’s native population that give you an idea of the island’s customs, deep-rooted beliefs, and old traditions.
Numismatic Museum – This museum has a collection of more than 35,000 different pieces of currency from over 400 countries.
Hike Hooiberg – Also known as Haystack Mountain, this is the center of the country. Standing over 500 feet tall, this is the perfect place to look over the island and get panoramic pictures. On a clear day, you can see the coast of Venezuela.