Within Walking Distance
Oranjestad, Aruba's capital, has a sunny Caribbean demeanor, with Dutch colonial buildings painted in vivid colors. The main waterfront thoroughfare, L. G. Smith Boulevard, is crowded with marinas, shopping malls, restaurants, and bars. The harbor is packed with fishing boats and schooners docked next to stalls, where vendors hawk fruits, vegetables, and fish. The Atlantis Submarine excursion dives nearly 130 ft. below the ocean’s surface, allowing you to see coral and tropical fish from your thick glass window.
Beyond The Port Area
The best way to explore the island's desert like terrain from your Carnival cruise to Aruba is by four-wheel-drive vehicle. North Coast Jeep Safari starts their excursion clockwise from Oranjestad, driving toward the island’s northwestern most point. Here, you’ll see the California Lighthouse sweeping 360-degree views of gentle sand dunes, rocky coastline, and turbulent waves. The deeper you travel into the island's moonlike terrain, past heaps of giant boulders and barren shoreline, the rougher the roads. By the time you reach the Alto Vista Chapel, about 5 miles from the lighthouse, you'll probably be coated with red dust; it should contrast nicely with the quaint pale-yellow church, built in 1750 and the island’s first chapel.
Farther east, Natural Pool Off-Road Adventure will take you along the northern coast, Arikok National Park, Aruba’s showcase ecological preserve, which sprawls over roughly 20% of the island. Its premier attraction is a series of caves that punctuate the cliff sides of the area’s mesas. Heading southeast toward Aruba’s behemoth oil refinery, you’ll come to Baby Beach, at the island’s easternmost point. Like a great big bathtub, this shallow bowl of warm turquoise water is a great place for a dip after a sweaty day behind the wheel.
Beaches In Aruba
Palm Beach, home of Aruba’s glamorous high-rise hotels and numerous watersports operators, is great for swimming, sailing, people-watching, and snorkeling, do it all with a Catamaran Sail & Snorkel excursion. The island’s best snorkeling sites are around Malmok Beach and Boca Catalina, where the water is calm and marine life is plentiful. Dive sites stretch along the entire southern coast, you can dive the German freighter Antilla, scuttled during World War II off the island’s northwestern tip with Certified Two Tank Dive. For the non-dive certified, Sea Trek Helmet Dive at De Palm Island offers a way to see the underwater beauty without getting your hair wet. For prime windsurfing, head to Fisherman’s Hut, where you can let rip on the shallow, flat “Blue Highway.”
Shopping in Aruba
Because Aruba is part of the Netherlands, Dutch goods such as Delft porcelain, chocolate, and cheese are especially good buys. Creams made from locally produced aloe are also popular. Shops have the usual array of high-end luxury goods—but the small 3.3% duty and lack of sales tax make for some decent prices. Caya G. F. Betico Croes (aka Main St.) is the city’s major shopping street, running roughly parallel to the waterfront several blocks inland. Renaissance Mall, right downtown, is the number-one high-end shopping area.