Aruba: Unmatched island paradise

Aruba is one of the best values for travelers to the islands. Located just off the coast of South America, it’s tucked away from the hurricane zone, meaning that there’s no chance of any unwanted vacation interruption. And with so many flights from US gateways to the island, it’s one of the most accessible islands. Aruba’s Dutch heritage is noticeable from the moment you touch down. Oranjestad’s architecture, the local language Pappiamento (a mix of Portuguese and Dutch), and a variety of Dutch-influenced food are all part of an experience that, in my opinion, other islands cannot match.

Here are four reasons why you should pay a visit to this happy island.

Quinta del Carmen, a new restaurant in a restored mansion

1. The food
Aruba has a variety of delicious restaurants. The culinary scene is surprisingly vibrant and engaging with chefs interested in using island-grown ingredients while showcasing the Dutch heritage.

The newest restaurant opening on the island is Quinta del Carmen (right), which is located in a former country house with a magnificent garden and dining terrace. The chef and owner uses many of his grandmother’s popular recipes with plentiful Dutch inspiration. The watermelon and feta cheese salad was the perfect combination of sweet and salty, and the Dutch braised beef is a signature entree.

Hangop is a creamy Dutch dessert made from strained yogurt and is one of the best dessert options on the menu.

Traditional keshi yena (mmm, Gouda cheese!)

Another delicious island treat is keshi yena, which is typically served in a hollowed-out wheel of gouda cheese and stuffed with ground beef or chicken, vegetables, raisins, and more delicious cheese. The chef at Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts makes a particularly tasty version, which can be served as an appetizer or an entree. The iPad menus at the beachfront restaurant showcase the wide range of other options on offer.

Condiments for pastechi…mild or hot?

When strolling through downtown Oranjestad, be sure to stop for a pastechi, a fried pastry stuffed with cheese or meat. Pastechi is a popular breakfast item that locals often eat on the go. It’s often served with a variety of sauces, savory or spicy.

New trolley that circles the tourist areas, full of shopping, downtown

2. The shopping
Downtown Oranjestad has a variety of shopping options that include European brands like Mango and numerous duty-free shops. Travelers often come to the island to purchase jewelry and watches, which bear substantial discounts compared to shops in the US or abroad. A trolley winds through the heart of town taking visitors (often from the daily cruise ships) through the main shopping area and downtown core.

Many guests like to pay a visit to the Archeological Museum, which displays exhibitions from the island’s history and culture. Allow an hour to stroll through the museum before visiting the downtown area. A popular shopping venue sits across from the Renaissance Hotel on the waterfront.

Aruba’s Arikok National Park

3. The outdoors
When visiting an island, the first thing that comes to mind is lounging along the beach. And there is plenty of opportunity for that here. But Aruba also has a stunning landscape that ranges from desert scenery with blossoming cacti to lush forests with the famous Divi Divi tree that grows with twisting branches shaped from the island breeze.

Tip: Check out more on Aruba flora and fauna here.

A popular activity for visitors tired of sunning by the pool is hiking through Arikok National Park, where guided walks show off the flora and fauna on the island.

Visiting Guadirikiri Cave

If you have a rental car, ask for directions to Gaudirikiri Cave, where stalagmites have defined the shape of the cave.

Sunset at Bucuti Beach Resort

4. The resorts
As with many islands, there are numerous resorts on the island. All-inclusive options like the popular Riu and high-end hotels like the Ritz-Carlton lure vacationers. The adults-only Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts sports a quiet, relaxing atmosphere that appeals to those that want to avoid the rowdy activity found elsewhere.

Guests that book a suite at the Bucuti have a reserved cabana along the beach, and romantic dinners can be organized by the staff at sunset.

Bedroom at Bucuti Beach Resort

The Bucuti guest rooms are recently updated and feature cushioned mattresses with thick duvets and bathrooms with TVs built into the mirrors. Guests love the Aruba Aloe products in the rooms. Resorts on the island are grouped together in a cluster along Palm Beach, which is known as the high-rise area. Here, dozens of restaurants and shops keep the area hopping, especially after sunset.

Downtown Oranjestad, Aruba, with traditional Dutch architecture

Dutch culture, ever-present sunshine, and beautiful scenery make Aruba a popular choice for sun seekers. You’ll be surprised by the European feel of Aruba and its cosmopolitan vibe.

For more on Aruba, check out this piece from December: An Aruba hotel to treasure.

Welcome to Aruba!
Popular selfie spot in front of the Renaissance Resort
Quinta del Carmen, a new restaurant in a restored mansion
Delicious watermelon and feta cheese salad
Hangop, a traditional Dutch yogurt-based dessert
Traditional keshi yena (mmm, Gouda cheese!)
Digital menu at Bucuti Beach Resort
Order a traditional pastechi (they're filled with meat or cheese)
Condiments for pastechi...mild or hot?
Lots of fashion-focused and duty-free shopping on the island—like at Mango
New trolley that circles the tourist areas, full of shopping, downtown
Downtown museum of island history
Museum exhibit
Arikok National Park
Arikok National Park
Visiting the caves
Poolside at Bucuti Beach Resort
Bucuti Beach Resort
Sunset at Bucuti Beach Resort
Bucuti Beach Resort entrance
Bathroom, Bucuti Beach Resort (love the built-in TV!)
Bathroom, Bucuti Beach Resort (love the built-in TV!)
Downtown Oranjestad, Aruba, with traditional Dutch architecture
Island paradise

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9 Comments On "4 Reasons Aruba is Different from Other Islands"
  1. Julia|

    Nice article. I love Aruba

  2. Carol|

    just got back from two glorious weeks; Quinta del Carmen is fabulous; opened by the owner of Barefoot which is also a fantastic restaurant; great island and wonderful people

  3. CT Mom|

    We have tried other islands, and like most- we keep coming back to Aruba. The sheer number of restaurants is just amazing! All prices, all styles and tastes, few American chains (yuck). Your meal out puts money into the local economy- not like gated “fancy cellblock compounds” of major chains on other islands. Wander Aruba, and enjoy the people and the culture!!


    been coming to aruba for over 20 years and its been great.the aruban people are great and most others adopt the aruban with a few exceptions from south america.

  5. Robin Napravnik|

    We have been going to Aruba since 2001. Love the island. Not lush like most islands but the restuarants and beaches are wonderful … We stay at the Marriot Stellis and just love it.
    Try Anna Maria’s for dinner and Wacky Wah ho.

  6. Cindy|

    I have wanted to go to Aruba since I was 5 yrs old. Three yrs ago I got to go and have been returning each year and have already booked my 4th return. The Island, the people and the food are amazing. Can’t beat the beautiful sunsets and the beautiful beaches. We now can say we have family in Aruba because that’s how the people make us feel. As they say, One Happy Island!!!!.

  7. Clifford G|

    We have be to Aruba more 20+ visits and we will keep returning for the people and places. You have just “One Happy Island” to keep returning to year after year to see what changes and what remains the same. The biggest problem is where to eat as we to choose a restaurant that is different each time and we never have sufficient time to hit our favorites and also try the NEW HOT choices. We will be returning again and again to your piece of paradise Aruba.

  8. John|

    Aruba was nice, the food was great, people very friendly. One thing I really missed in Aruba though was the lush tropical vegetation you’ll find on islands like St. Lucia, Barbados, and Grenada. Yes, granted St. Lucia and Grenada are in the hurricane belt, but Barbados hasn’t been hit by a hurricane since Hazel back in the 50’s. Because Aruba gets very little rain, it is very arid, and there is a constant wind, especially when you’re on the beach.

    If you prefer lush tropical vegetation, Barbados would be a better choice. Barbados is in the same price bracket as Aruba, and has many of the same activities. Aruba is marginally safer and friendlier than Barbados. But like Aruba, t’s also easy to leave the resort and get around the island by bus, taxi or rented car, and there is so much to do.

  9. Jason|

    Aruba is overrated.

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