Aruba Shore Excursion Reviews

Aruba (Photo:Steve Photography/Shutterstock)

Popular Things to Do in Aruba

Aruba is located in the Southern Caribbean, and represents the first letter of the ABC island chain (which includes Bonaire and Curacao). Cruise ships dock in the city of Oranjestad. The island is a surprising mix of soft, white-sand beaches and desert; Dutch heritage and influences from nearby Venezuela. The official language is Papiamento, an intriguing blend of Dutch, English, Spanish and creole, but most islanders are multilingual (including English). The currency is the Aruban florin, but most shops and restaurants will accept the U.S. dollar.

Cruisers visiting Aruba will want to set out for the shoreline, visiting famous stretches of sand like Eagle Beach or Baby Beach. If time in port allows, be sure to book a sunset cruise shore excursion when the Aruban sky puts on a fiery show. Other popular excursions include an island tour, a trip beneath the Caribbean Sea in a submarine or a visit to an ostrich farm.

The weather is ideal in Aruba, which means that a daily average of 82 degrees Fahrenheit is kept comfortable by the trade winds that blow through, along with little rainfall. It's rare for hurricanes to reach this part of the Caribbean, which means that while it's pleasant to visit year-round, it can also withstand the hurricane season months of May through October.

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Aruba Cruise Tips, Activities, and Overview

Food and Drink in Aruba

Casual, In-Town Joints: The Old Fisherman is a family owned restaurant behind Royal Plaza that serves fresh seafood and local dishes (from 11 a.m.)

Water View: The Seaport Marketplace has a variety of eateries from which to choose.

Gourmet Lunching: El Gaucho, Aruba's best Argentinean restaurant, is located in an atmospheric old-town house on the east end of Oranjestad (open daily for lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m.).

For Late Diners: If you are in town for dinner (some ships disembark as late as 11 p.m.), consider skipping your onboard seating for a meal at Pinchos Grill & Bar (L.G. Smith Boulevard 7). The outdoor eatery is casual but chic; there's a funky bar, lit with Starbucks-esque lamps, and seating for diners is located along the perimeter with fabulous views of the water. The restaurant is actually located on a pier under-lit by twinkling, blue lights. Grilled meats round out the menu (5 p.m. until midnight or 1 a.m. daily, except Monday; sunset happy hours occur daily from 5:30 until 6:30 p.m.).

On the Beach: If you are spending the day on Palm Beach, stop for lunch at the Pelican Grill, set on a pier, over the water, behind the Pelican Tours outfit and near the Holiday Inn. It's not a fancy place by any means, but it's perfect for strolling in off the beach. The restaurant features a full bar (with a host of specialty drinks on the menu) and dishes from fresh fish sandwiches and burgers to a seafood platter costing more than $30. The ceviche appetizer is excellent. Open daily for lunch and dinner.

Readers Recommend: Passions on the Beach at the Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort (J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 252) is a great choice for a romantic meal alfresco. Member Arubalisa writes, "Everything from the food to the service -- it was nothing less than perfect and a wonderful evening. Our table was closest to the water with torches and a lantern on the table. I can imagine how nice it would be at sunset." Grilled meats and fish are main events, and the menu features a seafood sampler platter with Caribbean lobster tail, shrimp, grouper and mahi-mahi. You can make reservations online. Lunch is served from noon until 4:30 p.m., happy hour is from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., and you can get dinner from 6 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. The bar is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Best Cocktail in Aruba

Try the legendary Pink Iguana -- a concoction of frozen strawberries, pineapple, rum and coconut cream -- at Iguana Joe's Caribbean Bar & Grill (right next to the port, open from 11 a.m.). Or throw back a Balashi, the local brew.

Beaches in Aruba

Best Beach for an Active Day: Palm Beach, a 15-minute taxi or bus ride away from the terminal, offers water sports facilities such as scuba and parasailing. Other activities include beach volleyball and banana boat rides. Many of the large resorts are located right on Palm Beach, so gamers can duck into one of the hotel casinos for an added diversion.

Best Beach for the Dedicated Beach Bum: Eagle Beach, a hangout for tourists and locals alike, is the longest stretch of white sand on the island. All of the amenities are here, including lovely, shaded picnic areas. It's approximately 10 minutes away from the cruise pier by taxi or bus.

Best Secluded Beach: Rodger's Beach, on the eastern tip of the island (a 40-minute taxi ride), is a picturesque spot (if you can ignore the view of the refinery), known for its lovely shade palms, beach huts and crystal-clear, reef-protected waters. Arashi Beach, on the northern tip of the island, is another quiet option.

Best Beach for Families: Baby Beach, 40 minutes away by car, is a good stop for small children or inexperienced swimmers. The water, in a shallow pool created by man-made rock breakwaters, is no more than 5 feet deep. One drawback: There's only a handful of food stands. In addition to taxis, you can get there via public bus with a transfer in San Nicolas.

Don't Miss in Aruba

Duty-free shopping: The main shopping drag in Oranjestad is Caya G. F. Betico Croes. Royal Plaza and Seaport Village Mall, across the street from the terminal, are hot stops for unique jewelry and famous designer clothing stores (from Tommy Hilfiger to Guess). In the heart of Oranjestad are Benetton, The Sting, Mango, Lucor Jewelers, Artistic Boutique and many others. Handicrafts at Vibes Aruba (Royal Plaza Mall) has a wide selection of locally made and uniquely Aruban collectors' gift items, such as handmade driftwood candles and paintings and artwork from local artists.

Snorkeling: Try Malmok Beach, with small coral bays and plenty of colorful fish just 10 feet offshore; the wreck of Antilla, a WWII German freighter, can be seen peeking out of the water here (though it's too far to swim to -- book a catamaran tour if you'd like to snorkel the site). Because it's a beach largely frequented by locals, there are no facilities at Malmok. Those who like to snorkel independently can rent equipment from Red Sail Sports, near the cruise terminal, for $15 for the day.

Butterfly Farm: A fun diversion for both children and adults is the Butterfly Farm, located on Palm Beach. The Butterfly Farm is a huge, enclosed tropical garden, home to hundreds of beautiful butterflies. Tip: The best time to visit is in the morning when you can see the new butterflies emerging from their chrysalises. The farm is open daily from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Serious Snorkeling: Bachelor's Beach is a little rough for leisure swimming but offers experienced and adventurous snorkeling aficionados all kinds of underwater sights on its coral-covered bottom. Boca Grandi is another decent option for snorkelers.

Casinos: It may not be Las Vegas, but Aruba is certainly up-and-coming on the gambling scene, with 11 casinos island-wide. (The World Poker Tour even stopped here.) Many of the hotel casinos are quieter during the day (slots are open, for example, but tables are closed until early evening). However, the downtown Renaissance hotel -- close to the cruise port -- operates one of the few 24-hour joints on the island: Crystal Casino, always hopping with slots and table games. The Seaport Casino, also a Renaissance-operated facility, is another minute or two down the road featuring plenty of one-armed bandits.

Horseback Riding: You can go horseback riding, either to the California Lighthouse -- along the Malmok Beach stretch -- or to the Alto Vista Chapel, via Rancho Notorious (297 5860 508). Rancho Daimari offers clopping along the coast in Arikok National Park (+297 586 6284).

Golfing: Golfers should check out the Tierra del Sol, a Robert Trent Jones-designed, 18-hole (par 71) course. Reserve tee times in advance (+1 866-978-5158).