Popular Aruba Shore Excursions
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).
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.