We just got back from our third trip to Aruba in 4 years, and let me tell you, it gets better every time we visit! My most asked questions from our trip is always where to stay, what excursions to do and where to eat. I will be covering this entirely in this blog post and then some! Today I’m sharing exactly What To Do In Aruba, so consider this your ultimate Aruba travel guide!
When we travel, we always prioritize 3 things: 1. safety, 2. amenities, 3. location. Aside from tons of friends and family raving about Aruba to us, we loved hearing how safe the island is, and that you can drink the water. You can walk around at night and not worry you’re going to be robbed or put in a dangerous situation! That’s truly invaluable to us. We absolutely love Mexico, but truthfully it’s one of the reasons we don’t go often.
In addition, you can drink their water safely! Aruba has very pure water, which is a huge bonus.
The food/restaurants in Aruba is literally second to none! I’ll go into details below, but trust me when I say the food on this island is the best we’ve ever had. We always look forward to eating and drinking there and there’s no shortage of places to explore!
I also have to say, the local Arubian people are genuinely amazing. The island is nicknamed “One Happy Island” for a reason! Everyone is so welcoming and kind, and the cab drivers are always kind and offer incredible recommendations. We truly are amazed by the local people every time we visit! They VALUE tourists, and that’s a great way to feel on vacation.
Where To Stay
The first time we went to Aruba, we wanted to get the full experience! Every review we read raved about The Renaissance Resort & Casino, which is located in Oranjestad. We knew that the Renaissance owned their own private island (flamingo island), totally complementary to their guests and difficult to get into if you’re not staying at the hotel (details below on how to get there regardless!). However, we heard the beaches were better on the Palm Beach side, so we decided to split our time between two hotels.
So, on our honeymoon in 2018, we spent our first 3 nights at the Renaissance Resort & Casino (in the Ocean View Suites) and next seven nights were at the Marriott Ocean Club, which is located on the opposite side Aruba on Palm Beach.
Now that we’ve stayed on both sides of the island, we much prefer Palm Beach. All of the nitty gritty details are below with a full review of both hotels and beaches.
Also – I got a TON of questions about all inclusives. We prefer not to be bound to the hotel for food and drinks. Plus, the island has some of the best restaurants I’ve ever eaten at, so I would say don’t do one!! Explore and eat out. I promise it’ll be worth it! Details below on where to dine in Aruba.
Renaissance Resort Review
The Renaissance actually has two hotel towers. One is on the Marina (where we stayed in 2018) and the other are the Ocean View Suites. We did actually have a suite, and the Marina towers do have a small beach. It was ok, but not great. Flamingo Island is amazing, but you do have to take a short boat ride there. So just know that if you choose to stay there!
The Location of the Renaissance is right by the cruise port. So there’s tons of shopping and restaurants! For shopping, they have luxury shopping (Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Prada are all located at the mall attached to the hotel), plus some local Arubian shops. We personally didn’t love being there when the cruise ships were on the Island, because they’re massive ships! Our cab driver told us that there were 7000 people getting off one day. That’s a LOT of people on a small island. So personally we preferred staying on the other side better, but there’s still perks to this area.
The room was a bit dated, but spacious! We had a one bedroom, sizable bathroom and tiny living room. The living room and bedroom furniture was very old, but the bathroom was updated (which was nice). Our sliding bedroom door also didn’t shut, it was just stuck. We didn’t bother to call down, because we didn’t care, but it should have been something the hotel fixed before putting guests in that room. Not a big deal since we were spending our time at the beach, but after a few days I was ready to try a new hotel. But, we had a stunning balcony view of the water! We loved sitting outside there.
The pool at the hotel was really nice! They had full service and a swim up bar. Plus plenty of chairs, which was nice.
There’s some really great food spots near this hotel! We ate at the Dutch Pancake House downstairs every morning for breakfast and absolutely loved it.
Overall, we probably won’t stay here again. This side of Aruba is good, but too touristy for me! I realize we’re tourists, too, but Palm Beach is much more peaceful. We prefer it!
Marriott Ocean Club Review
Now that we’ve been to Aruba 3 times, it’s clear we prefer the Marriott Ocean Club and Palm Beach over anything! We stayed here in 2018, 2020, and again this time in 2022. The location is great, there’s tons of bars, restaurants, and shops within walking distance. Plus, the beach is absolutely dreamy! It’s crystal clear aqua blue water, like you see out of a movie! The hotel was also renovated just a couple of years ago – so everything is brand new.
Our room at the Marriott Ocean Club in Aruba was a one bedroom suite. We’ve also stayed in a two bedroom suite, both are great size. I’ll post pictures below! Every single time we’ve had an ocean view. The staff is always super nice, as well.
I also have to say, our bed and pillows were amazingly comfortable! It’s very rare for me to get a good nights rest at a hotel, and this hotel is the exception! The king size bed and pillows they left us were all so comfortable. Jesse agreed!!
Where To Eat
There are literally SO many amazing restaurants in Aruba, you seriously cannot go wrong! I’m a huge fan of exploring new types of cuisine on the island, that’s why we rarely do All Inclusive Resorts. Below are a list of places we have eaten at over the years/trips in Aruba. Quite frankly, they’re all freaking good! I will say we NEVER miss going to Wacky Wahoo. It’s by far the most fresh, amazing seafood on the Island. Highly recommend if you love seafood!
- Farro Blanco at The Light House
- Wacky Wahoo
- The Kitchen Table
- Passions on the Beach
- The Dutch Pancake House
- Diane’s or Linda’s Dutch Pancakes (both are great)
- Aqua Grill
- Anna Maria’s
- Infini (12 course tasting menu)
- Apotheek – I won’t lie, I am not a cocktail girl, and this cocktail bar had the best bartenders EVER! I told him what I liked and he just crafted up some random cocktail that I lovedddd. Highly recommend for a drink before or after dinner!
- Fisherman’s Hut
I realize this is is a lengthy list, but every single one of these restaurants was to die for! We had no bad meals, and we loved not having to worry about drinking the water. Totally safe!
What To Do
This year (2022), we honestly just relaxed on the beach and went to Flamingo Island (details below). In previous years, we went on such a fun Island tour! I highly recommend signing up for Kukoo Kunuku. We did the wine and tapas tour. They pick you up on a party bus and bring you to 5 or 6 restaurants on the Island to taste food and wine. It’s SO fun! Highly recommend.
If you go to Aruba, you must check out Flamingo Island! There’s a catch though… you can ONLY go to the island if you’re staying at the Renaissance, which this trip (2022), we were not. So here’s the trick… book a massage on the island and you can get a free ride over and spend the entire day enjoying the flamingos!! IT’S WORTH IT.
The island is located just about 5 minutes away by boat. It’s such a breathtaking view, the water is clear, and the island is filled with iguanas and flamingos.
There’s also a restaurant and a couple of bars there, so plenty of food and drink. Thank me later!!
What To Pack
Head to my Aruba Outfit Post to see exactly what I wore on our trip to Aruba!
While you can rent a car, we have always opted to cab! The cabbies are mostly very friendly and offer some really good recommendations for restaurants and things to do. Plus the cabs are price regulated, which is very nice and everyone speaks english. Nothing is more than 10 minutes away for the most part. Be sure you bring cash (USD is fine), because not all cabs take plastic.
Overall Review of Aruba
We love Aruba and definitely plan on heading back! Overall feelings, we leave feeling so happy, we feel calm and safe while we’re there, and the food on the Island is truly incredible. If you get a chance to go, definitely do it!