Aruba is a breathtakingly beautiful island in the Caribbean, characterized by two distinctly different coasts. The West Side is where you will find the expensive tourist central areas lined with pristine white beaches and calm waters, while the East Coast of Aruba will surprise you with the uninhabited rugged coastline and fierce ocean currents.
Top Facts about Aruba
Aruba is an island in the Caribbean Sea. It is one of the four countries that make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands. More precisely, Aruba is one of the Lesser Antilles islands located in the Southern Caribbean Sea.
The island is located 480 miles off the coast of Venezuela and you can definitely see South America from Aruba’s East Coast.
The official languages of Aruba are Papiamento and Dutch, and everyone in Aruba speaks English.
All hotels in Aruba are under foreign ownership, many of the high rise hotels are American. Hotels are concentrated in two main areas: the high-rise area in Palm Beach and the low-rise area in Eagle Beach and Punta Brabo.
Is it worth visiting Aruba?
- There are so many incredible things about Aruba, such as its beautiful beaches and the convenience of mainstream American hotels at your fingertips, yet Aruba is not for everybody.
- The island of Aruba is expensive! Let’s remember that we are on the island where everything has to be brought from the mainland. Expect to spend quite a bit of money.
- This Dutch Caribbean island is not tropical. Being a desert island, Aruba has a distinct scarcity of freshwater and consistently ranks as having the least amount of rainfall in the Caribbean.
- Aruba has cactuses, dessert plants and animals, including snakes, and its terrain is similar to Arizona! Jeep safaris are common in Aruba.
- The island is also unusual in that its climate is exceptionally dry and much of its topography is flat. That means that most tropical plants in will see in highly commercialized areas were transplanted there from elsewhere. Don’t let the tropical greenery around the hotels fool you!
- The west side is all about tourism, and is not for travelers seeking any kind of real or intimate experience.
- The east side is rugged, windy and will make you feel like you are in a dessert. Or a moon:).
- You don’t need a car on the West Coast, but you must have a Jeep or book a tour with a Jeep to go to the other side of Aruba!
The West Side of Aruba
Here you will find a row of American hotels conveniently situated on Aruba’s best beaches: Eagle Beach, Palm Beach, Arashi Beach and Manchebo Beach. This area is full of restaurants, beach teeshirt shopping, and of course casinos.
Aruba is safe, friendly, provides quality dining and uncrowded beaches.
I found that while the beaches on this side of Aruba are truly beautiful, the snorkeling and other water activities are good, but the West Coast of Aruba can come across as over-commercialized and charmless, in my opinion. However, it’s a good spot for family vacations because there are a lot of kid activities, the area is absolutely safe and everything is convenient.
East Side of Aruba (Secrets Spots in Aruba)
If you are looking for an experience that involves adventure and even some risk, these secret spots on the East Coast of Aruba are for you. And if you are like me, always on the hunt for secret spots to discover in the Caribbean, you will find many of them in Aruba in this article! Caves, cave pools, natural pools, natural bridges and more!
- Welcome to the Aruba’s rough and rugged side!
- You are in the land of endless cacti, wild parakeets and scurrying iguanas.
- Be prepared for a bumpy ride to get to the natural pools and caves of Aruba, but this is what you get when going on a Jeep safari through the beautiful arid landscape of Aruba.
- Bring additional clothing because you will WANT to get into the water.
- Plan to bring some protein and carbs to last you a day!
Are there caves in Aruba?
Aruba’s East Coast is a home to magnificent caves of all sizes and shapes. Caves, also known as Indian caves, are important in Aruba’s history, as many of them have served as shelters for people or animals.
- Three caves worth mentioning are located in the Arikok National Park: Guadirikiri Cave, the Fontein Cave and the Huliba Cave.
- These are also called Indian Caves
- You will need to rent a Jeep or get a tour in order to get to any of these caves from the other side of Aruba.
- Bring a flashlight or use a phone to light the darker areas of the caves.
Once inside the Guadirkiri cave, you can see lighted areas ahead in contrast to the dark zones, with lots of natural light towards the back of the cave.
This contrast of lights is what makes the cave look and feel so incredible. Additionally, the light shined through the top, called the eyes of God, is a bonus! It’s a 30 minute stop, tops so I would make it part of a larger tour.
Do not visit Guadirkiri cave just for the sake of the cave – it doesn’t take too long to experience it!
Top things to know about Natural Pool Conchi
Aruba’s Natural Pool (Conchi) is a swimmable body of water. Because it is located on the uninhabited side of the island, the wilder side, I wanted to provide several tips.
- You will need a Jeep to get to the Aruba’s natural pool. We hired a jeep driver, but you can also do a safari tour with a group.
- Enter the park through the Arikok gate, pay, and it’s easy to follow the “road”.
- Expect a bumpy and slightly scary ride.
- Once you are at Conchi, get ready to walk up and down a rock cutout staircase to get to the pool.
- Bring and wear water shoes.
- The rocks are very slippery to get in and out of the natural pool.
- The natural pool has beautiful fish and crabs crawling around the rocks.
- You will be amazed!
Natural Bridge and Tripod Bridge in Aruba
The Natural Bridge in Aruba collapsed in 2005 but the remains are still there as the smaller ‘Baby Bridge’, also known as Tripod Bridge remains intact.
- Natural Bridge in Aruba may not be your cup of tea. Therefore make it a part of a larger tour.
- The tripod bridge is listed as one of many natural bridges on Aruba. However, this is the only bridge I saw on my week long trip to Aruba. This natural bridge is close to the bigger, fallen, more well known “Natural Bridge” that is no longer there!
- The easiest way to get there is to go to the Natural Pool first.
- Natural Bridge located in Arikok National Park
Is Aruba worth visiting?
If you are traveling with kids, absolutely! Aruba is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean. You have convenience, comfort and luxury at your fingertips.
However, scratch beneath the surface and you’ll soon establish that Aruba also has a number of hidden gems worth discovering on its East Coast!