Aruba might only be 75 square miles, but the tiny island is packed with so many great (and different) things to do. While hanging out at the beach is likely already on your itinerary, there are plenty of other to-dos worth adding to your list. Here's a collection of the top activities in Aruba when you -- gasp! -- get sick of the beach, start feeling hungry, or adventure strikes. Each one made the cut because they are unique to Aruba, a little bit bizarre, show a different side of the island, or simply can't be missed.
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1. Hang out with flamingos on a private island.
Yes, there are flamingos in Aruba — you just have to know where to look. These pink pals hang out on the exclusive beach of Renaissance Island, just an eight-minute boat ride from Aruba proper. This private island is owned by the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino, and guests have free access. Not a guest? Don’t worry, as you can still hang with your leggy friends by purchasing a day pass or booking a spa treatment on the island.
2. Take a pirate ship out for a snorkel trip.
For anyone who has ever wanted to be a pirate in the Caribbean, now’s the time. Jolly Pirates is decked out like a proper pirate ship and sets sail three times a day. Snorkel trips include visits to a bonafide World War II shipwreck, or there’s a more mellow sunset cruise. Like any good pirate ship, there are unlimited rum drinks and even a few cannonballs off the rope swing.
3. Adventure through Arikok National Park.
Aruba is a unique Caribbean island in that it’s arid, with a rough and rocky landscape. While you’ll find palm trees popping up all around, they’re outnumbered by succulents and other desert-like plants. In Arikok National Park, the scenery is breathtaking. Considered a national jewel and covering one-fifth of the island, it’s a must-do, especially for anyone with adventure in their veins. Whether you rent an off-road vehicle to bounce around the park or join a tour, you’ll have the option to explore caves, swim in a natural pool, jump off a cliff, check out old gold mine ruins, or just drive up the coast and soak in the spectacular views. Just be sure to bring water.
4. Eat fresh fish while watching the sunset.
For fish that’s fresh off the line, head to the sleepy village of Savaneta and pop into a little dockside fishing joint called Zeerover’s. The menu here is simple: pick your catch of the day and a side or two, snag a spot at one of the picnic tables, and grab a drink. If you time your visit right, you can catch the fishermen bringing in their haul from the docks out back. This is a place for purists, fish are filleted, thrown straight into oil, and served with a few slices of lime and hot sauce. We recommend heading there for sunset, but go a little early because lines can get long (though they move quick).
5. Try your hand at windsurfing.
Aruba is known for its strong crosswinds, which not only keep mosquitoes at bay but also make for great wind sport conditions. Aruba is actually one of the best places in the world to windsurf or kitesurf. Windsurfing is easy to learn, and novices can slice through the trade winds after only a 30-minute lesson. Kitesurfing takes a few days to get the hang of and is much more of an investment.
6. Taste your way through over 75 flavors of rum.
Rum lovers unite at The Arubian Taste. This small mom-and-pop rum and souvenir shop has over 75 homemade flavors of rum, and the owner Julie will encourage you to taste every single one. Basically, if it’s a popular flavor, they’ve mixed it with rum (think passionfruit, aloe, honey, chocolate, blueberry, ginger, and more). These cheery rum runners are also aware of airport regulations and have several airplane bottle-sized options, or can even ship to your home. Tip: Take a taxi or have a designated driver.
7. Try a bubbling pot of keshi yena.
For a taste of Aruban history, sink into a bubbling pot of keshi yena. Like many popular dishes with humble beginnings, keshi yena started out as a meal thrown together by poor slaves. Table scraps of meat and vegetables would be tossed into discarded wheels of Edam or Gouda cheese, and then baked until it created a type of hearty casserole. Ironically, this dish today can fetch a more expensive price, though tracking it down can be tricky and recipes tend to vary. Try it at The Old Cunucu House or the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino‘s beach restaurant.
8. Hunt for the 'I <3 Aruba" sign.
Somewhere around the island are two “I <3 Aruba” signs, which make for fun and popular photo ops. While there’s usually one off the main road in downtown Oranjestad, the second one has a case of wanderlust, popping up in random places. While we don’t think you should devote an entire day to the cause, being on the lookout for the sign can be a fun game while you’re exploring the island.
9. Feed an ostrich.
Flamingos aren’t the only unique birds to rub elbows with while on the island. Surprisingly, there are also ostriches, and you can feed them. Since Aruba’s arid landscape is so similar to certain areas of South Africa, the ostriches at the Aruba Ostrich Farm feel right at home. Guests who visit the farm can take a tour to learn more about the large, flightless birds, and even participate in a frenzied hand-feeding. Afterwards, if you can stomach it, the on-site restaurant serves up ostrich omelets, steaks, and sandwiches.
10. Hit up an art walk through San Nicolas.
Believe it or not, Aruba has a pretty serious street art scene. San Nicolas, the island’s second-largest city, has undergone a rebirth from its former life as an oil refinery town. The oil refinery shut down in 2009, and the town was mostly just scenery for folks en route to somewhere else. However, in 2016, the Aruba Art Fair changed everything. Now, this area is bustling with galleries and colorful commissioned murals from international street artists. Several pieces incorporate the building’s features, play with perception, or are impressive sculptures. Almost every single piece we’ve seen is Insta-worthy.
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