JOURNEYS

Aruba’s Otherworldly North Side

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Known for its white sandy beaches, colorful architecture, and friendly locals, Aruba truly is “One happy island” that warms your heart. A lesser-known yet must-see of the island is Aruba’s untouched North Side, where rugged terrain meets the sea for stunning views and plenty of off-the-beaten-path activities.

The whole of Aruba is only 20 miles long so it’s easy to get to this area flush with vegetation and volcanic rocks, making it ideal for outdoor exploration and those looking for more secluded adventures. This four-day itinerary shows you exactly how to experience Aruba’s North Side with fewer crowds and eye-opening scenery that helps you feel at one with your surroundings. Hike or bike your way through desert landscapes, learn how to catch the wind and kitesurf, and explore a shipwreck. Read on for more fabulous experiences that will leave you feeling the Aruba Effect—a sense of newfound happiness and excitement that lingers with you long after you return home from your adventure.

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TRIP HIGHLIGHT

The Antilla Shipwreck

The Antilla shipwreck just off the coast of Aruba is mostly still intact, which means divers can explore the porthole, deck fitting, and interior sections of this sunken ship, providing an underwater experience you’ll never forget.
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TRIP DESIGNER

The Aruba Tourism Authority

The Aruba Tourism Authority strives to enlighten travelers on all the wonders Aruba has to offer. From white-sand beaches to beautiful desert landscapes and so much more, the Aruba Effect takes hold, sending travelers home with a warm, incomparable sense of centeredness that lasts and lasts.
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Day 1Hike or Bike the North Side

If you’re looking to see the North Side while getting in some exercise, lace up your sneakers or hit the road on your bike, as there are lots of trails and landmarks to explore in this part of the country. Head to the Alto Vista Chapel, which is a good place to start a hike or bike ride. The small, yellow chapel was built in 1952 on the site of the first Catholic church built in Aruba in 1750 and is accessed by following a winding road marked with white crosses. Right next to the church is a labyrinth, often walked by visitors looking for a bit of mindfulness. From here, walk along one of the trails by the ocean for a quiet, peaceful Aruban experience.

Near Noord/Tanki Leendert, you’ll find a 2.6-mile loop trail that takes you past beaches, rocky coastline, cactus stands, and waves crashing against shoreline boulders. It takes about an hour to complete the entire trail, but it’s a great way to see the beauty of the North Side.

A popular trek is to see the California Lighthouse, named for a wrecked ship called the California. It’s a prime spot for seeing the sunset, and there’s a loop trail surrounding the lighthouse that offers trekkers beautiful views of the coastline, sand dunes, and cacti. Photographers love this trail for its sunrise and sunset views, and it’s a lovely way to explore the quieter side of Aruba.

Stay at Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa, an Eagle Beach gem surrounded by lush gardens and ocean views. Head to the beach for daily pilates and yoga or check out the spa for a therapeutic massage after a long day of activity. The resort also has four restaurants, including a Mediterranean bistro, a steakhouse, and a sushi bar to keep your palate delighted your entire stay.

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Day 2Learn to Kitesurf

Aruba’s flat, shallow waters, constant 15-knot trade winds, and shifting wave conditions make it an ideal place for kitesurfing, which is surfing while using a kite and wind to pull you across the water. Don’t worry if you don’t know how. Aruba is a great place for beginners and experts alike to enjoy a day ripping across the water and will give you an invigorating feeling that creates memories connecting you with Aruba forever.

The Aruba Kitesurfing School offers kitesurfing, surfing, and body boarding lessons and serves hundreds of students a year. At the Fisherman Huts, Armando’s Kite Shack also holds kitesurfing lessons for all ages, and Vela Sports Aruba teaches kitesurfing, windsurfing, kayaking, snorkeling, paddleboarding, and more. Strap in and get ready to feel a sense of weightlessness and thrill you’ve only experienced in your dreams.

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Day 3Enjoy the Beach with Some Thrills

In between all your North Side adventures, it’s important to remember there’s always a sandy beach nearby, even when exploring this rugged side of the island. The waters on the North Side can be rough though, so swimming is generally not encouraged and be sure to pay attention to signs about conditions. For calm waters, Arashi Beach, near the California Lighthouse, is a beloved spot for snorkeling and watching the sunset.

For a bit more seclusion, check out Boca Catalina Beach for snorkeling and welcoming waters for swimming. Thrill seekers enjoy snorkeling or diving the Antilla Shipwreck just off the coast of the North Side. The M.S. Antilla sunk here in 1940, and today is one of the largest shipwrecks in the Caribbean. Snorkel above the wreck and peer down at the 400-foot-long ship resting below, or dive down into the ship and see coral, lobsters, anemones, and tropical fish—an experience you’ll be recounting for years to come.

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Day 4Learn About Aruba’s Gold History

In 1824, gold was discovered in Aruba. Shortly after, mines were built throughout the area, and the gold industry flourished here until the early 1900s. Today, visitors can see these gold mine ruins at Bushiribana, which processed gold from nearby mines. More than 100 years later, the old stone walls of the mill remain intact, and visitors are welcome to roam through the structure. Take a climb up the staircase along the mill’s southern wall to enjoy a stunning view of the Caribbean.

So whether you choose to tackle tough hikes, pick up a new sport, take it easy along the rugged shoreline, or explore some Aruban ruins, you’ll soon feel the Aruba Effect take hold. And here’s the best part—your time off the beaten path in Aruba will send you home with a feeling of wonder and adventure that never fades.