Experiential Travel Guide to Aruba

The tropical island of Aruba is a dream destination for many. But what most visitors don’t realize is that the island has a rough and tumble side too. Sure there are beaches, but there are also rugged cliffs and boulder strewn fields that offer a different type of natural beauty. Aruba is also a great vacation spot for the adventure traveler, from diving to going in a submarine, there are many options here to keep you occupied for weeks.

Linear Park Trail
The Caribbean features a lot of different ways to explore the ocean, but none are quite like the Atlantis submarine experience on Aruba. Guests embark on the afternoon adventure by taking a short boat ride out to the submarine dock itself. Then after boarding, passengers channel their inner Captain Nemo as they plunge more than 100 feet under water to get amazing views of coral reefs, colorful fish and even a shipwreck or two.
L.G. Smith Boulevard # 101, Noord, Aruba
Superlatives reign at this massive Palm Beach resort. Among the outsize offerings? The biggest casino in Aruba, with more than 500 slot machines and 26 gaming tables, as well as the island’s largest spa. Its 414 accommodations aren’t lacking for space either: Each room has a walk-in closet, double-sink bathroom, and private balcony; the highest-end suites are so palatial their balconies alone measure up to a sprawling 500 square feet—with ocean views to sweeten the deal. When you’re not playing roulette or indulging in a moisturizing coconut-milk wrap, kick back in one of the beachside palapas, or practice your breaststroke in the free-form pool, complete with cascading waterfalls and a volleyball net (a serene adults-only pool features a swim-up bar if that’s more your speed). In keeping with the more-is-more theme, guests are spoiled for choice with seven on-site restaurants, bars, and cafés, including a Ruth’s Chris Steak House, where the 500-degree plates ensure another best—the hottest meal in town.
This former mill in the northern part of Aruba hints at the island’s relatively unknown gold rush. First discovered in 1824, gold remained an important Aruban industry until around 1916, with the island producing more than 3 million pounds in total. The precious metal is even reflected in Aruba’s name, which roughly translates to “there was gold.” At this historic site, windswept stone ruins stand in the middle of a wide expanse of untouched land.
L.G. Smith Blvd, Noord, Aruba
Built between 1914 and 1916 on an octagonal base, this stone, double-lens lighthouse is Aruba’s marquee landmark. Standing tall at 98 feet, it’s the highest structure on the island and offers the best views in its respective area. It gets its name from the SS California, a British steamship that sank in nearby waters in 1891 and now functions as a fantastic dive site. Adjacent to the lighthouse, visitors will find a beloved Italian restaurant and the California White Sand Dunes, a hot spot for dune surfing.
Lloyd G. Smith Blvd 9, Oranjestad, Aruba
At Mopa Mopa in Oranjestad, local handicrafts aren’t just souvenirs—they’re decorative art. The gallery specializes in carved wooden figures, crafted lovingly in the traditional mopa mopa, or barniz de Pasto, style. To finish each piece, artisans paint them with vegetable dyes and resin-based lacquer, making for one-of-a-kind keepsakes. Visit the gallery to shop and speak with the artisans themselves, who will gladly answer questions and demonstrate their intricate techniques.
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