There’s a reason Aruba is called the “Happy Island.” For one thing it’s tough to be sad in this sun-drenched Dutch West Indies locale that is one of the Lesser Antilles islands in the Southern Caribbean Sea.
For sure water worshippers will smile; for them, the sea is the answer to all that soothes the soul. There are more than a dozen beaches in Aruba. The sea takes center stage, whether you want to soak up the sun perfecting your tan, swimming, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, windsurfing, canoeing, paddle boarding, sailing, or deep-sea fishing, maybe you’ll get lucky and catch Mahi, Barracuda or Marlin. Or, simply chill on a sunset cruise. Divers will think they’ve died and gone to heaven with the many dive sites and shipwrecks, especially the 400-foot Antilla, a WWII casualty. Thrill seekers can also parasail, hop on a jet ski or try a JetLev, a water-propelled jet pack that powers you to fly above the water. No worries if you’re not a snorkeler or diver, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the splendors of the sea. You can still go deep. Take an underwater narrated tour via a semi-submarine or a real submarine via De Palm Tours. But for a bigger thrill go for a Sea Trek. You’ll never forget descending to the ocean floor and glimpsing the underwater world of sea life, the stunning colors of the coral reefs and more. You can get the experience of diving or snorkeling without all the work. During a Sea Trek you walk the ocean floor on a custom walkway, 20 feet below the surface, wearing special diving helmets where you can breathe normally. This can be done by people who are not swimmers.
Land lovers won’t be disappointed though. Hop on a motorcycle or take an e-bike tour. Arikok National Park takes up nearly 20% of Aruba’s landmass. It’s the backdrop for 20 miles of rugged and wild, desert-like terrain waiting to be explored on an ATV, UTV, Jeep Safari, horseback or on foot. Nestled among the cactus on the northern shore, Arikok National Park not only has hidden beaches, natural bridges, and pools, but historical cave paintings, indigenous flora and fauna, rattlesnakes, owls and blue whiptail lizards. There’s plenty of hiking on the island. But two rock formations that must be climbed and explored are Ayo and Casibari. Ayo Rock Formation’s huge boulders definitely have the wow factor. You’ll likely understand why the ancient site with its thousands of years old rock drawings was believed to be a sacred site. Casibari’s big boulders are off the main road to Santa Cruz. There are walking trails and steps through the boulders that make it possible to get to the top and exhale and take in 360-degree views. For quieter land adventures, there’s birdwatching. Aruba has more than 200 species of birds. Do check out Palm Beach’s Bubali Plas Bird Sanctuary, with its bird-watching tower that overlooks marsh areas.
You’ve got your to-do list sorted out, on to the matter of where to stay. Keep it simple and go with an all inclusive resort. You have outstanding options. Here’s a look at some of the best all-inclusives in Aruba.
Tamarijn Aruba & Divi Aruba
This is a sweet deal for sure. Stay at one resort and play at the other. Divi Aruba and adjacent sister property Tamarijn are both on Druif Beach. Take your pick of 10 dining options and eight bars. Cool off with a cocktail at one of the four freshwater pools. Water sports like snorkeling, windsurfing, kayaking, catamarans and floats are included. Also included are e-mountain bikes, including group and private tours to Boca Catalina and the Lighthouse. For children ages 4-12 there’s The Sea Turtle Club. The fun includes beach scavenger hunts, sandcastle building contests, kite building and flying and more. There’s also pool basketball, tennis and golf for kids, an oceanfront fitness center and a 30’ beachside rock-climbing wall. Want more? Go for water aerobics, Pilates, Hatha yoga, Zumba and classes on casino games, billiards, basketball, soccer games and darts. For an extra fee, play golf on the 9-hole course, The Links at Divi Aruba. To wind down, head to the Indulgence by the Sea Spa. Your day is not complete until you’ve experienced the night life, which could be a live jazz show, salsa dancing, an Aruban steel drum set, theme parties, fire eating, karaoke, or movie nights.
The 5-star resort is on the much beloved Palm Beach. But just as stunning is the lagoon-shaped swimming pool with rocks and palm trees creating the ambience of being in the heart of nature. Flop into a hammock to sunbathe and if you like, take a dip in one of two hydromassage pools. If you’re in the mood for action, there’s kayaking, water polo, darts, windsurfing, kite surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, tennis courts (you can also get private lessons if you want to step up your game) and fitness studio decked out with the latest equipment. You can request scuba diving classes in the pool and golf is nearby. The Kids Club will keep those ages 4-12 wishing they didn’t have to go home. Feast at seven restaurants and drink up at three bars. For sure you’ll want to take in the live music at the Lobby Bar. Feeling lucky? The newly refurbished casino awaits. Your big decision will be whether you would prefer to be pampered by a masseuse in your room or the spa. If you have the urge to splurge, go for the Royal Level Service, the upper three floors of the North Tower are an elegant boutique hotel where you’ll enjoy the All-Inclusive Premium experience, that includes the all-inclusive plan plus access to exclusive amenities and services just for VIPs.
Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort
Everyone in the family can choose a favorite among the four freshwater pools. The kids will go for the waterslides and the grownups the swim-up bar and quiet adult area. Prefer the beach? It’s directly across from the resort. Dive, snorkel, kayak, go rafting, join a game of beach volleyball. Golf fans can get their fill at The Links at Divi Aruba, and if you’re a beginner, no worries there’s a golf course, as well as a tennis learning center. Dining options include restaurants by the pool as well as the golf course’s gourmet offerings, Windows on Aruba and Mulligan’s Golf Café, Bar & Restaurant. Relax at Indulgence by the Sea Spa.
Hotel Riu Palace Aruba
You can do as much or as little as you like at this slice of paradise on Palm Beach. Start your morning with a walk on the beach or time in the gym. Later standup paddle surf, dive, take a scuba diving lesson in the pool, kayak or kick back poolside. Relax further at Renova Spa. How does a hot stone massage sound? Finish off your spa time with a whirlpool bath. For kids ages 4-12 there are activities at the Mini Club and playground. The littlest ones aren’t forgotten, there’s also an infant’s pool. When you’re ready to dance the night away and party like it’s 1999, do it at Riu Palace Antillas disco.
Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa
For a walk on the quieter side, consider Eagle Beach where you’ll find the Manchebo Beach Resort. It’s not for naught that the 72-room boutique hotel has been around 50 years. It’s one of Aruba’s top wellness resorts. The Oceanfront Spa del Sol is an intimate, open-air center for respite. There are yoga and Pilates classes. Personal training is available, as are wellness workshops. The Fitness Studio with tropical garden views has cardio and strength training equipment to maintain your mojo going while on vacation. Four restaurants feature health-conscious cuisine with an abundance of vegan and gluten free options. Do dine at The Chophouse, where you can tickle your palate with the finest cuts of meat and fresh-caught Caribbean fish, local delicacies and international dishes paired with fine wines.