Welcome to the Aruba cruise port!
Aruba is a gorgeous little island located just a few miles off the Venezuelan coast in the southern Caribbean Sea. It is one of the three islands that make up the ABC Islands: Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. “One Happy Island”, as Aruba is often referred to, is known for its spectacular sandy beaches, diverse landscapes, vibrant capital and a variety of things to do. In this article, read about:
- Aruba cruise port (Aruba cruise terminal info, getting around the port, helpful cruise tips)
- Top 10 things to do in Aruba & best shore excursions
Aruba Cruise Port Info
The port of Aruba consists of two modernly equipped cruise terminals located in the very heart of Oranjestad, the island’s capital. Aruba is a constituent country of the Kingdom of Netherlands with a few other Caribbean countries and the name of the capital refers to the orange color – a symbolic color of the Netherlands and Dutch people.
There are 4 berths and all of them are next to each other, so everything is quite simple and there is not much walking involved. The cruise terminal boasts a modern building filled with souvenir and clothing shops, restrooms, a tourist information center (where you can get maps and brochures), tour booths, car rentals, a post office, and more.
- The port area is flat and suitable for wheelchair users and people with walking difficulties. Oranjestad is also flat and easy to navigate.
- If you are joining a cruise line-sponsored shore excursion, the tour operators will wait for you inside the building with the signs displaying the name of the shore excursion. However, always double-check the meeting time on your tour ticket as that might change sometimes. If you book a tour with an independent tour operator, the tour guide normally waits for you either inside the terminal building or outside by the exit of the terminal.
- From your cruise terminal, everything is within walking distance – the main street, designer shops and glamorous boutiques, jewelry stores, casinos, malls (Renaissance mall is the most famous one – just a 5-10 minute walk from your cruise ship), restaurants, bars, the waterfront promenade, and main historical landmarks: Fort Zoutman historical museum, the Archaeological Museum, and the Parliament building.
- Oranjestad is an amazing place to explore and go shopping, and my advice is to save some time to visit the capital as well. If you search for an ATM or free wi-fi, you can get them at the Diamond International store that you’ll spot upon exiting the terminal. There is an ATM inside the terminal building as well.
- The currency in Aruba is the Aruban Guilder (aka Florin; AWG). 1 USD equals 1.79 AWG. Credit cards and US dollars are widely accepted in Aruba, so there is no need to change the money. However, you may receive the change in local currency. See the currency converter
- Aruba boasts a tropical semi-arid climate and is hot all year round. The island sits outside the hurricane belt, so there’s very little threat of tropical storms, especially from April to August. For helpful packing tips, check out my article What to Pack for a Cruise – Top 50 Cruise Essentials
- Aruba Airport (aka Queen Beatrix International Airport) is the only international airport on the island and is located 4.8 km/3 miles (less than a 10-minute drive) from the Aruba cruise terminal.
- Check out the best hotels in Oranjestad
Getting Around Aruba
There are several different ways to get around Aruba:
- By public bus – The main bus station is located on L.G Smith Boulevard, located across the street from the cruise terminal. I suggest you use a bus to go to one of the Aruba beaches, such as Eagle beach which is one of the most famous ones. You’ll pay only a couple of dollars (around $2.50 round-trip, while a one-way ticket is around $1.50 per person) instead of taking a taxi which can be much more expensive. Make sure you have some cash on you. The buses accept dollars as well.
- By taxi – Taxis in Aruba are not metered, and the drivers should stick to the official fares established by the government. However, they don’t always respect that, so it’s highly recommended to check the official fares at the tourist information center beforehand and then agree on the price with the driver.
- By rent-a-car – I rented a car once and it was truly amazing! Aruba is a small island easy to get around, and if you carefully plan your day, you can visit the majority of the island’s attractions in a few hours. When it comes to car/off-road vehicle/bike rental, it is relatively easy as you’ll find many car companies and local vendors outside the terminal. However, I definitely suggest you book a car online, as you can get much better deals than on-site. Check out the best Aruba rent-a-car deals and prices
- I dedicated an entire article to help you plan your itinerary, so make sure you check it out: Aruba Highlights in a Day
- On a shore excursion – You can book a shore excursion through your cruise line, or through an independent tour operator. Both options are reliable, although cruise line excursions tend to be more expensive than the ones of independent tour operators. There are normally plenty of local vendors outside the cruise terminal, however, the quality of their services may not be guaranteed (I had a negative experience with ATV rental).
Top 10 Things to Do in Aruba Cruise Port
Before I share with you the best things to do in Aruba, I invite you to sign up below and get my insider SHORE EXCURSION GUIDE for FREE!
1. UTV Off-Road Adventure
This is an absolutely extraordinary experience if you enjoy adrenaline activities. You can rent a UTV and explore the island on your own, or you can book a guided UTV off-road excursion that will cover the island’s major attractions.
The guided tours normally start in Oranjestad, the capital of Aruba where the cruise terminal is located. Once you arrive at the private property where the UTV vehicles are parked, you get provided with the equipment (bandana) and the safety briefing. During the ride, you normally stop in different places within Arikok National Park that cannot be visited by car or bus. The terrain is extremely rugged but easily manageable with an off-road vehicle. In addition, your guide/instructor is with you all the time, so in case you get stuck, they will help you.
During the ride, you get to see some of the major island’s attractions:
- The Natural Bridge – There are several Natural Bridges on the northern and eastern rugged shore of Aruba. Natural bridges are the island’s natural wonders made of coral limestone, created by the strong winds and waves over the centuries. They are truly impressive to see, so make sure you have a good camera on you!
- Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins – The remnants of a former gold mill built from natural stone in the 19th century. The mill was built by the Aruba Island Gold Mining Company, for the purpose of extracting gold from the ore mined in the nearby hills. You will learn about the 19th-century Gold rush in Aruba and the pirates that used to hide in the ruins!
- Ayo Rock Formations – Another natural wonder of Aruba that got its name after the nearby village is also known as the Casibari Rock Formations. The unusual formations made of tonalite rocks were used by the Arawak people, the earliest settlers on the island – their paintings and inscriptions carved in rocks are still visible today! It is possible to climb the formations following man-made paths and take some breathtaking photos of the entire island. There is also a restaurant there, so you can use the restrooms and get refreshments if you wish!
Note: The off-road trips may include some other stops as well (check them before booking). The entire experience doesn’t suit people with back or knee issues, as the terrain is rugged and the road very bumpy. Get ready to get very dirty, as you’ll be driving through dirt and dust. Also, if you decide to rent a UTV and explore the island on your own, make sure you plan the itinerary to cover some of the island’s main attractions.
2. Kukoo Kunuku Party Bus
Kukoo Kunuku is a very authentic, open-air, colorful party bus typical for Aruba. The cruise lines and travel agencies have different tour offers – some include a Kukoo Kunuku sightseeing tour with a beach break and some include a Kukoo Kunuku night tour with stops at local bars, with complimentary drinks included and local dancing.
One is sure – whatever tour you choose, you will have a hilarious time with lots of laughter and fun, as the tour guides are extremely entertaining and friendly. People of all ages can join the ride, as the experience doesn’t require any demanding physical activity level.
Insider tip: If you want to book this tour with your cruise line, make sure you pre-book it, as the spaces are limited, and very often it is sold out the first day you come on board!
3. Aruba Horseback Ride
Horseback riding is absolutely amazing and definitely among the top-rated things to do in Aruba! The horseback ride normally starts at a local ranch where participants get a safety briefing, meet the horses and get all the equipment (helmets).
The ride goes along the island’s north and east coasts with stops for refreshments. You’ll get the opportunity to see huge cacti trees – so typical in Aruba, lizards, iguanas, and other Aruban wildlife. The gorgeous sea views, sand dunes, and the view over the whole northeastern coast of Aruba will follow you along the way.
Snorkeling in Aruba is a wonderful experience that usually consists of stops at popular snorkeling and scuba diving sites. You get to learn about rich Aruba’s marine life, admire an old German shipwreck and explore the fascinating underwater world populated by corals and tropical fish such as angelfish, snapper, parrotfish, and damsels. A popular snorkel spot is Boca Catalina – Catalina Bay, a remote and secluded place ideal for peace and nature seekers.
5. Island Sightseeing
Aruba is one of the Caribbean islands that truly has to offer a lot of points of interest not to be missed. You can explore the island in many ways, including by car, bus, jeep, kukoo kunuku, boat, ATV, or UTV. These are some of the major attractions in Aruba:
- California Lighthouse
- Alto Vista Chapel
- Casibari Rock Formations
- Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins
- Natural Bridge
- Aloe Vera factory
- Natural Pool
- Butterfly farm
I wrote about some of these landmarks in my article Aruba Highlights In a Day, so feel free to check it out if you want to know more!
6. Off-Road Jeep Safari
You are a thrill-seeker but you don’t want to sit behind a wheel? Hop aboard a Land Rover caravan-style Jeep and explore off the beaten-track rugged coast of Aruba! These vehicles can usually accommodate from 8-16 people, and the tours combine the most famous Aruba attractions with some beach/snorkel time. Some of them include a stop at a Natural Pool, one of the most famous island’s natural attractions, located inside the area of Arikok National Park.
Insider tip: If you are in poor physical condition, or a wheelchair user, this tour may be very challenging for you. A good alternative would be the Kukoo Kunuku sightseeing tour – equally fun, only without the off-road portion of the tour. Also, on jeep safari the driver is provided, so you don’t need a driver’s license.
7. Aruba Sunset Sail
Sunset is probably the best time of the day to admire the breathtaking sugar-white beaches of Aruba’s shoreline. The sail goes along the west coast of the island and you get to enjoy Aruba’s tropical landscapes and gorgeous sceneries.
Insider tip: Before booking a sailing trip, check what the boat is like and how many people can fit. If you prefer privacy, you won’t be happy to see a bunch of people on a catamaran, so make sure you choose the right tour with the right boat.
8. Scuba Dive
Scuba diving in Aruba is an amazing experience that allows you to discover the depths of the ocean and explore its reefs, wrecks, and unspoiled marine habitat that shelters stingrays, turtles, giant tube sponges, colorful tropical fish, and coral formations.
My teammates scuba divers who have done the scuba diving tour in Aruba say it’s totally worth it! There are usually two types of tours: the one for non-experienced divers, where you don’t need the certification nor previous experience, and the other one for experienced divers that requires a PADI certificate and a “C” card. A professional PADI instructor is with you all the time and provides you with training, briefing, and all necessary equipment.
Insider tip: The most important thing is to pre-book the scuba diving excursion as it usually runs out of space (spots are limited if you are booking through your cruise line). Also, if required, you should provide the tour operator with a waiver, valid PADI Open Water certification, health documentation, or any other if needed. Double-check these things in advance.
9. De Palm Island
De Palm Island is a private island and an all-inclusive destination located just off the coast of Aruba. It’s an ideal place for families, as the whole concept of the island is designed for fun – besides all-inclusive food and drinks, you can enjoy activities such as snorkeling (snorkel gear included), banana boat rides, the waterpark, beach volleyball, or salsa dancing!
The island has beautiful beaches and the beach chair is included in the price, but if you want more comfort and privacy, you can upgrade to a beach cabana. There is also a possibility to see pink flamingoes in a reserved section of the island and take unique photos with these fascinating creatures! Also, if you want to try yourself out at SNUBA or Sea Trek (underwater Helmet Walk), you can do it for an additional fee.
10. Aruba Beaches
Aruba’s breathtaking beaches are an inevitable part of every visit. The beaches of Aruba are absolutely gorgeous, and above all – they are all-natural. Most of the beaches are sandy, with soft, sugar-white sand and warm, crystal-clear sea, a true paradise for eyes and soul!
Below is my list of must-see beaches in Aruba and the distance between the cruise terminal and each of them. Most of the beaches are located on the west, northeast, and southeast coast of Aruba.
- Eagle Beach (4.5 km)
- Manchebo Beach (4.4 km)
- Palm Beach (7.5 km)
- Arashi Beach (14 km)
- Andicuri Beach (11.5 km)
- Boca Catalina (11.6 km)
- Druif beach (17 km)
- Malmok beach (10.5 km)
- Baby Beach (25 km)
- Rodgers beach (25.3 km)
In my article Aruba Highlights in a Day, I wrote more in detail about my favorite beaches – Palm beach, Eagle beach, and Baby Beach, so feel free to check it out!
To Wrap Up
Aruba island is absolutely beautiful and well worth a visit, so make sure to carefully plan your itinerary to fully enjoy it.
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