Aruba conjures up images of white-sand beaches, crystal clear azure water, and hours of seemingly endless sunlight. We had been sailing for three days, and could hardly wait to arrive at the Aruba cruise port. We had plenty of time to plan and we’re comfortable with our Aruba itinerary options.
This southern Caribbean destination did not disappoint; although there are so many things to do in Aruba, we could have easily spent a week. With only five hours scheduled (from 7 am to noon) at the Aruba cruise port, we knew we needed to make every minute count.
Note: Based on world conditions, we advise checking official channels including cancellation policies prior to booking. Also, with often reduced capacity, booking ahead becomes more important.
Planning an Aruba Itinerary that starts at the Aruba cruise port
The Aruba cruise port is in Oranjestad, the capital city of the island. Therefore there is plenty to do and see right there. We opted for adventure first, city exploration later, and saved Oranjestad for the end.
Skipping any of the paid shore excursions offered by the cruise line, we opted to do it on our own.
We were well aware that an Aruba cruise port adventure is not enough time to do it all. So, before you even get off the ship, prioritize the primary things to do in Aruba:
- Water sports
- Enjoy the history and culture
No one can make these decisions for you. Just know that the Aruba cruise port visit will bring you to a piece of paradise. Enjoy whatever you choose.
Why we love to cruise …
Aruba cruise port excursion options: relaxation
Home to one of the world’s best beaches, for us the decision was obvious. Our first stop would be the beach. As our day started rather early, we opted for a bit of extra breakfast and some coffee at a beachfront coffee shop.
Best beaches near the Aruba cruise port
For us, the choice was obvious. Palm Beach is not too far, accessible by taxi or public bus, and a destination that frequently appears on lists of the world’s best beaches.
The contrast of the stark white sand against the water and sky was highlighted by splashes of greenery. The beach was calling to us, but it was not even 8 am, and the coffee was shouting louder.
We chose The Bread Basket as a local recommended it for the best coffee in town.
While there are other Aruba beaches near the cruise port, Palm Beach consistently is named as the best one around. And it didn’t disappoint
Aruba cruise port excursion options: water sports
Aruba is a water sports paradise. Scuba, snorkelling, boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, catamaran sailing, swimming, bodyboarding, and more. If you can do it in the water, it is being done in Aruba. And Palm beach offered so many choices.
Called a jet flyer, this is the one that captured my attention. However, I was happy to just watch.
Watersport, adventure, and other shore excursion options to pre-book
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We tend to hire independent tours rather than go with the ship’s excursion. Often independent tours to have fewer participants, therefore a more personal experience. We also find that they cost less and often give us more.
The downside is that you need to carefully read the cancellation policy as weather can change a ship’s itinerary, even at the last minute.
Here are four that look really appealing and are well-liked by those who filled out reviews.
- Bus Tour & Snorkel: This 4.5-hour tour includes a stops at an Aloe Vera Factory, the Casibari Rock Formation, Natural Bridge, Alto Vista Chapel, California Light House, before snorkelling at the Arashi Beach. Check prices and reviews.
- ATV Tour with Natural Pool Swim: This 4-hour tour includes a solo or double ATV ride along the north coast, along with a swim in a natural pool. Check prices and reviews.
- Natural Pool Horseback Riding Tour: A 2.5-hour tour that matches rider to horse and includes a swim in a natural pool. Check prices and reviews.
- Island Jeep Safari Tour: An exciting tour to stunning island spots accessible only by four-wheel drive. Stops include swimming and snorkelling at Natural Pool and Baby Beach. Check prices and reviews.
Aruba cruise port excursion options: history and culture
Even tropical paradise has a history. We enjoyed walking around and discovering some of the colourful colonial architecture and landmarks.
Did you know that Aruba is home to the Caribbean’s first streetcar line (designed in San Francisco)?
Aruba cruise port excursion options: shopping
I am not a fan of shopping. I travel super light and my number one souvenir is photos.
However, this does not preclude me from window shopping or enjoying the colourful colonial buildings lining the shopping area of Oranjestad.
I also learn so much about a culture through its handicrafts, which is why I love going to markets.
Know before you cruise to Aruba
- Aruba is one of the Netherland Antilles, the southernmost islands in the Caribbean.
- The island of Aruba is only 19.6 miles long and 6 miles across at its widest point.
- The average year-round temperature is 28C (82F).
- There are two official languages, Papiamento and Dutch. However, according to our taxi driver, most people speak four languages, adding English and Spanish to the mix.
- Both the Aruban Florin and the US Dollar are considered official currencies.
- You can take either a taxi or city bus to go from town to the best beaches (along the West Coast). When we visited, taxis charged about $14 for the trip to Palm Beach, while the bus is $2.60 per person. Bus number L10 or L10B will get you there, but if you want to continue to the California Lighthouse, you will need to be on the L10.
- If you are thinking about cruising, check out these Caribbean cruise deals at Cruise Direct.
We can’t resist a bit of tourist fun
No wonder the Caribbean is amongst the world’s best cruise destinations.
Cruise and port planning tips
Spending 160+ days at sea, we discovered a few cruising secrets. In addition to our list of cruise tips, here are our best planning tools:
Cruise: We find great deals on Cruise Direct.
Flights: We like to arrive at least one day prior to disembarkation and use Skyscanner to discover flight options.
Accommodations before and after: We use Booking.com to find accommodations.
Private tour guides: Looking to maximize our limited time at a port, we often hire private guides from Tours by Locals.
Rental Car: When we need a car, we always use RentalCars.com, a rental car search engine with no hidden costs.
Travel Insurance: We purchase insurance that covers medical and travel emergencies when we head overseas. We use a travel insurance aggregator that gives us a free and easy-to-read comparison of the inclusions of each policy.
Packing Tips: Get a copy of our free packing light for cruise travel checklist when you sign up for our mailing list. (We pack light, yet have everything we need.)
**Find more money-saving resources on our Travel Resources page.
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Have you been to the Aruba cruise port? Which Aruba itinerary options are best for you?
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