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.
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 just to watch.
Watersport, adventure, and other shore excursion options to pre-book
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 stops at an Aloe Vera Factory, the Casibari Rock Formation, Natural Bridge, Alto Vista Chapel, and California Light House before snorkelling at Arashi Beach. Reserve a bus with snorkelling tour here.
- 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. Reserve your ATV adventure here.
- Natural Pool Horseback Riding Tour: A 2.5-hour tour that matches rider to horse and includes a swim in a natural pool. Check reviews and reserve your horseback riding with swim here.
- Island Jeep Safari Tour: An exciting tour to stunning island spots accessible only by four-wheel drive. Stops include swimming at Mangel Halto beach. See reviews and reserve a jeep safari tour.
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 Netherlands 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.
Save on your trip and cruise with these resources
These are our go-to companies when we cruise. We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
- Cruise: We find great deals at Cruise Direct.
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Hotels: we use Booking.com (hotels at our end ports) or VRBO (self-contained).
- Cars (gas or electric): we use RentalCars to search for deals and dealer ratings.
- Set up private guides at the ports: Looking to maximize our limited time at a port, we often hire private guides from Tours by Locals.
- Travel Insurance: our go-to is World Nomads*.
Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
Don’t miss our best cruise tips.
*World Nomads provides travel insurance for travellers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.
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Have you been to the Aruba cruise port? Which Aruba itinerary options are best for you?
I’ve been to Aruba twice and this year’s cruise will include Aruba. It’s a very beautiful place but I like Curacao but better. Did you realize that Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire are the ABC islands. Of course you probably did. See ya
Great pictures. My husband and I stayed a week in Aruba 20 yrs ago. We have gone back there as a stop on cruises about 3 times. Looking to just go to the beach this time. We leave June 2016. Do you know anything about Reflections Beach also know as Nikki beach? I hear it is in walking distance.
Sorry, wish I did. We had way to short of a time in Aruba, and I didn’t keep the city map as I travel with only carry on. Where ever it is on the island, it will be lovely. And the city bus is super cheap, so even if it’s not walking distance from each other, they should be easy to get to.
Lydia C. Lee
I’ve done jet flyer – fun and terrifying at the same time!!
Hubby was thinking of trying it but our time was short at the port.
What a life. Gorgeous pictures!
There is a reason Aruba is called One Happy Island, it’s the best place ever!
Hubby bought a somewhat plain hat in Aruba and on the back was embroidery with that slogan – One Happy Island.
Mary-the boondocks blog
What a beautiful island. It reminds me of Greece, the same deep blue sky that is not found in many other places. I love the pink building you photographed. When I go to a new place the last thing I want to do is lie on the beach. I like to take in the local culture and have a look around. I have the beach at home so there is no need for that.Rhonda, I am hosting a new link party, Sweet Inspiration and encourage photo and travel bloggers to join us as well. It runs Friday till Tuesday. Hope you can join us.
Aruba is beautiful and I think the sky looks even deeper blue in contrast to the white sand.
Paul F. Pietrangelo
Our next cruise in January, 2017, one of our ports is Aruba. Depending of the time, I’m not sure what We’ll be doing. After Aruba we go to Curacao, the port I’m really looking forward to. When you finished your vacation Rhonda, do you plan on having a blog of your vacation and all the places that you were there? I would love seeing more of where you went. See ya my friend.
L. Diane Wolfe
I love the signs pointing to all of the cities. Puts Aruba’s placement in perspective.
I love those signs too, always photo them when I see them in new spots. We are quite close to South America.
I love your pictures they are very nice and relaxing.
Wow! Some awesome sights, especially the beach and the gorgeous trolley car. I’m so glad you’re having a good time! Thanks for sharing with us. 🙂
The beach was so inviting with the white sand and azure waters.
Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor
The lizard is cracking me up 🙂 Aruba looks lovely and so relaxing. I had no idea that they had a streetcar. Fascinating.
I wish we could have stayed longer.
I see I think the same way your other readers do – cause I just wanted to know what the lizard did next – glad you answered it – and no, I really didn’t want to know after all!
LOL – I did try to warn you 🙂
Hi Rhonda – lovely photos and descriptions … that lizard is just wonderful – nature is amazing. I’ve never been to the Caribbean … it looks amazingly hot! Cheers Hilary
I love the tropical weather, so I am really happy.
Aruba is very popular forthe Dutch tourist. So handy that they speak Dutch
I’m happy that they spoke several common languages. It makes it feel more multicultural.
I hope you enjoyed Aruba as much as we did. We went on a Caribbean Cruise last year in April and we stopped for a full day in Aruba. We loved the dutch influence and yes the beaches were spectacular. We actually did a tour however which we enjoyed immensely. Love the lizard- he is so brightly coloured.
We were only there for half a day and we enjoyed it.
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Lizard poop. Just great.
A jet flyer would be cool, but it’s not a cheap sport.
Yes, that is what it did. I was a bit stunned.
Great shots, but what did that lizard do next?
Have a fabulous day. ☺
Relieved himself. No modesty here.