When you’re looking into cruise vacations, it’s almost easy to regard the Caribbean islands as interchangeable. To some extent, that’s fair enough! While the islands are of course very different from one another, each home to unique populations and attractions, they’re all beautiful. And in the time you have during a given day excursion, you can find a way to have fun on any of them. But it still pays to know what sets a given island apart, so that you can try to enjoy it in a more specific and unique manner.
As it happens, Aruba can sometimes be one of the most appealing cruise stops in the Caribbean, once you get to know it a little bit. Below, we’ll get into some of the things you can see and do there, even during a single day excursion.
Do any sort of research at all on things to do in Aruba, and Eagle Beach will likely come up right off the bat. And rest assured, that’s not just because it’s in guidebooks or popularly recommended on cruise ships. As one article noted (incidentally while ranking it as the best thing to do on the island), Eagle Beach is hailed by many an Aruban veteran as the most handsome stretch of sand on the island.
Basically, you should expect an ideal Caribbean beach like the ones you might see in the movies or on postcards. The sands are white, the waters are a gorgeous transparent turquoise, and the occasional tree juts up over the shoreline. It’s an outstanding place to simply relax for an afternoon, though you may want to try out some snorkeling while you’re there as well!
Arikok National Park
You may or may not have the option of visiting Arikok National Park, depending on what sort of day excursions are available to you. It’s not particularly close to where ships commonly dock, though Aruba is a tiny island, only about 20 miles long and six miles wide – so you probably have options. At any rate, Arikok National Park is a far cry from your typical Caribbean island attractions.
Really, it’s got a little bit of everything. There are small cliffs and beaches, caves and sand dunes, and even desert-like areas where natural cacti grow. There are snakes, parakeets, donkeys, and iguanas. And visitor activities range from hiking and four-wheeling to exploring caves and hanging out at Dos Playa beach. Ultimately, it makes for a very unique day out.
The Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas gets most of the attention as far as Caribbean casinos go, but Stellaris shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s in the Palm Beach area just a short drive north from where you’ll likely be docking, and worth the trip if you’re interested in this sort of activity. The establishment is ornate and appealing, and there are plenty of game tables to get busy on.
However, it’s the slots that are the main attraction. We’ve come to know slots (or “pokies” as some call them) largely through the incredibly diverse selection of games that have become available online. But what you may not realize is that most of this selection is based on actual slot machines from casinos, and with over 500 of them at Stellaris, you can find all kinds of fun options. It’s just a fun place to spend some time – particularly if you happen to land in Aruba on a day with mediocre weather, and an indoor attraction appeals.
There’s a paddle boarding and surfing school on the western coast of Aruba where you’ll likely be docked, so the island also offers an excellent opportunity to learn a new water sport. Realistically, surfing lessons probably aren’t worth your time during a single day’s visit, unless you already have a foundation to work on.
But paddle boarding is a little bit more manageable. As the school says on its site, anyone can grab a board and paddle and take off, though instruction makes for a better experience! You can take a lesson on some of the most beautiful water anywhere in the world, and then set out for a relaxing activity (and a surprisingly good workout) for the rest of your visit.
Dining In Oranjestad
Depending on when the excursion falls in your cruise trip, you may just be in the mood to hang out in a cool island town. Perhaps you’ve had your fill of beaches and island attractions. In that case, Oranjestad can be a great place to spend a few hours while you’re docked in Aruba.
Best of all is finding a nice place to sit down for a long meal and a few drinks. You can find waterfront dining, menus inspired by Argentine and Cuban cuisine, and great cocktails pretty much everywhere. If you want to remain well aware of the island atmosphere around you and you don’t mind a slightly touristy vibe, Arubaville is probably the place to target – more a collection of restaurant bars lounges than a single establishment.