Table of Contents
- Tips & Tricks
- 3 Best Restaurants & the Cheapest Grocery Store
- 6 Best Places to Stay
- Top Things to Do
- Best Beaches (and Where to Snorkel!)
- General Tips & Tricks
Aruba is a well known travel destination for some and lesser known for many others, but while we were there, we had the impression that most visitors truly miss out on many things that this small Caribbean island has to offer, which is why we decided to write this article with tips for visiting Aruba. First of all, we have to mention how very sad we are that our trip to Aruba is over and that we are back home. If you know the feeling, then you know what we are talking about. She has a German word that describes this feeling quite well: “Fernweh,” which generally translates to a longing for a distant location.
Writing this article about our vacation increases this feeling, so let’s hope we can get through this without Denise crying. 😉 In the following, we have collected several tips that will help you plan your own trip to Aruba. We always travel on a budget. So if you want to spend a fantastic yet cheap vacation in Aruba, our article will definitely help you.
Aruba Budget Travel Tips & Tricks
Transportation to and in Aruba
One of the first things you’ll need to tackle before planning your Caribbean getaway is transportation. You have to get there and once you’re there, you’ll need to be able to get around too, right? Luckily, our guide has you covered. In the following sections, we’ll explain the cost of flights (from personal experience) as well as the cost and convenience of various transportation options.
Cheap Flights to Aruba
We traveled from Europe to Aruba, which was quite convenient since there are direct flights from Amsterdam. Since Aruba is part of Holland, flights with KLM are pretty cheap from Amsterdam. However, we booked from Luxemburg through Amsterdam to Aruba and we only paid around 1000 Euros for the two of us for a round trip ticket. That’s pretty cheap considering that you are flying to the Caribbean. Furthermore, the entire trip was much shorter than you may expect. We only needed 12 hours to fly to Aruba and 14 hours back, which is even shorter than flights to many U.S. destinations.
Budget Car Rental in Aruba
You will definitely need a car in Aruba. There is more to see than just the beaches on the west coast. We’ll list all places that are worth seeing in the section Things to do in Aruba. The roads are not good enough to ride your bike or walk and there are mostly no sidewalks anyway. We booked with smartrent, which is a local company in Aruba. We were very satisfied with their service. The prices are very cheap, but you’ll get all you need. You won’t need a fancy car, Aruba is very small. However, it might be better to book through an independent comparison site like RentalCars.com in order to compare prices and directly book as well as save on insurance for your rental car in Aruba. We always book through a comparison site as they usually offer the best and cheapest deals.
Another thing to keep in mind when choosing your rental car will be where exactly you want to go while on the island. For example, Aruba has an excellent national park. However, you won’t be able to fully enjoy it without a 4×4 vehicle because there are some roads that a budget rental car simply can’t handle. Therefore, if you want to drive everywhere in the park, then you’ll definitely need to go for a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
Food and Restaurants in Aruba
For good local food that is reasonably priced go to Zeerovers or Pika’s Corner. At both places you pay around $10 per person. Other places are way more expensive and you do not want to end up eating at all the chains when you can try the awesome local Aruban food. There were more places from the Trip Advisor article on Cheap Eats in Aruba that we wanted to try, but we did not have the time and we were already low on money before we finally discovered the affordable options. For breakfast, we also highly recommend Huchada, which is a Aruban bakery located in Santa Cruz. The prices are just as great as the pastries and Pastechi! Don’t know what Pastechi is? Another Rum Punch’s article on pastechi does a great job of explaining this Aruban specialty.
If you are staying in a vacation home or apartment like we did and have a kitchen, then we recommend to NOT buy your groceries at Superfood. This grocery store is very clearly a tourist trap and we walked right into it. For cheap groceries you need to go to Save more, which is located in Noord. Here, groceries cost at least half of what they do at Superfood. So Save more definitely saved our vacation, because we were really shocked by how expensive everything is in Aruba. Before our trip, we read that the prices were comparable to Europe, but he thinks those people must have been talking about Paris or Zurich because groceries were at least 4x more expensive than we are used to in Germany.
Concerning alcohol, you should probably bring your own because $55 for a 24 pack of 25 ml bottles of beer is crazy. You can pack one or two bottles of liquor in your checked suitcase or you do it as we did and buy the rum from Save more and mix it with some coke and lime to enjoy Cuba Libres all week. One 2 liter bottle of cola is enough for 1 bottle of this Aruban rum. This way we could enjoy a few drinks every night. If you’re a wine drinker, then the wine at Save more is also rather affordable; while it is more expensive than in Europe, it is actually cheaper than in the U.S.
Our initial confusion and irritation, due to the strong wind and chaotic traffic was quickly gone once we arrived at our fabulous accommodation. It was ideally located, making it really easy to get everywhere without driving too far. The property was gorgeous, we had the pool all to ourselves and there was even a private entrance and parking spot for the guest house. We’ve explored the entire island, so here are the places we recommend for your trip:
Located on the prettiest beach in Aruba. Calm Pristine water and pure white sand are calling your name.
An adults only location with fewer guests and more privacy. Great value for your money.
“Tu Casita en Aruba” (Your little house in Aruba)
A nice quiet apartment for budget travelers, located near the famous Eagle Beach
Treat yourself to total luxury in this tropical paradise.
Alternative: Airbnb is always an awesome experience because you not only get cheap yet really good apartments, but you also get the chance to talk to locals who can give you more tips and recommendations.
If you feel like treating yourself to a more hands-off experience, then you may be enticed by the numerous all-inclusive options available in Aruba. To make it easier on you, we’ve picked out the 5 best all-inclusive resorts in Aruba.
Top Things to Do in Aruba
Here, we mostly list activities to do and places to see that are free of charge. Of course, there are a few more paid options on the island, but as mentioned, we always travel on a budget.
Donkey Sanctuary: Get there by 9am and you can help feed the donkeys. We were there shortly before 9am and one of the volunteers allowed us to help him feed all of the 130 donkeys. They were so excited and we loved it too!
Rock Formations: Casibari and Ayo Rock Formations in Aruba are two small parks with some really nice rock formations and petroglyphs. They are also very close to the Airbnb we stayed at. We especially liked Ayo Rock Formations and climbing through all of its giant rocks. You can combine these two since they are located quite close to each other. Each will take you about an hour to explore.
Hooiberg: This is the third highest mountain on Aruba. You can easily climb it by walking up the more than 600 stairs, but please do not underestimate this climb, since the stairs are quite steep. We recommend that you wait until at least 5:30pm because of the heat. Even in the mornings, the sun shines directly on the stairs and the Aruban sun is very dangerous, even in those morning hours, so please walk up there shortly before sunset. From our Airbnb we had a spectacular view of this pretty little mountain.
North Coast: The north side of Aruba is completely different than the rest of the island. Here, rough waves smash into gigantic cliffs and rocks. If you cannot drive into Arikok National Park because of your rental car or because you don’t want to pay $11 per person, you should do what we did. We took a paved road leading west away from Arikok National Park called Matividiri road to the Bushiribana ruins and the natural bridge. Here you get some really nice views of the rugged north coast.
California Lighthouse: The California Lighthouse in Aruba is located on the west side of the island. You have to pay if you want to go inside ($10 per person), but even outside you will have a nice view over Aruba and the sea. It is definitely a nice spot for some beautiful pictures.
Snorkeling tour (paid activity): Something you should not miss out on when visiting Aruba. We highly recommend booking with Sailaway ($55 per person for a 4h tour). All the other companies (e.g. Jolly Pirates) allow way too many people on their boats. They are always overcrowded, which ultimately leads to shorter snorkeling times for each individual and not much space to move on the boat. And most importantly, Sailaway has an open bar on all of their tours. 😉
Other paid activities you might want to consider are the Ostrich farm ($12 per person), Philip’s Animal Garden (around $10 per person) or the Butterfly Farm ($11 per person), for example.
Best Beaches in Aruba
Everyone says that Eagle Beach is the nicest beach on Aruba, but we disagree. If you only consider the “looks” of the beach, then we would list the north end of Palm Beach and the south end of Hadicurari Beach as the prettiest beach on Aruba. Here, you can park for free at the Fisherman Huts, which are located right after the last hotel on Palm Beach (The Ritz) going north. After you park your car, you need to turn left, but when entering the beach you will already see how beautiful it is and be lead in the right direction.
For snorkeling, we definitely recommend going to Boca Catalina. There are many reefs and lots of different fish in many different colors. You have to experience it yourself, as it is truly something wonderful. If you go early in the morning around 7 am or 8 am, you will most likely see some sea turtles swimming around on the first and southernmost entrance.
Baby Beach is really nice too, but there are many people and loud music destroying the peacefulness of the beach. To be more specific, there was not a single spot on the beach where we could sit without being forced to listen to some group of people blaring really annoying music or revving their moped engines (yes, mopeds). Here, the noise level is way higher than on Palm Beach, which is usually considered the noisiest. However, we did not have the feeling that Palm Beach was particularly loud. We do recommend seeing Baby Beach for yourself, but it is probably best to go during the week and ideally in the morning.
While we did not personally visit the famous Flamingo Beach, we are mentioning it here just to give you some insight into how that works. There are only two ways to access the beach, as it is located on an even smaller island: Either you pay $200+ per night to stay at the Renaissance Hotel to obtain access to the beach or you show up and pay $90 per person to go to the Flamingo Beach. Flamingos are not native to Aruba; they were brought in to live on this beach.
General Tips & Tricks
On the Beach in Aruba:
- There are free umbrellas on every beach. Most of them are first come first serve, so get there early to pick out your favorite spot.
- You are better off not bringing beach towels because it is way too windy in Aruba and they will most likely fly away even when putting rocks on them. If possible, we found lawn chairs to be the most practical solution, but we still needed to secure the legs with rocks when we weren’t sitting in them.
- If you love snorkeling, you should definitely bring your own snorkeling equipment. None of the beaches offer snorkeling equipment that you can rent or buy. He didn’t know he loved snorkeling until he tried it, so give it a shot, even if you’re unsure!
- Avoid the sun and the beach between 12pm and 3pm. It is too hot to be outside. The danger of getting sunburned even in the shade or having a heat stroke is very high. Plan for a siesta or a longer lunch break. Moreover, apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more at least every 3 hours. If you don’t you will be as red as us 😀
- Although we did not do it, you can also take wind surfing lessons, go parasailing, tubing, fishing, etc. while in Aruba, so there really are options for everyone.
Weather in Aruba
- It is always very windy in Aruba, which we neither knew about nor expected. But that is also why the trees grow in the direction of the wind.
- Do not wear dresses or skirts that are not tight, everyone will definitely see your underwear; it is unavoidable.
- There are many mosquitoes, especially at night. Be prepared and bring some mosquito spray. She had accumulated about 30 mosquito bites by the end of the trip.
More Useful Tips for Aruba:
- Avoid rush hours between 7 am and 8 am as well as between 12 pm and 1 pm and between 4 pm and 5:30 pm. All major roads are two lane streets, which causes heavy traffic at these times.
- When driving, be sure you are paying very good attention to the other cars on the road and your surroundings. Aruban drivers are mostly very courteous, but some of them can also be a bit crazy! This is made apparent by the amount of dents in most of the vehicles on the road. Many of the dogs are not leashed or fenced in and run free all over the island. We saw one or two get brave and try to chase cars so be aware.
- Even if you think you need clothes, you will definitely not. You will be in your bikini/swimsuit most of the time and it is too hot anyway to wear anything else. Even she ended up only wearing 2 pants and 4 shirts during our entire 8 day stay.
- The currency in Aruba is AFL, but, they do accept US-Dollars. However, we noticed that they just estimate the exchange rate and you will most likely end up paying more in US-Dollars. Moreover, they do not have any coins in US-Dollars, which is why they will always give you the change in AFL. If the change is $0.25, they will give you 0.25 AFL back. So you will either have to complain or just accept the loss of money. Therefore, we recommend getting and paying in AFL in order to avoid any misunderstandings.
If you’re on a tight budget, you can still make a trip to Aruba work and have a great time. We went a little over budget because we wanted to try more of the local food and because we were big time noobies who didn’t yet know all of the above mentioned tricks for saving money until about day 3 when we got some insider knowledge. Had we went to Aruba with these tips, then we are certain we would have stayed within our budget of $200 spending money for 9 days, while still experiencing many of the wonderful things that Aruba has to offer.
Paradise isn’t reserved for the rich, so what are you waiting for? Go take your dream vacation!
We would also like to thank Harshita & Aman, authors of the Trot World travel blog for being a wonderful couple who gave us some good tips before our trip.
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6 thoughts on “Aruba Tips for Traveling on a Budget”
Visited in April of 2021 and going back again this year. This time renting a small 1 bedroom apt in a villa that was divided into 3 apartments by the owner. This is $99.00 per night across the road from Boca Catalina/Malmok beach entrances. It has a pool, outdoor grill and full kitchen. I always bring frozen meats, stored in a soft-sided cooler as a carry on. They allow you to do this from USA to most major carribean islands and by the time you arrive, the meats are beginning to thaw and store in your fridge at lodging. We always rent a cheap car to get around. Bring booze from airport duty-free liquor store. We only buy fresh produce, eggs, milk. I bring all non-perishables in my luggage (snacks, spices, tea/coffee and packets of condiments). This method allows us to go out to eat local foods, at cheap prices about 4/5 X in a 12 day vacation. Cheers to longer vacations and spending less money! 🙂
🎉 Way to go, Mary! You sound like true budget travel experts! We’re totally jealous that you get to go back this year! Enjoy your trip 😍
Good job Folks!!
Planning a cruise there next January. We will only have a few hours but try to do what we can. Thanks for the info on the currency exchange rate.
Thanks Steve! You’re going to have a great time!
Aruba looks absolutely incredible. Definitely on the bucket list for the future. 🙂
Good choice! It was such an awesome trip! I (Ryne) was a little skeptical, but I’m really glad we went and stayed a full 8 days. 😀