Aruba is a beautiful island in the Caribbean which is below the hurricane belt, so the weather is pretty much nice all year-round. It’s a great place for honeymoons, family trips, and girl’s trips! It’s especially romantic to have your Honeymoon in Aruba!
Here are some things you should know before visiting Aruba’s “One Happy Island”.
Flamingos Are Not Everywhere!
Sorry to burst the dream bubble….When I heard Aruba, the first thing that would come to mind was flamingos on the beach. That’s what you see in all the pictures of people vacationing in Aruba, so they’ve gotta be everywhere, right?!
Of course because of this, I always thought there were beautiful pink flamingo all around Aruba, and you could just head to the beach to see them and take some awesome flamingo selfies. Sadly, we quickly learned it is quite the opposite.
There are only Flamingos present on 2 private islands, and you have to pay for a day pass to get to either island. The most famous of the two is Renaissance Beach. If you are staying at the Renaissance Hotel, you get free access with your room key. If you aren’t a guest you can buy a day pass to head to the island to see them.
However, you are not guaranteed a chance to purchase of pass, and it is first come, first served when passes are available. Not only that, but these day passes will cost you $125 per person!
If the Renaissance Hotel is book more than 80% capacity, they will not sell any additional passes. We want you to be aware of this now, so if you are only going to Aruba to see the “wild flamingos”, you will be really disappointed to learn you can’t get a ticket when you get there.
There are 6 flamingos that live on the private island, and they all tend to stand together in the same areas. For the most part, people take turns taking photos so you can get the shot you want.
Our Recommendation: If you MUST see the flamingos, book one night of your trip with Renaissance Hotel so you can guarantee a trip to the island. If you have 2 people going, it will be $250 for you to go plus you’ll still pay for your hotel room wherever you are staying…and you might not even get a pass.
If you do end up going when the hotel is not booked and want to get a day pass, be sure to book it as soon as they go on sale. You’ll get a meal and a drink included in your pass also.
Iguanas Are Everywhere
I could not get over the huge iguanas walking around everywhere. They were so awesome to watch, and to search for all the different colors we could find. The iguanas were not afraid of us at all, and would walk right by our feet while we were having lunch at some restaurants, hanging by the pool, etc. But they are really cool to watch!
Get to The Airport Early!!
This is especially necessary during high season and on weekends. When we landed, our flight attendants told us that we should get to the airport 4 hours early for our departure. I kind of laughed because that’s such a long time and sounded so exaggerated. BUT…it took us almost 2 hours to get through security!
AND we went in low season (mid-September), so I can’t even imagine what the lines would look like in high season months.
Get there early to avoid stress, and if you have the Priority Pass, you can hang out at the airport lounge if you happen to get through earlier.
No Need to Change Currency
The US Dollar is used everywhere. Even at the local markets. Be sure to bring some cash and small bills if you would like to take the bus, or buy souvenirs at the local market or shops.
The bus will typically give you change in their currency, and it did not add up for us when we received our change. So be sure to have small bills or even coins if you are taking the city bus.
Book Your Shuttle (from the airport) 24 Hours In Advance
We learned this one the hard way. The hotels on the island do not have their own airport shuttles for the most part. Our hotel, Eagle Aruba could have booked us a shuttle for $16 roundtrip if we did it 24 hours in advance. Unfortunately, we didn’t think ahead and booked it the night before we landed.
It was $10 for a one-way, and $20 for roundtrip. I figured we would just do the one-way and figure out the best way to get back (we’re budget travelers when we can be). However, when we went to book our shuttle back, they didn’t have an option online to book from the hotel to the airport, and the resort couldn’t help us because they can only do a roundtrip. So confusing!
So, we recommend either booking a shuttle through your hotel early to get a discount, or split a taxi with someone.
Taxi rides from the airport to the hotels can range between $28 at the low-rise hotels, and $32 to the high rise. Check the taxi fares here for more info.
We purchased a one-way shuttle with De Palm Tours for $10 a person from the airport to the hotel, so we wouldn’t have to worry when we landed. Sometimes it can be crazy being in a new place and trying to navigate and make sure you’re not getting ripped off. So this was the easy way.
On our way back to the airport, we saw a man waiting for a taxi with his luggage and we asked if he’d like to share a taxi to split the cost, and he was all for it, saving us both around $14 each.
Obviously depending on how many people in your party, will help determine which is more cost effective…a shuttle or a taxi.
Local Market vs. Downtown Shops
If you are on a cruise and get off at the port, or if you are downtown and see all the shops along the way, you’ll see lots of small souvenir booths set up. (Not the stores with a door). These are the easiest to get to, but if you walk a little further, there is a local market across the street, and we found their prices to be much cheaper.
Save some money and walk a bit further to get the exact same souvenirs, and even a larger selection on some other items.
Don’t Buy Souvenirs at the Resorts!
Buying souvenirs at the shops at the resort is quite easy and convenient since you don’t have to go anywhere. However, we noticed their prices were over double what they were at the local markets and small shops near the High Rise areas as well. The mark ups are way high at the hotels, so head to the shops along the way outside of your resort, and you’re sure to find the exact item only half the price!
I even found an art piece “handmade in Aruba” for $15 when it was $32 at the resort.
Large City Bus vs. Small City Bus
You’ll see the large buses called Arubus that can take you pretty much anywhere you want to go. The cost of a ride on the large bus is $2.60 USD per person one way. There are also vans that say “BUS” on them, and they stop at the same spots. These buses are $2.00 per person one way.
Even though 60 cent difference doesn’t seem like a lot, it can add up depending on how many people you are traveling with and how frequently you use the bus.
A note: When we hopped on the Large Arubus, we paid $3 USD and were given change in the local currency which did not add up to what it should have been, so we paid just about $3.00 the one time we took the Arubus.
The buses come by about every 15 minutes. Check out the bus schedule here for all your info.
Refills are not Always Bottomless
Ok, this might be just because we are from the states, but the refills on a coke is charged per refill. We are use to getting refills for free at restaurants on sodas, but it is not the case here. We also noticed a $3.00 coke at a restaurant ended up being half of a soda can, so it wasn’t quite worth it.
Tipping is Customary but Check for Service Fees
In Aruba, there is a spot on your receipt to tip, and it seems the general consensus is that tipping is expected. Lots of restaurants will add a “Service Fee” of 10-15% to your check as well, so be sure to read up on what is best to tip in these situations. The service fee should get split between the service staff, so that it said to be their tip. We added more when we thought it was appropriate as well.
You Should Resort Hop
This one was unexpected for us, since you kind of feel like you shouldn’t go to other resorts you are not staying at. However, each resort has different restaurants, casinos, and bars and welcome anyone to come enjoy them. Most beaches are public beaches, so you can hang out wherever you’d like.
You may not be able to use their chairs if you aren’t staying at that resort, and probably should stay out of their pools, but definitely enjoy the restaurants, bars, shops etc.
You Can See Venezuela!
On a very clear day, you can see the coast or mountains of Venezuela! Aruba is just 15 miles from the coast of Venezuela, which is pretty cool to see it from the island. Be sure to keep your eyes on the horizon while heading from the airport to your hotel and back!
You Don’t Need to Rent a Car
For the most part, you don’t need a car on your trip to Aruba. Public transportation is easy to learn and cheap enough to get around. The island is only 19 miles long, so it’s not too hard to get everywhere you need. Especially if you book tours to the other side of the island.
Aruba has beautiful beaches, lively resorts, and some really great water excursions. It’s a great place to visit if you want a mix of tropical relaxation and party scene as well.