It seems like when I talk to people planning a Caribbean beach vacation, I hear all the usual suspects—Bahamas, St. Lucia, Jamaica, British Virgin Islands. But for whatever reason, I almost never hear people talking about Aruba.
And I have no idea why. My best guess is that it’s just not on people’s radar, and they don’t realize how different it is from some of the traditional Caribbean destinations. I’ve been to the island twice in the past several years and it has a special place in my heart, so I wanted to share some helpful and fun Aruba facts to peak your interest for the next time you’re looking for sun, sand, and fruity drinks!
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10 Aruba facts to help you decide to visit!
#1 – It is soooo windy
There’s a reason that the iconic divi divi tree is practically sideways—it doesn’t grow that way naturally, it just gets bowled over by the wind! All the divi divis point southwest due to the trade winds that blow across the island, like a sort of natural compass. I mention this first because it is a *really* key thing to know about Aruba, and has both upsides and downsides.
Pros: You won’t be boiling hot and dripping sweat constantly like in other travel destinations.
Cons: You will have sand everywhere. In every crevice. And it will never come out. You just need to accept it. It’s a bit like being sandblasted…so, exfoliation 🙂
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#2 – It’s outside the hurricane belt
The weather is a big draw here. Aruba is one of a handful of Caribbean islands (including Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, and Curacao) that are outside the hurricane belt, so it’s a predictably safe destination year-round.
Aruba has an average annual temp of 82 degrees Fahrenheit and consistently ranks as having the least amount of rainfall in the Caribbean—an average of about 15 inches a year. Even when it does rain (which happened a few times while I was there), the wind I mentioned above means that storms move through very quickly and things dry out fast.
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#3 – You’ll burn easier
Aruba is not even 20 km off the coast of Venezuela—it’s much closer to the equator than much of the rest of the Caribbean. You’ll burn much faster! And that wind I talked about will make it harder to tell when you’re burning, so be vigilant and re-apply sunscreen more frequently than you normally would. Like, seriously, every 2 hours. I’ve shared some of my go-to sunscreens for travel, if you’re looking for recommendations. Just remember, spray sunscreen is your friend because you’ll be caked with sand eventually and re-applying gets harder.
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#4 – The population is very ethnically diverse
People from more than 90 countries live on Aruba, and the official language reflects this melting pot. Papiamento is a blend of multiple languages, and while no one knows for sure, Arubans believe that it developed from the Portuguese-African blend that was used as communication between slaves and slave traders. There are also some Dutch and Spanish influences, and it’s weird because I keep hearing Italian in there.
The country is one of four in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and Arubans are Dutch citizens. Most residents are multi-lingual, and can communicate in Dutch, English, and Spanish as well, but you shouldn’t just assume that a resident speaks English. You’ll find a lot of Dutch people and Canadian expats here as well. People are SO nice and welcoming, something I haven’t always experienced in other Caribbean destinations.
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#5 – It’s super safe, and a little more DIY than most Caribbean vacations
Aruba is very safe, not one of those islands where you don’t feel comfortable leaving the resort. There are several all-inclusive resorts, but tons of people stay in regular resorts or apartment rentals. I loved my stay at Rik & Karen’s Airbnb!
It’s easy to plan everything yourself, since it’s a small island (about 19 miles by 5 miles), there are lots of great restaurants, and then you can sample several of the beautiful beaches (including finding the best sunsets). There are a few ways to get around, but renting a car is the easiest. You can also bike, take the bus, or call a taxi.
The official currency is the Aruban florin, but you can use U.S. dollars anywhere on the island (you’ll probably get change in florins though). You can certainly use credit cards at major restaurants and resorts, but smaller local shops and restaurants can’t always accept debit or credit cards, so make sure you have some cash on hand.
#6 – That palapa (little grass beach umbrella) is all yours
The famous white-sand beaches are all national public property. That includes the palapas—so even if a hotel security guard tries to tell you you otherwise, they built them on public property so anyone can use them (recent court cases have upheld this). So just firmly and nicely stand your ground. Just know that if there are chairs there too, you can’t use their chairs, so just move them out of the way and use your own.
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#7 – There’s a focus on fresh, organic, quality food
Like many islands, Aruba has to import almost everything. But unlike other Caribbean islands I’ve been, there’s a focus on bringing in really good food. There are lots of vegetarian and vegan restaurants and plenty of organic produce options at the grocery stores.
They also produce their own drinking water thanks to their desalinisation plant, so you can drink the water straight from the tap. The electricity on the island is also a by-product of the desalinisation plant.
#8 – Aruba has world-class scuba diving and snorkeling
It’s the wreck-diving capital of the Caribbean thanks to two WWII wrecks off the coast—the SS Antilla and SS Pedernales. Diving and snorkel groups visit here daily, partly due to the coral formations awesome sea creatures, but also the history of the boats themselves (for instance, read this sweet history on the SS Antilla).
#9 – It’s a mecca of active water sports
Back to that wind…it makes Aruba a mecca for water sports of all kinds. Windsurfing is one of the big ones. It’s one of the most popular spots on earth for windsurfing, and hosts the Hi-Winds Amateur World Challenge windsurfing tournament every June. Add to that kite surfing, deep sea fishing, jet skiing, and much more. And while soccer dominates most of the Caribbean’s sports fanatacism, baseball is beloved on Aruba, which has produced some of the world’s best players.
And don’t forget sailing. Because of that wind, getting out on a sailboat or catamaran is a blast. On my last trip, I went out on the Black Pearl for some snorkeling, sailing, and then sunset on the water. I’ll always find a way to get out on the water when I get the chance!
#10 – Almost 20% of the island is a national park
Aruba isn’t a lush tropical island, but rather an arid, desert-like one. Think cactus and wild donkeys to go with your white sand beaches and palm trees—not rainforest. I highly recommend a day spent in Arikok National Park, whether on your own or on a jeep tour. I took a full-day jeep tour, which visited the lighthouse, chapel, ostrich farm, lots of amazing beaches, saw the wild donkeys, and ended with a dip in the Natural Pool.
So what do you think?? Have I convinced you to visit this beautiful, interesting island? I’d love to hear what fun Aruba facts you have, or any questions you have about visiting!
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