Downtown harbor and waterfront in Oranjestad

Oranjestad is Aruba’s colorful downtown. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Spend a Relaxing Weekend in Aruba

Though there’s always the option in Aruba to completely check out upon check-in, you’d be missing out on half the fun — this Dutch Caribbean island (part of the ABC Islands, along with Bonaire and Curaçao) offers a multitude of activities for the adventure-ready traveler.

This destination is as much about lounging seaside as it is exploring the coral reefs and desert island landscape, with activities that range from scuba diving and kitesurfing to horseback riding and dune buggy rides.

There’s also the option to spend the day rum-bar-hopping and enjoying exceptional beachfront cuisine at one of the island’s fine-dining establishments or casual seafood shacks.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Hit the Beach

Acai bowl with flower and honey
Start the day with a fresh acai bowl. (Photo: Marriott International)

Begin your weekend with a leisurely breakfast at Solanio at the Ritz-Carlton. Choose between cozy booths overlooking ocean waves or alfresco dining, if you’re eager to bask in the sun. Whether you’re in the mood for a refreshing açai bowl topped with shredded coconut or a savory burrito with chorizo and Cajun-spiced eggs, breakfast at Solanio will start your day off on a high note.

Then walk down to the beaches. Locals refer to them as “sanctuaries,” a nod to the fact that these sandy areas are where they learn to walk, swim and connect with the island. What better place to start your trip — and become one with Aruba — than the powdery white sands?

The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba, sprawls across a slice of the famed Palm Beach, providing guests access to private cabanas, loungers and palapas (shaded huts) that permit an all-afternoon affair. Another option is Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club, tucked between Hadicurari Beach and Palm Beach, with oceanfront rooms offering sweeping views of the turquoise Caribbean Sea.

For lunch, head slightly inland to Eduardo’s Hideaway in Noord. This popular family-owned spot serves super-fresh, vegan-friendly, gluten-free fare like mango-coconut chickpea curry and raw summer rolls stuffed with carrots, cucumber and cabbage.

In the afternoon, beach-hop to a different stretch of sand to enjoy a new view. At Arashi Beach (about 3 miles north of the restaurant), you will find glassy waters and calm surf. Cool off with a swim or bring snorkeling gear to explore an underwater world of elkhorn coral and pelican fish.

Stay on theme this evening and opt for beachside dining: BLT Steak features a steakhouse menu with fantastic seafood options, or head to the aptly named Barefoot Restaurant Aruba, where gourmet dishes like garlic shrimp, blackened mahi-mahi and Caribbean grouper are best enjoyed with your toes in the sand.

Saturday: Rent a Jeep and Explore the Surrounding Towns

Rent an open-air JeepSunset Car Rental and Wheels 2 Go Aruba can both help with this — and lean in to island-wide adventure today, beginning in the capital town of Oranjestad, where the Dutch colonial structures house charming boutiques and eateries.

Grab a bite at the Dutch Pancakehouse for the powdered-sugar-dusted house specialty (savory Dutch pancakes — served with toppings like ham, cheese or bacon — are also available) or Bistro De Suikertuin for a mix of European classics, including some vegetarian dishes and bottomless mimosas.

Tide pool at Arikok National Park
Arikok National Park is home to stunning natural wonders. (Photo: Getty Images)

Walk off your meal by popping into local boutiques. The pastel-washed storefronts offer pieces by Aruban artisans and international brands in equal measure. Find duty-free perfumes, local jewelry and locally harvested aloe.

Then hop back in the Jeep and maintain the adrenaline rush with a trip to Arikok National Park, accounting for a huge swath of Aruba’s protected flora and fauna and home to the Hooiberg Mountain, a volcanic formation that looms large on the otherwise mostly flat island.

Spend a few hours in the park, hiking first to the top of the mountain. The summit can be accessed with a short but breathless climb up 500-plus steps — well worth it for the panoramic vistas.

You’ll also discover the Natural Pool, colloquially referred to as Conchi (bowl), where a circle of naturally formed stone creates a pool that is seemingly separated from the adjacent sea — an ideal spot to cool off when the ocean is calm. Should you seek a further thrill, trade the Jeep for a dune buggy and zip down the coast near Bushiribana Gold Mine Ruins.

Finish up the day at California Lighthouse for 360-degree island views; sunset is the most popular time for a visit, so expect good company, but turn your eyes to the sun melting into the sea and all thought of the crowds will fade away.

Stop at a local rum bar, like Bugaloe Beach Bar, on the way home for casual fare with Aruban flavors. Some popular dishes include keshi yena (cheese and spiced meat) as well as fried plantains and catch of the day prepared whole.

Sunday: Enjoy Art in San Nicolas

Grab breakfast at your hotel and rise and shine with an early morning of SUP yoga, offered by Vela Sports. Starting from Palm Beach, the class paddles out into the undisturbed waters for a restorative session against a soundtrack of lapping waves. The company also offers windsurfing and kitesurfing rentals if that’s more your speed.

After a morning on the water, experience the island’s artistic side in San Nicolas. Renowned as the birthplace of Carnival on Aruba, this town is tucked along the island’s southern tip. Find Caribbean street art and boutiques dedicated to showcasing local crafts.

Be sure to stop by Kamini’s Kitchen for some authentic and flavorful Caribbean dishes. Try out one of their famed curries, refreshing fruity daiquiris and, for dessert, a hefty scoop of rum raisin ice cream.

Sailboat in front of sunset
Finish the vacation with a sunset sail around Aruba. (Photo: Getty Images)

Round out the day aboard a catamaran and sail into the sunset for a new view of the island. Arrange a sailing excursion to enjoy a fuller afternoon, complete with snorkeling straight off the boat. If you want to keep your land legs about you, try a round of golf at Tierra del Sol, the only 18-hole championship golf course on the island.

Whatever you choose, follow it up with local music, dinner and cocktails at Charlie’s Bar Aruba. The eclectic decor is reminiscent of a funky surf lounge, but the menu is high-end, with picks like surf and turf, barracuda with shrimp scampi and Creole calamari.