The A in the ABC islands, Aruba is one of the southern most Caribbean islands. Plenty of cruise ships frequent Aruba with over half a million passengers visiting the island each year. Odds are sooner or later you will find a cruise itinerary that includes a stop in Aruba.
So when your next cruise visits this “one happy island”, there is no better way to experience the island highlights than with an Aruba Tour. Being only six miles wide and about 20 miles long, you can cover a lot of territory on this island in a single day. Be warned- once you take an Aruba Tour, you may never want to leave the island.
Having just returned from Aruba on an Adventure of the Seas cruise, we have put together this guide of the Top Things to See on an Aruba Tour to help fellow cruisers make the most of their time on land.
Top 8 Things to See on an Aruba Tour
Leaving the cruise port, you will most like drive through the heart of the capital city, Oranjestad. Complete with casinos, shopping, bars and restaurants, a stop in this area either before, during, or after your Aruba Tour is a must.
View of Downtown Oranjestad, Aruba
This area is accessible by foot, or you could use the free trolley that circles the area. While here, you have to try a Balashi Beer, the local brew, as well as sample some Aruban cuisine. Plus, there are plenty of unique photo ops such as Rosalinda, a funky blue horse that is part of an Aruban art collection that pays tribute to the island’s Paardenbaai history.
Rosalinda is located within walking distance from the port in Oranjestad, Aruba
During our trip, we spent the afternoon exploring this area on our own, following our organized Aruba Island Tour.
The Casibari Rock Formation
Located in the center of the island is the Casibari Rock formation. These clusters of tonalite rock converge to form what appears to be a semi circular structure. A stop here should be on the top of your list of things to see on an Aruba Tour. The Casibari Rock Formation was the first main stop on our tour, where we spent about 30 minutes. We were able to explore the main formation, as well as some of the surrounding area, but did feel a bit rushed.
The Casibari Rock Formation
While at the Casibari Rock formation, you need to climb the fifty stairs to the top for some great island views. Be careful as they are natural steps and are uneven. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the coast of Venezuela, which is just 15 miles south of the island. During our stop, we were not able to see the South American country, but we were able to spot our cruise ship docked in the distance.
The Editors of EatSleepCruise on top of Casibari Rock Formation
Of course we took a variety of photos from every angle while atop the Casibari Rock Formation, and we suggest you do the same. If you have extra time, you can take an extended walk throughout the grounds or grab a snack at the Casibari Cafe, which also offers live music on select nights. The rock formation also has free public restrooms-most venues charge to use the facilities-so you should also make this a bathroom break during your Aruba Tour.
The Eastern Coast of Aruba
Aruba formed as the result of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. The hard, impermeable land means there is very little agriculture on the island since digging is nearly impossible. Side note- that is why deceased Arubans are buried above ground.
The Rocky Coast of Eastern Aruba
However, this rocky landscape makes for some amazing coastal scenery. So escape the city center and head to the coast during your Aruba Tour to gaze upon the Caribbean Sea as it crashes into the eastern coast of the island. On our tour, this was a short photo stop after visitng the rock formations. Even though we only spent about 10 minutes here, we still captured some nice images.
The Natural Bridge
The rocky coastline on the eastern edge of the island also makes for some amazing natural formations. Among these are natural bridges, remnants of caves that have been washed out over time, leaving small arches that pass over parts of the beach.
The largest of these natural bridges, spanning 100 feet long, collapsed in 2005. However, several smaller bridges still exist to this day, including the “new” natural bridge, which is adjacent to the remains of the collapsed bridge, where most tours now visit for photo-ops. A smaller natural bridge, “baby” bridge, can also be found further south along the coast.
The “new” natural bridge in Aruba
During our Aruba Tour, we stopped at the Natural Bridge site for about thirty minutes to view this landmark and grab some photos, before she too falls into the ocean. It felt like just the right amount of time to view the surrounding area, including the wishing rock piles.
The Bushiribana Ruins
During the 19th century, Aruba had its own gold rush. One of the historical remains is the gold smelter mill at Bushiribana. Built of natural stone, the mill was designed to look like a fortress to ward off would be pirates. While it has not been in use for over 100 years, the sturdy construction means that vacationers can tour this once bustling mill and try their luck at finding any remaining precious metals.
Some of The Remains of Bushiribana Mill – David Kirsch |Source |CC BY 2.0
Depending on the tour you choose, you may do a drive by of the historic site, or your tour may stop for some exploration and photos. Unfortunately during our Aruba Tour, we just did a quick drive-by after leaving the Natural Bridge, and we were not quick enough to capture any good photos.
The California Lighthouse
Making the 12 mile trip from the Natural Bridge and rocky coast of the eastern part of the island toward the California Lighthouse, our Aruba Tour took us past other Aruban landmarks, including the old oil refinery. Once a large contributor to the economy, the refinery is no longer in operation. There are hopes that the industry and mill will reopen to boost the economy perhaps with the mining of natural gas.
Tierra Del Sol Golf Course as Seen from the California Lighthouse
During this drive, we also passed by some affluent neighborhoods, including the luxury living at Tierra Del Sol.
The next official stop on our Aruba Tour was the California Lighthouse. Named after a steam ship that allegedly sank off the coast of Aruba, this 100 year old building’s observatory is about 180 feet above sea level. The observatory was not open during our visit as it was undergoing renovations, but we were still able to snap some great coastal pictures, especially of the western beach area, from the hill that the lighthouse is perched upon.
The View from La Trattoria’s Patio
Depending on the time of day you visit, you may want to stick around for some dinner at one of the most famous and elegant Aruban restaurants, La Trattoria el Faro Blanco, which is adjacent to the lighthouse. Unfortunately, our stop was late morning and only 30 minutes, so we did not get to sample any cuisine. We did make a quick walk through of the restaurant, making sure to take some photos especially from the restaurant’s wonderful patio.
The Hotel District
Besides cruise ships, Aruba hosts many vacationers in the numerous resorts and hotels located on the island. There are plenty of casinos, all-inclusive resorts, beautiful luxury hotels, and high end shopping and restaurants on L.G Smith Boulevard. Even if you like to keep your money in your pocket, you should consider at least driving by these massive resorts. Our tour took us by many of these magnificent grounds, so we could experience this part of the island from the comfort of our motorcoach.
One of the most popular hotels to visit is the Aruba Marriott. You may also want to stroll the grounds of the luxurious Ritz Carlton Aruba, or grab a day pass at the all-inclusive Aruba Occidental Grand Hotel which includes food, drinks, and use of the pool and facilities.
A Beach Break
No Aruba Tour would be complete without spending some time at the beach. There are a variety of beaches to choose from including the popular Baby Beach to the south, the lively Palm Beach near the hotel district, and the quieter Eagle Beach. During our Aruba Tour, we stopped for an hour beach break at Eagle Beach.
A Stop at Eagle Beach
This public beach offered white sand, crystal clear water, and perhaps some of the most relaxing time I have ever spent in the ocean. Floating in the calm, warm water was pure vacation. There are facilities and restaurants/bars nearby, lounge chairs to rent, and plenty of shaded areas.
It was a beautiful, 90 degree day so this beach break was exactly what we needed to end our Aruba Tour. I only wish we had more time to spend here. Public bus transportation is available if you decide to remain at the beach for longer.
How to See Everything on an Aruba Tour
We were able to see all of these island sites by booking a shore excursion with our cruise line, Royal Caribbean. The tour we choose was called Aruba Sightseeing and Swim. It included extended stays at Casibari Rock Formation, California Lighthouse, Eagle Beach, and a few photo-ops throughout the four hour tour.Many cruise lines offer this tour or something similar. Our tour provider was De Palm Tours, but of course there are other tour companies on the island, as well as private taxi services. We enjoyed this shore excursion and would recommend this Aruba Tour to anyone visiting the island on a cruise. If you are looking for other recommendations besides an island tour, check out our 5 Best Things to Do in Aruba on a Cruise.
Highlight: Transportation to all major attractions was provided with a knowledgeable guide who was very friendly and had a good sense of humor. This Aruba Tour was a good introduction to the island for first time visitors in the comfort of an air conditioned bus. We would definitely visit Casibari Rock Formation and Eagle Beach again.
What’s Missing: We did feel a bit rushed and would have liked more time at some of the attractions. It would have also been nice to have an opportunity to tour the hotel district and Gold Mill Ruins a bit.
Have you visited Aruba on a cruise? Are there any additional places you would add to our list of things to see on an Aruba Tour? Drop us an anchor below to let us know what you like to do at this port of call. Help your fellow travelers create the perfect day ashore!