10 Top-Rated Tours and Excursions in Aruba
Aruba's slogan is "One Happy Island," and after enjoying some of the island's tours and excursions, it's easy to see why. Water-based tours range from fun pirate-themed sailing and snorkeling trips and sunset cruises to stand up paddle boarding, wreck dives, sports fishing charters, and submarine rides. Land-based tours are especially adventurous. The cactus-cloaked northeastern coast of Aruba is rocky and rugged, and many areas are only accessible with a 4WD vehicle. Tours to attractions in these areas include Land Rover safaris, ATV adventures, and horseback rides. Segway tours are a fun way to soak up the island's scenery - especially if you're short on time - and you can combine them with a sailing and snorkeling trip for a fun amphibious adventure.
1 Jolly Pirates Cruise
The Jolly Pirates Aruba cruise is one of the most popular tours on Aruba. This is a great way to sail around the island to some of the top snorkeling spots and enjoy some swashbuckling good fun at the same time. The tour takes place aboard an impressive replica of a pirate ship with a fun-loving crew. You can choose an afternoon snorkel, swim, and sailing tour or a four-hour sailing cruise with a BBQ lunch. The snorkeling tours stop at three popular spots: the WWII shipwreck Antilla, Boca Catalina, and Malmok. Sunset cruises are also available for those who don't want to snorkel. The highlight of all the cruises is a chance to bring out your inner Blackbeard on the rope swing and plunge into the warm sea. Other fun sailing and snorkeling trips in Aruba typically take place on trimarans and catamarans.
2 4WD Natural Pool Tour
Aruba's rocky and rugged landscapes are ripe for 4WD adventures, and one of the most popular is the Land Rover tour to the Natural Pool in Arikok National Park. This sparkling rock-rimmed saltwater pool filled with colorful fish and fed by waves washing over the slick rocks is one of Aruba's top tourist attractions. A snorkeling stop here is a highlight. Since it's only accessible by 4WD vehicle down a rough and rocky track, this tour is a fun way to visit the pool and see some of Aruba's other attractions along the way. Depending on the tour you choose, you can also visit landmarks such as the California Lighthouse, Alto Vista Chapel, the remains of the Natural Bridge (it collapsed in 2005), the Donkey Sanctuary Aruba, and Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins. Tours to the Natural Pool typically take about four hours, although a full-day tour is also available and includes a stop at Baby Beach. Be prepared to bump around on these adventures, and take sturdy water shoes. You can also visit some of these natural sites on all-terrain vehicles.
3 Segway Tours
Cruising along the Caribbean shore on a Segway is an exhilarating way to see the island's sights. This intuitive mode of transport is a breeze to learn how to ride and requires little effort to operate. Tours begin with a brief instruction and practice run and range in length from a one-hour jaunt along the beaches north to Malmok and Boca Catalina to longer tours up to the California Lighthouse, with snorkeling and swimming stops along the way. The Segway, Sail, and Snorkel tour combines the Segway adventure with a sailing trip on a trimaran. Anyone from older children to seniors can enjoy these tours, and they're especially popular with cruise ship passengers and seniors, who can cover more ground than they would on foot. If needed, a free pick-up service is available from the cruise ship dock or your hotel.
4 Atlantis Submarine Expedition
Submerging into the ocean depths in a submarine is a great way to see Aruba's underwater world without getting wet. Small children and anyone who struggles with snorkeling will especially appreciate this tour. Hop aboard a ferry for the short cruise to the submarine, and then descend on a subaquatic adventure. The tour visits two sunken wrecks and offers the chance to see schools of colorful fish and coral at depths of up to 130 feet. While you're gazing at all the marine life, a guide provides an educational talk. Another tour, the Seaworld Explorer Semi-Submarine, gives visitors views of the reef through the submerged hull while the rest of the vessel remains above the surface.
Those who don't mind getting wet can try a SEABOB, a streamlined vehicle propelled by an electric engine that allows you to zip along through the water at speeds of up to 22 kilometers an hour. The two-hour SEABOB tours leave from Malmok and visits the reefs of Boca Catalina and Arashi Beach.
5 Horseback Rides
Aruba's rugged scenery and windswept beaches are the perfect setting for horseback-riding adventures. Cantering amid the cactus-peppered landscapes, you could be forgiven for thinking you have traveled back in time to the Wild West, but then the striking jade-green sea comes into view, and you are jolted back to the tropical island paradise. Several outfitters offer horseback riding tours, including sunset rides on dune-backed beaches and adventures through Arikok National Park to the Natural Pool. Many allow you to stop for a cool swim along the way.
6 Exploring Arikok National Park
To experience Aruba's unique ecology, you can explore rugged Arikok National Park on foot, horseback, or mountain bike, as well as by vehicle - preferably 4WD. The arid landscapes in this 7,907-acre reserve make up almost 20 percent of the island and include cactus-covered hills, scrubland, and fascinating rock formations sculpted from limestone, lava, and quartz diorite by the strong and salty winds. Keep an eye out for some of Aruba's native animals, including the Aruban rattlesnake, Aruban burrowing owl, and the beautiful Aruban parakeet that often squawks overhead in small squadrons. Herds of goats and donkeys graze in this parched wilderness, and caves within the park shelter flocks of bats, as well as Caquetío Indian paintings. Stop by the visitor center before entering the park to learn more about the region's flora and fauna. Beach lovers can also soak up Mother Nature's wild beauty on the park's windswept shores, including Dos Playa and Boca Prins. The beaches are great spots for picnics, but swimming is not recommended due to the strong currents and rough surf. Entry to the park requires a small fee, however free ranger-guided hiking tours are available for groups of up to 15 sightseers, as long as you book at least a day in advance. Avoid hiking through the park in the hottest time of the day.
7 Sports Fishing Charters
Aruba is famous for its deep-sea fishing. Trolling the deep blue waters offshore, you have the chance to catch mahi mahi, yellow-fin tuna, barracuda, kingfish, bonito, sailfish, wahoo, and marlin. Steep drop-offs offer fertile fishing ground, and you can also cast for species such as grouper, triggerfish, and snapper. Trips range from half-day or full day excursions on well-equipped and comfortable sports fishing boats, and guided fly-fishing trips are also available. To top off a rewarding day on the water, many restaurants on the island will even cook up your catch for you.
8 Dive Trips
Aruba is renowned for its great wreck diving. Guided by expert instructors, you can explore everything from sunken tugboats to plane fuselages and cargo ships. The Antilla, a WWII German freighter, is Aruba's most famous wreck and one of the largest in the Caribbean. Reefs fringe the leeward side of the island with schools of colorful fish as well as turtles, stingrays, and moray eels. Favorite dive sites include Skalahein Reef, Plonco Reef, and Mas Bango Reef. Drift dives are also available. PADI schools offer introductory courses, refresher courses, and trips for divers of all levels.
9 Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Skimming Aruba's jade-green waters on a paddle board gives you a bird's eye view of the fish life as well as a fun workout. Tours include paddles over the crystal clear ocean shallows, sunset tours, and mangrove-eco tours where you can see birds and iguanas as well as fish. Instruction is provided by experienced guides. During the surfing season, lessons are available for stand up paddle surfing as well. You can even try stand up paddle boarding yoga. This is a fun activity for the entire family.
10 De Palm Island
If you're looking for a day of island fun with something for all the family, De Palm Island is a popular choice. This private island lies only a five-minute ferry ride from the mainland and offers a packed array of activities for an all-inclusive price. Children will love the brightly-colored spiral slides at the Blue Parrotfish Water Park. Adults can relax in a hammock on the white-sand beaches and sign up for some pampering at the spa, and water sports enthusiasts can try the Sea TREK Underwater Helmet Walk and SNUBA adventures for an extra fee. Snorkeling, salsa lessons, zip lining, bingo, banana-boat rides, and beach volleyball are other fun activities on the agenda here. Food and beverages are included in the price, and you can choose from half-day visits or a full-day stay.