Ultimate Vegan Travel Guide to Aruba

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Guest article by Varsha Melwani of Fluently Vegan.

Aruba Vegan Guide

Bon dia/Bon tardi/Bon nochi! 

Good morning/ Good afternoon/ Good evening!

Bon bini welcome to the Aruba vegan travel guide! In this post, I will cover the most common aspects of travel to Aruba and, of course, the vegan scene that’s booming on the island. 

The COVID-19 crisis has been hard on the hospitality scene, but many restaurants still see the benefit of having vegan options for their guests. I’ve compiled a list of vegan friendly restaurants to eat at, places to go and things to do! In this post, you’ll also find sustainable options and local businesses to try when you’re on the island.

Keep reading if you’re someone who wants to know more about:

  • Aruba: One Happy Island
  • The vegan scene on Aruba
  • Aruban cuisine and where to look for vegan alternatives 
  • Where to find vegan food on Aruba
  • Vegan-friendly hotels on Aruba 
  • What to do on Aruba 

The Growing Vegan Scene in Aruba 

In the last few years, the vegan movement has grown rapidly in Aruba. Vegetarians were always around, but as it often goes, vegans were almost unheard of.

Previously, the concept of veganism was unknown, and the hospitality industry just wasn’t familiar with it. Fortunately, this is beginning to change slowly but surely in the world and, of course, in Aruba too. 

Beautiful Aruba
Beautiful Aruba

This change, specifically on Aruba, was accelerated thanks to the untiring efforts of a woman named Meredith Marin. Meredith is a New Yorker who moved to Aruba in 2016. She decided to step up for the vegans and make a change in her community. And it worked!

This is how the vegan community came under the spotlight, which increased the demand for vegan options on the island. Meredith consulted for hospitality establishments and helped restaurants cater to the growing vegan market on Aruba. And she’s even gotten the official Aruba Tourism Authority on board with promoting the island as a vegan-friendly destination.

As an island in the Caribbean, Aruba thrives on tourism. Some hospitality establishments noticed the gap between their supply and the demand for vegan items. They didn’t hesitate to jump on the opportunity to work with Meredith, now CEO of Vegan Hospitality. Nowadays, many restaurants on Aruba have fully vegan menus, while others have at least some vegan options available. 

This increased exposure led to more people being educated about veganism and plant based food. 

It’s common to see menus that have vegan or gluten-free labels now. Although there are still some restaurants that have yet to label their menu or provide vegan options. 

Supermarket staff have also undergone training to be better versed with vegan products. You’ll find tons of plant-based and vegan labeled products at the popular supermarkets. 

And some supermarkets also have separate vegan sections! Outside of this section, you can also find other vegan-labeled items around the store.

Vegan supermarket shopping Aruba
Vegan labeled fridge at Ling & Sons supermarket

Some of the popular supermarkets that have vegan labeled products:

  • SuperFood Aruba
  • Ling & Sons
  • Doit Center

Aruban Cuisine

Before covering the places to eat in Aruba, let me explain Aruban cuisine a little. Aruban cuisine is influenced and inspired by Dutch, South American, and Caribbean cuisines. It’s quite meat and seafood-centric, but lately more and more people have experimented with veganized versions of these typical foods.

Some veganized versions of local Aruban dishes are available at restaurants. If you’re interested in trying authentic Aruban snacks, check out the local businesses that make great vegan versions of popular Aruban snacks, listed at the bottom of this section. 

But first, let’s talk about the different dishes that Aruban cuisine has to offer. 

Main and Side Dishes from Aruba

Since Aruba is an island, it’s not surprising that seafood makes up a large part of its cuisine. Creole-style fish and Keri Keri are two popular dishes. Side dishes that go well with these can be veganized quite easily. 

One such side dish is funchi: Aruban style polenta made with cornmeal, butter and sometimes cheese. Or there’s banana hasa (fried plantain), which I personally can’t resist. The more bruised and yellow the plantain is, the sweeter it tastes! 

Home-made fried plantain

Another popular Aruban side dish is pan bati, which literally translates to “smashed bread”. This is similar to pancakes and is often made with eggs or milk. The good news is that lots of supermarkets offer plant-based alternatives of these ingredients. So, making veganized versions of these isn’t too difficult.

Stews are a very common Aruban dish, despite the fact that Aruba is warm all year round. These stews include different types of meats, but there are some restaurants that do a vegan version, like Papillon restaurant (listed below).  

If you’re ever in Aruba in December, be sure to check out the festive meal known as ayaca. Popular in Venezuela and elsewhere in South America, each country has its own version of ayaca. And, so does Aruba! 

vegan ayaca
Vegan ayaca by @vegan_naturalaruba

This traditional holiday treat is banana leaves smeared with cornmeal dough, filled with a blend of different meats and a mixture of raisins, cashews, prunes, olives, and pickles. The banana leaves containing the filling are then folded neatly and boiled for an hour. All it takes to veganize this dish is replacing the meat for tofu, chick’n or any meat alternatives (which are readily available!) 

Although the traditional recipe is made with meat, local businesses will surely veganize this dish once the holiday season comes around. At the time of writing, there are a few places that offer vegan ayacas at the end of the year. 

Check them out on Instagram: Vegan & Natural Aruba, Fruktos Health Aruba and  Mi Mundo Sugar Free  

Snacks 

Ah, snacks.. The most popular and the best type of food, in my opinion! We’ll talk about two of the most popular snacks on Aruba. These are pastechi and kroket

Pastechi is very similar to the popular South American empanada. It’s a turnover stuffed with cheese or some sort of meat and deep-fried into straight up deliciousness. The dough of a pastechi is different in texture and taste from an empanada. 

Instead of being crispy, it’s rather soft and flakey. The classic pastechi is filled with cheese. A good pastechi will leave a slightly sweet taste in your mouth, which is perfection in combination with the ooey-gooey cheese. 

Some local businesses on Aruba are offering amazing vegan alternatives to the classic pastechi. Since vegan cheese is readily available at supermarkets, finding vegan pastechis isn’t so difficult! You just need to know where to look.

One such place that usually has a vegan pastechi option is The Pastechi House, located downtown on mainstreet. 

vegan pastechi Aruba
LSMvegan’s cheese pastechi

Another extremely popular Aruban snack you’ll see everywhere is kroket or croquette. This is a snack that can be found in varying forms around the world, such as the croquetas eaten as tapas in Spain. Aruba makes its own version of it. 

It’s usually mixed with beef and different kinds of vegetables. However, as with most non-vegan foods, there is an alternative for this too! 

Pro tip: Krokets are paired wonderfully with a pastechi and a chilled can of Maltin Polar (a non-alcoholic malt beverage).  

vegan kroket Aruba
Kroket by The Happy Vegans Aruba

Of course, these aren’t the only Aruban snacks. However, the ones mentioned here are very popular and have been veganized. 

Most local snacks aren’t available at restaurants or cafes, but there is an increasing number of local take-out and delivery businesses that work tirelessly to provide the vegan market with these alternatives. 

Below is a list of some local businesses and links to their Instagram accounts. You can directly order from them if you’re ever in Aruba. 

Many of these local businesses also deliver right to your door! Taking your delicious snacks and heading to the beach for a little picnic is the best, don’t you think? 

  • Chewnobaca
    Try their amazing vegan kroket or chickpea filled pastechi! Chewnobaca arguably does one of the best vegan cupcakes! They also post recipes made from ingredients easily found in Aruba.
  • Vegan & Natural Aruba

Vegan & Natural Aruba mainly does cakes and doughnuts, but they also do ‘chicken’ nuggets, kroket, and ‘meat’balls (another local favourite!).

LSM Vegan arguably does one of the best vegan pastechis on the island. Don’t miss their classic cheese pastechi! They also do sweet treats like truffles and cakes.

Origen is always experimenting with new vegan foods and trying to veganize popular local snacks and dishes. They do great BBQ boxes and empanadas. 

Happy Vegans Aruba is well known for their kroket and their vegan lasagna! 

These local take-out/delivery businesses also offer other food items and specials every week. They usually keep their Instagram and Facebook accounts updated. So if you’re ever in town and fancy a bite, you can always send them a message on Instagram or Facebook!

For more information and a detailed list of local businesses for ordering typical veganized Aruban snacks and vegan food in general, check out this page.

Where to Find Vegan Food on Aruba?

Aside from the increasing number of local take-out/delivery businesses popping up on the island, there are also some sit-down and fine dining restaurants that offer vegan options. 

Aruba is home to many different cultures and tastes. This is reflected in its restaurant scene. Due to the increasing demand for vegan food, a growing number of restaurants are jumping on the bandwagon of offering options to their vegan customers. 

And yes! Some even have a full vegan menu complete with appetizer, entree, and dessert available.

There are some restaurants that offer some vegan labeled options on their menu. But, as a vegan, I personally prefer the ones that have full vegan menus, because who wants to skip dessert? 

Below I’ve listed some restaurants that currently have a full vegan menu or have a chef that is well versed with vegan food.

Useful Phrases in Papiamento

Papiamento is the main language spoken on Aruba. It’s a Portuguese-based Creole language, so if you know some Portuguese or Spanish you will definitely see many similarities. With a bit of Dutch thrown into the mix too! Here are some Papiamento phrases that will come in handy when traveling around Aruba.

  • Bon dia / bon tardi / bon nochi = Good morning/afternoon/night
  • Conta bai? = How are you? 
  • Ayo! = Goodbye!
  • Te oro! = See you later!
  • Masha danki = Thank you very much
  • Hopi bon = very good 
  • Mi por a haya _____? = Can I have ____?
  • Sin carni, por fabor = without meat, please
  • Sin lechi, por fabor = without milk, please
  • Sin manteca, por fabor = without butter, please
  • Sin webo, por fabor = without eggs, please
  • Mi por a haya awa frieu/cayente? = Can I have cold/warm water? 

Vegan-Friendly and Vegan Restaurants in Aruba

One Happy Bowl:

So far, this is Aruba’s only 100% vegan restaurant. And all their food is also gluten free! One Happy Bowl is a cozy place to grab a locally-made Kombucha and a delicious vegan and gluten-free bowl. 

Their menu consists of fresh ingredients you can pick and choose from to create a delicious bowl. Or, if you can’t decide, you can also choose from one of their signature bowls! They also have a weekly special ingredient, like spicy lentils, wasabi hummus, and smoked salmon. 

Lunch at One Happy Bowl in Aruba
Lunch at One Happy Bowl in Aruba

One Happy Bowl is open for lunch and breakfast. Their breakfast options include tofu scramble, a coconut yoghurt bowl, oatmeal, and more.

If you feel like something sweet afterwards, they’ve also got you covered. They offer a few sweet treats that are both vegan and gluten-free. If you’re not able to visit them, they also do delivery so you don’t miss out.

Moreover, One Happy Bowl also hosts monthly events! They host a vegan high tea every first Sunday of the month. This is a great way to spend your Sunday and bring more vegans together.

Not only do they sell food, but they also sell other vegan products, like organic soaps, shampoo bars, locally grown luffa sponges, and more! 

Bucuti Elements

Elements is located in Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort. Their vegan menu contains enough options to leave your cravings satisfied. 

At Bucuti Elements, you can try Aruban funchi crossed over with Italian bruschetta. Polenta with tomatoes on top may sound strange, but, from experience, I can tell you that it is absolutely divine. 

Bucuti Elements’ funchi bruschetta
Bucuti Elements’ funchi bruschetta

My favourite was the arepa mechada. Though arepas aren’t typically Arubian, they’re quite common on the island. This dish is actually Venezuelan/Colombian (the country of origin isn’t very clear). This vegan version at Bucuti Elements contains a mash of roasted eggplant on mini, crispy arepas. An absolute must-try! 

Elements offers different dishes inspired by a range of cuisines, from Aruban to Italian to Indian. Everyone is sure to find something they love. What tipped the scales for me was their dessert section. 

Some restaurants offer vegan options but no desserts. Bucuti Elements, however, does. Though I went there for the creme brulee, I ended up getting the coconut whipped cream mango mousse, and I was not disappointed!

The best time to eat here is at sunset. The restaurant has an undisturbed view of the beach. Even sitting indoors, you can peer through the glass walls and gaze at the setting sun. 

Elements aims to have the best vegan menu on the island. They’re constantly adding new items to their menu. This means it would be best to call in advance to ask about their menu rather than relying on their website. 

Papillon

Papillon is a French-Caribbean inspired restaurant that offers a vegan menu. This is another restaurant that intends to expand its vegan menu due to the surging demand. Papillon’s vegan menu is also gluten free. However, their kitchen is not gluten-free, so if you have any allergies please alert them.

Though they don’t have desserts just yet, their current items have been popular. Their best dish is their vegan crab cakes. Offered as both an appetizer and an entree, this dish has definitely been a crowd favourite. The entree is served with a refreshing side salad and a parsnip puree, which completes the dish. 

Earlier, I mentioned that Papillon does a veganized version of a typical Aruban food: “fish” stew. This is the eggplant bouillabaisse

Papillon’s Eggplant Bouillabaise “fish stew”
Papillon’s Eggplant Bouillabaise “fish stew”

Papillon is located at The Village in Noord. They’re not difficult to find, as they’re in the hub of the high-rise area. You can have a delicious bite and take a walk along the bright and booming streets with lots of shops and entertainment. 

Ike’s Bistro

Ike’s Bistro is a Mediterranean and Caribbean fusion restaurant that offers a full vegan menu with gluten-free options

They get some of their greens (like Madame Janette peppers, lemongrass, and basil) from their on-site greenhouse. Ike’s Bistro supports local farmers and offers organic food on their menu. 

Be sure to try their Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower Wings or their vegan Grilled Fish! 

Ike’s Bistro’s Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower Wings
Ike’s Bistro’s Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

Located at the Manchebo Beach Resort, you’re sure to have that island-y vacation vibe while sipping cocktails and choosing from the range of vegan options from Ike’s Bistro’s menu. 

You also have the option to choose a surprise 3-course vegan chef tasting menu. Ike’s Bistro also does a wine pairing with their chef tasting menu.

Eduardo’s Beach Shack

Situated right on the beach, Eduardo’s Beach Shack offers some great vegan breakfast and lunch options. 

If you’ve ever seen any aesthetically pleasing photos of fruits in a pineapple at the beach on Aruba (like the one below), they’re most likely from Eduardo’s. 

Aruba beach fruit in a pineapple
Eduardo’s Beachshack’s fruit platter. Photo by Ken Grille

This beach shack offers smoothies, healthy bowls, avocado toast, and vegan waffles too! If you’re in the mood for something more hearty, they’ve also got pad thai noodles, tacos, and poke bowls. All vegan, of course

Faro Blanco Restaurant 

Faro Blanco is an Italian restaurant that offers vegan options on their menu. If you’re in the mood for a pasta or pizza with a view to die for, this is the place to go!

Its name gives away its location. “Faro Blanco” means white lighthouse. The lighthouse is one of the more popular spots to visit because of the amazing view of the island from the top. 

Faro Blanco restaurant in Aruba
Faro Blanco restaurant. Photo by Ken Grille.

Just imagine watching the sunset from this spot while you eat a delicious vegan pizza and sip a glass of wine (or juice!). If you’re not up for pizza, you could try their penne alla vodka

This veganized traditional Italian dish is one of their best-sellers and an absolute must try! Faro Blanco offers different vegan options, so you’re sure to find something you like. 

Tandoor

If you’re in the mood for something spicier, then you should visit the best place for vegan Indian food on the island! Recently, they created a vegan menu with enough choices to satisfy your cravings. They are continuing to expand their menu and veganize their paneer dishes, using tofu to replace the dairy-based paneer.  

palak tofu vegan Indian dish
Tandoor’s palak tofu.

Tandoor regularly does specials. These often happen to be vegan too. One they’ve done a few times is the dosa and idli special, which are vegan specialties from southern India.

Tandoor is a great place for a different and authentic Indian lunch or dinner. My personal favourite is the Baingan ka Bharta, which is mashed roasted eggplant seasoned with rich spices. This dish is served with fresh plain naan, which is also vegan! 

There’s always something new to try at Tandoor – that’s how many vegan options they serve! If you’re not a big fan of very spicy food, you can always ask for a milder version of any dish. 

Sip a chilled glass of beer or some juice with a plate of a classic potato samosa and channa masala with naan. All while having a view of the booming high rise area of Aruba. 

Cuba’s Cookin’ 

Unlike the previous spots we’ve covered (except for One Happy Bowl), Cuba’s Cookin’ is located downtown, in Renaissance Marketplace. This is a spot you can’t miss when visiting Aruba. 

You can walk along the pier or Wilhelmina Park and stop by the Marketplace for some shopping and a bite. And when you do, I highly recommend stopping at Cuba’s Cookin’.

Cuba’s Cookin’ Cuban restaurant in Aruba
Cuba’s Cookin’. Photo by Ken Grille.

As the name suggests, they offer a Cuban inspired menu. Cuban cuisine is quite meat-centric, but Cuba’s Cookin’ has veganized some great Cuban favourites, like Ropa Vieja and BBQ Ribs

Cuba’s Cookin’ does both lunch and dinner options for vegans. Their whole sides menu is also vegan. You can grab a delicious ropa vieja and sip a drink in the sunny breeze of Aruba. 

Finding Vegan Food in Aruba

The restaurants mentioned above aren’t the only places to get great vegan food in Aruba. They are just the most popular spots on the island for vegan food. At some of these places, the chefs and staff have undergone training by Vegan Hospitality

As you can see, the demand for vegan food is rising on Aruba. Many restaurants have jumped on the bandwagon to provide vegan and gluten-free options to their guests. Even if they don’t have a full vegan menu, many restaurants have at least one option labeled as vegan. 

Finding coffee with plant-based milk has gotten increasingly easier as well. There are many cafes that offer soy or almond milk, and sometimes even oatmilk! A few coffee spots also offer some vegan bites to go with your order, but there are just a handful of these.

A few places that offer coffee with plant-based milk and a vegan bite:

  • Santos 
  • One Happy Bowl
  • Clover Market
  • Aruba Experience Cafe

For a constantly updated list of places to visit with vegan-friendly dining, please visit the Vegan Aruba website.  

Coffee at Aruba Experience Café
Coffee at Aruba Experience Café

Best Place to Stay in Aruba

As a tourist-friendly island, finding accommodation on Aruba isn’t difficult. It’s full of popular hotel chains like Marriot, Hyatt, and Radisson. Of course, there are also other Aruba accommodation possibilities, which also happen to be vegan-friendly! I’ve listed a few of these below.

Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort 

The staff at this resort is aware of the vegan movement and have been educated to deal with vegan requests. If they can’t answer your questions regarding veganism, they will know who to go to in order to provide the best service possible. 

Bucuti & Tara is an adults only Aruba honeymoon favourite beach resort. It’s known to be a quiet getaway. They have a restaurant (mentioned above) with a fully vegan menu too!

What’s more is that Bucuti & Tara was picked as the highest scoring hotel in sustainable operations and management by Green Globe (2016). 

They’ve implemented various measures to become a sustainably operating resort:

  • Adjusting their food portions to minimize waste per guest
  • Organizing monthly beach clean ups to preserve the beauty of Aruba and preserve marine life
  • Reducing the use of plastic wherever possible, such as by using durable cups at the canteen and switching to soap dispensers instead of plastic bottles in the guest rooms. 

Aside from Bucuti & Tara leading in sustainability operations and management, it’s also a beautiful resort located in the high-rise area. This means that entertainment and shopping is within walking distance! 

Boardwalk Boutique Hotel

Located in Noord, this hotel is very close to the high-rise area. Boardwalk Boutique Hotel offers little casitas to stay in. There are a range of different casitas with built-in kitchens and private patios. Some casitas have BBQ pits and hammocks to relax and enjoy the fresh air. 

Boardwalk offers colourful and relaxing views right from their little casitas. With over-water hammocks and private lounge areas, you’re sure to get the relaxing experience you want in the Caribbean. 

Check out their website to see pictures of the site. If you’re into aesthetically pleasing spots that are sure to be a hit on Instagram, this is the hotel to stay at! 

Influencers and vloggers have been invited in the past to stay at this hotel. You’re sure to get your perfect shot here! 

All the food and beverage offerings come from Eduardo’s Beach Shack. Which means that vegan food is easy to come by at this hotel. And the hotel is also situated within walking distance from Palm Beach.

Manchebo Beach Resort

Manchebo Beach Resort offers an all-round experience, especially as an environmentally conscious guest. This hotel offers food and beverage from four different restaurants, one of which has been included in this post: Ike’s Bistro. Another restaurant at Manchebo is the Pega Pega Beach Bar & Grill, which also offers some vegan options. 

Manchebo Beach Resort is Platinum certified by Green Globe. Here are some of the ways that they practice sustainable tourism:

  • Recording and tracking their operational performance to maintain an effective environmental sustainability plan
  • Educating staff and suppliers so as to raise environmental awareness and action
  • Purchasing local products and services whenever possible with the least negative environmental impact
  • Reducing, reusing, and recycling to prevent and minimize pollution

At Manchebo, you have good food options from different restaurants, good service, and great views. Here you can also choose to participate in a pilates or yoga class on Eagle beach! 

Iguanas on the beach in Aruba
Iguanas sunbathing on the rocks at the beach

The hotels I’ve mentioned here are all lovely places to stay, depending on what kind of vacation you’re going for. 

Are you looking for those aesthetic shots? I’d stay at the Boardwalk Boutique Hotel. 

Do you want a quiet getaway? Bucuti & Tara is the best place then. 

Or do you want a little more excitement? Then I’d go for Manchebo! 

Of course, all these things I’ve mentioned aren’t exclusive to these hotels. You can get some beautiful photographs at Bucuti or Manchebo too. And a romantic getaway is definitely possible at Boardwalk or Manchebo. 

What Is There to Do in Aruba?

Aruba is the second smallest island in the entire Caribbean. So, you can cover the entire island in just a few days of sightseeing. But, of course, it isn’t always just about seeing stuff. There are lots of things you can do on the island. 

Here’s an environmentally-friendly itinerary for your next trip to Aruba.

Wildlife at the beach in Aruba
Wildlife at the beach

Visit National Park Arikok

Arikok National Park comprises about 20% of the entire island’s surface. You can visit the park with most cars, but a 4×4 is needed to reach certain spots like the natural pool. However, hiking is the best option if you really want to experience the park. 

It’s recommended to start early, bring snacks, ample water (at least 1 litre) and preferably to not go alone. Certain trails are relatively short and flat, but others are long and will require light rock climbing.

Enjoy the local flora and fauna and the desert-like views of Aruba at Arikok. I recommend going on foot, instead of cruising on the edges of the park by car. This way you’ll be able to see much more and experience the amazing coastline. 

Explore the caves and Jamanota hill top (the highest point of the island!). On clear days you can even see Venezuela’s coastline. Aruba is only about 30 kilometers from Venezuela.

Arikok Park Coastline
Arikok Park Coastline

There are a ton of hiking trails, some more difficult than others. It’s recommended to do the ‘cunucu arikok’ trail if you want a less difficult one. For a map of these trails, click here.

Recommended trails include:

  • Rooi fluit – Beautiful trail which leads to arguably the most secluded beach on the island, known as Moro Beach, which is ~15mins further north from Natural Pool.
  • Rooi tambu – Longer, tougher trail which leads to Dos Playa beach. No swimming, heavy waves/currents.
  • Rooi spierto – This place is great if you want to do some rock climbing and even have light waterfalls when it rains!
  • Miralamar – Gold mining area where mine shafts can be seen, great beginner trail too.
  • Sero Largo – The long and rough way to hit the Jamanota.
  • Cunucu Arikok – Easier trail through farmland previously owned by a Dutchman named Arie Kok (for whom the park is named).

All trails are quite doable, provided you start early enough and carry enough water and snacks. There is a cafe at the entrance, but it’s recommended to bring your own provisions.

Many people like to hike one of the trails of Arikok to see the sunrise. This breathtaking sight is worth the early wakeup. The picture below is at the end of the Rooi Tambu trail. 

Be wary that the park is home to a critically endangered endemic species of rattlesnake known as the cascabel. If you’re lucky enough to see one, take a couple of pictures and let him go on his way. You’ve just witnessed one of the rarest snakes in the world.

Disclaimer: The cascabel are mostly active at night, so when hiking in early hours be mindful where you step. They will do their best to alarm you, but since they are so passive and sluggish they might not until you’re too close. 

More often than not, they sense your steps as you walk towards them and will move away before you get there. It’s rare that they strike, unless provoked, but if they do it’s usually a dry bite to conserve their venom for prey. There’s antivenom at the hospital, so just call 911 if you have service or let someone else get to a higher point.

Dos Playa beach in Aruba
End of hiking trail ‘Rooi Tambu’ at Dos Playa beach

There are also park rangers to guide you and special programs for groups of kids. You can book a ranger on the national park’s Facebook page for little to nothing. Whether you’re going in a group or alone, booking a ranger is recommended. 

This way, you’ll get all the information you need, and you won’t get lost. Usually the ranger will ask what kind of hiking experience you prefer: chatty or focused on exercise. 

While you’re on the Facebook page, check out the video they have of the park. If you’re not convinced already, you will be once you see the video! 

The best time to visit Arikok Park is when it’s been raining, which is usually from October to November and from April to June. This is when the park turns green, and the flora is at its best. 

The park’s main goal is to preserve different local flora and fauna. They are also leading the following projects to further sustain the national treasures of Aruba:

  • Bat monitoring (on going)
  • Cascabel Monitoring (on going)
  • Reforestation pilot project (design phase)
  • Restoration of ‘Cunucu Arikok’ (in progress)

Visit the Donkey Sanctuary 

Donkeys aren’t native to Aruba, but people brought them here to use them for transport. Once cars made their way through the same cacti-ridden roads, the donkeys were left aside. 

This resulted in poor care of these animals, which led to the near extinction of this species. And that’s when the donkey sanctuary became a reality. 

Visit the donkey sanctuary to hang out with some of these sweet (and stubborn) animals. You can take a seat on the porch and sip some coffee or a cold drink. Don’t be shy! You can also feed the donkeys and pet them. If you come extra early, you can help with chores and more.

The donkey sanctuary now houses 130 donkeys. They’re all named and well taken care of. It’s definitely a great place to visit on your trip to Aruba and get a bit of animal love too.  

The donkey sanctuary is a little difficult to find, but if you follow the instructions given on their website you should be fine. 

Take a Swim in the Natural Pool 

The Natural Pool, also known as Cura di Tortuga (Turtle Bay) or conchi (bowl) by the locals, is accessible on the Arikok National Park route. It’s located in a remote area of Aruba. 

You would have to hike to this pristine spot or take a four-wheel drive to get there. So if you don’t end up exploring Arikok Park, don’t miss visiting the Natural Pool or conchi!  

As its name suggests, it’s a nature-given pool. The ocean is just beyond the edge of it. When the ocean roars, the waves crash into the jagged edges of the island. The remaining water of the waves pour into the volcanic and rock stone circles, creating what we know today as the conchi

Natural Pool/Conchi in Aruba
Natural Pool/Conchi

Those waves that crash and pour into the stone circles ensure that the water is always fresh. Beautiful crabs and all kinds of fish hang out among the rocks. So you can take a swim with the sea life! 

Be sure to wear sunblock on this adventure (and that’s what it’ll be, because it’s quite the hike or four-wheel drive to get here!). Please consider buying an environmentally friendly sunblock that doesn’t damage the reef, such as the one sold by Aruba Aloe.

Visit the Ayo and Casibari Rock Formations

As mentioned before, Aruba is quite a flat island. So, the rock formations are quite unusual in that sense. There are markings on these rock formations that date back hundreds of years. Local inhabitants considered these rocks to be a sacred place in bygone days. 

You can climb two of the rock formations: Ayo and Casibari. Once you reach the top of the boulders, they will reward you with beautiful 360-degree views of the island. 

These boulders look like bubbles stacked on top of each other! It’s an interesting sight to take in, and it gives you a feel for how the native inhabitants of Aruba lived hundreds of years ago. You will see native drawings that are approximately 1100 years old. 

Climb Hooiberg 

Aruba only has two hills. Jamanota is the highest hill and is located in Arikok National Park, while Hooiberg is the other one. This hill has been reconstructed with a pathway and stairs to reach the top. Many people come here to hike, work out, or just enjoy the hilltop for the beautiful views. 

View from Hooiberg Hill Aruba
View from Hooiberg

Crowds flock to Hooiberg, especially around sunset hours. I’m sure you can imagine the views from here. Many people also go to Hooiberg during sunrise hours too. It gets quite hot in the middle of the day, so that’s when it will probably be most quiet. 

Go to the Beach

Aruba is an island, so of course there’s beautiful sand and beaches to dip your toes into. There’s a beach on almost every corner, so you’re sure to find yourself a great spot to take a swim.The sand is warm and white, and the water is sparkling and bright blue. 

Below, you’ll see a picture I took standing in the water and looking back at the shore.

Aruba’s bright blue waters at Eagle beach.
Aruba’s bright blue waters at Eagle beach.

If you go out for a drive on the island, you’re sure to see the sparkling blue waters shining at you on a hot sunny day (which is almost every day). Though Aruba is small, it has more beaches than you can count. 

Going to the beach is free, so you can go every day if you like! But do consider getting a mineral based sunblock that doesn’t harm the coral reefs! 

I personally find myself at the beach quite often at sunset hours. The sunset is different every day and will really take your breath away. 

Aruba Divi Divi beach sunset.
Aruba Divi Divi beach sunset.

You can consider spending the day at the beach, having a picnic there, or just taking a stroll on the shore. The government of Aruba has built a long pathway for walkers. So, you can take a walk without getting your feet wet (if you prefer that) and enjoy the long string of beaches in Noord. 

Of course, you can also choose to wear a swimsuit and jump into the brilliant blue water. Trust me, that’s all you’re going to think about after a hot and sunny day. 

A lot of people end up in the North part of the island – near the high-rise hotels area – for the beaches there. But Aruba has beaches on every corner. 

You could consider traveling to the south side of the island San Nicolaas. This side has a completely different island feel than the north, even though they’re barely 25km apart!

Here are some of my favourite beach spots.

Tres Trapi, Noord 

This is a great spot to jump from the edge of the rocks and dive straight into the clear water. 

Tres trapi beach Aruba
Tres trapi beach

Baby beach, San Nicolaas

True to its name, this beach is known to be calm and quiet. Great for kids or people who are a bit hesitant to swim in the deeper ends of the ocean. 

Arashi, Noord

This beach is close to the California Lighthouse (where Faro Blanco restaurant is), and it’s popular for snorkeling. Don’t be surprised if you see schools of fish swimming around your legs! 

Arashi beach Aruba
Arashi beach

Aruba Aloe Museum 

Aruba’s desert-like soil has ensured an abundance of cacti and aloe. Aloe took root in Aruba and has helped the inhabitants greatly throughout the years. 

In fact, at one time this tiny island was the world’s largest exporter of aloe! Aruba Aloe was founded in 1890, and has been making body and hair care products ever since.

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys some education on your holiday, then I would suggest visiting the Aruba Aloe museum and taking the complimentary factory tour!

Yoga on the Beach

If you’re looking to relax your body and mind, look no further! In Aruba, there are several yoga studios that do yoga right on the beach. Here are some of the more popular ones:

  • Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa 
  • The Happy Buddha
  • Vela Aruba (You can even do SUP yoga (i.e. paddleboard yoga) here!) 

More about Aruba 

Aruba is a lovely, albeit small, island to explore and relax on. The experience is what you make it, and Aruba’s got you covered whether you’re looking for a relaxing time or an adventure. Vegan options are becoming more readily available on the island, so finding vegan food is pretty much a breeze. 

I’m originally from Aruba, and I’ve watched firsthand as the vegan movement has grown here. I can say for sure that it’s gotten much easier over the years to get vegan food. This is largely thanks to Vegan Aruba, who have been raising awareness and educating the community of Aruba on veganism. 
If you’d like more information about where to eat, shop, and any vegan events that may be happening while you’re on the island, check out www.veganaruba.com. Feel free to send a message anytime on Instagram or Facebook.

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About Varsha Melwani

Hi there! I’m Varsha, a vegan consultant trained by Vegan Hospitality. As the founder of Fluently Vegan Consultancy, I help hospitality businesses cater to the rapidly growing vegan market, and I coach individuals wanting to transition to veganism. Follow me on Instagram at @fluently_vegan

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