Year-round sunny weather, white-sand beaches, friendly locals, and tasty international cuisine—these are a few of the reasons we love Aruba. In addition to picture-perfect beaches, the clear water that rings the island is perfect for snorkeling and wreck diving. And while visiting Aruba is pretty easy, there are some things you should know before you get on the plane (No, visiting Flamingo Beach in Aruba isn’t as easy as you think). We’re covering everything from the when to go to Aruba to whether you need a visa, the best beach resorts, and what must-do experiences you need to book while traveling to Aruba. Read on for our 12 essential tips on how to have the best Aruba vacation.
1. Aruba is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean.
We’ve spent countless months traveling across the Caribbean and Mexico and are constantly asked about safety in the region’s many beach-filled destinations. The truth is that there are risks to travelers whenever they go anywhere, whether it’s to New York City, Europe, or the Caribbean. Unfortunately, the legacy of colonialism, economies that depend strictly on tourism, and deeply rooted inequality have caused some Caribbean islands to have higher crime rates than other parts of the world. When you add often sub-par infrastructure to the mix, the situation is often only exacerbated.
Aruba, though, is one of the safest exceptions to many of the problems that plague other Caribbean islands. Year after year, Aruba consistently ranks as one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean, with low rates of both violent and petty crime. Of course, you should exercise common sense and guard yourself against problems that plague tourists anywhere (theft of valuables and the like).
Part of the reason may be that Aruba lives up to its moniker of “One Happy Island.” And that slogan’s not superficial — it has a basis in economics. We spoke to a local at the Brickell Bay Beach Club & Spa about all the smiles we saw here while visiting, and they explained that the majority of the island’s residents are middle class, which isn’t always the case in Caribbean resort destinations. In Aruba, this controls the cost of living and social classism, reducing inequality and offering a more level quality of life throughout the island.
2. You need a passport, but you don’t need a visa to enter Aruba.
Traveling to Aruba doesn’t require a pre-arranged visa for U.S., Canadian, or E.U. member citizens. Same goes for China and many of Aruba’s nearby neighbors like Mexico and Colombia. All you have to do is hand your passport over to the immigration officer upon arrival and you’ll receive a free visa stamp that’s valid for 30 days. For those who end up falling in love with Aruba and want to extend their stay, it’s important to note that tourist visits are capped at a strictly-enforced 180 days per year.
3. Gambling is legal in Aruba.
It’s not only the sun, sand, and relaxation that bring travelers to Aruba—some come to try their luck in the casinos. Gambling is legal in Aruba, and is such a popular pastime here that all major resorts have their own in-house casinos in addition to the standalone spots dotting the island. Several casinos are open from noon until the wee hours of the morning, while others keep the games going 24 hours a day. For a taste of something local, try your hand at a game of Caribbean stud poker.
The Crystal Casino at Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino is one of the classiest places to gamble in Aruba—it sparkles with Austrian crystal chandeliers, gold-leaf columns, Spanish mirrors, and Italian marble and brass. Open 24/7, this almost 15,000-square-foot (1,394-square-meter) parlor features over 370 slot machines, as well as tables for roulette, craps, blackjack, Caribbean stud poker, and Texas hold ’em. The Stellaris Casino at Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino is the largest on the island, open 24/7, and includes 26 gaming tables and over 500 slot machines.
4. Does Aruba get hit by hurricanes? No (generally speaking).
One of the most frequent questions we get asked is “What Caribbean islands don’t get hit by hurricanes?” The true answer is that there is no one island that’s free of hurricane danger, but Aruba comes pretty close. In fact, Aruba is to the south of the Caribbean hurricane zone — where the majority of destructive storms develop. The most recent strike was from Hurricane Felix in 2007, which was a weak storm and only glancingly touched the island. That means booking a trip to Aruba is a safer bet than islands in more central Caribbean spots, like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas.
5. The legal drinking and gambling age is 18 in Aruba.
While this probably won’t impact most travelers to Aruba, it’s a good thing to know for anyone planning a spring break getaway or family trip. Aruba is home to plenty of bars and casinos, and anyone who is at least 18 years old can enter them, get served alcohol, and throw down a bet.
Have you ever been to Aruba? Would you like to try one soon? Why? I would love to hear your responses, if for nothing else, so I can learn more and apply that new knowledge to my life!