Is Oranjestad, Aruba a port-of-call on your cruise itinerary? Wondering what to do and how to spend a day in the Aruba cruise port?
Aruba has been on the top of my list for over 20 years. When I lived in New York, it seemed that everyone I knew headed to Aruba once a year. I’d look up the prices of hotels and flights, mull over the ridiculous rates and quickly squash the idea of ever going.
I can go to a beautiful beach when I visit my family in Puerto Rico.
That’s what I used to say to myself to quench my curiosity. I didn’t need to travel. Back then I was young, broke and had little to no experience on how to plan a tasty itinerary as I do now. If I could, I would go back in time and tell my younger self, Aruba is so worth it – make it happen!
You can guess by now that I will absolutely be returning to Aruba for a longer stay in the future. A day in Aruba cruise port is not enough. I say it all the time! Cruise days are never enough, but they are great for introductions.
While we didn’t get to spend a week in Aruba, we loved our ABC island cruise and highly recommend it if you want to island-hop throughout the Southern Caribbean on a friendly budget.
Please note: this trip and post was written pre-Covid.
Covid-19 Update: Please visit Aruba’s official site regarding travel health requirements for more information.
When your previous cruise port is canceled…
On day 3 of our cruise, we were supposed to stop in Grand Cayman. It was canceled due to a storm. The port authority instructed our ship to turn around. Yipee. We got a head start on our journey to Aruba. They announced we’d dock in Oranjestad at 7 AM, instead of the original time at 2 PM time.
7am to 11:59pm in Aruba cruise port?! It felt like Christmas. We did have Santa vacationing on the ship. I swear!
While I felt bad for anyone looking forward to Grand Cayman, I was selfishly celebrating and figuring out what to do with the extra hours in Aruba. We had a tour booked for 2 PM and I was not staying on the ship. No siree.
On this trip, we had internet onboard and I was able to research a few nearby beaches. Eagle Beach ranked high as one of the best beaches near the cruise port. Then I heard it announced by the Cruise Director the morning of and I thought, oh we better get there quick.
A Day in Aruba
Aruba Cruise Port
I was told by a few people that the ABC island cruise itinerary is their favorite because leaving the ship was stress-free. You are welcomed onto the island without anyone hassling you and trying to sell you their services. No long cruise terminal mazes to get through. You simply just leave the ship and its secure area, right onto the Island.
They were not wrong. Used to having to hustle through the terminals to exit, disembarking Aruba was easy peasy. A fresh breath of salty air. After we left the secured area where the ship was docked, we walked a quiet terminal to a taxi that was waiting idly near the cruise port, got in, and were on our way to Eagle Beach in no time.
There was no maze. No hounding. No hassle.
I can get use to this Southern Caribbean itinerary.
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Eagle beach is a 15-minute drive to the cruise port. The kind driver dropped us off right outside of the Coco Loco beach bar. The bar was just opening and the beach was deserted at 8 AM.
We passed the bar onto the beach and looked to find chairs and an umbrella for the day. There was a couple of vendor in front of the bar renting them for $4o total for the day. Instead of taking the first few offers, we decided to keep walking north of the bar on the beach.
For those directionally challenged, like me ?. I can never tell you if you’re going North, South, East or West. So, turn RIGHT onto the beach from the bar. Not sure how I remember any of this. I was too busy gawking at the horizon, the water so damn inviting, I was of no help to hubby figuring out the chair and umbrella situation.
We skipped probably 3 vendors with stacked chairs and umbrellas before finding a set of about a dozen palm palapas set up with chairs on the beach. They rented us a spot for $30. And you guys, the setup and the view is perfect.
I dropped my stuff on the chair, tossed my coverup to the side and sped off to the shore. Let me tell you, I fell hard. Not like fall and skim my knee. I fell in LOVE.
Eagle Beach is everything you imagine when you think of a beautiful beach. White soft sand, calm and beautiful cerulean blue water that clear, and warm to take a swim in. So peaceful. Quiet. At least the morning I was there.
The seats are kind of a waste for me because with serene waters like this, I like to sunbathe by the shoreline and just sit there, take it all in. Hubby though, he likes to sit back and relax, watch from afar. I did get to coax hubby to join me for a swim a while later.
Hubby was impressed by the beach as much as I was. We agreed, we should have visited Aruba much sooner. If we didn’t have a paid tour later, we would have stayed for the rest of the day.
We met a group of people from New Jersey vacationing there for the week. They love Aruba so much, they have a timeshare at Eagle Beach and manage to make it there every year. Serious goals.
Other top Aruba beaches near the cruise port:
⛱ Manchebo Beach
⛱ Baby Beach
⛱ Baby Beach
⛱ Arashi Beach
⛱ Palm Beach
UTV Adventure at Arikok National Park
During our vacations, I always look for something adventurous to do that may be outside my comfort zone and that hubby will love. I mean, it’s his vacation too. Unlike me, he loves ATV tours. Let me clarify, I don’t like driving an ATV, but I don’t mind riding on one.
Many years ago, I almost drove myself off a cliff in Oahu. A tree saved my life. I walked away from the incident just fine. Thank you, Jesus. That’s lead to me just not trusting myself on an ATV. However, I did try driving one again during a private tour in Costa Rica. I did not enjoy it. I kept fearing for my life. Let’s just say, I don’t do well driving anything with wheels that’s not an actual car.
So this time, I compromised and I booked a UTV tour for Two. This way, hubby drives, I can enjoy myself and not worry about dying. And yes, I have that much faith in my husband’s driving abilities.
After we had lunch, we took a taxi to ABC Tour’s office location to check-in for our 2 PM tour. It was a smooth process. They have a professional set-up and it is a reputable tour company. You’re not taking an excursion with just anyone. They have other tours available on their site.
We paid an additional $25 insurance to cover the UTV. In my opinion, insurance should be part of the rate. Either way, we decided to fork over an extra 25. We just wanted to walk away safely at the end of the tour with no drama.
Tip: Bring something to cover your nose and mouth. If not, the office will have its own branded face cover for $5 each.
The UTV tour started from the ABC office and took us to the following stops in Arikok National Park:
- Indian Caves
- Fuente Natural Bridge
- Fontein Gardens
- Boca Prins
- Jamanota Hill (Highest point on Aruba)
- Natural Pool “Conchi”
This tour is rain or shine, so be prepared to get wet and muddy. We ended our tour filthy, but happy.
Tour Option: Aruba ATV Tour with Natural Pool Swim [book here]
Can you tour Arikok National Park in Aruba on your own
You absolutely can rent a Jeep (or any 4×4 vehicle) and do a similar tour on your own of Arikok National Park. If you have an early start in Aruba cruise port or you’re vacationing in Aruba, you can make a day of this.
There is much more to explore. What we saw on the tour were just the highlights. It’s a fun UTV tour in Aruba and fit our needs for a partial day I thought we’d be having in Aruba.
If I had to plan the day again as a do-it-yourself, I’d rent a Jeep, hit Arikok national Park early, and then finish the day off at Eagle Beach.
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Arikok National Park
The Arikok National Park is almost 20% of the island of Aruba. It’s a protected area that was only established and protected starting in 2000.
From the moment you enter the national park, prepare to taste and breathe in the dirt that kicks up from the dry land. Having a face mask is important. It is dry, rugged desert land with rocky and bumpy roads. Actually, it’s the perfect destination to off-road with an ATV or UTV in Aruba. Since it was drizzling on and off throughout our tour, we were covered in mud by the end of it.
Make sure you are ready for an adventure when you off-road in Arikok National Park. In between, we made a few stops at some of the highlights. If you’re doing this on your own, you can pace yourself and see much more of what the National Park has to offer.
One first stop was the Fontain Cave, an Indian cave that is made of limestone and has Indian carvings that you need a flashlight to see. This cave is gated and is only open to visitors between 8 AM to 4 PM.
After our stop at the cave, we walked on down to Fontein Gardens, where we dipped our feet into the pond and let the fish eat our dead skin. Have you seen this done in shop at other ports?
My favorite part touring the National Park was the gorgeous vistas and rock formations off the coast. We stopped at the Conchi Natural Pool for a swim and to explore.
As far as Conchi Natural Pool, expect to descend rocky steps into this area. There beautiful lava rock formations and black sand. I did not go into the natural pool as the waves were crashing against it and there were so many people having a hard time getting in. I decided to explore the area on foot.
Tip: Don’t forget your water shoes. You’ll need them for this part of the day.
I would have loved to have stopped at Prins Bay or Dos Playas, we drove by it. Something you can totally do if you’re not on your own
Jamanota Hill is the highest point in Aruba and one of our last stops. It’s a great view that you’re not going to get anywhere else on the island.
Who will love Arikoki National Park?
Anyone that loves to hike, explore caves, discover different kinds of rocks and natural pools. It’s great for groups, couples, and families looking to explore a part of what makes Aruba.
Tasty Itinerary: Where to Eat in Aruba
At the end of our UTV tour, the original plan was to return to the ship, shower and leave the ship again to have dinner at a local restaurant. The Celebrity Equinox was scheduled to leave Aruba cruise port at midnight, so why not?
Sometimes the idea is great on paper and not so much the reality. We were completely wrecked by the time we got back to the ship. A shower and dinner in the main dining room called our names.
Matthew’s Beachside Restaurant
We did manage to have lunch in Aruba right before heading to our UTV tour. As we strolled south on the beach in search of restaurants, we were given the name of Matthew’s by those sunbathing and enjoying their stay at nearby resorts.
Matthew’s is a bar and restaurant right on the beach. They had a two for one special on drinks for lunch when we were there.
I ordered my go-to quesadilla if I don’t see anything that calls my name on the menu. Hubby got the steak sandwich and let me tell you, it was delicious. I mean, my quesadilla was good too, but the steak on his sandwich was tender, flavorful, and well marinated. It definitely left my tastebuds with a lasting impression.
The waiter that served us was genuinely kind. He was telling us that right around the holidays it becomes super crowded.
Places to eat near Aruba cruise port?
Here are some options from my notes:
- Bistro De Suikertuin
- Cuba’s Cookin’
- Yemanja Woodfired Grill
- CocoPlum Restaurant
- Dutch Pancake House (breakfast)
Aruba Cruise Port Shore Excursions
Sometimes it’s easier to just take a tour as we did. Perhaps a UTV tour isn’t for you. Here are some other tours you may consider for your day in Aruba cruise port.
1. Go on a Full Island Tour
If you have 6 hours, touring the island and seeing what it has to offer is a great idea. Especially if you’re scouting it for future vacation spots.
What? I’m always scouting on all my cruise trips
2. Afternoon Snorkeling Tour
I want to snorkel on every island. From what I saw at Eagle Beach, you have to go way out from the shore in order to snorkel. So why not head out in the afternoon and snorkel from a boat?
3. Aruba Sunset & Dinner Tour
If you have a late day in Aruba, a sunset tour with dinner is a perfect way to end your day in Aruba before heading back to the cruise ship Make the most of your cruise day.
4. Go Parasailing
Imagine the beauty of Aruba from above. Parasailing is not only an adventure but a peaceful experience. Once you’re up there looking out at the amazing scenery around you, you won’t regret it.
5. Visit the Flamingos at De Palm Island
Looking for an all-inclusive day that includes lunch, snorkeling, drinks, flamingos, and more? Spend the day at De Palm Island.
I love Aruba
Can I just shout that from a rooftop? Better yet, from a plane on my way to Aruba?
I don’t know if you could tell, but we absolutely loved our day in Aruba and can’t wait to return. The beaches are just amazing and I’m a sucker for beautiful beaches. What you see in photos is what you get.
You can also find my Instagram story highlights from the day: here.
Next stop: Beach Hopping in Curacao Island
Are you thinking of an Aruba cruise or land vacation? What are you looking forward to the most?
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