Aruba is famous in the Caribbean for its glamorous beaches with gleaming white sand and clear jade waters. Thanks to its arid climate, the sea is mostly unexposed by runoff and offers fantastic diving and snorkelling, with a scattering of shipwrecks to discover, a short distance from shore. Twisted, wind-sculpted Divi-Divi trees line the coast, always leaning southwest due to the predominant northeasterly trade winds, the same winds that lure windsurfers and kiteboarders from around the world.
The most touristy beaches line the western and southern coasts of the island, offering favorite spots for swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing and windsurfing. Venture to the northeast side of the island to see the power of the ocean in full force. Here, windswept cacti-shrouded landscapes stretch to the undulating shores. The wind howls, sways foamy waves and swimming is not recommended.
Nearly all beaches in Aruba are public, and many offer thatched palapas for shade. Stroll along these sun-drenched banks, taking care not to disturb any nesting turtle nests. Leatherback turtles are among the species that lay their eggs here, and if you’re lucky you might see them hatch after sunset.
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1 Eagle Beach
Fringed by coconut palms, sea grapes and Divi-Divi trees, Eagle Beach is one of Aruba’s most enticing tourist spots. Thatched palapas dot the soft white sand, and low-rise condominiums and restaurants line the beachfront. The water is beautiful. Clear jade shoals quickly descend to the deep blue water, but it’s relatively calm and safe for swimming – even on windy days. Jet ski zips along the north end of the beach, but you can put up a spot on the other side of the beach where it’s quieter and more peaceful. Sitting right on the sand is one of Aruba’s top luxury resorts, the adults-only eco-friendly Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, with a romantic oceanfront restaurant.
Turtle nests are often deposited here, so make sure they get a wide berth. Hatching usually takes place around sunset and at night. At the northern end, Eagle Beach is home to the two iconic Divi-Divi trees that regularly appear in Aruba tourist brochures.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Aruba
2 palm tree beach
Backed by high-rise hotels, such as the luxury Ritz-Carlton, Aruba, Palm Beach, just north of Eagle Beach, is one of the island’s most popular and touristy beaches. If you want to be in the heart of the action then this is the place to plant yourself. Restaurants and souvenir stalls abound, as well as a busy lineup of water sports, including banana boat rides, wakeboarding, waterskiing, parasailing and even flyboarding trips where you launch above the water with jetpacks at your feet. Many of the palapas and lounge chairs here have been monopolized by the big hotels, and you’ll need to be quick to find a prized spot. But you’ll find plenty of shops, restaurants and tourist attractions within walking distance, and the palm-studded hotel gardens along the beach provide a tropical feel.
If you want to stay close to Palm Beach but prefer a smaller, more intimate hotel, the boutique Boardwalk Hotel Aruba, with cute self-contained casitas set in tropical gardens, is just a few minutes’ walk away.
3 Editor’s Pick Manchebo Beach
A short stumble south of Eagle Beach, Manchebo Beach offers a bit more seclusion and less crowds than its better-known neighboring beaches. Fringed by a few smaller low-rise resorts, this lovely palapa-studded stretch of white sand and turquoise water is one of the widest beaches on the island. It is also slightly quieter than Palm Beach and Eagle Beach due to the absence of motorized water sports. (Note that water sports are also prohibited Grape Beach to the south.)
Food and drink are available at resorts along the beach, such as the low-key Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa, with an oceanfront terrace and thatched palm trees sprinkled over the sand.
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4 Arashi Beach
North of Boca Catalina, Arashi Beach is the last stretch of sand that existed California Lighthouse. With its calm waters and clear seas, it’s a lovely place to swim, and it also offers some of the island’s best snorkeling from shore. Blue whips, file fish and butterfly fish dart among the rocks and soft corals, and the sandy bottom in the middle of the beach is a popular swimming area. Palapas are limited on these shell-streaked sands, so it’s a good idea to bring an umbrella for backup shade and maybe a picnic lunch if you plan on staying for a while, as the area has no facilities. North of here the coast turns into a wild and rugged lunar landscape dotted with cacti.
5 Baby Beach
About a 45-minute drive from Palm Beach’s main tourist area, Baby Beach, on the island’s southern tip, is a beautiful crescent-shaped stretch of white sand surrounding a turquoise lagoon. This is a great choice for families with small children because of the calm, shallow waters, with a warning that dangerous currents exist outside the lagoon. Snorkelers will find habitat for small fish, such as blue tang around the breakwaters, and this is a good place for kids to practice their snorkeling skills. Bright yellow awnings line the banks during peak months, as well as plenty of palapas and a funky thatched snack bar on the beach.
Turn away from the water and you’ll see the silhouette of an oil refinery, but the views out to the bay are beautiful. Bring your camera, as the water is a striking palette of aquamarine and turquoise. Locals gather along this beach on weekends, but towards the end Rodger’s Beach tends to be a little less busy.
A few minutes drive north of Baby Beach, Big Mouth is a popular spot for windsurfers and kiteboarders, but the wild, wind-beaten waters are unsafe for swimming.
6 Catalina Mouth
Boca Catalina, just south of Arashi Beach toward the California Lighthouse, is a popular snorkeling spot that graces the route of most pleasure cruises. The pebbly beach here is small and not far from the busy road, but snorkelers will find schools of tropical fish and colorful starfish a short distance from shore. You will probably see the tourist boats anchored just offshore. The beach has no amenities other than a few palapas, so be sure to bring food and water if you plan to linger.
7 Mills Beach
North of the high-rise tourist strip along Palm Beach, Malmok is more of a series of rocky ledges and hard-packed sand than a beach, with a strip of expensive villas across the street. The most predominant feature is the rusted hull of the Baboo shipwreck protruding from the water. This purpose-sunk ship once lay further offshore as a dive site, but in 1999 a storm lifted the boat and washed it closer to shore. North of the wreck is one of the island’s most popular snorkeling spots, with clear shallow water and schools of small fish. Tourist-packed sailors hang off the coast here during the day to snorkel.
Malmok Beach has no restaurants or large hotels, but the luxurious and intimate OCEANZ Boutique Hotel Aruba, with stylish and bright suites, is a four-minute walk away and Palm Beach, with its many amenities, is only a few minutes by car.
Windsurfers skim the waters just south of here Hadicurari-strand (aka Fisherman’s Huts), which hosts the largest windsurfing event in the Caribbean, Aruba Hi-Winds, in June or July.
8 Savaneta Beach
About a 30-minute drive from the high-rise strip, on the way to Baby Beach, Savaneta Beach is a relatively peaceful little arc of white sand and crystalline expanses fringed by Divi-Divi trees and sea grapes. Fishermen often stalk this area and few tourists find this little tucked away area. This is a neighborhood for the locals, but you’ll also find a few popular seafood restaurants in the area, as well as smaller guesthouses.
A few minutes’ drive northwest of Savaneta, Lack Halto Beach is another tranquil locals’ favorite, with shallow waters fringed by mangroves. Snorkelers can see blue sole, snapper and parrotfish here, as well as sea sponges.
9 Mouth Prins
Wild and windy, Boca Prins Beach, on the northeast coast of Aruba Arikok National Park, offers a dramatic counterpoint to the calm, crystal-clear waters along the tourist strip. A 4WD vehicle is recommended to access this rocky beach with dunes, but once you’re here, it’s inspiring to sit and watch the sheer force of the ocean lapping against the rocks. Many visitors also come here to enjoy a picnic or dine at the restaurant and admire the view from the limestone cliffs. You can also walk down the stairs to the sandy shore, but swimming is prohibited here due to the dangerous surf.
10 The Palm Island
The Palm Island, a five-minute ride across the sea from the mainland on a ferry, offers a few small white-sand beaches and an attractive range of activities for an all-inclusive price. This is a popular spot for families with young children who come here for the spiral slides and splash pools, as well as banana boat rides, beach volleyball, bingo, salsa lessons and snorkeling. Unlimited food and drinks are also included in the fixed price. For an additional fee, you can try the Sea Trek helmet shoe hike and SNUBA, while those who want to relax can opt for a soothing massage. Half day and full day packages are available.