Traveling to Aruba Checklist - The Best Vacation Ever! - My Family Travels

Ensure a safe and enjoyable Aruba family vacation or remote work break with our Traveling to Aruba Checklist. Although public health authorities have lifted all Aruba travel restrictions, the island continues to prioritize safety and well-being of visitors — and of residents — with certain requirements.

An Aruba sunset from the California Lighthouse on the north coast.
Aruba is famous for its bold sunsets, such as this one photographed from the California Lighthouse on the north coast.

All ages need to obtain an Online ED Card (embarkation-debarkation card.) This is true even though proof of vaccination and testing requirements have ended.

Now, you can check off giving back to the island because the government is helping visitors support sustainable tourism. In July 2024, Aruba added an annual US$20 Sustainability Fee to their US$3 Environmental Tax. So, in addition to helping fund environmental initiatives, island visitors will also contribute to building a new waste water treatment plant and other infrastructure projects. Note that ages 7 and under and all cruise passengers are exempt from the new fees.

Why Aruba? Do The Vacationer’s Requirements Checklist

Lawns and pathways of the Boardwalk Boutique Hotel Aruba
With individual rooms and suites, most with kitchens, guests at the Boardwalk Boutique Hotel Aruba can stay as isolated from others as they want.

What about our family’s travel requirements for warm weather, pristine beaches, cheap airfare, great food and convenience? Aruba definitely checks all the boxes:

[x]  Tropical Weather; it averages 82 degrees Fahrenheit

[x]  Beautiful Beaches; there are 12 major ones

[x]   Cheap Flights; Aruba is served by Southwest, JetBlue, Spirit and Sun Country

[x]   Great Food; your choice of seafood shacks and European cafes

[x]   Islanders conveniently accept U.S. dollars and speak English or Spanish

After those five must-haves for a family beach vacation, we always dig deeper for local culture and new experiences. If you, like us, need to get away but want more than a standard flop n’ drop beach vacation, read on for our tips and finds from a recent Aruba vacation.

Traveling To Aruba Checklist – Packing List!

When preparing for your trip to Aruba, it’s vital to take the sunny and warm climate into account. Below, you’ll find a list of essential items to include in your packing for your Aruba vacation:

1. Lightweight Attire: Given Aruba’s tropical climate, ensure you pack lightweight, breathable clothing such as shorts, sundresses, t-shirts, and swimsuits. Don’t overlook beach cover-ups, especially for women.

2. Swimwear Variety: Considering the abundance of beach and water activities, bring multiple swimsuits to ensure you’re always ready for aquatic adventures.

3. Sun Protection: Aruba enjoys year-round sunshine, so pack sunscreen with a high SPF rating, sunglasses, a broad-brimmed hat, and a beach umbrella to provide extra shade.

4. Footwear Selection: Comfortable sandals or flip-flops are ideal for beach outings and casual strolls. If you plan to explore the island’s natural wonders, consider packing a pair of sturdy walking shoes.

5. Medications and Toiletries: Pack any necessary prescription medications and basic toiletries like shampoo, soap, and personal hygiene products, as these items can be expensive on the island.

6. Travel Documents: Don’t overlook your passport, airline tickets, travel insurance, and any required visas or travel authorizations. Remote workers can support the local economy by making Aruba their work from home resort? Plan a One Happy Workation with special long-stay hotel discounts and a free, 90-day entry visa.

7. Travel Locks: Enhance the security of your belongings by using luggage locks in your hotel room or rental property.

8. Travel Adapters and Voltage Converters: If your electronic devices require different voltage or plug types, pack the necessary adapters and voltage converters.

9. Insect Repellent: While not a significant concern, insect repellent can be beneficial in specific areas, particularly during the evening hours.

10. Reusable Shopping Bag: Aruba has implemented a ban on single-use plastic bags, making it advantageous to bring a reusable shopping bag for groceries and souvenirs.

Resort v. Boutique Hotel: Vacation Your Way in Aruba

To avoid crowds and casinos altogether, we chose the small Boardwalk Boutique Hotel, a complex of one and two-story casitas. They’re enclosed in a lushly planted tropical garden one block inland – a world away — from the lively, busy tourist scene of Palm Beach.

Beyond the hurricane belt in the southern Caribbean, Aruba is only 19.6 miles long, 6 miles wide, and about 21 miles from the coast of Venezuela. Rent a car to get away from the very commercial tourist enclaves. We explored the island on our own, finding many happy islanders, lots of Venezuelan workers, and a diverse mix of travelers. Here is an Aruba checklist of road tripping ideas.

Find Arubian Culture in Oranjestad

Trolley runs through back lanes of Oranjestad in Aruba.
Explore, shop, stroll or flag down the trolley which runs through back lanes of Oranjestad.

Spend an hour exploring the sprawling capital of Oranjestad in the lanes near the restored Dutch colonial buildings. Take the trolley along a pedestrian mall that will one day be full of window-shopping cruise ship passengers again. Look for the Cosecha shop if you want to purchase authentically local handicrafts and souvenirs. Taste of Aruba serves the local favorite fish, pargito.

Visitors interested in Arubian culture will learn more at the weekly Bon Bini Festival than anywhere else. On Tuesday evenings (6:30 pm – 8:30 pm at our visit), look for food stalls, a bar, and some crafts and jewelry vendors set up in Fort Zouteman’s courtyard. During the show, a narrator recites the island’s history while local dancers illustrate themes like slavery, the Spanish conquest, and Dutch settlement. A deafening brass band with a drum corps marches in at the end.

Tour San Nicolas for Aruba Street Art

Small town of San Nicolas on Aruba is decorated with murals and street art.
The small town of San Nicolas on Aruba is known for its colorful murals and street art.

The funky, two-story town of San Nicolas on the south end of the island claims to have the largest collection of street art in the Caribbean. Roam the few streets in this village where mostly abandoned buildings are graffitied with sophisticated murals.

Eat Your Way Around Aruba’s Robust Dining Scene

The island’s best chef is arguably Dennis van Daatselaar, who does a chef’s tasting at Carte Blanche and an a la carte menu at Wilhelmina, among other highly praised restaurants. (Make reservations when you book your flights.)

We preferred the casual local places. However, restaurant reservations are recommended everywhere, and we often had to call to get them. Here is a checklist of some of our favorite eateries.

Sample Aruba’s Bounty from the Sea at West Dock

The West Deck seafood cafe in Oranjestad in Aruba.
Begin your meal at sunset from the porch of The West Deck seafood cafe to watch the fishing boats return to shore.

The West Deck’s outdoor and indoor rooms overlook a government beach in Oranjestad so it’s popular for sunset views. Caribbean seafood and vegan specialties go well with the local Barashi beer. As at most of the local places, fish comes with rice, fried plantains and pan bati, which is a lightly pan-fried cornbread. Their tangy Caribbean-influenced Key Lime Pie is surprisingly good.

Enjoy A Romantic Night Out by the Lighthouse at El Faro Blanco

To us, El Faro Blanco has one of the prettiest settings on the island. Tables are set out on a limestone block terrace overlooking Aruba’s north coast. Just behind is California Lighthouse, a local landmark. The tasty food is very old-world Italian — lots of marinara sauces and garlic – and the service is wonderful. We tried the delicious fresh pasta made with seafood, clams, and chunks of fish. More dressy and expensive than most places, it was perfect for a romantic meal.

Get Close Up to Aruba’s Local Fishermen at Savaneta

Family watches as local men clean fish at Zeerovers Cafe on Aruba. - traveling to aruba checklist
Don’t miss the chance to see how quickly the locals clean fish at Zeerovers Cafe on Aruba.

Zeerovers embodies the beach shack style even though it’s on a marina in Savaneta. Go, wait, and commune about the day’s catch with other patrons. Once it’s your turn at the window, you can order shrimp or fish of the day (wahoo and amberjack at our visit) – always deep fried – and sides of tangy onions in vinegar, tartar sauce, French fries or cornbread.

We happily waited at our shaded picnic table for everything to be delivered. Savor the opportunity. Watch old-timers clean and filet the fish as it comes in off the boats. Down a Barashi beer in tiny, children’s sized glass bottles. Eat with your fingers and lick palm oil off your hands. Follow up your feast with a savory coconut ice cream served in a Kalypso shell.

Dine Inland Like The Expats and Save at Wacky Wahoo

Bowl of ceviche from Wacky Wahoo in Aruba - traveling to aruba checklist
The shrimp, wahoo and snapper ceviche is a popular starter at the Wacky Wahoo near Palm Beach.

We’d heard about the Wacky Wahoo. It’s a 10-minute walk inland from the Palm Beach hotels in a small strip mall where lazy dogs and cats roam.

Here, it was all about the fish. The large daily catch menu includes wahoo, barracuda, ahi tuna, and snapper filets, plus local lobster. Catering to international tastes, Wacky Wahoo will fry, grill, broil, or pan-sear your fish with Caribbean spices. Pasta is available if you don’t like rice and beans. Our shared ceviche – a huge bowl – was crisply fresh. The Arubian fish soup is redolent of Caribbean peppers, oregano, papaya juice, and limes. A grilled barracuda and lobster tail special, both delicious, followed. Cashew cake drizzled in chocolate sauce with tart frozen yogurt guaranteed rave reviews.

Go Beach Hopping, an Aruba Requirement

Aquarobics class on standup paddleboards off the coast of Palm Beach, Aruba. - traveling to aruba checklist
This Aquarobics class on standup paddleboards is one of many watersorts available at Palm Beach, Aruba.

Between restaurants, we looked for many of Aruba’s famous beaches, unmarked on unpaved roads. We had a few good maps but little cell service and could never locate some of them. Therefore, another Aruba travel requirement should be a navigation system in your rental car.

Our hotel was near Palm Beach so finding that was a no-brainer. The gorgeous blue sea had alternating bands of pale turquoise over the white sand and navy over the undersea coral reefs. The sea was speckled with passing windsurfers and myriad kite boarders. Palm Beach is lined with hotels and most had their own concessions pedaling jet skis, catamaran rides, windsurfers, standup paddle boards and kiteboards, so it’s a great place to try new watersports.  

To us, the water seemed cleaner at other west coast beaches like Arashi, under the lighthouse on Aruba’s north point; and at the less commercial Eagle Beach, just south of Palm Beach. Whether the water clarity is hampered by sand kicked up by constant tradewinds, or by the masses of tourists spilling sunblock and boat fuel into the surf we will never know.

Put Snorkeling on Your Aruba Checklist

Fsamilies aboard the Dolphin Catamaran on a Delphi Tours afternoon snorkel trip. - traveling to aruba checklist
We were very happy to spend an afternoon aboard the Dolphin Catamaran on a Delphi Tours’ snorkel trip.

Aruba’s scuba diving is world famous because so many reefs are close to shore. We wanted to go on a snorkeling tour and found Delphi Watersports Tours at a beach shack in front of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. With several other families, we spent an afternoon at sea aboard The Dolphin.

We took a small powerboat to reach the Dolphin catamaran, then sailed north up the coast. Our first stop was the wreck of the WWII ship, Las Antillas. In about 45 feet of water, we could not see many fish, but it was fun to spot pieces of the wreck’s hull and anchor below us.

After some Latin dance music, watching kite boarders zoom by, lots of open bar visitation and fresh fruit snacks, we headed to Boca Catalina, a bay with a reef not far from Arashi Beach. Some marine life did swim by. But it was taking pictures, using the waterslide and watching babies and their grownups dance – all touted as signs of “One Happy Island” — that made our afternoon memorable.

Sleep Under the Boardwalk

Man in a one-bedroom suite at the Boardwalk Boutique Hotel Aruba. - traveling to aruba checklist
Inside our spacious one-bedroom suite #302 at the Boardwalk Boutique Hotel Aruba.

Boardwalk Boutique Hotel is owned by Belgian twins who took it over a decade ago. They refurbished its 14 casitas, then added 32 more of these spacious and colorful living spaces. It doesn’t have a casino, bar or restaurant but there’s a cute snack shop by the pool and ‘grammable throw pillows, painted walls and rattan furniture everywhere. Tranquility abounds.

Stock your casita kitchen with Balashi beer, hang out, dip in and out of their two pools, grill on your own deck and just listen to the birds. We guarantee you will relax under the Boardwalk’s dense canopy of palms accented by bougainvillea and pink ginger.

Boardwalk’s little slice of beachfront is tucked between the busy chaise lounges at the pretty Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino and the Segway-mounted waiters at the Ritz-Carlton, Aruba. The friendly front desk will reserve your private beach chairs in the shade of a thatched palapa. Alternatively, book one of the WiFi-enabled palapas and do your work from there.

And our final Aruba travel requirements?

[x]   Sample Aruba’s famous crushed shell beaches

[x]   Wade into the calm, shallow surf

[x]   Commit to the 5-minute walk to the beach for sunset

[x]  Be happy

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