Aruba, one of the most iconic of the Caribbean Islands, is located in the Southern Caribbean and represents the first letter of the ABC island chain, which includes Bonaire and Curacao.
This island offers year-round sunshine which means a daily average of 82˚F, beautiful and scapes, white sandy luscious beaches with crystal clear turquoise water sand emerald forests. The island also offers an extensive amount of activities beyond the beaches, exceeding all expectations of a tropical paradise, becoming a favorite destination for cruisers.
Official language: Papiamento, a blend of Dutch, English, Spanish and creole. But, most islanders are multilingual (including English).
Currency: the Aruban florin, but most shops and restaurants will accept the U.S. dollar.
Here are MUST do things in Aruba:
Oranjestad, ten minutes from the port – best explored on foot, is the capital city of Aruba, the heart of the area. The vibe is very colonial looking with several local shops and restaurants and bakeries options.
2. Eagle Beach / Palm Beach
Two great options are Eagle Beach and Palm Beach.
Eagle Beach – largest beach in Aruba, 2 miles away from the cruise terminal, laid-back vibe. It offers plenty of parking spots and plenty of shade from an abundance of trees on the beach. You can bring your own beach chair or rent them from hotels/bars such as Amsterdam Manor and Coco Loco bar.
Palm Beach – about 15 minutes drive from the cruise port, more exciting and livelier vibe with plenty of water sports concessions, lively restaurants and bars to get a bite from. The reason is because the beach is lined with high-end resorts which means there is a lot of excursions and things to do throughout the day. There are even casinos. Beach chairs can also be rented.
3. Arikok National Park
Visit this national treasure with over 7907 acres of land and covering 20% of Aruba.
Distance: about 30 minutes from the cruise port.
What to do there: adventure yourself in hiking trails and enjoy the beautiful land formations made from quartz and limestone rocks, and their forest of cactus, divi-divi trees and scrub. You can also ride ATVs and literally spend the entire trip checking out this park.
*Make sure to swim at their natural pool.
You’ve probably seen beautiful pictures of these birds online. The pink flamingos arrived at the Renaissance 15 years ago and made the island their home.
You will need a day pass to visit them, and you can also use this pass for snorkeling. The reason for the day pass is to ensure the safety and temperament of the flamingos.
Enjoy Aruba’s rich cuisine which is made up of Dutch, Caribbean, Spanish and Portuguese flavors.
Aruba’s must try: hot papaya sauce, freshly cooked rice and beans.
Places to visit: Hadicurari, Nos Clubhuis, Iguana Joe’s, Pinchos
6. Antilla Wreck Diving
If you’re into history this tour is a must! You will learn interesting stories of alliances, betrayals, conspiracy, and loyalty of the biggest shipwrecks in all of the Caribbean. And if you’re into diving and swimming, you will be able to see an abundant amount of unusual sea creatures, including colorful corals.
7. Butterfly Farm
Located close to the Palm Beach, this attraction offers information and interesting facts about these little insects, getting a chance to see colorful and unique butterflies.
8. Ruins of Bushiribana and Balashi
Again, more history.
Bushiribana and Balashi were once sights where miners searched gold, which fell into ruin in the early 1900s after World War 1. Make sure you visit this place, and get to see the original structures before they completely disappear.
Bonaire On A Cruise
Bonaire is a Southern Caribbean island, part of the ABC (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) chain of islands in the Southern Caribbean, and it offers a more laid-back style with less tourism traffic. It’s a perfect ecotourism destination.
Divers paradise: that’s how Bonaire is known for – its diving & snorkeling.
Weather: Hot & Tropical
Language: Dutch is the official language in Bonaire, but many of the locals prefer a dialect called Papiamento.
Currency: U.S. dollar.
Take a look at our list of the Best Things to Do in Bonaire on a Cruise:
1. Explore Kralendijk
Kralendijk is the capital city, you’ll notice well-preserved architecture, waterfront eateries, and a small yet bustling market.
2. 1,000 Steps Beach
Popular diving spot or the view from the top of the limestones, 1,000 Steps Beach is located just north of Kralendijk on the island’s west coast, 1,000 Steps Beach boasts pristine azure waters and an impressive, multihued display of coral, sponges, and fish.
Note: There are no diving schools located on 1,000 Steps, so you must bring your own scuba gear.
3. Snorkel- Coral Reef
The Bonaire National Marine Park does a great job protecting the entire coastline with its ecosystem. Spectacular reefs that surround Bonaire and Klein Bonaire are really worth exploring.
4. Visit Washington Slagbaai National Park
The Washington Slagbaai National Park, located about 30-45 minutes away from the cruise piers on the northern tip of the island, with 14,000 acres of land. Home of cacti, birds, and a variety of other flora and fauna.
5. Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire
Established in 1993 by Dutch Nationals Marina Melis and Ed Koopman, the sanctuary provides a safe and peaceful oasis for more than 400 orphaned donkeys.
The donkeys are very friendly, and they aren’t afraid to interact with you.
6. Visit Rincon
Rincon is the island’s oldest town. Spanish settlers chose this valley to establish their settlement. Why? The place was hidden from passing pirates.
Rincon also became home of the enslaved people who worked the farms. This place is rich in history and culture.
7. The Cadushy Distillery
While in Rincon, be sure to visit the Cadushy Distillery, a 1500 square meter mecca for the adventurous drinker and curious traveler, known for the best rum and cola in the world, located in historical buildings with a beautiful garden view with ancient Calbas trees, many lora parrots and even some hummingbirds.
Curacao – Not your typical Caribbean Island
We’ve shared tips on Aruba and Bonaire, and now it’s time to learn more about the third island of the ABC Caribbean islands, Curacao.
*DYK that the word Curacao means Heart in Portuguese? But, no one’s sure how this curious island got its name.
Settled in 1634, Curacao is the financial and commercial centre of life on the island, as well as a Unesco World Heritage Site, thanks to its well-preserved, cotton-candy-coloured Dutch Colonial architecture and buildings like the Mikve Israel Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in use in the Western Hemisphere. Curacao’s history of slavery can be seen in the countryside’s plantations, and is documented in the fine Kura Hulanda Museum.
Language: besides Dutch, many locals speak Papiamentu, Spanish, English, and Portuguese.
1. Visit Historic Willemstad:
Willemstad is the capital city of Curacao and UNESCO World Heritage site. the town is painted in hues of soft cotton candy colors. Explore history by visiting their museums and forts, take pictures at the DUSHI & CURACAO signage, or shop while in Willemstad.
One of the most popular attractions in this part of the city is the Queen Emma bridge, that connects two famous quarters of the island together, Punda and Otrabanda. This quintessential old world bridge is the only functional pontoon bridge remaining in the world.
2. Explore the Hato Caves
One of the most popular tourist activity to do in Curacao is visiting The Hato Caves, the largest cave formations on the island that details the life of the original in habitants of Curacao, the Arawak. These caves which were once used by Arawaks for shelter and later by escaped slaves.
3. Enjoy Nature
Shete Boka National Park and Christoffel National Park.
Shete Boka, which means “seven inlets”, covers approximately 6 miles. 2 hiking trails to explore the cavern, watch where sea turtles lay their eggs and where huge waves that crash high against the coral rocks.
Christoffel National Park is the largest national park in Curacao, found at the base of Mt. Christoffel. Explore exotic flora, fauna and history by going on one of it’s 8 hiking trails.
4. Beach Day
Playa Cas Abao: for a remote uncrowded beach. This beach has a soft white sandy beach with sparkling clear turquoise waters. You can swim, snorkel, kayak, or go on a banana boat ride.
Blue Bay Beach (Blauwbaai): located near the cruise terminal. This beach offers plenty of shaded areas, restaurants and bars, and even a children’s playground.
*A small admission fee will gain you access to the beach, use of the facilities, and sun beds.
5. Visit Klein Curacao
The name Klein means little, hence the island’s name ‘Little Curacao’. The uninhabited island features an old lighthouse, a shipwreck, a beach house with thatched palapas, and miles of soft white sandy beaches.
Hope you enjoy the ABC Islands!