First Stop In Aruba
The first stop on our visit to the ABC islands was in Aruba. This is the first island in the ABC group – Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. We booked a cruise ship excursion to explore Aruba. It gave us a chance to see a wide variety of the typical tourist sights on Aruba.
We were up on deck to watch the ship dock in Oranjestad, Aruba. It was our first sign of the green-blue aquamarine waters of the Caribbean. When the ship docked, we made sure to stop at the welcome sign. We only wished we had those bodies!
The ship was docked at the cruise ship terminal. Passengers and crew left the ship in search of internet. I was surprised to see that Christmas decorations were still up in the middle of January. We found the same in all of the ABC Islands we visited.
Walking Into Downtown
The ship was docked right in the heart of Oranjestad It was a short walk into town. We wandered around the shopping district. When we stayed on the main strip, we found mostly high end brands. A few streets back there were more local shops with better prices if you are bargain shopping or need to stock up on essentials. We had no problem spending US dollars.
We found several cute statues as we walked. I could not resist posing with the relaxing cow. And I will not share that picture! There were several blue horse statues around. When we read the plaque, we saw this was a tribute to Aruba’s agricultural past. Of course we took a picture of the “I ❤ Aruba” sign!
As we walked along the waterfront, we saw lots of pleasure boats tied up. The Renaissance Hotel was right in town and even had a canal that led out to the sea. The canal led to a Starbucks with a drive in dock for boats!
Our walk through the downtown was a great start to our excursion to explore Aruba.
Heading Underwater In Aruba
Our afternoon tour took us to several different spots around the island. The first stop was at De Palma Pier. We boarded a transfer boat to get us to the Seaworld Explorer II semi-submersible boat. We did a submarine excursion the last time we visited Barbados. So we looked forward to this new experience.
Everywhere we looked we saw resorts on the shore. The bay was crowded with all kinds of different water sports. People on wind surfers flew past at incredible speeds. Paragliders were overhead. We were not sure how they all stayed out of each other’s way. Families had a ball being pulled on an inner tube. There was no shortage of activity in this bay.
We transferred to the sub and took our place at a window. Since the sub stayed at the water level there was no descent time. We circled the Arashi coral reef and the Antilla shipwreck (a World War II German freighter). Off in the murky distance we saw pieces of this large wreck. At times we got glimpses of fish.
But it there was a coral reef there, we did not see it. It was a totally disappointing experience to start our excursion to explore Aruba. The high winds had stirred up so much that the visibility was seriously compromised. The bay was also far too busy. But it did not bode well for trying to scuba dive on our visit to the ABC Islands.
Heading Around The North Coast
The next destination was a picture stop at the California Lighthouse. We got our first view of the lighthouse from the water and a great perspective as we approached. The lighthouse marked the spot where the S.S. California hit the rocks and sunk.
The lighthouse stairs were closed when we arrived so we didn’t even get to climb for a better view. Check the schedule if you really want to climb to the top for a 360⚬ view. Most people seemed happy to take a quick picture and then grab some shaved ice to cool down. I wandered by the restaurant at this site for a panoramic view out over the coast.
This could be a great spot to get a view of the island on an excursion to explore Aruba. But make sure to visit on a day the lighthouse stairs are open.
The Volcanic Coast In Aruba
The bus continued up the largely deserted north coast. The seas on this side were much rougher and generally not an attraction for water activities. The volcanic coast was sharp and jagged. It reminded us so much of the rugged shores in the Azores. The dirt road was rutted so the bus moved at a snail’s pace. This gave David lost of time to catch the beauty out the window.
We stopped at the Natural Bridge. This used to be a large coral bridge but the pounding waves undermined the base and the large bridge collapsed. A smaller Baby Bridge is still standing but it too was being eroded. Signs warned people to stay back from the edges. But of course, people ignored this.
The rocks had small rock Inuksuk standing on top of them. Our tour guide made sure to tell us that these rock sculptures had no specific meaning on the island. They just seemed to have multiplied.
The bus then began the very slow trip back out. We were envious of the people on the ATV’s and jeeps that could fly much faster. You may want to think about options to get out to the Natural Bridge when do an excursion to explore Aruba.
Volcanic Rocks In Casibari
Our final stop was at the Casibari Rocks. A large pile of massive rocks seemed to be piled up randomly. These too are a leftover from the volcanic eruptions in the sea surrounding Aruba.
David climbed to the top to get a view of the surrounding land. The rough rock stairs were not for the faint of heart. Far off in the distance we could see the one large hill on the island. We were told that Hooiberg Mountain really was not a mountain at only 168m (551 feet). But with 562 steps, it was a great place for people to hike.
The site contained a great healthy cactus garden. The cactus were well over our heads. Everywhere we travelled on the island we saw large vast fields of cactus. Although many of them were desiccated and looked like they had turned to wood.
You can see more of Aruba’s volcanic past when you visit Casibari on an excursion to explore Aruba.
Take An Excursion To Explore Aruba
The ABC Islands have always been on our travel wish list. Our scuba diving trip to Curacao nurtured a desire to head underwater in all of the ABC Islands. Unfortunately our underwater taste test in Aruba did not really inspire us to return there for scuba diving. To be fair, we saw only one overcrowded bay by the resorts. The dive map showed dozens of other locations. And the weather had been stormy.
Our excursion to explore Aruba gave us a great opportunity to see the volcanic nature of the island. It took us back to our travels through the volcanic islands of the North Atlantic.
Aruba is an option if you want lots of things to do. And a more traditional resort feel. The water sports will certainly keep you going for days! The next stop on our southern Caribbean cruise was in Curacao. Then we headed to Bonaire. Aruba was a very different ABC Island experience!
Have you done a visit to the ABC Islands? Which was your favourite?
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Aruba looks and sounds incredible, it wasn’t on my to do list but it is now for sure!
Audrey, Aruba is a great spot if you want to have lots to do and a great selection of North American resorts. We really wish we had gotten away from the main port to get underwater. Maybe the next time we head to the ABC Islands! Linda
Some ɡenuinely excellent іnfo , Glad I detectged this.
“The past is a guide post, not a hitching post.” by L.
Glad you enjoyed the Aruba post. It was a great first visit. Linda
Aruba is a great place for your first stop in the ABC islands. We spent a week there in August. The Natural Bridge is a great spot for photos.
This was our first time in Aruba so it was great to see a wide variety of the tourist spots. The original Natural Bridge would have been fascinating to see before it collapsed. Thanks for reading! Linda
Looks like you had a great time in Aruba, plus fantastic photos! I just got invited on a cruise this weekend (for July) to go to Aruba again. I have been many times but it has been probably 7 years since the last time. It isn’t one of my favorites due to how Americanized it has become, but you pointed out so many great natural scenic spots and that beautiful water so I am much happier now about revisiting. They’ve certainly spruced up the front street downtown.
Thanks Melody. Aruba is a great spot to go on a cruise or for a longer stay. Certainly lots of things to do. Are you also cruising to the other ABC islands – Bonaire and Curacao? If so, you can check out my blog about the rest of the group. Sometimes it takes a few years away to look at a country or city differently. I hope you will enjoy a return visit to Aruba. Linda
I definitely want to visit Aruba someday! Bummer about the underwater experience – I hate when forces beyond your control can taint your trip. But sounds like you did a lot of exploring on land so not all was lost! I seriously cannot believe that Starbucks has a drive-in dock for boats – I have to visit Aruba just to see that alone!
Val, I had heard so much about the underwater world in Aruba that our experience was a disappointment. Understandable after we saw how busy the bay was. But we were happy that we saw so much on our tour. The Starbuck was so funny to see. But practical too since the canal led right from the bay. Linda
I hadn’t realized how diverse Aruba is, I usually only see images of the beaches. have been considering taking that cruise, did you have enough time to do and see all you wanted to?
Sherianne, We saw a lot of the tourist attractions in one long tour day. What we missed was a great underwater experience – snorkel or diving. But we had to make a choice since it would have been hard to jam both in. One day was a good teaser to see if you like the island enough to come back. I suspect my bad underwater experience tainted me – which is too bad. So depending what type of things you like to do, one day may or may not be enough. Linda
Aruba seems so lively; something for everyone! It is a shame that the underwater excursion didn’t turn out to be that great. But thankfully, the rest of your trip looks to be quite an experience, especially the Volcanic Rocks.
Sneha, Aruba definitely has something for almost everyone – shopping, water sports, great natural beauty. The volcanic rocks we very interesting if you have never seen a volcanic island before. We saw so many volcanic islands on our trip to the north Atlantic (Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Madeira and then the Azores) that we had a pretty high standard to beat. But if you like wilder shores, then definitely head to the north coast in Aruba! Linda
The volcanic coast looks so rugged and beautiful! It kind of reminds me of the Northern shore in Barbados. The water looks absolutely exquisite. I look out my window now and everything is snow covered white, and so cold. I would kill to get to Aruba right now!!!
Alli, I did not think about Aruba looking like Barbados until you mentioned it. But true about the rugged coast. So many of the island have a volcanic past. It is cold and snowy in Toronto too. I am already itching to head back to warmer and bluer climates. Maybe in March! Hope you find a way to escape too. Linda
I love that it docked you right into the heart of Oranjestad. That way you can maximize that time! I would be so nervous to take a submarine, but it looks like so much fun! Also, those cacti are massive and so beautiful!
Paige, We too were very happy we docked right in the downtown area and could walk right in. So many other ports you need a bus just to get off the dock. This was a semi-submarine so it never dived below the surface. But in Barbados on another trip we went down to 150′ below the surface. That was a little stranger. We found the cacti everywhere to be a bit strange. The island didn’t seem that arid. But it added a bit of personality! Linda
Looks like you still made a great day of it even though your underwater excursion had poor visibility. It was nice to get a glimpse of the volcanic side of the island since the typical view is of the beach and the nearby resorts. An ATV would be so much fun and a great way to take in the landscape. Maybe next time! 😉
Jackie, We were happy we got to explore a lot of different things in Aruba. I agree that an ATV would have been a great way to explore. They also have electric bikes but you probably would not get as far. Linda
I’ve been to Aruba a few times on cruise ships and your post brings back many happy memories! The last time I was in Aruba, I took a snorkeling excursion and managed to get stung by a jellyfish! Arg! It ended up still being a nice day, despite the blisters on my leg haha. I loved walking around town, too. I still need to get out to those beautiful Aruban beaches!
Lauren, I am happy I could take you back to Aruba for a few minutes. We have been lucky to never run into a jellyfish when we have done underwater explorations. I am sure that is not a thing on your vacation. We bought thin lycra full body suits for snorkelling. Helps a lot with not getting your back sunburned when you are in the water for a long time. Also protects if you rub against something. We too missed the Aruba beaches. Next time! Linda
I hadn’t read much about Aruba until now, apart from knowing that it’s one of the popular getaways for a vacation in the Carribean. I liked the fact that this cruise experience has so many things to offer. The water is so crystal blue! I am not into water activities so I would spend admiring the waters from a distance lol but will visit the Volcanic rocks.
Reshma, I was surprised at how many different things there was to do in Aruba besides the water sports. The volcanic rocks on the north side were such a contrast to the white sand beached on the south side. Glad this gave you a little more information about this destination. Linda