Desert safaris needn’t be limited to Africa. In fact, one of the most glorious spots for safari adventuring also happens to be an island haven for all-inclusive vacationers and honeymooners alike: Aruba. Long known for its gorgeous weather and pristine beaches, the tiny island is also a Mecca for travellers who want a dash of outdoor excitement with their sunshine.
Yes, you really can have your margarita and drink it, too. So if you’re not one to spend seven straight days horizontal on a beach chair (no judgement here), get off the resort and discover these unexpected gems dotted around Aruba. The beach chair will be waiting when you get back.
Hike in a National Park
Nearly 20 per cent of Aruba’s landmass is national park. Impressive, right? Take a safari hiking tour through Arikok, one the island’s most famous parks, where you’ll discover native foliage and unique terrain, like the Ayo Rock Formations. But, please: don’t pet the cacti.
Wade in Conchi Pool
No, the water in Aruba’s Conchi Natural Pool isn’t photoshopped and yes, you can go in it. The natural water hole is quite literally on the edge of the ocean, so keep your wits about you and bring a buddy. Oh, and for an even greater sense of adventure, try arriving on horseback.
Meet bats in Guadirikiri Cave
Aruba is home to seven species of bats, and one of them calls Guadirikiri Cave home. The cave, which is 100 feet deep, has two chambers to explore, and holes in the cave’s roof let light stream through, so you’re not left totally in the dark.
Stand on the edge of the world
It’s not just endless, white sandy beaches that line the coast of Aruba. Craggy cliffs make up some of the shoreline, and the sunset from one of these spots is a force to be reckoned with. Make sure your camera battery is fully charged.
Find a hidden bay…
…and pretend like you’re the last person on earth. Spots like Boca Catalina Beach have plenty of seaside nooks and crannies that can be transformed into your very own personal swimming pool. Leave your cellphone at the resort and spend the day completely disconnected.
Take a Jeep tour through old ruins
Aruba’s history is rich, quite literally. Gold was first mined on the island in 1824, and Jeep tours take visitors through Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins and Balashi Gold Mill Ruins where the precious metal was once found.
Have a drink at an iconic locale
Charlie’s Bar in San Nicolas has been serving local brews and eats since 1941. Pop in for some fresh island fare and cheers with the locals before heading out for an afternoon adventure.
Come and enjoy the great food and unique atmosphere of this famous bar in Aruba, an island tradition since 1941, filled with decades of international memorabilia. The menu boasts surf ‘n turf, churrasco, tenderloin, burgers, fresh Caribbean catch, steamed shrimp and sautéed scampi as well as burgers, soups, and appetizers. Be sure to stop at this popular bar in San Nicolas when touring the other side of this Caribbean island for a bit of local color and a lot of laughs. Pic by @lylejingley #aruba #discoveraruba #onehappyisland
Immerse yourself in history
From 1890 to 1949, Queen Wilhelmina reigned over the Netherlands, as well as Aruba. This urban waterfront park is home to a statue dedicated to the Queen, and is an outdoorsy way to pay homage to her highness. Plus, outdoor art is peppered throughout the park.
Snag an off-roading vehicle and let your hair loose
Off-roading along the serene shores while strapped into a rugged and powerful rig is the perfect way to blow off some steam. Bring a GoPro and strap it to your head; you don’t want to be responsible for holding a camera for this drive.
Ditch the beach for a desert hike
When you tire of the ocean breeze (is that even possible!?), head inland for a hike in the Aruban desert. The red sand and cacti are a refreshing change from the endless blue sea…at least until you get sweaty and need to jump in the water to cool off.
Take in some urban street art
Aruba is home to some stellar little towns like San Nicolas. This sleepy spot hosts the Aruba Art Fair, which has seen its streets flooded with vibrant graffiti artwork done by local artists.
Climb a volcano
If you’re desperate for a hike with more of an incline, visitors can ascend the Hooiberg Volcano. Don’t forget a bottle of water and a hat, and prepare for some impressive views.
Stroll, run, bike or blade along the boardwalk in Oranjestad
Get your urban fix in Oranjestad, the capital of Aruba. Its waterfront trails are perfect for walking, running or biking after indulging in a meal at one of the nearby restaurants.