Last month I checked off a cruise from my bucket list when I sailed on Carnival Horizon for 8 nights to the Southern Caribbean. One of the stops I was really excited about was Aruba and it did not disappoint.
Aruba was the first stop and the only port I used an excursion. This was a The Best of Aruba Island Tour with De Palm Tours booked direct with Carnival. I believe the tour was $59 but of course that could change at any point. The tour visits four major points of interest in Aruba, the California Lighthouse, Alto Vista Chapel, Baby Natural Bridge and the Casibari Rock Formations.
First, a little about Aruba. This small island is located in the Netherland Antilles and is part of the ABC Islands which consist of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. Although the official languages are Dutch and Papiamento they also speak Spanish and English and is a territory of the Netherlands.
I found it interesting that the terrain and habitat vary by the parts of the island. The East Coast is rocky while the West Coast where the cruise port is is calm and tropical. Then the interior is desert full of cactus. Absolutely beautiful island.
The California Lighthouse was the first stop on the tour located on the North Western Tip of the Island. From there you have a view of the ocean and much of the west coast. Built in 1916 and was named after the SS California which sank there in 1910 prior to the existence of the lighthouse.
I didn't climb to the top due to time constraints but you can 7 days a week from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Such a great view of the Caribbean sea and a great photo stop.
The second stop on the tour was the Alto Vista Chapel located on the north coast. The catholic chapel was built in 1952 to replace the original chapel built in 1750 by Spanish missionary Domingo Antonio Silvestre. Currently the chapel is used for services and visits by tourist. On the tour we were able to sit inside and admire the work and history. Also another great place to get views of the Caribbean Sea.
The next stop was the Baby Natural Bridge or location of the former big Natural Bridge. To be honest, this was a little confusing. But from what I learned on the tour, until 2005 there was a large nature bridge here that was carved into the coral limestone by the ocean over many years. In 2005 it simply collapsed. At the same location, there is a smaller natural bridge you can walk out on to a point.
The spot reminded me of the Maine coast with the waves crashing against the rocks and the sound of the powerful ocean. Such a distinct difference from the resort areas on Aruba. There is a gift shop and café where you can shop, grab a cold drink and hit the restroom. As a note, the restroom does cost a $1 so have cash with you.
The last stop was at the Casibari Rock Formations, on a many geological wonders on the island. The location features huge clusters of tonalite rocks gathered on one area. There are trails created to explore so you can walk around and even climb to the top of the mound for a view of the area. I did not climb to the top but wished I did. Just another example of take advantage of all the time you have.
Something to point out. You are in a desert on the part of the island so no ocean breeze, it will be hot.
This was a fantastic tour and a great way to see the sites of Aruba. That being said, the next time I go, I believe I will rent a car so I can explore on my own.
After the tour, we returned to the port so I went back on the ship, changed, grabbed a Guys Burger and headed back out to the beach. There are several beaches you can visit up and down the coast but I wanted to check out Palm Beach which is the one you see the most and where the high rise hotels are.
It was a little more difficult to find a ride over to the beach. I had done some research and found there is a public bus you can take but when I finally found it, it looked a little sketchy so I passed. I found a guy who was starting a tour and he offered to drop my at Palm Beach for $7, great deal.
He dropped me off at the Hyatt and I simply walked between the hotels and found the lady he told me to ask for if I wanted a chair. It was $5 for a chair in the sun but $30 if you wanted an umbrella. Great deal if you are staying all day but I paid the $5 since I was only going to be there for a couple hours.
The sand was soft and the water was so blue. I will say, its not the place to go if you want to snorkel though, the water is a little churned up from boats and people. But still a beautiful beach. Now when you rent a chair, you do get access to the facilities at the Hyatt, at least I was told. I did not take advantage of that so I cannot confirm. Right on the beach is a little store connected to the Barcello where you can get water, soda or local beers. I had one of the local bears called Magic Mango for $3 and it was really good.
I enjoyed the sun, swam a little and just really enjoyed my beach time. After about two hours, I headed up to the Hyatt to grab a cab. A little lesson learned here about the cost of the taxi. I had three drivers come up, one wanting $13 which I thought was high and he was extremely rude and drove off. The next one came up and wanted $16so I said to the attendant it seems to be going up with every driver. The third one comes up and said $16 but showed me the tax price card for Aruba and explained its $16 if you want to go to the terminal but he can drop me off outside the terminal for $13. The taxis get changed an extra $3 to enter the port area. He quickly got me back to the ship and we talked about the island a little so it worked out great.
After the beach I headed out to find some souvenirs and explore the town a little bit. Oranjested is the port and located right where the ship docks. Lots of shopping and restaurants to check out but from what I learned, if you are looking for the bars and clubs, you want to be in Palm Beach. The ship was in port until 11:00pm but you could experience the night life there and I believe it would be pretty safe to do so. Of course as always, in groups.
Aruba is on the list of ports I would love to return and explore more. There is so much to see including the National Park where you can swim in the natural pools. Plus so many beaches from the more crowded Palm Beach to some secluded beaches like Arashi Beach all the way north from the port. For sure a another visit is needed.
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I have a passion for travel and believe travel is about experiences. Experiences create memories and are the stories we tell to friends and family - even with a little fudging on the facts.