Aruba Neighborhoods & Towns
On the 75-square-mile, foot-shaped island of Aruba, most vacationers stick to the sugary sand strips of the southwest shore. But a few miles east they'll find the capital city and shopping and nightlife hub Oranjestad. The southeast is home to natural attractions like the the Arikok National Park.
Aruba's capital city, Oranjestad, is an urban area with numerous restaurants, nightclubs and casinos. Hotels in this region tend to be cheaper than some of the beachfront properties and many especially recommend Oranjestad if you want to be close to nighttime options or upscale shopping. Oranjestad is also home to Aruba's main harbor and historic sites like the Fort Zoutman and Willem III Tower and the Archaeological Museum of Aruba.
Palm Beach and Eagle Beach
Just north of Oranjestad, Aruba has a west coast highway called the L.G. Smith Boulevard that's littered with the island's major resorts. High-rise, marquee hotels like the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino or the Radisson Aruba Resort, Casino & Spa have spreads directly on the sands of Aruba's Palm Beach, also known as "High-Rise area." The properties get lower to the ground as you go into Eagle Beach or "Low-Rise area." Accommodations are slightly cheaper here, and the views are spectacular — Eagle Beach is considered one of the best shorelines on the island. Many recommend diving just offshore of this area to the Pedernalis Wrecks.
Spend a few days exploring inland towns like Noord (located just east of Palm Beach) and ride the area's unpaved roads toward the California Lighthouse on Aruba's northernmost tip. Along the way, you should stop at the Butterfly Farm, the unusual rock formations at Casibari and Ayó or the gold mine ruins of Seroe Gerard.
Arikok National Wildlife Park
The island's southeastern coast is dominated by the Arikok National Park, which is part of an ecotourism effort to preserve Aruba's resources. Just north of Arikok National Park in the area of Santa Cruz is one of Aruba's most popular landmarks, Donkey Sanctuary Aruba. To the south of Arikok, watch the surfers along a beach called Boca Grandi or take young kids to the calmer waters of Baby Beach.
Safety has become a concern for some tourists, particularly following the disappearance of Natalee Holloway in 2005. However, Aruba continues to be a safe destination to visit. Nevertheless, stay in well-lit areas — especially in the evening and around the nightlife activities — and stick close to a friend while exploring Aruba.