It's tiny, it's gorgeous, and it's totally unique — Aruba is a fantastic choice for a beach vacation, especially for those looking to escape the run-of-the-mill all-inclusive experience offered at larger and more popular Caribbean islands. But if you have never been there, you might not know what you're in for. Read on for our tips to help prepare you for your all-inclusive trip to Aruba.
Expect fewer all-inclusive hotel options
Like other tropical destinations, Aruba offers beautiful white-sand beaches, blue skies and warm weather year-round. But the island is only 20 miles long and even its busiest beaches don't come near the epic scale of mega-resort towns like Cancun and Punta Cana, whose areas stretch for miles and miles along their respective coasts.
Instead, this Dutch Caribbean island is home to a handful of all-inclusive resorts, most of them scattered on Palm Beach and Eagle Beach, near the candy-colored town of Oranjestad and its shopping, dining and nightlife options.
The Ritz-Carlton on Palm Beach is a perennial favorite among travelers — it boasts elegant rooms, an ornate lobby with dramatic columns, a full-service spa and access to one of the prettiest beaches in Aruba. On the more affordable side of the scale, there's the Divi Aruba Resort, home to four dining options, three swimming pools and two bars right on the beach.
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Expect friendly, English-speaking staff and locals
Residents of Aruba are some of the friendliest, most easy-going people you could hope to meet. As they embrace multi-culturalism and a variety of languages, you won't have any problems finding English speakers, or people willing to teach you a few words of Papiamento, the local language which has roots in Portuguese and African languages.
Expect lower prices and fewer crowds in summer
Aruba is fortunate that it lies outside the the hurricane belt, and travelers are lucky too, since they can take advantage of summer's cheaper hotel rates and less competition for space — all without the threat of bad weather. But be warned: summertime in Aruba is more than a little hot. No need to even pack a sweater.
Expect strong sun and winds
Unlike some other island nations, Aruba isn't strewn with palm trees. Instead, you'll see coastlines dotted with divi divi trees — short, knobby plants with a distinctive curve to one side. While they're great for epic sunset photos, they don't do much to shade you from the strong Caribbean sun. Make sure to pack protection so you can avoid too much exposure.
Also, Aruba is famous for its trade winds, which supply much-needed breezes for vacationers, but don't help much for keeping hairdos intact. Pack a hat or plan to wear your hair back.
Expect to rise early to claim a beach chair
This is true for all-inclusive Aruba trips or any other beach vacation, really — if you want to claim a beach chair, you'll have to get up earlier than normal. Retirees and older couples who return to the island every year have no problem with the early-to-bed, early-to-rise scheme to get a coveted spot, but if you stayed up late dancing at E Motions Nightclub, this may be more of a challenge. Consider this your reminder to set the alarm in your hotel room.