Intrepid travelers can find just about anything to suit their tastes on Aruba. However, Aruba specializes in more than just adventure. From relaxing on the waves to exploring the island's interior, you're sure to find activities in Aruba that satisfy your interests.
For the tens of millions of people from northern climates who love to watch birds, Aruba offers a chance to see more than 300 species, including many exotic tropical birds. Chatty little Bananaquits will partake of fruit you offer from your hotel balcony, while the distinctive piping song you hear around your resort is probably a brilliant orange Troupial. Blue-tailed Emerald and the Ruby-topaz Hummingbirds abound in the flowering bushes that exist on many resort grounds. Relax on the beach and watch Magnificant Frigatebirds, Brown Pelicans, and Royal Terns diving in the surf; and make sure to look and listen for Caribbean Parakeets, whose raucous calls echo from the countryside.
Aruba's most popular birding hot spots are all easily accessible and safe to visit. Bubali Bird Sanctuary offers close-up views of Herons and Egrets, Caribbean Coots, and White-cheeked Pintails. Lucky visitors to the sanctuary may also get a look at Aruba's national bird, the Burrowing Owl, or "choco," as it is known in the local Papiemento language.
At Arikok National Park, which is home to the island's rolling reddish hills, striking cactuses, and famous divi-divi trees, the trails are wide and well-marked, making birding easy. On a cool, early morning visit, listen for the sweet whistles of the Rufous-collared Sparrow, and the low "hoo"s of the White-tipped Doves. You may even catch a glimpse of a covery of Crested Bobwhite scurrying behind a bush, see a soaring Crested Caracara, or admire the stunning beauty of a Yellow Oriole.
You can learn more about the birds of Aruba by visiting Birds of Aruba.
Arikok National Park contains the island's best and most popular trails, covering all kinds of terrain from hills to gold mines to plantation ruins. Remember that Aruba is a desert; bring plenty of water and a wide hat for sun protection. The trails aren't rough; sneakers will cover it, though hiking boots may make the trip easier.
Try your hand at something a little bit dark and mysterious - spelunking, or cave exploration. Guadirikiri Caves is an underground cavern with sunlight filtering through to two inner chambers or "halls." The cave is nearly 100 feet long and is home to a large population of bats. The legend of Guadirikiri says that the daughter of an Indian chief and her lover were trapped in the cave. Their spirits are said to have burst through the roof of the cave to reach heaven.
Interested visitors can also explore nearby Fontein Caves, where Arawak drawings are still visible on the walls and ceilings. Baranca Sunu, known as the Tunnel of Love for its heart-shaped entrance, is a 300-foot tunnel that winds through the rock. When spelunking, bring your own flashlight and helmet, or rent them for a small price at Guadirikiri and the Tunnel of Love.
Horseback riding is another one of Aruba's many activities and a great way to explore the island. Ride along the beach and right up to several of Aruba's popular sites like the California Lighthouse. Plenty of horseback riding companies can put you in the saddle.
Visit Rancho Daimari where a 17th-century coconut plantation has given way to nature trails along Aruba's northern shores. From here, trails lead into the Arikok National Park and to the Natural Pool, where you can snorkel and swim. Prices are set at $50(USD) per person for the ride. For an extra $25(USD) per person, private honeymoon or sunset rides can be arranged.
Rancho del Campo also offers visits to the Natural Pool and National Park, and another riding tour takes travelers to the Natural Bridge. The Park excursion costs $59(USD) per person, lasts about two and a half hours, and leaves twice daily (at 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m). Visiting the Natural Bridge takes three hours and costs $60(USD). This trip leaves at 8:30 a.m. each day and makes several stops, including one for snorkeling. Private tours cost $75(USD).
For $50(USD), Rancho Notorious offers beach tours that last two hours (starting at 8:30a.m. and sunset), and pass through the countryside on the way to Malmok Beach. Other tours last up to three hours and cost up to $65(USD). These tours include rides past the Alto Vista Chapel, Boca Pos di Noord, and Arashi Beach.
Similar trips can be arranged through Rancho El Paso, which has been serving visitors for 25 years. The Gold Mine Ranch offers private tours without time limits.
There are plenty of watersports for vacationers to try on Aruba, and all of them have a strong following. Trade winds make sailing a breeze, while swimming is still a favorite pastime. For something a little bit different, try these other sports.
Take off for a parasailing adventure as you rise more than 600 feet above the water. Most parasailors fly directly from a boat, and a ride lasts approximately 15 minutes. Head to Palm Beach to find parasailing options. Expect costs to run about $40(USD) for a single-seater parasail, and $70(USD) for a two-seater. A disposable waterproof camera is the ideal way to capture pictures of your journey above the waves.
Kite surfing is another excellent way to rise above the water. With 90-feet of line and small foot-attached surfboards, kite surfers skim across the water at 30mph and can launch themselves 10 to 50 feet into the air. Lessons are available, generally for about $100(USD).
If flying above the water isn't for you, perhaps windsurfing is an activity you might enjoy. With winds at an almost constant 15 to 25 knots and a variety of waves at several locations, everyone from beginners to experts can find a place to windsurf. Take a trip to the southern shore for gentler waves and more equipment and instruction, or head over to the northern and southeastern coasts for more challenging waves. Aruba is also host to the annual Hi-Winds Amateur World Challenge windsurfing tournament each June.
Windsurfers gather near Malmok Beach and Hadacurari, also called Fishermen's Huts. This location has something for everyone and the water remains shallow even 200 feet from shore. Advanced windsurfers can check out Boca Grandi, while beginners and intermediates will find plenty to enjoy at Rodger's Beach. Lessons cost about $45(USD); equipment rentals cost about $35(USD) to $40(USD) for two hours, $45(USD) for a half-day, or $55(USD) to $60(USD) for a whole day.
Those looking for other ways to ride the waves can try kayaking along Aruba's southern coast. Guided tours travel around the mangrove and lagoon, as well as a small island. Aruba Kayak Adventure is the only kayak company on the island.
Of course, you could take a trip underwater, too. A submarine ride will take you 150 feet below the surface to see coral, shipwrecks, and sea life. Check for this excursion leaving from Pelican Pier on Palm Beach.
Bus and jeep tours allow visitors to explore Aruba without the stress of figuring out the roads or public transportation system by themselves. These tours take you to some of Aruba's most popular spots: California Lighthouse, Alto Vista Chapel, Seroe Crystal, Bushiribana gold mill ruins, Natural Bridge, and Guadirikiri Caves.
Choose from several types of tours offering various activities around Aruba. The Town and Country Bus Tour picks up riders at their hotels and whisks them away in an air-conditioned motor coach for a scenic and historic tour that also stops downtown for shopping. Off Road Adventure takes travelers on what they call an "adventure caravan," which is a full-day tour with a stopover at DePalm Island. Those who want to rough it can take a half-day tour on a 4x4 across the island's rugged landscape.
Of course, if none of these options seems quite up your alley, check around. Plenty of tour operators offer a variety of excursions for island exploration.
Although it may not be the first activity you think of doing while on vacation, bowling is one of Aruba's best-loved sports. Aruba even has local teams that travel abroad and often win tournaments. Locals and vacationers alike can try out their game at thein Oranjestad. There are twelve lanes and the alley offers everything from shoes to drinks. Find it at Pos About z/n, or call (297) 583-5038.
Activities in Aruba range from adventurous to relaxing, and with so many choices, you'll never have a dull day on the island.
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