Best activities and watersports to do in Aruba
By Tristan Ralston on 16th May, 2016
Aruba offers thrills and chills to the daring and fit, and easy outdoor fun to those with relaxation in mind. There are plenty of activities, excursions and things to do in Aruba, here are some of the best.
For every mountain biker negotiating rocky roads, and skydiver and parasailer enjoying a bird’s eye view, there are those strolling along the beach in quiet contemplation. While landsailors challenge the wind and hikers discover the challenging secrets of Arikok, kayakers and stand up paddleboarders prefer to just tune out. The energetic can make waves on a jet ski, waverunner, banana boat or tube; or hover above the surface in a water-propelled jetpack; others prefer to relax on a helmeted underwater walk or hooked up to a SNUBA harness.
Quiet lounging, sunrise or sunset swimming and beach yoga may relieve stress, but the action is all around. Glistening bodies, icy beers, flying sand, cool music and good-natured camaraderie describe the beach scene. Exuberant games of beach tennis, volleyball and soccer work up a thirst. On De Palm Island, the water park with six riveting waterslides will take your breath away. Sailing charters offer catamaran sail and snorkel excursions, including lively music, open bars and snacks or light lunches. Marine lovers can discover Aruba’s colorful underwater realm without getting wet on air-conditioned boats; the Atlantis Submarine Tour that descends to a depth of 130 feet and Seaworld Explorer that remains above sea level while its hull affords spectacular underwater views.
Aruba watersports: windsurfing, diving & sailing
Aruba ranks high as a windsurfing destination in light of its flat-water locations, challenging wave conditions, extensive shallows and constant trade-winds averaging fifteen knots year-round. Avid windsurfers slice the water and kitesurfers flirt with the trade winds throughout the year. Hadicurari Beach (also known as Fisherman’s Huts) is known as the place to put athletic skills to the test. Inlets along the opposite windswept coast attract body boarders and surfers. Good visibility, several shallow reefs, and captivating shipwrecks give snorkelers an array of options. Most sites are on the southern, or leeward, coast. Slightly north of Palm Beach, Catalina Bay and Arashi Reef are home to a host of brilliant marine life.
Reef, shore and wreck diving reveal an unimaginable underwater fantasy. Aruba is touted as the wreck-diving capital of the Caribbean; the entire south coast is a coral reef with twenty dive sites and eleven diver-friendly wrecks. Dive operators offer expert instruction and PADI and NAUI courses including Open Water and Rescue Diver Certification, as well as basic bubble-maker and refresher courses. Resorts offer beginner courses in swimming pools.
For deep-sea fishing, half and full-day excursions go five to seven miles offshore. Game fish catch includes sailfish, marlin, wahoo, shark, barracuda, kingfish, and yellow fin tuna. Enjoy bottom fishing on a sports yacht where equipment and bait are provided for reeling in snapper and grouper.
Arikok National Park
Extreme sports enthusiasts will enjoy twenty-one rugged miles of hiking trails in Arikok National Park and the invigorating climb up the Hooiberg, the island’s second-highest point, and exploration of the caves along the northeast coast. Designated as an environmental sanctuary more than twenty years ago, Arikok is a natural preserve that covers one-fifth of Aruba. With 29 miles of rocky hiking trails, adventurers discover the park’s otherworldly rock formations, bizarre cactus groves, fluorescent parakeets and lizards. Offering a birds-eye view at 620 feet, hikers discover sheer serenity atop Yamanota, the island’s highest elevation point offering picture-perfect panoramas.
While horseback riding near the hotels is scenic and sociable, rides along the windward coast are best left to seasoned equestrians. Bikes are available for rental at bike shares and bike shops. Cyclists and mountain bikers will encounter strong whipping wind, rugged, hilly and rocky terrain. For off-road adventure, thrill-seekers can explore wild outback on a 4×4 Jeep safari, ATV or UTV, negotiating canyons and jagged rocks, dodging cacti while exploring the rugged beauty of the island’s northern shore. And if you want to join the locals in a 5K, 10K or a triathlon, there are races all throughout the year.
Aruba golf courses
Aruba’s golf courses can be more than challenging with constant breezes and blazing sun. Steps away from the beach, The Links at Divi Aruba boasts manicured emerald greens, play-over water and beautifully landscaped lagoons. Tierra del Sol is an 18-hole desert course with sweeping sea views.
Snorkelling in Aruba
Most of the snorkeling sites along the calm southwest coast (resort side) can be accessed from the shore. So can the Baboo wreck close to Malmok Beach and the Kappel wreck at Mangel Halto. A boat is necessary to reach the Antilla and Pedernales, large WWII wrecks, as well as to a few other sites. Parts of the bow are covered with coral and sponges, in waters shallow enough for snorkeling.
The areas out past the Ritz Carlton are good for beginners. Going north, they are Malmok, Tres Trapi and Boca Catalina. Malmok Beach is a narrow sandy stretch with a rocky shoreline; there’s a coral wall and some rocks with little coral formations, tropical fish and crustaceans. Boca Catalina is a wide stretch with shallow waters and abundant sea life; there are lots of rocks and some coral formations. Out further, the bottom covered with seagrass is a turtle hideaway. The part of Boca Catalina furthest north offers the best snorkeling. Closest to the northern tip of the island, Arashi can have strong currents and beginners should stay to the left, next to Boca Catalina.
At Tres Trapi, you descend to the sandy bottom of a small cove via steps carved out of the rock. The shallow waters are like an aquarium. You can snorkel on top of and eye-to-eye with green turtles. Each has its own pattern in the back to be recognized the next time. You may spot baby stingrays or spotwing flying gurnards with big pectoral fins. Red orange and yellow starfish lay on the sea bottom.
Hole in the Wall is a rock wall interrupted by a gap where we swim out – we can stay shallow or follow the slope down. Elkhorn, staghorn and all sorts of brain coral, great star coral, sea anemones and sea urchins are in a very stony area. It’s best to have wet shoes to enter the water and fins for the swim. There are two ways to enter – by walking over the rocks or jumping from the pier. I always carry a flotation device because when snorkelers drift along, there are no options to get out of the water. The reef is teeming with fish including moray eels, trumpet fish, angel fish, octopi, squid and maybe a turtle or spotted stingray.
Mangel Halto is also rich in coral and sea life. Points of entry include the dock, the beach and between the mangroves.
For more vacation inspiration, check out our post on 12 of the best things to see around Aruba here.