Aruba, the Dutch island has two sides...There's the west side of the Island which consists of your typical high-end resorts, restaurants and shopping in the town of Oranjested.
Otherwise, known as the "touristy side". If you love to gamble there are plenty of casinos to choose from and if casinos are not you thing there are several lotto booths located throughout the island. The east side of the island I found to have more of the "local vibe". On this side you'll find more of the local hangouts and more reasonably priced food, as well as Aruba's downtown called San Nicolas. San Nicolas is full of vibrant street art and you might even run into some goats. Both sides of the island offer great beaches to choose from such as Eagles Beach on the west and Baby Beach on the east. If you plan to walk up to a beach bar most are all inclusive with the resort and will need a ticket, so be sure to ask if they accept cash and the best part of Aruba, they accept USD!!!
Bon Dia (good morning)
Bon Tardi (good afternoon)
Bon Nochi (good evening)
Danki (thank you)
Just when you think you are done going through customs, when leaving Aruba, you're not. For those who will be checking your bag you will have to check it twice. That's right...twice. After you make your first drop at check-in you will go through customs for leaving Aruba. Once completed, you have your duty free shopping, which I thought was just the typical duty free area near the gates. I was taking my sweet time since the sign said US Gates this way. There was a security guard at the entrance that advised us we had to pick up our bag, recheck it and proceed to customs. It was very confusing to everyone trying to get to departures for the US. (thinking we just did this) Sure enough there was another area to collect your bags and to proceed to the US customs. Luckily, I have global entry so I didn't have to wait in line again, unlike others who were missing their flights. Please be sure to allow yourself enough time to go through both customs. Otherwise, you will miss your flight as many did that day.
I highly suggest renting a car in Aruba. It's easy to get around and the rental car providers are located directly in front of the airport. In the long run the rental will be more affordable.
Rental Car: 35ish per day
Taxi: Government fixed price based on destination. Depending on how many people you have you can split the cost.
Bus: Once you get into the town of Oranjestad on the west side of the island there is a public bus that is pretty frequent.
If you want an ocean view with beach access then plan to spend some money. You'll be looking to pay anywhere from 200-600 USD a night. There are several boutique hotels or even bed and breakfasts that are 13-20 minutes from the beach that are much more affordable. I chose to stay at Wonders Boutique Hotel, which I paid 94 USD. They offer a free and secured parking area, specialty breakfast upon request, pool with outside common area, and the beds were super comfy. I really wanted to take the pillow it was that comfy.
Things to do/See:
Relax on the beach-there are several to choose from
California Light House
Street Art of San Nicolas
Shop and dine in downtown Oranjested
Play with the flamingos (100 USD per person)
It's all about the fresh caught fish in Aruba. Zeerover, a local eatery right on the water, has some of the best fish in town and some pretty amazing views too. For dinner I had 3 pieces of fresh caught mahi, peel-n-eat shrimp and frites (this was not all for me). Total cost 30 USD and a bucket of beer was 14 USD. The food was so good I went back for lunch the following day and tried their fresh caught hammer jack. Since Aruba is a Dutch Island, you'll be able to find some Dutch food as well.