Aruba is my one of me and my husband’s favorite vacation spots, as you’ve probably already noticed if you’ve read my other post! We just got back from a 7 night trip in May and I have plenty to update on!
If you are traveling to Aruba and you are looking for something that incorporates adventure, exploration, history, and fun, then there are two tours I highly suggest! One is a UTV tour that takes you to 4 different spots for exploring. The other is a sailing tour that takes you to 2 stops for snorkeling. My reviews of each are below!
De Palm UTV Tour
Length: 4.5 hours
$125 pp ($250 per vehicle)
What you need: sunglasses (preferably goggles- they have them there for $10) bathing suit, towel, shoes/clothes you don’t care to get dirty, water shoes, bag you don’t care to get dirty, suntan lotion, extra clothes, insulated water bottle, cash for tip/drink/food, phone/camera/gopro for pictures
Definitely start your day with a good breakfast. You are going to be exhausted and starving by the end of this! You are picked up from your hotel in the De Palm safari bus and taken to the office where you have to sign a waiver that you won’t read that basically says if you die you’re not going to sue them. You are provided with a bandana to cover your mouth and nose while in the UTV, as it is super windy and sandy. You are provided with water bottles but I suggest bringing an insulated one to keep it cold. They have a cooler that you can use at each stop to refill.
You are given a quick run through of rules. The UTVs hold either 2 or 3 people. We got a 2 person one and there was plenty of room. There is an open trunk in the back for your bag, but I just held mine in front of me between my feet. Do not bring anything expensive because you may lose it or it’ll get very dirty.
The first stop on the tour is to a natural pool in Arikok National Park. It was about a 30 minute ride. You need to ride on the regular roads, so there is traffic at times. Just stay close to the person in front of you because if a car gets between any of the UTVs then everyone has to stop and regroup. They tell you to stay close, my husband interpreted that as 1/2 an inch behind them and damn near gave me a heart attack every 3 minutes.
When you enter the national park, the sand is brutal. I had contacts in and regular sunglasses. It was torturous for about 15 minutes. Thankfully I wasn’t driving because I had to close my eyes most of the time on the way to our stop at the natural pool. If I would have known how bad the sand was, I would’ve paid $10 for the goggles in an instant!
The views are amazing on the way to the pool and even better when you arrive. When you get to the natural pool, they provide you with a snorkel mask. There are some beautiful fish to see in the natural pool. The ocean is very rough outside of the pool so you have to stay in the designated area. I say bring water shoes because one of the ladies on our trip got stung by a sea urchin. There are rocks you can stop and take a rest on in the natural pool, but be careful because there’s probably something living there!
Before leaving this stop, they give you granola bars. Eat them! You need the energy. Next stop is the Blackstone beach and 3 bridges. It is the only black sand beach on Aruba. The three bridges are natural bridges made from rock formations.
Third stop is the Bushiribana Gold Mills Ruins. This was an old gold mine from the 19th century when gold was being found in Aruba. It’s pretty cool to walk through and they encourage you to pick it up if you find anything shiny! There is a food and drink truck at this stop. You don’t stop here long so probably not time for a meal, but we chugged a beer while we were here. There are also bathrooms (the first and only stop with any!) you have to pay $1 to use them so make sure you have singles.
Last stop was the Alto Vista Chapel. It was the first Roman Catholic Church built in Aruba in 1750. It is still used today as a place of worship, so be respectful as you enter and are taking pictures.
One last ride on the roads back to the De Palm tour office to drop off your vehicle. They will provide you with transportation back to your hotel. Make sure to tip your guides! You typically have 2 of them. Ours were Oko and Hose. They were phenomenal and very funny!
Jolly Pirates Sail & Snorkel Cruise
Length: 2.5 hours
What you need: sunscreen, bathing suit, clothes, sunglasses, towel, phone/camera/GoPro, cash for tips
Jolly Pirates has a few different tour options. Last year we did the morning one which included an extra snorkel stop and lunch. For those who are looking for a shorter excursion this is a perfect afternoon cruise. It started at 2pm so we had the whole morning to hangout by the pool and beach.
We stopped at the Antilles shipwreck first. This was a German ship from WWII. The waters are rougher here, so they suggest skipping this one if you aren’t a good swimmer. They do give you a life jacket!
Second stop is Catalina Bay. Here you can find shallow, turquoise water. There are tons of different fish and fauna.
In addition to the snorkeling, they play fun music and it is open bar. (No beer though!) There’s also a rope swing and spectacular views!
Bottom line: The UTV tour is longer, more expensive, and is a lot more exploring. The Jolly Pirates is shorter, less expensive, and more focused on fun (hence the open bar). You can’t go wrong with either!