The desert island (literally) of Aruba has long lured romance travelers near and far and certainly delivers plenty of wedding, bachelorette, and honeymoon options as a result. The island is easy to get to from the States, its weather is practically perfect in every way and in every season, and it’s located outside the Hurricane Belt—meaning a last-minute cancellation for a big trip is less likely than in other Caribbean hot spots. Basically, it’s a sure hit for honeymooners—and with more to do than meets the eye. Here’s everything you need to know about the island this year:
What to Do in Aruba
It’s easy to think your Aruba honeymoon itinerary will go something like this: beach, cocktail, pool, cocktail, dinner, cocktail, casino. And while that’s still a great itinerary, you’d definitely be missing out if you didn’t explore Aruba beyond the abundant azure waters. A good chunk of the island—roughly 20 percent—is a preserved national park that reveals Aruba’s unmistakable beauty, a desert oasis landscape where cacti grow wild with rugged cliffs and beaches in full view. You’ve also got some options when it comes to seeing it—by land or sea, by a private island tour on a Jeep or 4x4, or even a private coach if you don’t feel like driving. Highlights include a climb to the top of Aruba’s California Lighthouse, peering inside and relaxing outside the picture-perfect Alto Visto chapel, or seeing the remnants of the now-collapsed natural bridge formed by coral limestone. On the water, there are plenty of options for you and bae, like a magical sunset sail on a unique schooner and even a livelier sunset cruise on a catamaran if you’re looking to break away from cuddle seshes and don’t mind partying with a few strangers.
One of the most out-of-the-ordinary ways to spend some time in Aruba this year, though, is by seeing the emerging art scene that has taken over San Nicolas, a once-thriving town on the island that was somewhat abandoned after the oil refinery there closed. Since 2015, street artists from all over the world have descended upon the small city for the Aruba Art Fair, and in doing so have brought new life back into the neighborhood through a series of works painted directly on the sides of buildings. We’d recommend you start your day here, catching the sunrise in San Nicolas—nicknamed Sunrise City for its incredible eastern exposures—and then enjoying a breakfast of some fresh coconut off the street. You’ll then want to take a romantic stroll through the streets and alleyways surrounding Bernard van de Veen Zeppenfeldstraat and van Renselaerstraat, filled with art stores and murals galore. You should make sure to pack towels and your swimsuits, because as the prime-time sun approaches you’ll want to end up with your feet in the sand at nearby Baby Beach, one of the less frequented (by tourists, at least) but fully worth it beach spots on the island.
Where to Stay in Aruba
Situated on a prime stretch of another playa—Palm Beach, which is consistently rated one of the best beaches in the world—it’s hard to think of a better honeymoon hideout than the Ritz-Carlton, Aruba. Things we love: Every room has a private balcony with large sliding glass doors, ideal for taking in your morning coffee or letting the island breeze in while you enjoy breakfast in bed; and each of the 320 rooms and suites here are comfortable without feeling fussy, outfitted in floral print pillows and scenes of local Divi Divi trees. The definition of soothing and cooling, your room will offer a much welcome respite after a day spent at one of the property’s two massive pools or in a beach cabana with the sun shining down on you. You can start your honeymoon with some real R&R at a large spa with multiple treatment rooms that features plenty of rituals geared at couples, including local Aruban products like aloe and coffee scrubs. And a casino attached to the lobby makes for nighttime fun pre- or post-dinner.
Where to Eat in Aruba
Some of the best culinary offerings on the island are also located at the Ritz, which houses Casa Nonna, the popular Italian home cooking-style concept where you can feast on all the fried calamari, burrata, and chicken parm your hearts desire. There’s also a great romantic sunset deck and sushi restaurant, Divi, an ideal location for sundowners (Pro tip: Try their signature cocktail, Cadushi, made with a local cactus puree) while you listen to live music and enjoy a sushi meal filled with creative rolls or ceviche after the sun has set.
The adults-only Elements Restaurant hosts one of the island’s most spectacular and splurge-worthy dining experiences, offering newlyweds a private multi-course dinner under a palapa (an open-sided hut) on the beach. Other fine-dining favorites include the Wilhelmina Restaurant, where guests dine in an urban garden in the lively downtown of Oranjestad, and Quinta del Carmen, that has a magical courtyard setting beside one of Aruba’s most beloved historic homes, a cunucu-style villa. If you’re looking to go super intimate, you’ll find it if you make an early reservation at Fred Restaurant, Carte Blanche, 2 Fools and a Bull, or the Kitchen Table by—each with varied ambiance but all with beautiful food presentation.