7 Aruba Hidden Gems to Add to Your Bucket List

There's so much more to Aruba than gorgeous beaches, and our list of hidden gems can help you experience all the island has to offer.

Travellers swimming in the Conchi natural pool in Aruba

4min read

Published 29 December 2023

Flight Centre Author


Kaitlyn Funk



There's so much more to Aruba than gorgeous beaches, and our list of hidden gems can help you experience all the island has to offer.

Aruba is known as “One Happy Island” — and it more than lives up to its name. It’s a Caribbean island paradise that has everything you need for a relaxing beach vacation. But of course, there’s so much more than white sand and turquoise waters to appreciate here. 

With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some lesser-known activities and hidden gems for you to discover in Aruba. Ready to learn about what else this tropical location has to offer? Keep on reading!

Explore Aruba’s only black-sand beach

If you look up images of Aruba, this is what you’ll see: soft, white sand; turquoise water; swaying palm trees and a few flamingos. After all, Aruba is a beach destination. So, why does Black Stone Beach deserve the “hidden gem” title more than Palm Beach, Eagle Beach, Arashi Beach and Andicuri Beach? For starters, it’s the one and only beach in Aruba with — you guessed it! — black sand.

Black Stone Beach is also different from all the other beaches in Aruba in that it invites travellers to do more coastal exploration than seaside relaxation. The “sand” is actually small, eroded pebbles — and because of the strong currents and high waves, swimming and snorkelling aren’t recommended here. Rather, it’s a place to take in the unique surroundings (including several natural bridges!) and discover a different side of Aruba. 

Getting to Black Stone Beach is also half the fun. Situated close to Arikok National Park in Santa Cruz, you’ll need to pass by the Ayo Rock Formation in order to access the shore. Make sure to spend some time wandering around. You can find petroglyphs carved by the Arawak people (the first inhabitants of the island) on many of these huge rock formations.

Ride a trolley in Oranjestad

Oranjestad itself isn’t a hidden gem — as the capital of Aruba, it welcomes millions of tourists each year (plus it’s home to a major Caribbean cruise port). That said, it is possible to have a more local, authentic experience in this destination. All you need to do is embrace public transit.

Using public transit is one of the best ways to explore a new city. In Aruba, that means hopping aboard the trolley, which offers free transportation from the cruise ship terminal to downtown Oranjestad. The streetcar makes six stops at historic sites and monuments, and passes countless others along the way — including the circa 1789 Fort Zoutman, which currently operates as the Historical Museum of Aruba. 

If time allows, wait for one of the double-decker trolleys so that you can soak up the sunshine and the island’s history; the upper deck offers incredible views of the colourful Dutch Colonial-style buildings that make up the town. 

Pro tip: Hop off whenever you’re hungry and spot a place to eat! There are a lot of great restaurants serving up delicious Aruban fare in Oranjestad.

Snorkel with sea turtles

If it’s a family-friendly beach you’re looking for, Boca Catalina is the spot for you. This secluded bay near the Malmok Beach area has calm, shallow waters that are safe for children of all ages to swim and splash in, and is often less crowded than Aruba’s other beaches (especially on weekdays) — making it a popular spot with locals.  

The coral reef area at this great beach is also teeming with tropical fish and other marine life, including sea turtles! Go in the morning for your best chances of seeing them feed on the grassy seabed. Just remember to look, but never touch.

We also love that this beach is easy to access. A lot of hidden gems around the world are far off the beaten path — but Boca Catalina is just a few steps away from a spacious parking area, meaning you can drive your own vehicle there (try to make a pit stop at the California Lighthouse on your way in or out). Not renting a car? No sweat! Boca Catalina is also serviced by bus from Oranjestad and is a stop on many boat tours.

Immerse yourself in the local art scene

Your camera roll will be full after a visit to San Nicolas, a town on the southeastern coast of Aruba. That’s because the buildings surrounding its Main Street are covered in bright, bold and beautiful murals painted by both local and visiting artists. 

San Nicolas, where Aruba’s annual Carnival originated, has long been known for its art and culture — and it just keeps getting better as the years go by. After wandering the colourful streets, stop by one of the many local galleries or museums. The Carnival Euphoria Exhibition is especially interesting, giving you a closer look at the history, heritage and social impact of the month-long celebration. There are also plenty of markets and artisan gift shops open in the area. At the Cosecha community space, for example, you’ll find shelves stocked with all sorts of locally made goods.

Aside from buying souvenirs, San Nicolas also gives you the opportunity to take in some gorgeous sunrises (it’s nicknamed “Sunrise City”). Wake up early and head to one of the beautiful beaches in the area — we recommend Baby Beach — to take in the natural beauty.

Swim in a natural pool (or two!)

We love sparkling resort pools and white-sand beaches as much as the next person, but there’s something to be said about swimming in the Caribbean Sea… in natural holes surrounded by rocks and waves. And there are a couple places on the island of Aruba where you can experience this.

First, there’s Conchi. This famous natural pool is located in Arikok National Park, and requires a bit of effort (and extra fun!) to get to. Since the dirt road that leads to this hidden gem isn’t suitable for vehicles, travellers will need to hike — or join 4x4 or horseback riding tours — to access this little slice of paradise. Trust us: the journey is well worth it.

There’s also a natural pool in the same area as the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins. Make your way over to the water’s edge (it’s almost entirely hidden from view), and you’ll see the top of a ladder. This is how you descend the limestone cliff into the swimming hole. It’s just as beautiful as Conchi, but not as popular so you can expect fewer crowds here.

Go beneath the surface

Arikok National Park is home to a lot of Aruba’s hidden gems, including a collection of impressive rock formations and natural caves — the Quadirikiri Cave, Fontein Cave and Baranca Sunu Cave can all be found within the park’s borders.

Each allows you to dive deep into the Aruban landscape, where there are stalagmites protruding from the ground and stalactites (and bats) hanging from the ceiling. Don’t be scared! Holes in the caves’ ceilings allow plenty of natural light to flow in and counterbalance the dark corners. There are even some heart-shaped openings that make for great photos — in fact, the Baranca Sunu Cave is nicknamed the “Tunnel of Love” because of this feature.

There’s also some history to discover here. If you look closely at the Quadirikiri Cave and Fontein Cave walls, you’ll see ancient rock drawings from the Arawak people. All things considered, these caves should definitely be on your to-do list! 

Visit an amazing Roman Catholic church

Island destinations like Aruba aren’t really known for their churches — especially not compared to European cities. But that’s exactly why the Alto Vista Chapel has made it on this list of hidden gems. Originally constructed in 1750, it holds significant historical and cultural value as the first church to be established in Aruba.

The building has come a long way since 1750 (when it was apparently created with stone walls and a straw roof). It was abandoned in 1816 and eventually went to ruins before a new church was built in 1952. This is the structure you can find today on a hilltop overlooking the island.

Make your way to this quiet part of the island during the day to peek inside its doors (bonus: free entry!) and enjoy breathtaking views of the coastline, or during the evening for unparalleled stargazing. Or better yet, do both! This is also a great venue for a destination wedding in Aruba.


Interested in experiencing all these hidden gems, and everything else that Aruba has to offer? Check out our current flight deals or chat with a travel consultant to start planning your trip!

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