What to do in Aruba and Curacao?

What should we do in port?

Our cruise on Carnival Sunshine is now only two weeks away, and now I’m thinking about our ports of call.  On this cruise, we’re going to see two ports that we’ve never seen before, Aruba, and Curacao, part of the ABC islands.  Only one we’re missing is Bonaire. Also, we’ll be back at Grand Turk. So, what are we going to do?

Aruba

We’re starting out in Aruba, which is a 70 square mile constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.  I’ve been watching YouTube videos about Aruba, and it looks so beautiful.  The interesting thing about Aruba is that part of it is beautiful and green and tropical, and part of it is desert.  And it right next to Venezuela.  This is the furthest south that we’ve been on a cruise.

Beaches & Caves

We can go to one of the beaches, like Eagle Beach or Baby Beach. Or we can go to one of the many other beaches along the coast.  It also looks like you can visit caves in Arikok National Wildlife Park which contain cave drawings from the Caquetios people that date back 1000 years.  That sounds so interesting.

Butterflies & Donkeys

There is also a butterfly farm in the Aruba resort / Palm Beach area.  It sounds like a beautiful and peaceful place to visit.  If we want to see animals, we can visit the Donkey Sanctuary at the Wildlife Reserve.  I guess that they were brought to Aruba by Spaniards, and then they went wild when they were no longer needed and were released.  And now they have been brought to safety and cared for by the sanctuary.   

Flamingos

Another interesting place to explore seems to be Flamingo Beach on Renaissance Private Island.  It seems kind of pricey to visit the island though.  $125 American dollars is the price I found online. You pick up the boat at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino.  Also, it seems to be an adults only place.  But I absolutely love flamingos, and would love to see them.  We saw some flying once in Texas, and they are gorgeous.  If you plan on visiting, I’ve read that there are mosquitos, so be sure and take some mosquito repellant.

Orenjestad

At this time we’re thinking that we will explore the downtown area of Orangestad, Aruba.  It is such a colorful and picturesque town.  Originally settled by the Arawak tribe from Venezuela, it was colonized by Europeans in 1499 by Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda.  The Dutch then occupied the island in 1636.  It became part of the Netherlands Antilles in 1845.  And it looks like you can find amazing colonial architecture painted in every color of the rainbow there. 

Of course we’re going to shop until we drop.  There are countless stores and malls right near the cruise port.  Also, Aruba boasts fine casinos.  The American dollar is accepted, and English is spoken.  And I hear that the water is fine to drink, so no worries there. You’ll also find the cutest free trolley that goes from one end of downtown Oranjested to the other.

Arubus

They also have a bus system right across from the main ship terminal called Arubus that will take you up and down the main thoroughfare.  We’re thinking of taking to to the California Lighthouse, and maybe down to the desert area to do a little sightseeing.  Our ship will be in port from 1:00 pm until 11 pm EST, so we need to be careful to check what times the bus runs.  A daypass is only $10 US per person.  Are we brave enough to chance it? 

Curacao

And then there’s Curacao.  Curacao is another island in the Dutch Caribbean region, and also a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.  It’s bigger than Aruba at 171 square miles, and its capital is Willemstad, which is where the ship port is.  The first inhabitants were also Arawak people. Its history seems to be very similar to Aruba’s history.  And it’s also partly desert.

And more flamingos

There is a flamingo sanctuary in Curacao. They congregate in the salt flats on the southern side of the road heading toward Playa Portomari.  It looks like you can’t get very close though, so bring a camera with a zoom lens.  I love flamingos, but I don’t think that we’ll end up here.

Beaches

Beaches include Playa Knip on the west side, parking and admission are free there.  Playa Lagun is supposed to be the best beach for snorkeling.  And Porto Marie is supposed to be a beautiful beach with plenty of chairs.  But we’re not really beach people, so we’ll save that for later.   

Seaquarium

Curacao has a Sea Aquarium which looks pretty interesting.  It has an underwater observatory, and a sea lion encounter.  And I always love dolphin shows.  Adults cost $21 and children 5-12 are $11.  This actually sounds pretty interesting.

Ostrich Farm

The Curacao Ostrich Farm sounds like a lot of fun, and would be a great place to take your kids.   You can take a safari to see the life cycle of the ostrich.  They also have potbellied pigs, crocodiles, squirrel monkeys, and colorful birds.  If you’re hungry they have Restaurant Zambezi with uniques dishes.  Cost is $37.50 for adults and $18 for children for a Safari tour and lunch.

Willemstad

Like Aruba, the architecture in Willemstad is colonial, and beautiful.  We’ll probably end up exploring Willemstad, it looks like there’s a lot to see and do there.  The Queen Emma Bridge looks quite interesting.  It’s actually a pontoon bridge that you walk over St. Anna Bay to get to the other part of town. 

Shopping

There are plenty of shopping areas in Willemstad in its different areas.  Punda, which was constructed by the Dutch West India Company,  is one shopping area with pedestrian only streets.   Stores are open from 9 am till 6 pm Monday through Saturday.   It looks like they’re open for a few hours on Sunday if there is a ship in port.   

Otrobanda is on the other side of St. Anna Bay.  It looks like there will be shopping there, along with stalls set up along the waterfront.   Shops seem to be open from 8 am – 12 pm, and then again from 2 pm till 6 pm.  Guess they take a little break.

There are several malls and shopping centers in the area.  The Sambil Shopping Mall is located near the Cruise Ship pier.  It’s open from 10 am till 9 pm, and it seems to have activities for kids.  The Renaissance Mall and Rif Fort is located next to the pier.  The Rif Fort is actually located inside an old fort, and is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It now contains shopping areas and restaurants.  The mall has all the upscale shops. 

Grand Turk

Last stop on our cruise is Grand Turk.  We’ve been to Grand Turk a few times before, but we’ve never left the cruise port area.  It is a pretty nice port area with a really nice beach right at the end of the pier.  I normally find a chair and just relax for a while.  Grand Turk is only 6 ½ miles long, so it’s a pretty tiny island.

Eating

There is a Margaritaville right at the cruise port if you want to get a drink or something to eat.  Also, if you get off the ship’s pier and walk along the beach to the left, you’ll find Jack’s Shack.  Jack’s Shack is just that, a small shack on the beach that serves up drinks and food.  And Topher the dog is always there to greet you.  Many people visit Jack’s Shack just to see Topher.  We normally just go back to the ship to eat lunch since it’s so close.

Souvenirs

There are a lot of shops right in the cruise port, and normally we just walk around the area and check out the shops.  They’re you’re normal touristy souvenir shops, along with the normal cruise shops such as Diamonds International.  You can grab a taxi and head to Cockburn Town, which is the oldest town in the Turks and Caicos. I’ve heard that people set up stalls when a cruise ship is in port, but I haven’t been there.  A taxi to Cockburn Town is $5 per person each way.

Swimming

Right in the cruise port area is a very nice pool, right next to Margaritaville, with lots of chairs.  And also a replica of the Friendship 7 space capsule  that splashed down off the coast of Grand Turk. It’s an interesting exhibit.

Getting around Grand Turk

Or you can rent a scooter, golf cart, or a car and explore Grand Turk on your own, but be aware that there are wild horses and donkeys on the island.  There is a Turks and Caicos National Museum, a Grand Turk Lighthouse, the Salt House, and also beaches.  Also, if you want to go to a different beach than the one at the port,  you can take a taxi to Governor’s Beach for $4 a person each way.  They also sell excursions at port, but remember if it is not a ship excursion, the ship will not wait for you if you’re late getting back.

Still on the fence about Grand Turk

I’m not quite sure what we’re going to do in Grand Turk yet.  Since we’ve been there a few times we’ve seen all the shops.  Any suggestions?  Let me know in the comments below.   Renting that golf cart sounds like fun.  

And whatever you decide to do on any of these islands, don’t forget your sunscreen!  I guarantee you it will be hot, and hopefully sunny.

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