Aruba vs. Cayman Islands

Put it this way. In the simplest sense, Aruba is a beach paradise, while the Cayman Islands is a snorkeler/diver's paradise. Both are about the same, with a few differences that depend mostly on personal preference. When it comes to beaches, safety, and family-friendliness, either Aruba or the Cayman Islands is a win-win situation for any traveler.
Aruba vs. Cayman Islands

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Ever heard of the saying… “Cayman is more beautiful but Aruba is more fun?” It’s a hint. If you’re in need of expert advice, here’s a simple way of looking at it:

The Cayman Islands is more beautiful in regard to snorkeling and scuba diving activities. Its beaches are just as drop-dead gorgeous too, like Aruba’s. But some prefer the beaches at Cayman, while others argue that Aruba’s beaches are better because of the more peaceful, calmer waters.

Is Aruba more fun, though? If you’re talking about nightlife, gambling, and ATV/UTV activities, then yes. Aruba takes the crown. But coming from someone who’s been snorkeling for 28+ years, the Cayman Islands is more fun when it comes to underwater activities.

Both have their own charm, really. And before you decide, here’s a guide with a true comparison over which is a better island to visit.

Aruba

Aruba’s track record of returning visitors is by far one of the most impressive in the Caribbean. Beach tropical paradise? Try seductive. That’s a better word for it. From one beach to the next, Aruba’s beaches are an appealing quality you can’t go wrong with if it’s the chill island vibe you’re after.

Temperature-wise, Aruba is warm, sunny, and dry year-round, usually in the mid-80s (26.7 C). However, it gets very windy on some days, so expect some sand to blow over while taking a stroll at the beach. If you’re hoping for snorkeling and diving opportunities, there are a few spots. Mostly, though, Aruba’s beaches are better suited to sports like windsurfing or kitesurfing.

Aruba isn’t as touristy as many might expect, but it is Americanized. This means finding a Taco Bell or McDonald’s isn’t a hard find at all. In most cases, chain restaurants are lined up right next to each other, like KFC, Subway, and so on.

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If you’re traveling as a family, Aruba is a great Caribbean destination. There are several activities for kids to do, like exploring Butterfly Farm, visiting the Donkey Sanctuary, or riding a SeaBob. The SeaBob is an underwater motorized scooter that allows you to explore certain depths of the ocean and see marine life.

For adults, Aruba’s nightlife is one of its main attractions. Especially those who enjoy the better half of their day at a casino. Jet-skiing is another great activity as well, but for a true Aruban adventure, go shipwreck diving. It’s what Aruba is most famous for.

Visiting Aruba doesn’t require a lot of thinking. And what that means is the island is pretty chill and laid-back all around. The locals are super friendly. Not to mention getting around is easy as everything is within close reach.

It’s no wonder Aruba is also called “One Happy Island.” If you plan to visit and want to avoid a lot of crowds, go in between mid-April and early December. That is Aruba’s low season. And while the hurricane season does happen around June, you don’t have to worry. Aruba lies outside the hurricane belt, so it’s safe to visit even during the hurricane season.

As mentioned earlier, the weather is mostly sunny and dry. Rainfall barely appears. And if those qualities appeal to you most, well… you’ve got your answer.

But if not, here are a few reasons why you might want to consider Aruba for your next vacation trip.

What Makes Aruba Unique?

Arikok National Park

This might surprise you, but… some don’t visit Aruba for its beaches. Rather, they enjoy visiting the island for its desert. Yes – that’s right. Aruba has two faces: beaches (where most tourists spend their time) and a desert.

Think of Aruba’s desert as a place for outdoor enthusiasts and anyone looking for a gorgeous sunset photo. Now, this desert in Aruba – a big chunk (about 20%) is known as Arikok National Park. There, you’ll find hiking trails, caves, great lookout points, and a natural pool called Conchi.

Getting around Arikok National Park is easy and could pass for a great hiking excursion if you want to stay active during your trip. The alternative is to rent a car… or better yet, an ATV. There are several tour operators that offer day tours around the park. But if you prefer something more adventurous, rent an ATV/UTV to explore Arikok at your own pace.

Aside from the Conchi found at Arikok National Park, other great sights to see here include:

  • Miralamar
  • Moro Beach
  • Quadirikiri Cave
  • Hofi Shon Shoko
  • California Lighthouse

You’ll also find fauna in the area like lizards, iguanas, and rattlesnakes. Don’t worry. These critters do you no harm. Just make sure you don’t provoke any of them.

The Sunniest Weather in the Caribbean

If you’re looking to beat the cold up north, Aruba’s got the cure: Sunshine. Lots of it. Vitamin D deficiency? Spend a day or two outdoors in Aruba and you’ll have enough to last you through the winter.

You’re guaranteed great weather whenever you visit Aruba, which is one of the most unique parts of the island. Unlike most, Aruba sees the most sunshine hours in a year. And thankfully, it’s always stayed that way.

What’s more, the rain hates landing in Aruba. So much so that the Caribbean island barely has rainfall even during the rainy season. There’s a desert here, you know. Ever wonder how that came to be?

Of course, there are still bound to be days where rain and storms land in Aruba. But only for a brief time. No matter which month you choose to visit Aruba, leave the jacket. Don’t pack a travel umbrella either. Because 99% of the time, it’s sunglasses and beach weather throughout the year.

Stargazing Alongside Cacti

There’s a certain romance to being able to stargaze in a desert surrounded by cacti on top of a 4WD. You know how those movies portray it? Well, the stargazing at Aruba’s desert is so beautiful it feels like it came straight out of a storybook.

There are a few fantastic spots to go stargazing around Arikok National Park. However, you should ask the park administration first for permission and which areas are safe. This kind of activity is more popular among solo travelers and couples, but families are also welcome to try it.

If you’ve been meaning to have a quiet retreat or go on a digital detox even for a day, consider this part of your Aruba itinerary.

Aruba is One of the Safest Caribbean Destinations

Aruba is as chill as the cacti that surround its desert. That means you’re pretty much safe walking alone during the day and even at night. But a word of advice? Don’t go wandering in narrow areas or at the beaches in the late evenings. No matter what, it’s always important to stay cautious even in a safe city.

Many can attest to the safety of Aruba. Fodor’s, Trippy, Tripadvisor. All these travel forums say the same thing: Aruba is safe. And even travelers mention that they’ve never felt uneasy or nervous despite traveling alone.

Are there any unsafe areas in Aruba, though? Yes – there is one. The downtown area in San Nicolas can feel unwelcoming, as it’s also known as Aruba’s red-light district. Even if Aruba’s crime rate is very low, that doesn’t mean it’s perfectly free of any crime too.

But generally, safety is one of your least concerns when traveling to Aruba, and also one of the best parts of being in the city.

There’s Something for Every Traveler in Aruba

Aruba is a crowd-pleasing Caribbean destination. The weather is great – not too hot, sunny, and has a low risk of hurricanes. For lazy days and downtime, the beaches are magnificent — perfect for lounging or relaxing.

There’s enough room for adventure if you want to break a sweat. Aruba’s cuisine is as diverse as the number of spices that sit in a chef’s pantry. And finally, the nightlife in Aruba ranges from casinos and barhopping to spa days and booze bus tours.

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Whether you’re traveling with friends, kids, family, solo, or your partner, there’s something for everyone in Aruba. It’s a safe bet if you truly have a hard time deciding where to spend your holiday vacation.

Granted, the snorkeling and diving aren’t as impressive, but the beaches more than make up for what dive sites in Aruba lack. That is, of course, you don’t have any specific preferences when it comes to diving and snorkeling activities.

Aruba also isn’t as lush as the Dominican Republic, but its desert has its own charm. For an easy, no-brainer, and peaceful island getaway, Aruba just might be your golden ticket.

But before any of that, here’s how Aruba differs from the Cayman Islands.

Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands has something that Aruba doesn’t: the best snorkeling and dive sites. Made up of three islands, the Cayman Islands is comprised of…

  • Cayman Brac
  • Little Cayman
  • Grand Cayman

Cayman Brac is rugged, charming, and has great fishing. Little Cayman is where you’ll find secluded beaches and a lot of wildlife, like red-footed boobies and iguanas. Grand Cayman is the mack daddy of them all. And frankly, the most visited among all three islands. This is where the best dive sites are also found.

Compared to Aruba, the Cayman Islands offers plenty to do. And it’s not just underwater activities you’ll find here. Kid-friendly activities like Stingray City and the Cayman Turtle Farm are some of the most popular and highly rated.

Beaches-wise, the Cayman Islands is known for its award-winning Seven Mile Beach. Even luxury stores like Versace, Breitling, and Cartier are found in the Cayman Islands. The nightlife is decent, and finding the next excursion to do around the area is hardly a problem.

Breathtaking beaches, family-friendly activities, good weather, and safety. It’s hard to resist the allure and appeal of the Cayman Islands. But is it better than Aruba? That depends. Here’s a closer look at what the Cayman Islands have to offer travelers:

What Makes the Cayman Islands Unique?

Each Cayman Island Is Unique From One Another

The Cayman Islands is made up of three different islands, with Grand Cayman being the largest. The other two are Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. Now, here’s a question: which among the three is worth visiting?

Many might say Grand Cayman. But the truth is, all three are worth visiting.

Why Grand Cayman? That’s pretty self-explanatory. Not only is it the largest but it’s also the most developed among all the three. Cafes, boutiques, museums, restaurants, and even luxury shops are all in Grand Cayman. It’s also where you’ll find jaw-dropping beaches and white sand. One beach that stands out and recently received the award, “The Caribbean’s Best Beach” is the Seven Mile Beach. It’s a must-see for tourists.

As for Cayman Brac, it’s worth the visit if you want a break from beaches and something more adventurous. Wreck diving? Hiking? Climbing limestone bluffs? These are all activities you can do at Cayman Brac, and are best suited to those with a heart for adventure.

Little Cayman is the smallest of them all, and literally quite small. It’s only 10 miles (16.1 km) long, which is only 4 miles (6.4 km) longer than the Seven Mile Beach at Grand Cayman. If it’s this small then, why visit?

Because it’s ideal if you want to explore the unspoiled wonder and secluded beaches of the Cayman Islands. Little Cayman is the very definition of “living the island life.” Due to its unspoiled nature, there are a ton of natural wonders to see around the area.

And considering it’s only 10 miles (16.1 km) long, you can easily explore the entire Little Cayman in one or two days.

You Can Spend a Day in Hell and Walk Out Unscathed

Ah, just a regular day in Hell. Figuratively speaking, of course. This tiny town located 20 miles (32 km) from George Town is a tourist attraction famous for its black limestone formations. They cover about half the size of a football stadium in all of Hell.

Sadly, you can’t walk on those formations. If you did, imagine stepping on five sea urchins every step you take. Not exactly walkable. Although walking on the black limestone formations isn’t an option, you can easily marvel at the view on any viewing platform in the area.

Plus, there’s a Hell gift shop with cute Hell souvenirs and a post office where you can send postcards to loved ones from Hell.

If Hell Wasn’t Enough, You Can Visit Stingray City and Starfish Point

You have every right to be scared of stingrays but not the ones in Stingray City. Fun fact: Stingray City isn’t an actual city, but rather a large sandbar where a lot of snorkeling boats stop by during the day.

From the name itself, the main attraction isn’t spotting stingrays. It’s being able to pet them – yes as in touch-with-your-bare-hands-kind-of-pet. You can even take pictures while holding a stingray! And if you’re brave enough, go and feed them.

Just make sure you don’t accidentally step on one that’s burrowed underneath the sand. Apart from stingrays, there’s also another beautiful spot to visit in the Cayman Islands: Starfish Point. And the name is as literal as the experience… hanging out with the starfish.

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Whether it’s a great photo op you’re after or a happy pill to get your underwater vibes high, Starfish Point is an excellent activity for all.

The Cayman Islands Has 365 Dive Sites

No, really. It’s no joke. You’ll often hear Caymanians say, “Dive 365!” Listing them all would be too much even for a comprehensive guide. And here’s the best part. You can spend an entire year in the Cayman Islands without diving at the same site twice.

From wreck diving to snorkeling and scuba diving in underwater caves and submerged mountain ranges, the Cayman Islands got it all.

The Cayman Islands Is the Place to Recharge Mentally, Spiritually, and Physically

And it should stay that way. Believe it or not, the Cayman Islands is not the place for those who want to party till sunrise. There is nightlife around the area but nothing like what you’d expect during a Spring Break event.

Mostly, the Cayman Islands is a place where people go to recharge and refuel. With beautiful, picturesque beaches, it’d be a waste not to. You can still enjoy a casual party and have a great time with friends at the bar, make no mistake. But don’t equate bars in the Caymans the same as getting wasted and listening to pop music remixes from dusk till dawn.

Plus, the Cayman Islands is also known as the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean. You thought it was just seafood? That’s fair. But the reality is that a diverse range of cuisines is available in the Cayman Islands. Thai, Japanese, Indian, British, even Jamaican, and more.

For the best food experience in the Cayman Islands, go in October, which is also Cayman Restaurant Month. This is by far, the best time to experience the culinary delight and opportunities the Cayman Islands has to offer.

Which Is Better – Cayman Islands or Aruba?

The basic gist? Aruba favors those looking for a vacation that offers a balanced number of land and water activities to do. The Cayman Islands suits travelers who enjoy spending most of their vacation doing a ton of underwater activities.

If you’re thinking about relaxing at beaches, how safe each destination is, and family or kid-friendliness, you can’t go wrong with either.

At the end of the day, choosing between Aruba and the Cayman Islands is really a matter of personal preference. For the most part, divers and snorkelers might be biased toward the Cayman Islands for all the underwater adventures it offers.

Those who want a beach getaway where everything is easily accessible or want a good mix of off-road and snorkeling/diving adventures will love Aruba. This includes travelers who want to experience a lively and vibrant nightlife, be it barhopping or gambling.

Travelers who prefer to be away from party scenes and want to relax fully and peacefully are better suited to the Cayman Islands. Overall, the Cayman Islands favors island hoppers who want a good mix of beaches, adventure, and secluded spots. This includes being able to explore some of the best dive sites rich with marine life and phenomenal reefs.

Last but not least, both Aruba and the Cayman Islands are excellent destinations for food. Aruba offers a wide diversity of cuisines you won’t be disappointed with. The Cayman Islands is the same, and if you’re looking for culinary adventure, be it seafood or any other cuisine, both destinations will satisfy your palate.

FAQ

Is Aruba Part of the Cayman Islands?

Aruba and the Cayman Islands are two separate islands located in the Caribbean. Aruba is part of the Lesser Antilles while the Cayman Islands are in the Greater Antilles.

It’s worth noting that the Cayman Islands was once a dependency of Jamaica until 1959 when it became an independent colony. As of today, they are a self-governing British Overseas Territory.

Is Aruba Near Cayman Islands?

Aruba is quite near the Cayman islands, with a total distance of roughly 887 miles (1,427 km). In fact, if you travel from Aruba at a minimum speed of 31 mph (50 kph), you’ll reach the Cayman Islands in less than two days.

Which is Bigger – Aruba or Cayman Islands?

The Cayman Islands is about 1.5x bigger than Aruba. In technical terms, the Cayman Islands measures 102 sq miles (264 sq km), while Aruba measures 69.4 sq miles (180 sq km). Although slightly bigger than Aruba, the Cayman Islands has a lesser population – about 1.6x less.

As of 2022, Aruba has a total population of 107,747 inhabitants and the Cayman Islands has 67,381.

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