Cosmopolitan and beautiful Aruba and laid-back and fascinating Curacao will always have strong cases as to why they’re the best choice for a Dutch Caribbean summer however, what will truly set them apart is the people. Whatever it is that you want to experience in the best of the Dutch Caribbean will help decide which is worth the roundtrip ticket.
All throughout Aruba’s history, names pop up representing the prominent features perceived by the long list of discoverers of the island. Names like Ora Oubao “Shell island”, Arubeira, Oruba “Well situated island”, Oibubia “Guided island”, Oirubae “Companion of Curaçao.” Perhaps it’s high time for you to discover something yourself.
Aruba has so many faces for you pilgrims of pleasure, in the same way that it has many names. Cruise on a catamaran, scuba and snorkel your way through reefs and shipwrecks, explore the inner lands on horseback or an All-Terrain Vehicle or on foot! So many things to do, so little time.
What Makes Aruba Unique?
The greatness of Aruba is not only from its vast reserves of fun-filled adventures and idyllic natural and man-made panoramas but also its seemingly steady serving of sunny skies and cool westward-blowing winds.
Not all tropical destinations, or countries for that matter, have the luxury of evading much of the Hurricane Belt’s yearly wrath. Its map coordinates, just south of the usual route of the “Belt,” add to Aruba’s ever-increasing list of positives. Of course, there’s always that off-chance. Nevertheless, you absolutely have to experience the weather!
Beautiful Unspoiled Beaches
Almost every beach in Aruba has a distinct signature that pops out from pictures and postcards. From fofoti trees arranged arbitrarily on the shoreline to secluded bays surrounded by imposing limestone bridges or coral-stone cliffs, there is one suited for every pose you can imagine.
Here is but a taste of what you can come across:
Famed previously known for its population of fishermen and their huts, Hadicurari has transformed into a paradise for play powered by wind. If you’re a windsurfer, kitesurfer, or parasailer, this beach has the right amount of high winds to make it your best playground yet.
And it’s not just the winds that are superb, the water has the right combination of shallow and calm to make other nonmotorized water sports enjoyable. Stand-up paddleboarding, anyone?
As part of the Arikok National Park, this place surely is off the beaten path. Nonetheless, its seclusion has its perks for you who seek serenity.
It may not be as glamorous and modernized with its beach of coral rocks and slabs scattered on the shore, but it promises you sands with a golden tinge, and the opportunity to jump off bluffs into the waiting natural pool below.
Rich and Infused Cuisine
No vacation is complete without sampling the destination’s delights in gastronomy. From quick snacks to full-course fine meals, the list of options is packed in Aruba.
Take to the streets and savor some pastechi drizzled with some locally sourced pica di papaya — nothing beats deep-fried pastries stuffed with choice meats and signature sauces smeared on top or perhaps pumped in after you take that first bite. And there’s bitterballen, the Dutch take on deep-fried meat-filled snacks.
If you’re not one for fried food, there are a ton of variations on stews and curries based on Asian, African, and Caribbean cooking. Some are light and cleansing, and some are thick and filling; there’s one for every palate.
And then to top it all off, sip on some Aruba Ariba (with your pinky raised?). Or maybe chug on a mug of some local Balashi beer. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you choose, they are all well-refined booze!
Interesting Mixed Culture
It sounds incredible that Aruba is a place that embraces over 90 nationalities — a harmonious relationship of mutual respect and trust. And as a result, the populace is very accommodating and it’s easy to get along with the locals.
At every point in your stay, you will feel a sense of belonging, with no language hurdles to jump over. You can communicate freely in English, Dutch, or Spanish. This will make navigating the secluded spots on the island easier. And if you can spare the effort, try a few words in Papiamento, it’ll certainly foster bonds with your guides if done right; you might even get in on a secret or two.
One of the Caribbean’s best-kept secrets, Curacao is richly filled with history, natural and architectural beauty, cultural quirks, and a ton of fun under the sun. The “C” in the legendary ABC Islands of the Dutch Caribbean, this small island has consistently proven that sometimes you don’t need a big old famous name to be worthy of a following.
Underrated and often overlooked, Curacao is considered to be one of the Caribbean’s best-kept secrets due to its relatively quieter reputation. Despite having some of the most visit-worthy draws in all of the region, other nearby islands often get most of the spotlight. The island retains a comparatively well-preserved charm as well as the natural beauty that can certainly compete.
What Makes Curacao Unique?
The Capital Itself
There is so much to say about Willemstad, on top of the myriads of various things you can do, and see in the historic city that has been designated as a World UNESCO Heritage Site. Thanks to the city’s historic importance and beauty the Curacaoan capital is one of the best highlights of your trip. Here are some of the top things you need to check out in the city:
Punda District and Colorful Handelskade
Punda is Willemstad’s first colonial settlement that used to serve as a hub for Dutch slave traders back in the dark days of slavery. Now, the district is the city’s distinct center that is quintessentially Euro-Caribbean. The area has significantly preserved all its colonial buildings that currently house boutiques, cafes and restaurants, art galleries, and more.
The district is also known for its cobblestoned alleys, and the cosmopolitan appeal it offers. Punda’s incredible aesthetic has made it to many people’s Instagram posts, and travel articles about Curacao. But if we’re talking about aesthetics, you better head down to the neighborhood of Handelskade.
Handelskade is probably the most stunning part of Punda, heck, even the entire city. The historic waterfront is home to vibrant houses and historic buildings along the harbor, an obvious nod to the island’s Dutch heritage. You can grab a seat at one of Handelskade’s many waterfront cafes and revel in the aesthetics and history of the place.
One curious thing about Willemstad and the entire island of Curacao’s culture is that it has a rich fusion of gastronomy with influences that come from as far as Asia, and Europe. When you go around many of Willemstad’s streets, eating in either food parks or fancy sit-down places you’ll be met with a vastly diverse menu.
From the dishes that originated from nearby Latin America, Caribbean and African styles of cooking, and Dutch European staples you can easily think you can eat anything here. Head down to Punda for its cafes, Otrobanda for its food stands, and the many bars and fancy restaurants in Pietermaai.
Curacao: apart from the obvious draws of its history, culture, and architecture, the island’s best draw has to be its beaches. All 38 of them. The thing with having so many beaches to offer on such a small island is that each one of them has something to offer to everyone. Curacao and all its beaches are criminally underrated.
From the bustling to the seemingly private, each of these beaches offers a unique experience, and you may find refuge in any of them beneath the legendary Caribbean sun. Kenepa Beach, Playa PortoMari, and Mambo Beach are among the most well-known. Plus, getting around isn’t difficult at all.
Curacao doesn’t only have its shores and beaches as its best aquatic features, go underwater you’ll be met with some of the best diving scenes in the Caribbean. There are plenty of reasons for people to drown on the island. Curacao features some of the world’s top diving sites, many of which are ideal for beginners. Off the Playa Porto Mari, you can go to Cas Abao and Porto Mari. The Booby Trap in the south is a great place to start for beginners.
You can also head to the Curacao Marine Park, the southwestern side of the island which is one large coral reef and marine park. When you’re in the region, you can either head to the Banda Abou National Park, the Central Curacao Underwater Park, or the Curacao Underwater Park. Dive locations on Curacao range from an easy shore dive to pristine coral bay dives to steep drop-offs, particularly in the southeast.
Hurricane-Free Weather All Year Long
It’s also worth noting that, unlike the rest of the Caribbean, the island is spared from hurricanes. This is because the island is located in the southern Caribbean, just a few kilometers from the dangerous Hurrican Belt. Because of the island’s location from the hurricane zone, it has bright and warm days all year, except for a few months when it rains a little.
It comes with everything you’ll need for a perfect tropical vacation. The natural splendor of the island has provided us with a profusion of locations and sights to see. You’ll never run out of things to be intrigued about, with its numerous dive and snorkeling locations, apparently endless beaches to sunbathe on, each one offering something different, a national park, and interesting animals.
Is Aruba or Curacao Better?
Two of the ABC Islands, Aruba, and Curacao have had their ranks remaining way up high in many travel lists because of their appealing draws that can compete against the entire Caribbean. however, despite their cultural and natural similarities, their subtle differences give way to competition. Yet at the end of the day, what settles them is a traveler’s wanderlust.
Thanks to their similar cultures, and weather, you can narrow down your decision-making factors into the beach, landscape, activities, and the overall vibe of each destination.
Aruba and Curacao both have stunning beaches, except that Curacao has more to offer, and Aruba, though fewer, has more picturesque beaches. If you’re more of a beach type of person, that can settle it.
Aruba offers plenty of activities that range from inland tours of its desert terrain, and watersports thanks to the tradewinds. However, Curacao’s abundance of marine parks makes it the best destination for snorkeling and diving, plus, the interior’s greenery also provides good scenery for wildlife exploring.
Overall, Aruba and Curacao have drawn that both set them apart and make them all the same, the key is to decide which vibe you’re going for. Aruba provides a more laid-back approach to vacation, while Curacao is more exciting, and colorful, literally. At the end of the day what you want to experience will decide which is which.
Is Aruba Bigger Than Curacao?
When it comes to the geographical size of the islands, Curacao is the larger island with a total landmass of 444 sq. km or 171 sq. mi, while Aruba is smaller with only 180 sq. km, or 69 sq mi. Population-wise, Curacao also has more inhabitants than Aruba. However, Aruba is often considered the busier one, thanks to its more cosmopolitan lifestyle, and a higher tourist count than Curacao.
Is Curacao Cheaper Than Aruba?
Curacao is unquestionably less expensive than Aruba. The latter is well-known for being one of the most costly islands in the Caribbean, dwarfing the Dutch Caribbean as a whole. If you’re on a budget and want to visit any of the ABC islands, Curacao or Bonaire are your best bets, with the latter being the cheapest. You can get a rough overview by comparing simples purchases.
An inexpensive meal in Aruba can set you back around 17 to 20 USD, while you can get the same meal for around 15 USD in Curacao. A simple bottle of water can cost 3 USD in Aruba, and 2 USD in Curacao. A one-way ticket for public transport is around 3 USD in Aruba, and 1 USD in Curacao. With this simple comparison, you can easily conclude how they differ. You can then decide how you want to budget your trip from here.
Cost of Living in Aruba vs. Curacao
When traveling to Aruba and Curacao it’s important to decide how many days you’re staying, and how much you could potentially spend in the day.
When visiting Aruba for a week, using average prices you should budget around an average daily cost of 260 USD per person and a week’s worth of budget of 2,000 USD. As for Curacao, you should budget roughly 200 to 250 USD per person per day and 1,500 to 1,800 USD for a week’s worth of expenses based on average pricing.
You can just double that if you’re traveling as a pair, but expect some discounts thanks to couple and group packages on tours and accommodations.
Crime in Aruba vs. Curacao
Both can be considered places to visit in many aspects, especially Aruba. Curacao on the other hand has always had a bad reputation ever since. Crimes such as theft and homicides have always overshadowed other nearby islands. Aruba’s problem when it comes to safety is theft, especially in areas outside the capital of Oranjestad.
Aruba vs. Curacao Beaches
When it comes to beaches, quality and quantity set Aruba and Curacao apart. Aruba only has a handful of beaches, but a lot of which are some of the most beautiful in the entire Caribbean. The islands have always been known for their beach scenes, from crowded yet scenic beaches, to quiet yet having stronger currents and waves perfect for watersports. Aruba is the best bet when you’re up for that proverbial Caribbean beach scene.
Curacao still has beautiful beaches, however, none are at par with Aruba’s. However, what Curacao lacks in scenery it makes up for in number. With a sheer 38 beaches all over the island, Curacao’s quantity card provides a more diverse experience for visitors. Each of these beaches offers something for every type of beach bum.
Diving in Aruba vs. Curacao
Curacao undoubtedly takes the bag when it comes to diving. With an abundance of marine parks, and diving and snorkeling sites, the island overshadows Aruba’s smaller diving scene. However, both islands, together with Bonaire offer some of the best diving sites in the entire Caribbean.
Both islands offer plenty of opportunities for diving, yet both possess rather distinct scenes. Curacao is big on coral reef diving, thanks to the myriad of marine parks that are protected from strong currents, with clear visibility and expansive to explore. Aruba, on the other hand, is big on wreckage diving. The area is speckled with wrecks perfect for enthusiasts, beginner to advanced.
Aruba vs. Curacao Nightlife
Due to its more cosmopolitan chic flavor, size, and well-heeled visitors, Aruba is a better nightlife destination than Curacao. With a vast array of bars, clubs, and casinos, an entertaining and interesting evening is always synonymous with Aruba. Curacao on the other hand offers a more relaxed, less noise, and more chill type of flow. The island offers a rather quiet approach to your nights, where you can delve into cafes, food stalls, and restaurants more at night.