When it comes to dream getaways, Aruba and Hawaii are two destinations that are at the top of most people’s bucket list. Both of these tropical paradises can offer unique experiences. From romantic getaways for couples looking for sun, sea, and sand, to the adventurous backpacker who wants to scuba dive and trek jungles in one of the world’s most exotic regions.
Choosing whether to visit Aruba or Hawaii for that once-in-a-lifetime holiday or honeymoon destination can therefore be difficult. Having visited both, we compare them below, and show you what each has to offer.
Aruba or Hawaii: Which is the better destination?
Both Hawaii and Aruba have some fantastic beaches, but Aruba has the better beaches of the two. This Caribbean island has gorgeous white sandy stretches of coastline and crystal clear warm water – much warmer than Hawaii.
However Aruba is a small island and can be easily visited and explored within a week. Hawaii and its constituent islands, on the other hand, are huge in comparison. The lush mountainous inland in Hawaii also makes it a superb destination for hiking and exploring. Therefore Hawaii is the better choice if you’re looking for an adventurous holiday, rather than one spent on the beach. It’s probably also a better destination if your holiday is longer than a week or two.
In fact as a point of comparison, Aruba’s highest peak is 169 meters – Hawaii’s is 4207 meters!
Below we look at some of our favorite spots in both, before comparing the culture and cuisine in each!
For a fantastic swimming spot, and a long stretch of white sand, then head to Eagle Beach in the island’s north. It’s the picture perfect image of a Caribbean coastline.
However what really makes Aruba stand out is the colorful sealife you can see when snorkeling and diving here. Head to Baby Beach in the very south of the island, and expect to be mesmerized. This is probably one of the best snorkeling spots in the world where you can watch numerous colorful reef fish, and swim with sea turtles. A great underwater camera – such as this one – is a must.
Malmok Beach is another great beach and snorkeling spot. The water is exceptionally clear – almost glass-like. In fact it’s possible to even see the 400-foot SS Antilla – now a haven for sealife – from the surface, despite the shipwreck being on the seabed.
Another wonderful spot for wildlife is De Palm Island, a small private island off the coast of Aruba. It’s home to a friendly flock of flamingos!
Hawaii is an outdoor lovers paradise, and while it has unbelievable golden beaches, its dramatic mountainous jungle-covered interior has to be explored and enjoyed. Aruba, on the other hand, is much flatter and its beaches and Caribbean vibe are the gem in its crown. That makes the latter much more suited to those looking for sun, sea, and sand.
For travelers leaning towards a Hawaiian holiday, there’s still many great beaches where you can enjoy that famous laid-back surfer vibe. Some of our favorites include the less well-known Waimea Bay Beach on Oahu, and the stunning Hanalei Bay on Kauai island. For great snorkeling and the chance to see turtles, then visit Hanauma Bay on Oahu.
For a more fun-fueled beach adventure, pick up a cocktail at the famous Waikiki Beach and get chatting to locals. If you’re feeling energetic, a hike up Hawaii’s Diamond Head – which looms over Waikiki – will give you spectacular panoramic views of Honolulu and Oahu.
The Hawaiian island of Kauai was the backdrop for the film Jurassic Park, so expect great hiking and walking trails that will take you back in time. A superb walking and hiking in Hawaii book – such as this one – would be a great addition to your suitcase. The tropical forests here on the ‘Garden Isle’ make their way up the mountainsides towards sharp dramatic peaks. However the reefs on this island are also world renowned among divers, and offer spectacular scuba and snorkeling opportunities.
Aruba or Hawaii: Explore the sights and experience the tropics
You will find a friendly welcome in both Aruba and Hawaii, and both are culture-rich regions.
Although officially part of the Netherlands, Aruba has been under Spanish and British control in recent centuries, and all of that has left a mark on the island.
There was a small gold boom in the 19th century, and the ruins from that can be toured. The old gold smelters, Bushiribana and Balashi, are outside of Aruba’s capital Oranjestad and give an interesting insight into the dash for Aruban gold.
Staying near the capital, the Butterfly Farm is well worth visiting. This is an opportunity to step into a lush forested area and enjoy the colors of thousands of exotic butterflies above your head.
Apart from the beaches, what Aruba is really known for is its nightlife! All major hotel resorts have casinos that are popular when the sun goes down, and Oranjestad has a fun nightlife and shopping scene.
Hawaiian culture – aloha wear, hula, and luau for example – is almost better known that Hawaii’s gorgeous sunsets! So getting a taste of the real Hawaiian experience is a must if visiting here.
The iconic luau – a traditional Hawaiian feast with entertainment – should be the first thing on your list. We recommend the Smith Family Garden Luau in Kauai due to the delicious traditional food on offer, and the colorful entertainment and dances. But almost everywhere on Hawaii you can find a spectacular luau experience.
With your interest piqued in Hawaiian culture after taking part in a luau, head to the Polynesian Cultural Centre in Oahu to learn more about the Polynesian people and culture.
Hawaii is also home to one of the most notorious war crimes in history – the WW2 attack on Pearl Harbor. For military history buffs, the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is therefore a must visit.
A taste of the tropics
Both islands are guaranteed to provide a unique treat for your taste-buds.
Aruban cuisine is a mix of Caribbean, Dutch, and Latin American influences, which as you can probably guess makes it a pretty good place to visit as a foodie!
Keshi Yena is regarded as the national dish of Aruba. This large ball of cheese is stuffed with chicken (but sometimes other types of meat too), and is a real comfort food.
Trying out the seafood is, of course, an absolute must. Common freshly caught fish here includes mahi-mahi, grouper and lionfish. Our recommendation is to try out the prawn starters that appear on menus up and down the island. Freshly caught and often cooked with coconut water, they’re a real treat for the taste buds.
For desert, you must try Pan Bollo. This traditional Aruban delicacy is bread pudding often served with run (what else!) and ice cream. It’s delicious.
Hawaiian food is truly unique, combining Polynesian, European, Japanese and American tastes.
A must try – and what you will almost certainly have at a luau – is Kālua pork. A whole pig is slow cooked for several hours and then the meat pulled apart ready to be eaten. It’s absolutely delicious.
For something that has more of an American feel, try loco moco – a burger steak, fried eggs and gravy. Perfect after a day swimming or hiking.
Shaved ice is also common in Hawaii, and is perfect to cool down on a hot day. This tasty treat is flavored with syrup, and is sometimes served with ice cream too!
Aruba or Hawaii: Which should you choose?
Both are great choices, and if you have the time and money, each is worth visiting, although if the priority is beaches, then Aruba is the better choice. However, if you’re looking for a holiday which encompasses a bit of adventure, as well as sun, sea, and sand, then Hawaii with its lush scenery and wild landscape would be perfect.
Recommended for your trip to Aruba or Hawaii
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