When it comes to dream getaways, Aruba and Curaçao should be two destinations top of most people’s lists. Both of these friendly island paradises can offer amazing experiences, especially if you’re looking for sun, sea, and sand.
Choosing whether to visit Aruba or Curaçao for that once-in-a-lifetime vacation or honeymoon destination can therefore be difficult. Having visited both, we compare them below, and show you what each has to offer.
Aruba vs Curaçao: Stunning natural scenery
For tourists looking to sunbathe and swim, both Aruba and Curaçao are great options. Curaçao has 226 miles of coastline, compared to its smaller neighbor Aruba which has 43 miles.
Curaçao is more of a hidden gem than Aruba, as its smaller sister island is quite popular with tourists. However you can expect beach weather year-round in both islands.
As for beaches, both nations have fantastic choices. With more coastline, Curaçao has countless beaches, and typically has more secluded choices than Aruba.
However Aruba probably does have more picturesque beaches with finer white sand, therefore if picture-perfect beaches are your main priority, Aruba is the better vacation choice. That said, both really do have beautiful beaches, which is one of the reasons Aruba and Curaçao both made our list of the best Caribbean islands for couples!
However when it comes to underwater life, the snorkeling opportunities tend to be better in Curaçao.
Below we look in more detail at what both islands have to offer potential tourists, before showing how each is different culturally, and what to expect.
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. Arashi Beach is another one of our favorite spots in Aruba, with white sand and good swimming water.
Aruba also has some superb snorkeling and diving spots. 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!
Curaçao has some excellent beaches too, with one of our favorites being the white-sandy stretch of coastline at Cas Abao. The crystal clear water, swaying palm trees, and snorkeling opportunities here make it a perfect day out.
The uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao – two hours off the coast of the main island – is home to the longest stretch of white sand in Curaçao, and is an absolute must visit too. In fact a trip to this island is one of our seven favorite things to do in Curaçao.
For snorkeling, the coastline beside the charming village of Lagun is teeming with sealife, and is one of the best places in Curaçao to swim alongside sea turtles.
Another good spot is Grote Knip Beach. Situated in a protected cove, colorful reef fish swim beside the water at the cliff edge – you can sometimes spot small sharks here too!
As a much larger island than Aruba, Curaçao also has quite a few decent walking and hiking spots, and so is suited for people looking for more than just a beach holiday. One of our favorite walks is Jan Thiel Salt Pan, which takes you along the scenic south coast.
Christoffel National Park is another beautiful spot, full of shady hiking trails that pass through the island’s lush green forest. Roi Rincon Park is also home to many short hiking trails that meander through shaded forests that hide caves and rock formations. It’s a hidden spot, and a great place to get away from the beach crowds.
Aruba vs Curaçao: Explore the sights and experience the tropics
Along with the natural scenery on offer, both Aruba and Curaçao have a wealth of attractions and cultural experiences worth checking out.
Although both islands are Dutch territories, the feel of each is very different. Aruba definitely has an American feel to it, whereas Curaçao has more of a Caribbean vibe.
In fact Curaçao certainly feels like a more laid back island than Aruba, which is a better choice if you’re looking for lively nightlife.
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 however 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.
As a Dutch island that is a mix of European and Caribbean culture, Curaçao is a vibrant and colorful country.
The traditions and culture of this island was also formed through its history with the slave trade, and subsequently tambu – a rhythmic music passed down by slaves and that originated on Curaçao – is still a big part of island life.
To learn more about the history of the slave trade and how it shaped this island, a trip to Kura Hulanda Museum in the capital of Willemstad is a must.
Staying in the capital, it’s worth visiting the Curaçao Sea Aquarium. This family friendly attraction is situated by a coral reef and has great opportunities to view the colorful sealife that lives underneath the waves. (Recommended: Unmissable Culture on Curaçao).
Aruba vs Curaçao: A taste of island life
Both Aruba and Curaçao will provide a treat for your taste-buds, with cuisine focused around seafood.
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 rum (what else!) and ice cream. It’s delicious.
Keshi Yena is also very popular in Curaçao, so expect it here as well as Aruba. Stoba is another hearty comfort food well worth trying – it’s a spicy goat meat stew.
As an island nation you will have to try the fresh seafood. One of the most popular dishes here though is raw herring! However there’s an abundance of more common seafood dishes too, all freshly caught off Curaçao’s coast.
To wash it all down, you must try the nation’s famous namesake Curaçao Liqueur. Made from the dried peel of the bitter orange laraha fruit – only grown on this island – this blue liqueur is as tasty as it looks.
Aruba vs Curaçao: Which should you choose?
Both islands are fantastic holiday destinations, and if you have the time and money to visit both then you should.
However if beaches are your top priority then Aruba, with its gorgeous white sandy stretches of coastline, is the best choice. Aruba also has a better nightlife scene than Curaçao.
Aruba’s sister island, Curaçao, is bigger and subsequently has many secluded coves and beaches. If you’re looking for a quiet laid-back holiday with opportunities to explore away from the beach, then Curaçao will be the better choice.
Recommended for your trip to Aruba or Curaçao
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