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Belize vs Aruba: An Honest Comparison to Help You Choose!

Friendly locals, palm trees, pina coladas, colorful carnivals and lively music come straight to our minds when we think back to Belize and Aruba.

But the truth is these Caribbean destinations are actually pretty different from each other, which means making the right decision for your vacation is especially important.

For example, Aruba tends to be better if you’re looking for a more relaxed holiday where you just kick back and bask on the beach. It’s also probably the better choice if safety and constant sunny weather rank high on your list of vacation priorities.

In contrast, while Belize has gorgeous beaches too, it’s also perfect for those who want an adventure on land and in the water. It will also likely be a better choice than Aruba if you’re travelling on a tight budget.

However that’s barely the beginning when it comes to how these two Caribbean destinations differ!

That’s why below we use our experience to show you which has the better beaches, nightlife, diving spots, activities and more. All to help you make the right choice! 

CONTENTS:

  1. A Quick Overview & Comparison
  2. Which Has Better Beaches?
  3. Which Is Better For Diving & Snorkeling?
  4. Which Has Better Nightlife?
  5. Where To Stay According To Your Budget
  6. Which Has Better Activities?
  7. When’s The Best Time To Visit?
  8. Which Is The Better Choice?
An infographic pitting Belize vs Aruba and showing some of the key differences that will be discovered later in the article.

A Quick Overview & Comparison

Aruba: A Quick Overview

Aruba is a Dutch island in the southern Caribbean, about 19 miles off the Venezuelan coast. It’s also referred to as ‘One Happy Island’, and it’s easy to see why. 

Its friendly people, predictable weather, gorgeous white sand beaches and inland desert environment are just a few of the reasons this island is an exotic escape for many.

And that’s why Aruba reports the highest number of return visitors annually amongst Caribbean destinations. 

The island also conveniently sits outside the hurricane belt, which means visiting during the hurricane season is safe. Furthermore, the chances of rainfall on the island are minimal. So you can rest assured that your days there should be filled with sunshine. 

Aruba is generally made up of two parts: the touristy southern region, characterized by high-end resorts and pristine beaches, and the northern desert region, characterized by rocky coastlines and cacti. 

The island is also more Americanized, commercialized and busier than Belize. But thanks to that, you’ll find a great selection of cuisines on the island – like American, French, Italian, Brazilian, German, and of course, Dutch.

Covering only 69.5 square miles, Aruba is also much smaller in land mass than Belize which is 8,867 square miles!

That makes Aruba easy to navigate, however as it also receives more tourists than much bigger Belize, you should expect tourist sites and attractions to be crowded, especially during peak seasons. 

Yet when it comes to safety, Aruba wins hands down. It’s an extremely safe island and often appeals to solo female tourists because of that.

In contrast, Belize reports a much higher crime rate, albeit the majority of that occurs in certain regions of Belize city, rather than in tourist areas. 

Nevertheless, as with a vacation anywhere in the world, you should always exercise due care and attention to maintain safety. 

flamingoes in Aruba water
iStock.com/fokkebok

Belize: A Quick Overview

Nestled in Central America but still on the Caribbean coast, Belize is quite the opposite of Aruba. A larger island? Yes. But it’s far more than that. 

In fact if you like adventure and are passionate about outdoor activities, you’ll love Belize.

Compared to Aruba’s arid landscape, Belize is a palette of green. It is lush and mountainous thanks to its tropical climate, rainforests, and it even has Mayan ruins to explore. There’s lots of incredible wildlife to spot as well.

And while Aruba is one tiny island, Belize has numerous islands, perfect for island-hopping.

And that’s not all. The island is a haven for amazing dive sites! It has incredible reefs and atolls for diving (we have more on this later!), so if enjoying activities both on land and water is your thing, Belize will likely be the better option for you. 

And while Aruba is commercialized and busy, Belize is more laid back and less touristy. It’s the perfect place to enjoy your vacation time without cruise-ship crowds. 

A trip to Belize also tends to be more affordable than Aruba, and you’ll find more budget-friendly options there in terms of both accommodations and dining out.

Rainforest hiking in Belize
iStock.com/THP Creative

Which Has Better Beaches?

If lounging on spectacular white sand beaches is your idea of a vacation, then Aruba may be the better choice. This island has some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, and the weather is almost always hot and dry.

Belize also has great beaches, but in our opinion they are not quite as good as Aruba’s for sunbathing.

On top of that, there’s plenty of seagrass and seaweed everywhere on Belize’s coastline and not all resorts take the time to remove it from the beach.

The only downside with the beaches in Aruba is that they can get crowded and busy. In contrast, Belize often has much quieter beaches, and thanks to its many cayes, there are plenty of chances to enjoy that ‘lonely island’ feel where you have a beach all to yourself. 

Below we look at some of the best beaches in each destination in more detail, so you can decide which sounds like the better choice for you.

Water activities at Aruba beach
iStock.com/Nisangha

Aruba: The Beaches 

Perhaps you should start with Eagle Beach as soon as you touch down in Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital. This is the widest and most popular beach on the island.

The waters there are stunningly deep blue, but it’s the sugary white sand that’s the real deal. The waves are also calmer, and you don’t have to worry about sharp rocks or sudden drops – that makes this beach is perfect for kids.

North of Eagle Beach is Palm Beach. The palm trees there will definitely give you that Caribbean island vibe as you walk along the shore. It’s 2 miles (3.2km) long and bare-foot friendly, so perfect for romantic evening walks.

Even better, Palm Beach is lively, surrounded by high-rise hotels, watering holes, casinos and lots of restaurants. That makes it a fun outing whether it’s day or night. Albeit that also means it can get pretty crowded most of the time.

To escape the crowds, head to Andicuri Beach on the north coast. This beach is renowned for its beautiful sparkling waters and tranquility. It’s far more secluded than others, has fewer tourists, and during the off-season you may even have the entire beach to yourself. 

Want to top up that tan? Then go and sunbathe at Daimari Beach. This beach is part of the island’s desert landscape and has no shade – just make sure you take sun protection! It has fantastic panoramic views, but it’s the waters there that really impress.

Boca Keto is another beach in Aruba you shouldn’t miss. The unique rock formations and the striking shoreline is great for a picture. After snapping away, you can swim, soak up the sun or even walk around the area.

The Conchi Natural Pool is nearby too and is one of the island’s main attractions. A quick dip there and you can go home boasting about bathing in a desert pool!

Palm Beach at Aruba
iStock.com/Nisangha

Belize: The Beaches

The beaches in Belize are not restricted to the mainland. Instead there’s over 400 islands (cayes) and only ten percent are inhabited, so many of Belize’s beaches remain untouched by tourists. Therefore as long as you can access a boat, you can live out your island paradise dreams.

However if you don’t want to be alone all day then head to Ambergris Caye, Belize’s largest island, where you’ll find some of the top tourist spots.

The now-wrongly named Secret Beach is the only developed public beach on the island. It offers clear, calm and shallow waters, perfect for snorkeling. But if that’s not in your itinerary for the day, then just grab a chair and a drink at any of the many bars along the beachfront and enjoy the gorgeous sea views.

Caye Caulker is well worth visiting and can be best described as the free-spirited younger sibling of Ambergris Caye. A channel called The Split cuts the island into two, and it’s among the best places in Belize to swim and snorkel for free, or just lounge around and enjoy drinks by the beach. Just be careful as there can be strong tides so ask a local for information.

But if you want a taste of the local Garifuna culture alongside beautiful stretches of sand and exceptional fishing, head to the sleepy Hopkins Village Beach.

The water there is warm and refreshing, albeit it doesn’t have that beautiful turquoise color synonymous with Caribbean beaches. Yet what this beach lacks in color, the locals make up for it. You’re guaranteed to meet interesting people and indulge in delicious local cuisines when visiting. 

The beach at Half Moon Caye is another top spot you shouldn’t miss. As the island’s name suggests, the crescent-shaped beach offers stretches of milky-white sand backed by palm trees and fronted by beautiful blue Caribbean waters. 

What’s more is that this beach is also a nesting site for sea turtles. You’ll also find a lush forest beyond the beach, home to over 4000 rare red-footed boobies.

All in all, you can expect to find more pristine and quiet beaches in Belize compared to the busier and more developed ones in Aruba. You can find lively beaches in Belize too, but there’s also opportunities to find a stretch of coastline that feels like your own slice of paradise.

Beach and tropical water in Belize
iStock.com/SimonDannhauer

Which Is Better For Diving & Snorkeling?

While Aruba is renowned for its beaches, Belize is probably most famous for its spectacular diving and snorkeling sites.

Aruba also has a few diving sites, but they are really nothing to write home about compared to the ones in Belize.

All in all, for a once-in-a-lifetime diving and snorkeling experience, Belize is your perfect destination.

Let’s look at both destinations in more detail below:

Scuba diving swimming towards a school of fish
iStock.com/vladoskan

Belize: Diving & Snorkeling

In Belize, you’ll get to visit the world’s second-largest barrier reef system, The Great Mayan Reef. This is a sanctuary for divers and snorkelers and one of the world’s premier diving destinations.

Furthermore, the reef is a treasure trove for sea life. Expect to meet over 500 different fish varieties and other marine creatures, including:

  • A huge population of whale sharks
  • Stingrays
  • Saltwater crocodiles
  • Four species of sea turtles and 60 coral species. 

Another popular spot for scuba divers – and photographers from above – is the Great Blue Hole (see photo below). It’s a massive sinkhole that provides you with magnificent views of the underwater world, including enormous stalactites. Many divers describe this diving experience as like being in space!

And there’s more! Spread throughout the island are numerous unique atolls and reefs.  

Turneffe Atoll is Belize’s largest coral atoll and its home to breathtaking marine creatures, coral canyons and gardens. You can remain underwater at this atoll all day and still want to return the next day. 

Watching whale sharks is a fascinating experience on its own in Belize, but can you imagine swimming beside them? For that magical encounter, head to Gladden Spit. Just visit there at least two days before the full moon and ten days after for the best experience.

And for a great snorkeling experience, Glover’s Atoll will be perfect. While diving is also an option there, you don’t really need scuba gear to view the beautiful living creatures. The water at this atoll is crystal clear year-round. 

Plus a major feature of Glover’s Atoll is the massive manta rays that can be up to 30 feet in wing length. And if that’s not enough for one day, you’ll also find Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, Green sea turtles and Blacktip reef sharks there too.

And if you’ll still feel the urge to visit more diving sites while in Belize, consider these too.

  • Shark Ray
  • Spanish Bay
  • Esmeralda Canyons
  • Half Moon Caye
  • South Water Caye Marine Reserve
Belize blue hole - view from above
iStock.com/Michael Conlin

Aruba: Diving & Snorkeling

Aruba may not beat Belize’s world-class diving, but it’s still a worthy vacation spot for diving enthusiasts. 

In fact most diving sites in Aruba are synonymous with wrecks – so if you like wreck diving this will be a great destination.

The northern part of the island, on the other hand, features plenty of turtles and seagrass beds. 

Many people are drawn to Aruba’s signature dive, the Antilla Wreck. Formerly a WWII German freighter, this ship was sunk in 1940 and is now the Caribbean’s third-largest shipwreck.

The superstructure is draped in huge corals and tube sponges. You’ll also be able to enjoy some great penetration dives through the massive cargo decks. 

The Pedernales is another WWII casualty you’ll enjoy diving and snorkeling around. This oil tanker was submerged in only 33ft of water and is now a wonderful site, especially for novice divers and snorkelers.

Many fittings and sections remain intact and are now home to a variety of marine life, including moray eels. 

And if you are an experienced diver, the Jane Sea is an ideal dive to consider. This wreck is deeper than many others and features a wide selection of biodiversity. 

While for reef diving, Mango Halto is regarded as one of the best entry-level spots in Aruba, and Cabeza Reef on the southern part of the island is popular with experienced divers.  

And as mentioned earlier, Aruba is actually a very good snorkeling destination, with most shallow wrecks and natural reefs lying close to shore so they’re easy to reach. The waters are also pretty clear, providing great visibility of underwater life. Recommended: Our Guide To Snorkeling In Aruba

We suggest snorkeling at Boca Catalina Beach for its calm waters. There, you’ll see schools of colorful fish alongside turtles. Baby Beach, on the other hand, is favored by families. The waters are knee-high and protected, making it ideal for kids. 

girl in snorkeling mask dive underwater with tropical fishes in coral reef sea pool.
iStock.com/Bicho_Raro

Which Has Better Nightlife?

Simply put, Aruba is probably the best place to be if your idea of a vacation is to party till sunrise.

The island has a plethora of entertainment spots and activities catering to many tastes. From clubs and beach bars to bowling alleys, cinemas, cocktail lounges and karaoke spots. There’s no chance of getting bored when the sun sets in Aruba.

One popular place you must visit in Aruba is the 5 O’clock Somewhere Bar at Renaissance Marketplace. Live entertainment and special drinks and snacks are the order of the day there. And if you’re feeling lucky, there are a good number of action-packed casinos nearby you can pop into. 

Various hotels, resorts and restaurants also provide special performances like magic shows, dance shows and circus events that you can enjoy on an evening. And if you’re a nightlife lover, why not bar hop? There are multiple unique nightlife tours in Aruba that will take you on a memorable bar-hopping adventure.

In contrast, Belize’s nightlife in the tourist areas is a bit more laid-back and there’s not as many evening options to enjoy. You can still find something to spice up your evening, but overall, Belize’s nightlife is less lively.

The majority of entertainment spots are concentrated in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. Palapa Bar, Dirty Martini and LevelUp Arcade are some of the popular bars you shouldn’t miss. For live music options, Crocs, The Truck Stop and Wayos Beach Bar will offer you exactly that. 

There are also a couple of casinos in Belize that offer a wide variety of games you can enjoy. Plus you can go to a movie theater, attend a cultural event or relax on one of the sunset cruises. So however you decide to spend your night, you should still have fun in Belize.

Multiracial friends having fun dancing together outdoor at beach party - Soft focus on left girl face
iStock.com/DisobeyArt

Where To Stay According To Your Budget

Belize

Budget: Featuring an outdoor swimming pool, garden, excellent restaurant, beach and jungle access, as well as free kayak and bike hire, it’s hard to beat Parrot Cove Lodge (see photos and rates) for views or price. The colors of the sea here in particular, are extra special.

Luxury: Ocean views from your own private villa. Check. Your own private pool. Check. Direct access to one of Belize’s best stretches of coastline. Check. Big outside pool with swim-up bar. Check. The Lodge at Jaguar Reef (see photos and rates) is as ‘Instagrammable’ as you can get.

Aruba

Budget: If you are looking to travel on a budget, there are also some low-end backpacker options in Aruba. These options are located in and around Oranjestad and the best is probably Aruba Harmony Apartments (see photos and rates!).

Luxury: With its on-site casino, water activities, spa and outdoor pools, the five-star beachfront Ritz-Carlton, Aruba is always going to be a fantastic stay. Even more so due to its location right on Palm-Eagle Beach, so every day can be a beach day when staying here. See photos and rates!

Amazing tropical paradise beach
iStock.com/Lara_Uhryn

Which Has Better Activities?

Belize: Tourist Attractions & Activities

While both destinations offer plenty of attractions, you’ll definitely find more varied outdoor adventures and activities in Belize. This island is an adventure-seeker’s and eco-traveler’s paradise.

After checking off diving and snorkeling from your bucket list, go swimming with sharks and stingrays at the famous Shark Ray Alley in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

Or why not swing from the top of trees, then rappel down the Black Hole Drop in the Maya Mountains and enjoy a picnic at the bottom.

And if you love animals, you’ll enjoy hiking and trying to spot jaguars, howler monkeys, pumas, ocelots, margays and many more at the various reserves, including Bladen Nature Reserve and Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. There’s no doubt in our mind that wildlife lovers will prefer Belize over Aruba.

The island’s archaeological history, evidenced by over 600 Mayan ruins, also attracts many tourists worldwide. The Cayo District, in particular, is home to numerous archaeological sites. Why not explore the ruins of Caracol and  Xunantunich, the two tallest relics in the country.

For a more adrenaline-pumping adventure, exploring Actun Tunichil Muknal is your next best option. Did you know that this cave was used to perform spiritual practices, including human sacrifices?

That’s evident by the human skulls and sacrificial altars you can still see there. You’ll even find an intact skeleton (now calcified bones) of a young girl, the famous Crystal Maiden, who was a victim of the practice. 

Accessing the cave is an adventure in itself. You’ll hike for 45 minutes through a jungle and cross several rivers. You’ll then have to wear a headlamp helmet and walk through a narrow, wet, three-mile-long cave, crawling beneath stalactites and down climbing ladders. 

All in all, if you’re looking for jungle treks, wildlife spotting, Mayan ruins, zip-lining and even cave exploration – alongside a little beach time – then Belize is the destination for you.

Jaguar amongst rainforest
iStock.com/Photocech

Aruba: Tourist Attractions & Activities

Aruba also has some outdoor activities, including wreck diving adventures, hiking trails and rocky desert explorations.

However, this island is more of a beach-lovers paradise. So if you’re looking to spend most of your time at the coast, as well as partake in some limited inland activities, then Aruba will suit you.

Visiting Arikok National Park should be one of the top things to do in Aruba. Covering about 20% of the island, this desert park has a lot to offer: unique rock formations, green cacti, hiking trails, caves, dunes and stunning viewpoints.

The capital city, Oranjestad, is another interesting place to explore. The pastel-hue buildings and Dutch colonial architecture are very picturesque. There are also plenty of galleries, museums, shops and restaurants there.

It’s also worth checking out Aruba Historical Museum to learn the history of the island, then after that you can stroll around the lovely Wilhelmina Park.

For a little more adventure, hiking Hooiberg will offer great views of the city. Or for a more relaxed sightseeing expedition, you can board the Aruba Streetcar, which will take you around the city for free.

And if you are a shopping enthusiast, Renaissance Marketplace is your best bet. You’ll even find duty-free shops selling designer brands like Gucci and Chanel. 

All in all, if you want to spend most of your time at the beach, but also have opportunities for a bit of hiking and shopping, then Aruba could be perfect.

Aruba capital from above, buildings and the water
iStock.com/dbvirago

When’s The Best Time To Visit?

One of the most important factors to consider when planning a vacation is the best time to travel.

Aruba experiences a desert climate. That means it is generally hot and dry year-round, with average temperatures ranging between 84°-88°F.

And since the area experiences significantly low rainfall, Aruba tends to see far less rain than Belize, which means it’s a good holiday destination year-round.

Belize, on the other hand, has a tropical climate. It experiences hot and humid weather throughout the year.

The country generally has two main seasons: a rainy season from June to October and a dry season from November to May. The dry season is considered the best time to go to Belize, with the peak season being mid-November and April.

The only downside of traveling during peak season in both Belize and Aruba is that the prices are hiked up and you can lack accommodation choices as rooms sell out. Tourist attractions and sites also tend to be crowded around this time. 

With that the case, consider traveling during the so-called ‘shoulder season’ for good weather and prices. For Belize, that season runs from May through June, while for Aruba it’s mid-April to August. You will, however, have to endure light showers in Belize, and Aruba’s sweltering heat, during these times. 

On that note, you’ll probably want to avoid visiting Belize between July and October. This is when the rain is heavy and the winds are very strong. And since Belize sits within the hurricane region, you’ll be at greater risk of being hit by a hurricane during your stay there. 

Of course, this is also when the prices are at their lowest. If you take a chance and visit around this time, you can get up to 50% off flights and accommodation. Just make sure you have travel insurance in the event your trip is disrupted.

Aruba, on the flip side, doesn’t experience hurricanes. It is therefore the best option if you are looking to travel during those months.

Baby beach in Aruba
iStock.com/Nisangha

Belize vs Aruba: Which Is The Better Choice?

You can’t go wrong with a holiday in either destination. Both are fantastic vacation spots, so it all comes down to what you are looking for. 

In general, Belize is much more diverse and has more unique outdoor adventures. It’s also your go-to place if you want to enjoy world-class diving spots. 

On the other hand, Aruba is likely the best option for breathtaking beaches and sunny weather. It’s perfect if you’re looking to spend most of your time on the beach, relaxing and lounging around. It’s also an excellent choice if shopping and great nightlife are priorities.

And if you are worried about your budget, consider a vacation in Belize as it offers more budget-friendly options. Yet although Aruba is the more expensive destination, it is regarded as safer than Belize. 

Whichever you choose, we are sure you’ll have an amazing time. Have fun!

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