Aruba is a popular tourist destination in the winter months when the bars and live music venues are filled with visitors from colder climates. But, even if you're visiting the Caribbean hot-spot during the off-season (which lasts roughly from late spring through early December), there's no shortage of nightlife festivities to enjoy. Late April is an excellent time to visit to celebrate national holidays on the island. Aside from holidays and festivals, there's an array of bars and beachside cafes to spend a tropical evening in paradise (with a cocktail or two, of course). Read on for the best live music venues and seaside bars to frequent while visiting the island of Aruba.
From wine bars to nightclubs, beach barbecues to casinos, there's a plentiful variety of nighttime diversions on the island of Aruba, and many of these attractions are concentrated in the nation's capital of Oranjestad. Wherever you find yourself imbibing, be sure to order at least one rum beverage. You are in the Caribbean, after all.
- Arepados Bar Cafe Aruba is an excellent spot for cocktails and island ambiance and is a perfect day-to-night venue for dinner and drinks. But even if you're vacationing with a large group of family members, it's still an ideal establishment to visit as it is lively and family-friendly as well.
- Head to Mi Dudu Bar and Restaurant, not only for the drinks but for the local specialty: sopi mondongo. Despite the soup's popularity on restaurant menus throughout the nation, Mi Dudu has some of the best.
- Sidle up to the driftwood bar at the aptly-named Driftwood Restaurant and order a tropical beverage (or three).
- When visiting Aruba, why not sample the local hops? There's more to the Caribbean than just rum (though a rum punch is, nevertheless, highly suggested.) Nowhere is the diversity of the island's alcoholic offerings better on display than at the Balashi Brewery in Oranjestad. Sample the local hops and sign up for a brewery tour to learn more about the heritage and day-to-day operations of this Aruban institution.
With its unique blend of Portuguese, Caribbean, and Dutch influences, the dining scene in Aruba is not to be missed. And even better: Many of these institutions double as ideal late-night cocktail bars.
- Dine out by the pool at Papiamento and enjoy the lovely ambiance and even lovelier selections from the wine cellar. And be sure to linger after dessert over an aperitif. And enjoy the people watching: Her Royal Highness Beatrix, also known as the former queen of the Netherlands, is known to be a regular when on-island.
- Fred Restaurant is a perfect setting for cocktails with a group of friends, as the dinner is interactive and lively—you can watch the chef (often Fred himself) prepare your meal in front of you while you sip on your rum and enjoy the company.
- Head to Carte Blanche in Oranjestad for a five-course meal with a wine pairing provided by the locally-beloved Maitre d' Glen. Make a reservation because the restaurant only seats 14 people.
When visiting the Happy Island of Aruba, you're sure to hear, quite often, that everything is dushi: Dushi bites, dushi drinks, and (quite obviously) dushi rum. The Aruban term derives from the Papiamento language and translates to sweet, ideal, or practically perfect. And nowhere will you find this idea better embodied than at one of the beachside bars and restaurants located along the Caribbean coast. (Be sure to catch the sunset at least one of the nights of your stay, as the fiery hues of the sky are reflected in the Southern Caribbean Sea.)
- Dine with your feet in the sand at Flying Fishbone, also located in Savaneta. Just be sure to keep your purse hanging on the back of your chair (the tide has been known to come in during meals.)
- Another beachside option in Savaneta is The Old Man and the Sea, an institution serving cocktails strong enough (and expertly-crafted enough) to satisfy Ernest Hemingway himself. Be warned: Prices are a bit steeper than other places on the island, but it's well worth the additional cost for the tropical ambiance just waiting to be enjoyed.
- Don't miss the fiery sunset, viewed best on the pier of the Surfside Marina at Pincho's Grill & Bar (with a cocktail in hand, of course). One of the trendier restaurants to grace the capital of Oranjestad. The seaside setting and twinkling lights make for a romantic, relaxed atmosphere that's very conducive for staying late and enjoying some cocktails.
Live music and festivals are prevalent throughout Aruba, and you will find a mixture of Dutch and Caribbean celebrations to be found throughout the year on the island nation. The first half of the year is the best time to visit Aruba for the festivals, with significant celebrations occurring in January through April.
- ·Meet San Nicolas is a cultural celebration featuring live music (and, of course, dancing), as well as local art and cuisine. The event begins in June and runs through the end of the year in December.
- Enjoy the local music (and enjoy the local food) at the Island Festival, which occurs during the last week of every month in San Nicolas City.
Key Holidays & Festivals
The annual festivities begin with Carnival, which kicks off in January and runs through March. There are several National Holidays taking place in Aruba in the springtime, with the National Flag and Anthem Day held on March 18th and King's Day one month later on April 27th.
- If you're visiting in the wintertime, be sure to partake in the "Jump-Ups" (street party celebrations) that are held from January to March in honor of Aruba's Carnival. There are parties to be found everywhere on the island, though, of course, the largest and most vibrant festivities are held in the nation's capital of Oranjestad.
- Celebrate the island's independence on National Flag and Anthem Day on March 18th.
- Festivities are held annually on April 27th in honor of King's Day (to commemorate the King of Netherland's birthday). If you're visiting during this holiday period, be sure to pack your favorite orange outfit, as revelers all over the island will be decked out in this color to show off their Dutch pride.
Tips for Going Out in Aruba
- The legal drinking age on the island of Aruba is 18, and visitors should always carry a valid ID on them when out on the town.
- For drivers, the maximum blood alcohol level is 50 mg per 100 ml of blood, meaning that a single drink would take you over the limit.
- Cabs are more challenging to find in the northern, rural parts of the island, so travelers should arrange with their hotels for pick-ups/ drop-offs, or save the business card of a local taxi company. If you exchange phone numbers and information with your cab driver taking you to your hotel from the airport, they will be a good contact for the rest of your trip.
- There are no Ubers or ride-share apps available on the island, and public transport shuts down at night (depending on the specific bus lines). So you will want to coordinate your fares and pick-up time in advance with a taxi driver—especially if you are returning to a more remote area of the island. But if you do forget to plan ahead, cabs will be lingering outside the bars and restaurants and hotels in the capital city until the early hours of the morning.
- The tipping policy in Aruba is 10-15 percent, though visitors should always double-check the bill to see if gratuity has been included. The currency is Aruban florin, but the U.S. dollar is widely accepted throughout the island.
- Daytime (and beachside) drinkers, rejoice: There are no open container laws in Aruba, or restrictions on carrying an alcoholic beverage in public. But if you are planning on drinking by the beach try to avoid packing bottles in your beach bag. Cans are preferable, as many beaches ban glass bottles (especially in the more protected seaside areas of the island.)