Aruba is beautiful but small: at just 32km (20 miles) long and 10km (6 miles) across its widest point, a road trip around the island is probably the furthest thing from your mind when you're planning a trip.

But with an eclectic mix of stunning beaches and a unique desert terrain, a drive around this Dutch Caribbean destination will certainly impress.   

So rent a jeep, pack your swimsuit and sunscreen, and explore the island on your own terms – in just one day.

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Around the island road trip 

Start and end in the highrise hotel zone

While driving the entire island would take you less than an hour, consider taking your time and spend the day exploring. Begin your trek near one of the large chain hotels like the Hilton, Hyatt or Marriott. 

With the east side of the island mostly composed of the Arikok National Park, the focus here is on the western side. 

Aruba’s main roadways are all paved, safe and fairly flat. Driving can be a bit tricky at times, however, due to the island’s plentiful roundabouts. Keep in mind that cars already driving through the roundabout have the right of way.

There are plenty of gas stations, markets and eateries along this route. Note that Aruba’s gas station pumps are full-service: you'll be asked to pay first, and an attendant will pump your gas for you.

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Panorama of Eagle beach with divi divi trees on Aruba island
Make a stop at Eagle Beach and check out the island's famous Divi trees ©mikolajn/Shutterstock

Stop 1: Grab a beachside breakfast on Eagle Beach

To enjoy the beach without the crowds, take the less than 10-minute drive to Eagle Beach via J.E. Irausquin Blvd. Eagle Beach is home to the island’s famed Divi trees and is considered one of the prettiest beaches on the island.

While there aren’t many restaurants along this beachfront strip, you can dine beachside at Passions on the Beach. The eatery, located at the Amersterdam Manor Beach Resort, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.  

Spend a couple of hours listening to the waves crash along the bright white sands. You’ll want to bring your own beach towel or chairs – chairs along this stretch are typically reserved for hotel guests.

Stop 2: Take a photo in front of the “I Love Aruba” sign

Remain on J.E. Irausquin Blvd, head southwest, then merge onto Loyd G. Smith Blvd to make your way to the larger-than-life “I Love Aruba” sign. After all, if you don't have a photo, were you really there? The sign, designed in simple red and white lettering, is a popular stop for visitors arriving on cruise ships. 

Parking isn't plentiful in the area, so plan accordingly. Depending on the time of day, you may run into dozens of eager tourists waiting to snap a photo in front of the sign, too.

8 best places to visit in Aruba 

View from above of colorful buildings in Oranjestad on the island of Aruba
Oranjestad offers plenty of shopping opportunities ©byvalet/Shutterstock

Stop 3: Get some retail therapy at the local flea market and shops

Not far from the sign, you'll find several options for shopping.  Start at The Local Market Aruba, just across from the cruise terminal in front of the Valero Blvd gas station. Here, vendors sell everything from t-shirts and tote bags to local spices. 

The Royal Plaza Mall is just a five-minute walk from here. The multi-level, pastel-hued buildings are some of the last remnants of original Dutch architecture on the island. The mall, located across from the island’s cruise terminal in the capital city of Oranjestad, has everything from luxury brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Rolex to local souvenir shops.  

Best hikes in Aruba 

sAerial from Aruba island in the Caribbean Sea at sunset
If you stop by Zeerovers for lunch, expect to find fresh fitch caught by local fishermen ©Steve Photography/Shutterstock

Stop 4: Grab a local-style lunch at Zeerovers

If all that shopping has you thinking about lunch, hop on Rte 1 for a 20-minute trek south to everyone’s favorite eatery: Zeerovers. The no-frills dockside restaurant offers a small assortment of fresh shrimp, fish, fries and beer.

Each morning, local fishermen head out to see what they’ll catch for the day. Their haul is brought in and cleaned on-site, then taken to the kitchen and fried. Orders are priced by weight, so plan to spend a little extra if you're starving.

Best times to go to Aruba 

Aruba, San Nicolas
Known as a company town since the opening of an oil refinery in 1924. Recently, magnificent murals were created to beautify the neighborhood of San Nicolas to attract visitors © Orietta Gaspari/Getty Images

Stop 5: Get cultured in San Nicolas

Continue south to your last stop of the day: the San Nicolas neighborhood. Park at the nearest paid lot, and prepare to spend a couple of hours taking things in by foot. 

San Nicolas is the island’s most colorful neighborhood, with more than 54 murals gracing its walls and buildings. 

Over the years, locals, including tour operator and historian Leon Kratos, have ensured that Aruba’s "Chocolate City" – a nickname once given to the neighborhood for its influx of people of African descent – keeps its authenticity. 

Kratos gives walking tours explaining the history of the area’s former Standard Oil Refinery, which brought in workers from nearby islands such as Jamaica and Grenada. Many remained after the original refinery – later bought by Exxon – closed.

Tired from the long day of sightseeing? It shouldn't be more than a 35-minute drive back to your hotel. Hop on Rte 1 and Lloyd G. Smith Blvd, a nearly reversed drive of your original route. 

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