Congratulations, you’re headed to Aruba! I hope you’re ready for some sun, sugary-soft sand, towering cacti, and gorgeous turquoise water.
But what should you pack?!
Despite having been all over the world, creating an Aruba packing list threw me for a bit of a loop. Maybe I was just out of packing practice thanks to COVID, or maybe I was overthinking it. (Probably the latter.) Either way, it was hard for me to visualize what I would need to pack for our weeklong Aruba vacation. Would it be mostly casual and adventurous, like our trip to Belize? Or would I be out of place if I wasn’t sporting fabulous resort wear at dinner each night? And how many single-colored t-shirts was too many?
In the end, I brought along way more than I needed! (And I still had to borrow a few things from my sister because I didn’t bring enough of the stuff I did. Ugh.) Hauling my almost-50-pound suitcase around, it was hard to imagine that I was the same person who had once spent three months backpacking South America with only three t-shirts, a pair of shorts, a pair of hiking pants, and a long-sleeved shirt. Instead, I came home from Aruba with more unused items of clothing – and even more that I had only worn for a couple of hours, max – than I would care to admit.
To help you avoid similar pre-vacation stress (and post-vacation sheepishness), I’ve compiled an Aruba packing list to help you decide how to pack for your own “One Happy Island” getaway! Below are some of the most important items we needed and used on our trip to Aruba, apart from the usual suspects like sunglasses, toiletries, underwear, a camera, and your passport. I hope it’s helpful to you and that it allows you and your much-lighter-than-mine suitcase to sail blissfully through the airport on your way to paradise!
The Essential Aruba Packing List
Swimsuit and Beach Gear
It probably goes without saying, but you can’t visit an island that boasts the second best beach in the world (according to the TripAdvisor 2023 Traveler’s Choice Awards) without your beach gear! You’ll likely be spending multiple days in and around the water, so make sure to bring:
- 2-3 swimsuits. Ladies, make sure that at least one suit is secure enough for activities like snorkeling, cliff jumping, and swimming in caves/natural pools.
- Flip flops or beach shoes
- A rash guard with SPF protection. I really appreciated mine during our snorkeling trip as well as for late-afternoon swims after being in the strong sun all day.
- Beach bag or tote
- Baby powder. Aruba’s sand is so soft and fine that it can be tough to brush off your skin! Baby powder works like a charm.
Sturdy Water Shoes or Sandals
While flip flops are great for the beach, there are lots of places in Aruba where you’ll be better served by a pair of sturdy water shoes or sandals. Examples include the Natural Pool, where you can’t even enter barefoot or in flimsy footwear.
I love the KEEN sandals that I bought for our trip to Belize, and they were perfect for navigating the descent and jump into the cave pool on the rugged northern coast. I also felt more secure walking around the catamaran during our snorkeling trip, as well.
Unless you’re looking to spend all your time on the beach, athletic wear is an essential part of your Aruba packing list. Aruba is HOT, and the desert environment ensures a good bit of dust. If you’re planning to explore other parts of the island (or even just to walk along the beaches or through the towns), you’d be well-served by some lightweight, sweat-wicking clothing you don’t mind getting dirty or putting on over a swimsuit.
Some people prefer hiking pants (I like my KUHL TREKR pants as well as my Halle pants by prAna), though we did just fine with athletic tops, shorts, and capris. I personally wore athletic wear for part or all of four days of our weeklong trip, including both flights.
The sun in Aruba is ever present and brutal, so make sure you pack some sort of hat – ball cap, Panama hat, or otherwise – to spare your skin from burning and your eyes from squinting (which happens even with sunglasses). Just make sure it’s adjustable; you’ll want it as tight-fitting as possible so that it doesn’t blow off in those Aruban trade winds!
Once you’ve left the beach for the day, you’ll likely want some flowy, colorful resort wear for your afternoons and evenings. While Aruba is generally pretty casual, folks do get a little more dressed up for dinner and nights out in the high rise and other resort areas. Ladies, make sure to add some fun sundresses or rompers to your Aruba packing list!
We “dressed up” for five dinners while in Aruba, including our sunset dinner cruise.
You’ll want some more casual shorts and tops as well. Jean shorts and t-shirts or tank tops are great for walking around Oranjestad, grabbing a cold Balashi at a beach bar, or taking in a casual dinner.
We “dressed down” for part or all of three days of our trip.
As of 2020, Aruba has banned any sunscreens containing oxybenzone in an effort to protect its coral reefs. If you’re caught bringing sunscreen containing that particular compound into the country, you could be penalized. Save yourself the trouble – and help protect our oceans – by choosing a reef-safe sunscreen that contains alternative ingredients. I had a good experience with Target’s up & up sport sunscreen for beach days when I wanted the best bang for my buck. For days when I was out and about exploring and didn’t want that greasy feeling, I really liked Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Dry Touch sunscreen because I barely knew I had it on and it didn’t mess up my clothes. Other good, oxybenzone-free options include Neutrogena Beach Defense, SunBum, and Blue Lizard.
Even sun-worshippers should consider bringing at least 50 SPF. That sun is strong! And don’t forget your lips; a good, reef-safe lip balm with sun protection will save you from the painful sunburn that one of us endured!
A Day Pack
In addition to your beach time, you’ll no doubt want to see what else Aruba has to offer. Make sure to add some sort of daypack to your Aruba packing list so that you can bring along everything you’ll need for a day of exploring! I love my Osprey backpack because it has plenty of room for sunscreen, a change of clothes, sunglasses, a wallet, my camera, snacks, and more while still being comfortable to wear.
Other options include this Waterfly crossbody, which would be easy to wear across your chest, and this inexpensive and colorful backpack that folds up for easy packing.
Cash, Including Lots of Small Bills
While you’ll absolutely be able to use major credit cards in restaurants and hotels, you’ll still need a certain amount of cash to use for taxis, tips, souvenirs, and, if they’re your thing, casinos.
US dollars are widely accepted on Aruba (I had to go out of my way to get an Aruban florin bill to take home as a souvenir), but if you’d prefer to work with the local currency you can always order it from your bank before departing or withdraw some from an ATM upon arrival. Just beware the steep ATM fees!
Plan to tip tour guides and excursion operators 10-15% – in cash – of the total cost of your tour. You should also make sure to bring plenty of small bills, as it’s often easier than making change for a taxi ride or tip.
Other Helpful Items to Pack for Aruba
- A lightweight, portable clothesline. This is ideal for hanging up wet swimming suits, towels, and more. I love that this one not only has clothespins but little adjustable stoppers to keep everything in place even on an angle. We used it every day!
- A good refillable water bottle. Aruba is very arid, so you’ll want to make sure you stay properly hydrated. Happily, the tap water is safe to drink, so make sure bring your own water bottle to save money and avoid single-use plastic ones. I personally use this one with a filter and this one without when I travel, but I love that this one collapses for easy packing.
- Your own snorkel gear. I love going on snorkeling trips but am always a little skeeved out by the thought of how many other people have used the mouthpiece before me. One of these days I’m finally going to invest in a good mask and snorkel for my mouth alone. I personally wouldn’t bother getting (read: having to lug around) my own fins, but there are some good options out there if you would like to.
- A quick-drying microfiber towel. While many resorts provide beach towels, a lightweight, packable towel will come in handy at the beach as well as on excursions like snorkeling trips or adventures into Arikok National Park.
- Packing cubes and/or vacuum compression bags. With all my overpacking, mine were absolutely invaluable!
- Snacks. Food is expensive on Aruba (most of it has to be imported), so bringing your own snacks will help cut down costs. (Don’t miss my other tips for saving money on food while traveling, either!)
- For my ladies, a DivaCup or other menstrual cup, if you happen to be unlucky enough to be expecting a certainly monthly visitor on your trip to Aruba. Using one completely changed the way I travel! Just a heads up, though, that first timers may want to use a cup for a cycle or two to get the hang of it before your trip!
I hope this Aruba packing list has been helpful as you plan your trip to this happy little Caribbean gem. Still have questions? Leave a comment below – I always respond!
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