Aruba is well set up to cater to the whims of a varied crowd, with dining options for all types of visitors. Restaurants run the gamut, from fast food and steaks to the best seafood and French fare, and many also offer entertainment. Aruba is quite expensive and the top eateries require advanced booking in high season. The nightlife is pretty good, with scores of pubs, bars, and clubs. The local brew is the rather tasty Balashi Beer.
Bars and Pubbing in Aruba
Nightlife can be had within Oranjestad and all the way up to the High Rise strip in Palm Beach. While not particularly raucous, there are some good options for night owls and also for those who just fancy kicking back at a cocktail bar for some quality people-watching. There is everything from martini bars and beach huts to discos, karaoke, and swanky bistros.
Head to L.G. Smith Boulevard in Oranjestad if you’re not sure where to go, which also runs through Palm Beach. Jimmy’s Place (Kruisweg 15, Oranjestad) is a good Dutch bar in the capital with decent happy hours, while Mambo Jambo (Royal Plaza Mall, L.G. Smith Blvd. 94, Oranjestad) is a funky club with Caribbean sounds. The Paddock (L.G. Smith Blvd. 13, Oranjestad) has beautiful views over the Aruba waters and good food and drink.
In the Palm Beach area, Bugaloe (De Palm pier, Palm Beach) is a cool, thatched joint that goes all day, while the Spanish themed Salt ‘n Pepper (J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 368-A, Palm Beach) for their tapas and sangria gets going after 7:00 p.m. Hotel bars can be a good alternative if you’re tired from the sun, but don’t want to completely miss a night out. Most offer live entertainment and some are full on Vegas-style shows. Aruba’s casinos are also good and there are 10 of them to choose from.
Happy hour at the beach is popular as many bars have resident DJs. Pubs tend to fill up around 10:00 p.m., while dance clubs don’t get going until after midnight, closing about 2:00 a.m. Entry is easy going for the younger set, and dress is casual. The crowd is a mix of tourists and locals, gay and straight.
Dining and Cuisine in Aruba
Oranjestad and Palm Beach also have the pick of eating in Aruba. There is everything from American chain restaurants—Burger King, Pizza Hut, Subway, Taco Bell, Hooters, et cetera—to first-class dining in posh hotel restaurants, although fewer independent quality restaurants exist.
Head along the main thoroughfares in Oranjestad, like L.G. Smith Boulevard, Main Street, and around the marinas, and you’ll find restaurants and bars galore. For first-rate French cuisine, Mathilde (downtown Oranjestad) is right up there, while L.G. Smith’s Chop and Steak House (Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino, Oranjestad) is the best bet for great steaks and chops. For cruisers, The Paddock (L.G. Smith Blvd. 13, Oranjestad) is right at the port and offers value skewers.
Up towards Palm Beach, which has a most variety of restaurants per area, the Gasparito Restaurant & Art Gallery (Gasparito 3, Palm Beach) has a homey setting with intimate eating and an outdoor terrace. Quality seafood and international dining is assured at the California Lighthouse at Ventanas del Mar (Tierra del Sol Resort & Country Club, Malmokweg, Noord).
Nos Cunucu (Palm Beach) is great for Caribbean cuisine. Low-cost, local alternatives are liberally placed in all touristy regions—try the pan bati pancake or keshi yena baked Gouda cheese.