advertisement

By Plane

Aruba's airport, Queen Beatrix International Airport (airport code AUA; www.airportaruba.com) is clean, modern, and organized. Unless your flight arrives with several others (it may on weekends), the lines through Immigration and Customs move rapidly. Luggage won't make it to the conveyer belts as fast as you'd like, but once it arrives there are plenty of free luggage carts available. The terminal has a bank and an ATM, a cellphone kiosk, and tourism desk. Most stores are in the departing passenger lounges, but in the courtyard to your left as you leave the U.S. arrivals building, a handful of small shops sells books, souvenirs, and snacks.

As of 2011, there are seven airlines that make regularly scheduled nonstop flights to Aruba from the U.S. and Europe. American Airlines once dominated the route, but Continental, Delta, United, and US Airways have joined the fray. There are even nonstop flights from Canada via Air Canada. Although the number of flights generally increases during the high season, airlines may alter service depending on demand (and their own financial condition). There are also chartered flights from the U.S., U.K., and Australia, so ask your travel agent if you can get in on one of those.

Charter flights offer an alternative for both Canadians and Americans. If you've booked a package through a large tour operator, your flight might be a charter anyway. Charters serve Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Hartford, Louisville, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Toronto.

Getting into Town from the Airport -- In the interest of protecting cabdrivers' livelihood, Aruban law precludes hotels from picking up guests at the airport. If you've come on a package tour, your ground transportation voucher gives you a seat on one of the privately operated, air-conditioned buses that take arriving passengers to the hotels. Otherwise, you can take a cab. Fixed, regulated fares are $13 to Oranjestad, $17 to the Low-Rise hotels, $20 to the High Rises, and $25 or so to Tierra del Sol. Taxis line up outside the terminal and can accommodate up to five passengers. If you want to get behind the wheel of your own car, 20 or so car-rental kiosks await you on the other side of the taxis. The drive from the airport to the hotels is usually 10 to 30 minutes, depending on traffic and the time of day.

Hassle-Free Return to the States -- Because U.S. Customs and Immigration agents are stationed at Aruba's airport, formalities for reentry to the United States are taken care of before you board your plane back to the U.S. Though that means no long lines to wait in when you get back to the United States, it can mean a considerable wait before you board, so be sure to arrive at the Aruba airport 3 hours before your plane is scheduled to depart.

By Cruise Ship

In 2011, 314 cruise ships brought 600,000 visitors to Aruba. Royal Caribbean and Princess ships begin itineraries in Aruba, and Celebrity, Crystal, Holland America, Fred Olsen, Norwegian, P&O Cruises, Princess, and Royal Caribbean all have ships that make port calls here.

Cruisers arrive at the Aruba Ports Authority (www.arubaports.com), a modern terminal with a tourist information booth, ATMs, and plenty of shops. From the pier, it's a 5-minute walk to the immediately evident shopping districts of downtown Oranjestad. If you're not taking a shore excursion, you can make your way around on your own, allowing some time for the beach (just a 5- to 10-min. taxi ride away), lunch, and shopping. Taxis line up to take cruisers to the beach; if you want to save money, the bus terminal is practically as close as the cabs: After you've walked to the main harborfront road, look for the large pastel bus shelter to your right. Most buses serve the resort areas, but before boarding, ask your driver if he's headed your way. The trip to the Low-Rise area takes about 15 minutes; to the High-Rise area, add another 5 to 10 minutes. Same-day round-trip fare between the beach hotels and the Oranjestad station is $4; a one-way ride is $2.25. Make sure you have exact change or at least small bills

Still a large cargo port, Oranjestad is separating its cruise and cargo facilities and beefing up passenger terminal services. For more information, contact the Cruise Tourism Authority, Royal Plaza Mall, Ste. 230, L.G. Smith Blvd. 94, Oranjestad (tel. 297/583-3648; www.arubabycruise.com).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.