Aruba offers sailing adventures on yachts, pirate ships, and catamarans day and night. Some include snorkeling, swimming, and lunch; others feature sunset vistas. For night owls, dinner-dance-and-booze cruises include a midnight dip in the sea. If you have something special to celebrate, you may want to charter a private yacht. The usual cost for the latter is $200 through a charter company, but in recent years such companies as BoatBound.com and RentaBoat.com have made it far easier to see ALL of the options out there, including rentals from private owners. This has dropped the cost of boating in Aruba, and around the Caribbean, significantly. Both of these marketplaces, and others, handle both bareboats and those with crews.
If you'd feel more comfortable with an established Aruba company, here are some we can recommend:
De Palm Tours (tel. 297/582-4400; www.depalmtours.com) offers more sailing options than anyone else—six different snorkel sails on catamarans and trimarans, and several sail-only cruises. Some cruises offer SNUBA, a cross between scuba and snorkeling. Ranging from 2 to 5 hours in length, the trips depart daily in the morning and afternoon and at sunset. Prices start at $49 and climb from there, depending on the inclusions.
Boarding at the Hadicurari Pier at Moomba Beach between the Holiday Inn and Marriott, Jolly Pirates (tel. 297/586-8107; www.jolly-pirates.com) features unique 4 1/2-hour sail, snorkel, lunch, and rope-swing excursions. Friendly and athletic deckhands will astound you with their mast-climbing antics followed by an acrobatic swing into the sea -- think Tarzan meets Marine Boy. While challenging to follow this act, grab hold and let loose with your best cannonball. Just remember to release the rope and grab hold of your swimsuit before you hit the water! Morning cruises embark daily at 9:30am, and return at 2pm ($60, including a tasty, full-service barbecue lunch). Two-hour sunset trips are offered Monday and Friday ($32) and 3-hour afternoon sail and snorkel tours are offered daily ($45). Snorkeling tours include life jacket, mask, fins, and snorkel. All three options include an open bar, and unlike on any of the catamaran tours, the bartender circulates, takes your order, and brings your drinks to you while you relax and enjoy the ride. Don't forget to stop by their shop located at the pier for a souvenir T-shirt, bandanna, or eye patch.
Mi Dushi Sailing Adventures (tel. 297/586-2010; http://midushi.com) offers three cruises on a 75-foot sailing vessel built in 1925. The 5-hour morning cruise combines sailing, snorkeling, swimming, and a rope swing, with continental breakfast, barbecue lunch, and an open bar. The boat departs from the De Palm Pier daily at 9:30am. The price is $61 for adults, $30 for children 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under. (Children 5 and under get no lunch, and parents of children 3 and under are strongly discouraged from subjecting their young children to 5 hours of confinement in an area full of slippery decks and ledges lacking safety railings.) Also featuring shallow reef snorkeling, swimming, and a rope swing, the 3-hour sundown cruise sets sail at 3:30pm from the same pier on Tuesday and Thursday, and costs $45 for adults and $28 for children 6 to 12; the price includes snacks and an open bar for adults. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the boat leaves at 5pm for a 2-hour all-you-can-drink sunset sail with light snacks. This party is $40 for adults and $28 for children 11 and under.
Pelican Adventures (tel. 297/587-2302; www.pelican-aruba.com) offers cruises on four different catamarans. The 2 1/2-hour snorkel cruise departs daily at 2:30pm and includes snacks and an open bar ($50 for adults, $28 for children 4-12). The 3 1/2-hour brunch cruise departs at 9:30am on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday and features continental breakfast (okay, really just some pastries and juice), champagne lunch, snorkeling, and an open bar ($79 for adults, $50 children 4-12). The 2-hour sunset booze cruise departs at 5pm Tuesday to Monday and includes snacks and drinks ($52 for adults, $27 for children 4-12). The starlight dinner cruise leaves Thursday to Tuesday at 5pm and includes a three-course meal at the informal Pelican's Nest restaurant at the end of the Pelican Pier and unlimited drinks aboard the catamaran ($85 for adults, $50 for children 4-12, and free for children 3 and under). All trips leave from the Pelican Pier near the Holiday Inn, and private charters can be arranged.
Red Sail Sports (tel. 297/586-1603; www.redsailaruba.com) boasts three large catamarans and several sailing options. The 4-hour luncheon snorkel sail departs at 9:15am daily, visits three snorkeling sites, and includes a deli-style lunch and an open bar (no beer however; $79 for adults, $39 for children 3-11). The 2 1/2-hour afternoon snorkel sail departs at 2:30pm daily and includes snacks and beverages ($59 for adults, $29 for children 3-11). The 2-hour sunset cruise departs at 5:30pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday and features snacks and an open bar, including wine and beer ($55 for adults, $29 for children 3-11). All trips leave from Hyatt Pier, and group charters are available.
When deciding which sailing excursion to select, take a walk down the beach and check out the goods. All piers are lined up along Palm Beach and the boats are moored close to land. Go for the operator with the prettiest and newest boat (De Palm is top dog at the moment). If you prefer a wooden hull to a fiberglass catamaran, Jolly Pirates is your best option. But if you want a more traditional catamaran experience (and a roomier deck), be sure to kick the tires before plunking your money down as older boats can be run-down and may have structural damage on the sunbathing nets, which limits access. Be sure to bring a towel since there are none to be had once on board. A final warning: Several tour operators offer champagne brunch, which usually consists only of a few pastries and maybe some fruit, but don't expect a full buffet or coffee. The open bar is a bit of a misnomer because beer and wine are generally not included, and drink options are limited to hard liquor, soft drinks, juice, and champagne. That being said, there are several tour operators, such as Red Sail Sports, that do offer wine and beer.
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.