Aruba is unlike many of its Caribbean siblings. Its dry and desert like climate has made Aruba a reliable destination. You can always expect sunny weather and warm trade winds. A plus…it lies outside the hurricane belt, so no more worrying about planning around the rainy season! Aruba, along with many other Caribbean islands, is visited by many, so I won’t bore you with all the travel basics, like the best time to travel, best hotels, and where to stay, etc. In this series, I will highlight the three things you need to know before you go…the things you may not find easily in a travel guide.

Stop, Don’t Pass Go, Do Not Exchange Your US Dollars

When traveling out of the country, we make the assumption that we should pay a visit to the local currency exchange as soon as we land. Actually, Aruban money (Florins) is not the preferred currency in Aruba. As a matter of fact, some places will simply not accept it. If you ask around, you will find that a majority of the tourists simply use their own money. If you go the exchange route, you will find it nearly impossible to spend Aruban Florins…anywhere! Whether it be a restaurant, hotel, shop or boutique, all transactions are done in US dollars. You can even obtain US dollars at ATM’s all over the island; especially in casinos. Do carry some cash in small denominations for taxis & tips.

Chain Restaurants Are a No-Go, Go Barefoot Instead

One of the great things about traveling is getting the chance to experience the local cuisine. Being that Aruba has some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, having a dining experience paired with playing footsie in the sand is the way to go. Most of the restaurants are fairly casual in Aruba so men don’t have to worry about packing along a suit jacket. Your basic spring-time attire will do. If the restaurant is nicer, make sure you wear long pants and keep the flip flops in the hotel room. I recommend the following “feet in the sand” restaurants: Passions, Barefoot, Flying Fishbone, and The Old Man & The Sea.

Leave the Tours for the Newbies, Be Your Own Guide

I go to Aruba to explore and for the beaches. Aruba is only 19 miles long and 6 miles wide. The entire island can be seen in one full day by car, seriously. My advice? Rent a jeep. It’s the best way to see the island — on your own. Be advised that the island of Aruba is also known as the Caribbean Desert. Unless you are walking along the beach, your driving experience will be just that…a desert. While you are out exploring, plan a visit to the Arikok National Park. It is a must-see ecological preserve where visitors can learn about indigenous island wildlife. Then, spend a romantic evening with a sunset near the California Lighthouse on the northwest end.

The sugar-like beaches in Aruba are world class and are are open to the public. Eagle Beach has been named the best beach in the Caribbean. Eagle Beach is quiet and ideal for realxing in the sun. Two other popular beaches are Palm Beach and Baby Beach. Palm Beach (located on the island’s northwest end) appeals to those who like plenty of activity along with high-rise hotels and beach bars. On the southwestern end, Baby Beach earns its name from the calm waters that are safe for even the young ones to enjoy.

It is nothing better than being prepared for a vacation. You don’t have to pull out your day planner and schedule every hour, but you should know what to expect. Stay tuned for the next vacation destination where I give you insight on the three things you need to know before you go. Safe travels!

Shanna "Urban Girl" Jones

Shanna is the co-founder and editor of Urban Swank. She focuses on food and travel.

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