I wanted to list a few of my favorite things gathered from my previous trips and from others who shared with me their favorite things to help you get started in your first (of many I bet) trips to this wonderful island. I also recommend looking online at some of the Aruba sites to get a feel for activities and things to see.
It is a small island and can be explored by a rental car, ATV or jeep tours (the concierge will recommend a reliable company).
Palm Beach & Aruba Interior
North Palm Beach is a rocky coastline with crashing waves in contrast to Aruba's deserts and dirt roads. We went in our rental car and felt safe, but to go really rocky you would need to rent a 4x4 jeep for all terrains. We saw wild donkeys, goats and iguanas. The iguanas are actually everywhere around the hotels also but though they look quite scary they are harmless. Be sure to bring a hat, sunblock and water as it can get quite hot in the sun.
The Aribok National Park is beautiful, and much to see. We went to caves that had hundreds of bats deep inside but harmless thank goodness. A guide took us through and explained the many markings on the walls and guided us to the best places to get through so we didn't have to crawl too much - just enough to feel like explorers!
There are gorgeous huge rock formations called Calibari Rocks and well worth a visit. There is rock climbing and great pictures and this is not as far as the National Park. Your rental car can easily take you there.
Out this way is also the Ostrich Farm which we have not been to yet but we heard it is lots of fun. The Ostriches are just plain funny!! They have a 12 acre farm with incubators with large ostrich eggs which would be just huge I imagine!
The Donkey Sanctuary is located in the National Park and here is where they protect their wild donkeys. You can bring carrots and sugar cubes to feed the friendly animals.
South Palm Beach also has it own Bubali Bird Sanctuary. This is a wetland area with 2 manmade lakes and more than 80 species of migratory birds. This is a small, beautiful area, FREE, so worth a short drive whether you spot birds or not.
Right next to the birds is the Butterfly Farm. This is a lush and tropical area with tons of butterflies from all over the world. Your ticket is a free pass for the length of your vacation so it is worth going early on in case you want to stop back again. It is very close and if you are big on walking it is doable.
Going north from the Marriott you will find the Lighthouse a short drive up. It is a great scenic drive by car and you pass some great snorkeling sites to go back to later. The Lighthouse was built in 1910 by the French on a landscape of boulders and sand dunes and of course, by the blue sea. (See La Trattoria el Faro Blanco in the restaurant section). This is worth the beautiful ride and sensational views but if you combine it with the happy hour at the restaurant you will also see amazing sunsets!
Of course the Marriott has several free activities right there on the grounds - shuffleboard, ping pong, pool, basketball, sand volleyball and tennis where you can sign up for a game or clinic. There is also Golf for Marriott guests at the Robert Trent Jones designed Tierra Del Sol course where they also have a beautiful restaurant, spa and pool. Check with the concierge for booking a tee time.
In addition you can do Kitesurfing at Hadikurri Beach right next door to the Marriott. Late afternoon is best. You can also rent or participate in all sorts of water sports at the Marriott such as kayaking, windsurfing, tubing and jet skis to name a few. These don't come cheap but are great fun and the warm winds make all this even better.
There are also tours for Deep Sea Fishing, Scuba, Snuba and snorkeling. There are submerged submarines, tankers, an airplane, and coral formations and the most popular sight - the German Freighter Antilla. All the snorkeling tours hit some of these and many are very close to the Marriott.
One thing not to miss is Baby Beach. It is located near the oil wells on the eastern tip of the island and is not what it sounds like. It is a wonderful beach with a natural wading pool where the water is calm, fish abound and snorkeling is fantastic. Kids enjoy it but as an adult I just loved it! You can rent chairs or cabanas but be sure to negotiate - it can be anywhere from $25-45 for the day. They also have floats they can throw in the deal.
There are many different beaches if you like to explore - and there are 42 major dive sites with day trips by boat to transport you if you like. We really enjoyed snorkeling right from the beach at both Arashi and Malmok which are north on the way to the Lighthouse. We had a car but my son-in-law just walked. Tip: if you go up that way, be sure to check out breakfast or lunch (dinner is quite a bit more expensive) at the Tierra Del Sol restaurant. These high crest views are incredible and so different from the lower beach views you will be used to.