Choosing between Aruba or St Martin for vacation? If so, this article’s for you!

I have visited both of these islands and they each offer something unique. 

Put briefly, Aruba is the ideal destination for adventure seekers that enjoy water sports and exploring natural attractions. On the other hand, St Martin is the best destination for foodies that prefer lounging on the beach, shopping, and trying out new restaurants. 

However, that is just scratching the surface. 

My guide will cover the key differences in tourist activities, beaches, cost, and more, to help you decide which island suits you best. 

So, keep on reading to learn exactly how Aruba compares to St Martin!

Aruba vs St Martin
Aruba vs St Martin
(Image by: Kiril Georgiev | Ramon Kagie)

What is Aruba known for?

Aruba is a popular vacation island in the Southern Caribbean that’s known for its natural beauty. Aruba has tropical beaches and a rugged desert landscape covered with cacti, similar to Arizona.

(Photo by: Rabih Shasha)

Whether you’re looking to relax on a white sanded beach or go on an ATV tour in the desert, Aruba has something for you. 

Aruba is known for its picturesque white sand beaches that are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and lounging. Palm Beach and Eagle Beach are Aruba’s most popular beaches that are surrounded by hotels, restaurants, and watersports concessions.

white sandy beach
Palm Beach, Aruba
(Photo by: Lex Melony)

Compared to St Martin, Aruba can be quite windy, but Baby Beach and other beaches are very calm. 

Aruba has many incredible seafood restaurants to try on the beaches, with everything from upscale restaurants to budget friendly eats. 

Beyond the beaches, Aruba has several fascinating natural attractions – such as the Arikok National Park, Quadiriki Caves, Natural Bridge, and more.

Rocky bay
Aruba’s Natural Bridge
(Photo by: David Troeger)

On a windy day, you can take a trip to Arikok National Park to explore underground caves, and swim in a natural pool.  

ATV and UTV tours are particularly popular in Aruba because of its rugged landscape – and they’re available at the Arikok National Park. 

aruba mountain
Arikok National Park
(Photo by: Michael Matloka)

Similar to St Martin, Aruba has many fun activities for kids – including a butterfly farm, lighthouse, and multiple animal sanctuaries. 

To get around Aruba, you can rent a car, take public transportation (buses and trolleys), or take taxis to get to all of your destinations. 

Although you can rely on taxis to get throughout the island, I recommend you rent a car during your stay. It’s the cheapest way to explore the island, especially if you’re staying for a week.

Where To Visit in Aruba

Whether you’re looking to sunbathe on the beach or take an ATV tour through Aruba’s deserted mountains, there’s endless opportunities for fun. 

Spend a day in Palm Beach to swim, snorkel, and enjoy drinks at the Coco Loco Beach Bar. Palm Beach and Eagle Beach are the most popular beaches and they’re surrounded by resorts, seafood restaurants, and watersports concessions. 

palm beach
Palm Beach, Aruba
(Photo by: Lex Melony)

On the beaches, you can rent out jet skis, lounge chairs, or hop aboard a boat charter for a snorkeling trip. A popular snorkeling tour visits the Antilla shipwreck – one of the Caribbean’s largest shipwrecks. The ship is surrounded by vibrant coral and tropical fish making it perfect for exploring.

Eagle Beach is less crowded and more windy than Palm Beach but it has free parking. If you’re seeking a calm, secluded beach, Baby Beach and Mangel Halto Beach have some of the calmest waters.

And if you’re looking to snorkel, head to Arashi beach which has gentle waters and vibrant coral reefs. 

If you’re seeking an adventure, spend the day exploring Arikok National Park. This park has cactus filled mountains, underground caves and natural pools to cool off in.

Quadiriki caves, Aruba

You can also take an ATV tour to visit the natural cave pool, Bushinibara ruins, natural bridge, and other impressive sites throughout the desert. 

If you’re traveling with kids, head to the Butterfly farm to tour a garden teeming with colorful butterflies. Or, visit Philip’s Animal Garden to see mules, kangaroos, jaguarundis, and other exotic wildlife. 

Other popular places worth visiting in Aruba are the California lighthouse, Alto Vista chapel, and the Aloe Factory Museum. 

Here’s a summary of the the top places to visit in Aruba: 

  • Conchi natural pool
  • Philips animal garden
  • Bushirinaba ruins
  • Arikok National Park
  • Quadiriki caves
  • Ayo rock formations
  • Butterfly farm
  • California Lighthouse
  • Aloe Factory Museum

What is St Martin known for?

St Martin is another popular Caribbean island destination for those seeking a tropical paradise. St Martin’s landscape consists of tropical white sand beaches and lush green mountains. 

Maho Beach, Sint Maarten
Maho Beach, Sint Maarten
(Photo by: Brighton Pereira)

St Martin is generally less windy and humid than Aruba, and it’s divided into two parts. The Dutch side of St Martin (Sint Maarten) is where tourists often stay. On the other hand, the French side (Saint Martin) is quieter, and has more upscale restaurants and resorts. 

In the Dutch side of St. Martin, there are popular beaches, restaurants, lively bars, casinos, and shopping centers. On the French side, there are luxurious resorts, fine-dining restaurants, and serene beaches.  

St Maarten
Sint Maarten
(Photo by: Lauren Ostrout)

If you’re looking for a more luxurious experience, a great resort to stay at is the Grand Case Beach Club. The Grand Case Beach Club is one of the best resorts in St Martin and it’s located on the French side. The resort is within walking distance to shopping centers, cafes, and restaurants.

It also offers free snorkel, paddleboarding, and kayaking equipment to guests on Grand Case Beach. Grand Case is the culinary capital of St Martin, so it’s where you’ll find some of the best upscale French and fine-dining seafood restaurants.

From French pastries to traditional Caribbean cuisine, there’s no shortage of delicious food on either side of St Martin. 

The most popular beaches in St Martin are Maho Beach on the Dutch side, and Orient Bay on the French side. Maho Beach is popular for being located at the end of an airport runway so visitors can watch airplanes fly directly over the beach.

St Martin
St Martin
(Photo by: Charl van Rooy)

Orient Bay, on the other hand, is a 1 mile long stretch of white sand beaches with bright blue turquoise waters. 

St Martin is not as great for snorkeling as Aruba, but Pinel Island is a good spot. Pinel Island is a small island surrounded by iguanas with secluded beaches, a snorkeling trail, and a restaurant. You can take a quick shuttle from the Dutch side to stay on the island for a day trip. 

Other than beaches, there are museums, rum distilleries, bird sanctuaries, hiking trails, and shopping centers throughout St Martin. 

Where To Visit In St Martin

Whether you’re looking to watch planes fly over a beach or dine out at a 5 star French restaurant, St Martin has something unique to offer. 

Start your day off with a French pastry from Sarafina’s bakery, which is right by Maho Beach – on the Dutch side of St Martin.

Maho Beach is the most popular beach in St Martin, and has clean, crystal clear waters for swimming or snorkeling.

Maho Beach, Sint Maarten
Maho Beach, Sint Maarten (Photo by: Robin Canfield)

You can watch as planes fly directly over the beach, and enjoy a cocktail at the Sunset Bar and Grill. Head to Orient Bay Beach on the French side to lounge on a pristine white sand beach with turquoise blue waters.

Orient Bay has fine-dining seafood restaurants, bars, cafes, and shopping centers within walking distance. If you’re looking to avoid crowds, head to Baie Rouge beach, a secluded beach with calm waters that’s ideal for relaxing. 

Similar to Aruba, nearly all of St Martin’s beaches have watersports. From kite-surfing to paddleboarding, there’s no shortage of water activities in St Martin. 

Philipsburg, St Martin
Philipsburg, St Martin
(Photo by: Daniel Romero)

If you’re looking to snorkel, Pinel Island is the place to go. Pinel Island is a small island located minutes off Dutch St Martin’s shore that has shallow waters and a snorkeling trail.

The ferry to get there takes around 20 minutes and leaves every 30 minutes from 9:30 AM to 5 PM. Take a day trip to the island to snorkel, spot wild iguanas, and enjoy fresh seafood at the Yellow Beach restaurant for lunch. 

Pinel Island, St. Maarten
Pinel Island, St. Maarten
(Photo by: Ervin Lukacs)

If you’re traveling with kids, you won’t want to miss visiting Parrote Ville bird park and the Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit Museum. 

The Parrotville Bird Park is a bird sanctuary where you can hold and feed over 25 species of birds. The Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit Museum was created by the special effects designer, Nick Maley, who invented Yoda in the Star Wars movies!

One of the most popular places for hiking is the Loterie Farm on the Dutch side. The Loterie Farm is a private nature preserve with hiking trails, ziplining, canopy tours, jungle pools, and a restaurant. It costs $5 USD to enter the park, and it’s open from 9 AM to 5 PM daily. 

Sint Maarten
Sint Maarten
(Photo by: Brighton Pereira)

St Martin has several shopping malls and streets lined with shops throughout the island. If you’re looking to shop on vacation, head to Front Street on the Dutch side. Front Street is St Martin’s busiest street and has everything from upscale boutiques to small souvenir and trinket shops. 

While you’re on the french side, make sure to stop by Marigot Market to shop local produce, spices, souvenirs, clothing, and more. The market’s open from 8 AM to 1 PM daily, and closed on Sundays. 

Here are some of the top tourist attractions in St Martin. 

  • Maho Beach
  • Orient Bay Beach
  • Pinel Island
  • Parroteville Bird Park
  • Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit
  • Pinel Island
  • Loterie Farm 

Which island is better for a vacation?

Aruba and St Martin are both excellent vacation destinations if you seek a blend of relaxation and adventure. 

Aruba is the best destination for you if you enjoy hiking and exploring natural attractions when you’re not on the beach.

St Martin is the ideal destination for you if you want to spend the majority of time lounging on the beach, trying exceptional restaurants, and shopping. 

However, both islands have picturesque white sand beaches, watersports, and delicious restaurants. No matter which place you choose to visit, there’s plenty of fun activities to do. 


Aruba and St Martin both have pristine white sand beaches that are ideal for snorkeling and swimming. 

In Aruba, Palm Beach and Eagle Beach are the most popular beaches surrounded by resorts, restaurants, and watersports concessions. For snorkeling, you can head to Arashi beach in Aruba, or take a snorkeling trip to the Antilla shipwreck. 

In St Martin, Maho Beach and Orient Bay Beach are the most popular beaches with bars, resorts, restaurants, and watersports. For snorkeling, you can head to Happy Bay Beach or visit Pinel Island’s snorkeling trail. 


Aruba and St Martin have warm, humid weather year round, with Aruba being slightly windier than St Martin. Aruba’s average temperature ranges from 79 F to 91 F, whereas St Martin’s average temperature ranges from 74 F to 89 F. 


The official languages of Aruba are Papiamento and Dutch, whereas the official languages of St Martin are Dutch and English. However, English is widely spoken throughout both islands.


The currency in Aruba is the Aruban florin. On the other hand, the official currency in St. Martin is the Antillean Guilder on the Dutch side, and the euro on the French side.

However, US dollars are widely accepted everywhere throughout the islands so you do not need to convert your currency. 


There’s no shortage of delicious seafood in Aruba and St Martin. Aruba’s cuisine is inspired by Caribbean, Dutch, and South American food. Some common dishes worth trying in Aruba are fried plantains, conch fritters, and keshi yena (fried cheese balls).

On the other hand, St Martin;s cuisine is inspired by Caribbean, Dutch, French, and African food. Some dishes worth trying out in St Martin are conch and dumplings, johnnycakes, and chicken locri.

St Martin is often thought of as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, and has many exceptional fine-dining restaurants. 


Aruba and St Martin have plenty of beach bars, lounges, and nightclubs to enjoy a night out. The Dutch side of St Martin has lively beach bars and casinos, whereas the French side is more laid-back with restaurants and cafes with live music. 


Aruba is generally more expensive than St Martin, with St Martin accommodating a wider range of budgets.

The average daily price for one person is $325 in Aruba, and $210 to $375 per day in St Martin. 


Aruba and St Martin are generally very safe to visit, having some of the lowest crime rates out of the Caribbean islands. 

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Aruba is from January through May during their dry season, whereas the best time to visit St Martin is in the months of May, June, November, and December. 


How far is Aruba from St Martin?

Aruba is 964 km from St Martin. 

Does Aruba have Uber?

No, Aruba doesn’t have Uber or Lyft unfortunately. The best way to travel around Aruba is to rent a car to fully explore the island. Check out the best alternatives to Uber for a full list of transportation options in Aruba. 

Does St Martin have Uber?

No, St Martin doesn’t have Uber or Lyft. The best way to transport around St Martin is to rent a car. 

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