Aruba vs Hawaii Vacation: Which to Visit in 2024?

Looking for a lush green escape or a sparkling desert excursion? When deciding on a vacation between Aruba vs Hawaii, you can’t really go wrong. However, though Aruba and Hawaii are both well known for their pristine beaches, they are actually quite different.

And I don’t just mean their location, but I’ll start there! While Hawaii is a chain of islands that together measure 10,931 mi² in the Pacific Ocean, Aruba is an island that measures just 69.5 mi², located north of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea.

Aruba is roughly the same size as Hawaii’s Niihau island (which is very limited to public visitors) and is about half the size of Lanai, Hawaii’s smallest tourist island at 140.5 mi².

But size doesn’t matter when it comes to vacationing in Aruba or Hawaii, as there is plenty to do on both islands! Let’s dig into more of what each is known for and compare the two.

Aruba vs Hawaii: What is each famous for?

The one main island of Aruba is small compared to Hawaii’s many lush Hawaiian islands. Yet, both boast of white sandy beaches with crystal clear waters, offer similar water activities, and have a vibrant history. So knowing what each destination is most famous for can help solidify your vacation choice.

What is Aruba famous for?

Aruba is famous for its fine white sand beaches, vibrant Dutch colonial architecture, and essentially 365 days of sunny weather. Its desert-like terrain starkly contrasts its vibrant blue ocean coastline. Monolithic rock boulders, mangroves, and cacti cover its typically dry landscape.

Due to its location, Aruba is known as a fish lover’s paradise. Nicknamed “the happy island,” you will find that there’s an abundance of seafood stews, freshly caught fish dishes, and light fish soups. Its cuisine is inspired by Latin American, Caribbean, and Dutch food as well, so trying out their dishes will be a delightful adventure! In fact, one of those you have to try is Keshi Yena, Aruba’s famous meat and cheese dish.

What is Hawaii famous for?

Although Hawaii is most well known for its main islands of Oahu, the Big Island, Maui, Kauai, Lanai, and Molokai, did you know that it comprises a whopping 137 islands?

Unlike the desert-like landscape of Aruba, Hawaii is filled with lush tropical forests, animal habitats, mountains, and active volcanoes. Hiking trails, fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling over gorgeous coral reefs, and surfing are only a few of the fun outdoor activities Hawaii has to offer. Sports enthusiasts love to escape to this island paradise!

Culturally, Hawaii is also well known for its historical royal monarchy, hula dancing, and lei gifting tradition. It’s also known for its multiple islands. (You can either do some island hopping or choose to vacation in just one island. This guide will help you choose which Hawaiian island is right for you and your trip!)

For foodies, Hawaii is a seafood paradise! Poke bowls, sushi, and seafood dishes are common and can be found at the many beachfront restaurants that line the coastline. Don’t forget to stop at a gas station to grab some spam musubi (IYKYK). And if you choose to head to Maui, Mama’s Fish House is an absolute must! Get reservations way ahead of time or show up right when they open to score a seat at the bar. It’s my favorite restaurant in the whole world, and I’m pretty sure many others share this view!

Aruba vs Hawaii: Types of Nature

Flat terrain versus volcanic mountains, dry desert-like climate versus lush rainforests, minimal wildlife versus grand biodiversity, could Aruba and Hawaii be any more different?

What is nature like in Aruba?

Most of Aruba’s terrain is flat, with the highest point being Mount Jamanota at 620 feet above sea level. You can find fascinating rock formations made of monolithic rock boulders near Ayo village, the most famous being Ayo and Casibari.

Aruba is also home to many different bird and reptile species, including the whiptail lizard, brown pelican, and Carib grackle.

Due to Aruba’s dry climate, the terrain is desert-like, containing flora and fauna that only require low moisture levels.

Tuna cactus, yellow hubada, aloe vera, the powder puff tree, and the divi divi tree are several unique native plant species in Aruba. You’ll also notice that Aruba is covered with various cacti, so be careful where you walk! (I had the miserable experience of getting a cactus needle stuck in my Achilles – I felt the repercussions of that one for months!)

Check out this list of the prettiest places in Aruba to get a real sense of nature here!

What is nature like in Hawaii?

Hawaii has a diverse ecosystem and contains over 26,000 unique species. This is in stark contrast to Aruba, which only contains 245!

Taro, coconut palms, avocado, and banana trees are harvested and grown in abundance.

Visitors can purchase and eat fresh fruits and vegetables grown organic locally, and can see offshore marine animals such as dolphins, sea turtles, humpback whales, and Monk seals swimming nearby.

On land, visitors can explore many hiking trails. Each island has diverse landscapes but overall Hawaii is lush and green. There are stunning mountains, gorgeous beaches, flowing waterfalls, clear rivers, and epic cliffs.

Kauai, in particular, will blow you away with its lush, tropical terrain. You’ll find stunning Jurassic Park-esque mountains on Kauai and Oahu. Among others, Maui and the Big Island have incredible summits that you can drive up to (Haleakala and Mauna Kea respectively). On the Big Island, in particular, you can even try to catch a glimpse of an active lava flow at Volcanoes National Park if there happens to be one at the time you’re visiting.

Check out this article on the most beautiful places in the Hawaiian islands to get a real sense of the beauty here!

Aruba vs Hawaii: Notable Destinations

Knowing where to visit is one of the most important factors when purchasing a ticket for your vacation and choosing Aruba vs Hawaii. So what are the most notable destinations in Aruba and Hawaii?

What are Aruba’s most notable destinations?

The top destinations to stay in Aruba are Palm Beach, Eagle Beach, and downtown Oranjestad.

Eagle Beach is famous for being one of the highest-rated beaches in the world and is open 24/7 to the public. Fine white sand, water sports, nesting turtles, and crisp blue waters are only a few of the notable features of Eagle Beach.

Palm Beach, on the other hand, is located further North and is home to the Bubali Bird Sanctuary. Fewer tourists, a butterfly farm, and an Old Dutch Windmill give Palm Beach a unique homey charm, making for a more peaceful escape.

For those looking for more excitement, downtown Oranjestad is a great place to visit. Take part in a festival, go on a De Palm Tour, or try bar hopping! You will also find the National Archeological Museum if you want to learn more about Aruba’s history.

Meanwhile, for a great taste of Aruba’s stunning, rugged landscapes, you can also visit Arikok National Park – which actually comprises 20% of the island! Here you can explore on your own or join guided tours. Either way, you’ll get to enjoy Aruba’s natural beauty.

What are Hawaii’s most notable destinations?

Although Hawaii has 137 individual islands, there are seven main islands to visit: Hawai’i, Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Lanai, Molokai, and, less commonly, Niihau.

Each tropical island paradise is unique, with the most visited islands being Hawai’i, Oahu, and Maui.

The island of Hawai’i is the state’s largest yet youngest island, affectionately nicknamed “the Big Island.” On the Big Island, you will find multi-colored beaches, luxury resorts, active volcanoes, and an abundance of wildlife.

While you’re vacationing on the island of Oahu, the most popular attractions include the world-famous Waikiki Beach and the notable Pearl Harbour National Memorial. Visiting the Iolani Palace is a must if you are interested in learning about the local history. Originally the royal palace of the Hawaiian Monarchy, the Iolani Palace is an important historical site and piece of Hawaiian culture.

Maui is home to Haleakala, pictured above, where you can witness the most incredible views above the clouds. It’s also famous for the Road to Hana, a one-lane road along Maui’s eastern coast that offers epic waterfalls and jungle views.

Then there’s my favorite: Kauai. This island is small enough that you can really get to know it even if you have less than a week to explore it. Don’t miss Waimea Canyon State Park and Hanalei Bay- and my Kauai itinerary covers all of the best spots so that you don’t miss a thing!

Don’t know which island to visit? This guide will help you choose which island is best for your vacation!

Aruba vs Hawaii: Top Things to Do

Now that we’ve covered the different locations and what they’re known for, let’s focus a bit on what to do. Here are the top things to do in Aruba and Hawaii!

What are the best things to do in Aruba?

For a small Caribbean Island, Aruba has many activities to offer.

Driftwood fishing charters, sunset cruises, sailing lessons, snorkeling, and beach hopping are all great ways to explore the southern Caribbean country of Aruba.

Going on an ATV or Jeep tour is a great way to explore Aruba’s rocky, desert terrain.

The vast number of pristine white sand beaches that line Aruba’s coastline make it a beach bum’s paradise. (Just be sure to lather on some reef-safe sunscreen! High temperatures and minimal shade can mean heat stroke and sunburns are more likely.)

And one of the most popular things to do in Aruba is to see the flamingos on Renaissance Island – you may have seen photos of this already since it’s all over social media!

You can see my full list of the best things to do in Aruba here!

What are the best things to do in Hawaii?

Surfing, scuba diving, jet skiing, fishing, and hiking are just a few of the fun outdoor activities that Hawaii has to offer.

Whale watching is also popular, with humpback whales, dolphins, and sea turtles a common site seen offshore.

Of course, hiking through the tropical rainforest is also a popular excursion.

Active volcanoes can be an unforgettable site to behold if there’s volcanic activity on the Big Island when you visit.

If physical activity is not your thing, don’t worry; Hawaii is also known for its many shopping strips, outdoor markets, and beachfront restaurants. It’s home to incredible resorts if you’re looking to simply lounge in paradise!

And if you can swing it, a helicopter tour of Hawaii is unforgettable! We did the Jurassic Falls Landing Adventure with Island Helicopters and got the most epic views of Kauai’s Na Pali Coast.

Check out these articles to see the best things to do on:

Aruba vs Hawaii: How much does it cost to visit?

Of course, the cost is a huge factor when booking a vacation getaway. This is at least partly why money-saving travel hacks and last-minute deals have risen in popularity. Let’s break down the costs of each destination and find out which is the best for you.

How much does it cost to visit Aruba?

The average cost of a 7-day Aruba vacation ranges between $1,000 to $4,000 USD, with the most expensive months to visit being June, July, and August. To save money, try visiting in the low season (February) when flights are often 50% cheaper.

Meal prices range between $10 to $25 on average, making dining out cheaper compared to Hawaii. Accommodations can also vary greatly, with a hostel costing as low as $18 per night and a luxury hotel costing an average of $400 per night.

We stayed at the Hilton Aruba, pictured above, and loved the easy beach access and gorgeous pools!

How much does it cost to visit Hawaii?

four seasons room service

The average 7-day Hawaiian holiday costs between $2000 to well over $4000 USD. Of course, this price can vary wildly, depending on the level of comfort and luxury you desire.

Per night, a hotel could set you back $150 to $1000+ USD, while the average hostel can be found for as cheap as $50 USD per night. For honeymooners, babymooners, or those looking for a luxury vacation, resorts in Hawaii are absolutely stunning. Our favorites are the Four Seasons Hualalai on the Big Island and the Andaz Maui or Ritz Carlton on Maui. If you’re looking for a mid-range stay, we enjoyed Paradise Bay Resort on Oahu and Kauai Coast Resort on Kauai.

Most hiking trails and nature activities are free, making them excellent options for those on a budget, while some excursions, such as whale watching, fishing, and scuba diving, cost $100+ USD on average.

In popular tourist areas, Uber, Lyft, taxis, shuttles, and public transportation are all great options for transportation. But I recommend getting a rental car if you want to really explore and get to know the island you’re on. However, if you’re on a budget, public transport will be the cheapest option, with a 4-day visitor pass only costing $35 USD.

Aruba vs Hawaii: What is the weather like each season?

Did you know tropical and Caribbean destinations normally only have two seasons, not four? Destinations closer to the equator do not experience the same temperature changes as their North and Southern neighbors. This means deciding which time of year to visit takes a bit more research.

What is Aruba’s weather like in each season?

Like many tropical destinations, Aruba has two seasons, wet and dry. The dry season is from February to June, while the wet season occurs from July to January. Aruba’s average annual temperature is a warm 82°F, with temperatures rarely dropping below 76°F. Thankfully Aruba is not located in the hurricane belt, so tropical storms and hurricanes don’t affect it like other Caribbean countries.

Additionally, “wet season” may be a bit of a stretch when it comes to Aruba. This sunny country sees only about 15 inches of rainfall each year. And when it is the rainy season, most of the rain showers are short, erratic, and happen mainly at night! The Happy Island, indeed!

What is Hawaii’s weather like in each season?

Hawaii has a tropical climate. Its dry season occurs from April to October, while its wet season occurs from November to March. So if you’re looking for constant sunshine, Aruba is a safer bet. However, most of the time when it rains in Hawaii, you’ll get rain showers on and off, so it shouldn’t ruin your vacation. And the biggest benefit of rain showers is the rainbows you get in Hawaii! There’s a reason why it’s nicknamed The Rainbow State!

Expect average temperatures running from 66°F to 89°F throughout the year, with the coolest month being January and the hottest month being August.

So should you visit Aruba or Hawaii on your vacation?

When it comes down to it, choosing between an Aruba or Hawaii vacation comes down to your preferences, whether you’re flying from the east coast or the west coast. But, to sum them up…

Aruba is best for:

Those looking for a breathtaking beach getaway with turquoise blue waters, almost guaranteed sunshine, and exceptionally fresh seafood. Also those looking for a shorter flight from the East Coast.

Hawaii is best for:

pu'u o'kila lookout

Those looking for a tropical paradise, traveling from the US without a passport, wanting epic hikes and adventures, and stunning nature and views. And for those who don’t mind a longer flight.

In conclusion…

Aruba is a great holiday destination year-round. Even in the wet season, rain is minimal, with showers only lasting for short periods or occurring overnight.

Likewise, Hawaii is an amazing destination to visit all year round. During the wet season, you may experience rain, but overall it is not heavy enough to ruin your holiday.

So, since the time of year shouldn’t affect your choice, you’ll want to examine each place by things like landscape, things to do, and travel difficulty.

Although Aruba and Hawaii are both great beach destinations, they have substantial differences making both places a unique holiday experience.

I’d argue that Hawaii has a more epic landscape, but Aruba is easier to get to (as long as you have a passport). Hawaii offers a wider variety of things to do, but Aruba almost guarantees sunshine. Hawaii’s lush greenery lends itself to waterfall chasing, but Aruba’s desert terrain might be more fun for ATV adventures. You can go swimming with manta rays in Hawaii, but there are few places in the world where you can hang out with pink flamingos beachside other than Aruba!

So, when comparing Aruba vs Hawaii, which would you choose?

If you want my opinion, as a travel photographer pre-kids I’d pick Hawaii over almost every other beach destination… it’s simply my favorite place in the world. However, now as a mom, I’d pick Aruba for its gorgeous beaches and family-friendly activities without a major time zone change or an extra-long flight.

It’s a hard decision! Let me know in the comments section below whether you’re leaning towards a vacation in Aruba or in Hawaii!

And here are a few more articles you might find helpful:

Safe travels!


PS. Still deciding which tropical destination to visit? Here are some more options for you!

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About the author
Picture of Jasmine Alley

Jasmine Alley

I'm a Dallas-based, full-time travel blogger with a serious case of wanderlust! Through my website and Instagram, I hope to help others plan picture-perfect trips to the most beautiful places in the world! When I travel, I like to emphasize nature, hidden gems, and unique places.
Picture of Jasmine Alley

Jasmine Alley

I'm a Dallas-based, full-time travel blogger with a serious case of wanderlust! Through my website and Instagram, I hope to help others plan picture-perfect trips to the most beautiful places in the world! When I travel, I like to emphasize nature, hidden gems, and unique places.
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