The sun-kissed Caribbean island of Aruba beckons with its idyllic beaches and a vibrant culinary tapestry woven from diverse cultural influences. Challenged by the arid landscape, early Arubans embraced a resourceful approach, crafting delectable soups, stews, and casseroles from readily available ingredients like goat, chicken, seafood, and pantry staples. Over time, the influx of over 90 nationalities has infused the island’s food scene with a rich melange of flavors from the Caribbean, North and South America, Indonesia, Asia, Europe, and beyond.

Today, Aruba’s gastronomic landscape is undergoing an exciting renaissance, with modern restaurants nestled in restored heritage houses, exclusive chef’s table dinners, and gourmet walking tours. Even the plant-based cuisine has taken root, offering innovative alternatives for discerning palates. Join us as we embark on a delectable journey, uncovering the 10 best foods and drinks to savor during your Aruban vacation.

1. Fresh Fish: A Catch of the Day Delight

Best Popular Foods & Drinks to Try on Vacation in ArubaAt Taste My Aruba, convivial owner Nathaly de Mey shares the flavors of her childhood, serving only the freshest catch of the day from her fleet of local fishermen. Whether it’s succulent red snapper, wahoo, mahi-mahi, yellowfin tuna, grouper, or even lobster, each dish is expertly prepared, often with a traditional red Creole sauce infused with peppers and herbs from de Mey’s own garden. The inviting restaurant, housed in a restored century-old building in downtown Oranjestad, offers a choice of indoor or outdoor seating, complemented by the irresistible house-made cashew nut cake for dessert.

2. Keshi Yena: The National Dish of the ABC Islands

Best Popular Foods & Drinks to Try on Vacation in ArubaThe national dish of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao), keshi yena (stuffed cheese), is a culinary treasure with countless variations. Originally consisting of a hollowed Edam or Gouda cheese rind stuffed with beef, chicken, or seafood, along with a medley of onions, peppers, tomato sauce, olives, capers, raisins, and cashews, it has evolved into a delightful casserole topped with melted Dutch cheese. At Papiamento in Noord, the Ellis family’s closely guarded recipe combines shredded tenderloin, chicken, and secret ingredients, cooked to bubbly perfection.

3. Aruban Stobas: Savory Stews with a Tropical Twist

Best Popular Foods & Drinks to Try on Vacation in ArubaAt Elements Restaurant, located in the adults-only Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort overlooking Eagle Beach, a team of Caribbean chefs curates an authentic buffet of dishes from Aruba, Jamaica, Haiti, and other islands every Monday through Saturday. Seek out the Aruban stobas (stews), particularly the calco stoba (conch stew in a rich red sauce) and papaya stoba (made with unripe papaya, goat meat, salted beef, and pork tail). Spice up your experience with a dash of pica di papaya (Aruba’s famous hot sauce), and savor the flavors by mopping up the broth with pan bati (a flat cornmeal bread), finishing with kesio (a rich caramel custard).

4. Pastechis and Batidos: Aruba’s Grab-and-Go Delights

Best Popular Foods & Drinks to Try on Vacation in ArubaAruba’s fast-food staple, pastechis, are deep-fried, half-moon pastries stuffed with fillings like chicken, beef, tuna, vegetables, or cheese. Best paired with a batido (fresh fruit shake), these portable treats are a must-try at the Pastechi House in Oranjestad, where the friendly owner guides you through an array of fillings, including ham and cheese, lobster, and even chop suey. Don’t forget to indulge in enticing batido flavors like tamarin and soursop while savoring these local delicacies on the colorful backstreets of Oranjestad.

5. Caribbean Rock Lobster: A Sweeter Seafood Sensation

The Caribbean rock lobster, a denser, clawless cousin of its Atlantic counterpart, boasts a sweeter flavor best enjoyed grilled. In the quaint fishing village of Savaneta, the Old Man and the Sea at Aruba Ocean Villas serves this delectable crustacean à la vodka style, nestled on a bed of penne pasta. While the intimate overwater palapas are reserved for villa guests, you can bask in the tiki torch-lit beach ambiance, serenaded by soft live music under the starry sky.

6. Cuba-Inspired Ropa Vieja: A Taste of Nostalgia

Best Popular Foods & Drinks to Try on Vacation in ArubaCuban cuisine in Aruba is a legacy of the early 20th century when Aruban men sought work in Cuba, often returning with Cuban wives who introduced traditional dishes like ropa vieja. At Cuba’s Cookin’ in Oranjestad’s Renaissance Marketplace, diners are transported to Cuba circa 1959 through live Latin music and dishes like ropa vieja, featuring shredded beef and colorful vegetable strips sautéed in a sofrito sauce. For plant-based indulgence, try their vegan version made with tofu instead of braised skirt steak, accompanied by a hand-crafted mojito or a refreshing mojito-to-go.

7. Dutch Pancakes and Poffertjes: Sweet Treats from the Motherland

Best Popular Foods & Drinks to Try on Vacation in ArubaPannekoeken (Dutch pancakes), lighter and thinner than their American counterparts, often feature fresh fruit cooked into the batter rather than piled on top. These savory delights are a common dinner choice, as exemplified by the Milano (with salami, cheese, onion, bell pepper, and oregano) at the Dutch Pancakehouse in Oranjestad. Willem’s Dutch Pancakes in Arawak Gardens offers a comprehensive menu of sweet and savory varieties, while both spots serve poffertjes, powdered sugar-topped silver dollar-sized pancakes.

For a portable treat, seek out Poffertjes van Pofferdorie at the Village Mall, a kiosk serving tiny poffertjes with decadent secret sauces from 6 pm onwards. During the day, savor Dutch pancakes at De Olde Molen, a beautifully restored 200-year-old windmill just off Palm Beach, until 1 pm.

8. Stroopwafels: A Dutch Delicacy Born of Frugality

Best Popular Foods & Drinks to Try on Vacation in ArubaIf you’ve flown United Airlines, you’re likely familiar with the delightful Dutch stroopwafel. Originally created in the late 17th century in Gouda, this treat was born of frugality, with bakers frying leftover dough into thin waffles (“wafels”) and whipping up a simple sweet syrup (“stroop”) of caramel-cinnamon to glue two together.

At Superfoods Plaza, a permanent demo kiosk allows you to watch the creation and sample these treats piping hot, with the syrup deliciously gooey and melty. Willem’s Dutch Pancakes and the souvenir shop at the famous Natural Bridge also offer freshly made to-go versions, while Poffertjes van Pofferdorie dips theirs in various toppings like coconut, sprinkles, crushed cookies, candies, and nuts. For a uniquely spirited souvenir, take home a bottle of stroopwafel liqueur, available duty-free at the airport in the Van Meer’s brand.

9. Bolos, Pans, and Snack Boxes: Baked Delights and On-the-Go Treats

When it comes to baked goods, Arubans embrace a delightful combination of sweet and savory flavors. Local bakeries like Huchada Bakery in Santa Cruz and Bright Bakery in Piedra Plat (near Mount Hooiberg) offer on-site dining and specialty main dishes alongside their signature offerings.

Bread, or pan, is a staple, with pan dushi (sweet bread) being a popular breakfast choice, often laden with raisins and available by the loaf or roll. For after-dinner indulgence, bolos (cakes) reign supreme, with cashew cake made from locally grown nuts and rum-laden bolo borracho (drunk cake) adding a touch of fun.

Arubans also adore special snack boxes to-go, typically containing deep-fried Dutch meat snacks like kroketten or bitterballen, a loempia (thick-battered spring roll), a pastechi, a sweet treat, and at least one webo yena (deviled egg). Locals have such a love for deviled eggs that there’s even an Aruban expression translating to “no eggs, no party!” Snack boxes are available at most bakeries, and NosOrguyo297 offers a convenient delivery service.

10. Liquid Refreshments: Quenching Your Thirst in Aruba

Best Popular Foods & Drinks to Try on Vacation in ArubaNo culinary journey is complete without accompanying libations. Balashi, the locally brewed lager made from German malt and hops, offers a light and refreshing option perfectly suited for Aruba’s hot weather. Its younger sibling, Balashi Chill, is a crisp pale yellow lager often served with a slice of lime, catering to a younger audience.

Best Popular Foods & Drinks to Try on Vacation in ArubaFor a taste of local cocktail culture, try the Aruba Ariba at Charlie’s Bar in San Nicolas. This famous concoction combines vodka, rum, Coecoei (a local liquor made from the sap of the “kukwisa” or agave plant, mixed with rum and cane sugar), creme de banana, fruit punch, and a splash of Grenadine with Grand Marnier.

Coffee enthusiasts will delight in the brews at Craft, where they can also indulge in an impressive range of liquors, cocktails, and craft beers. For a healthier option, the Garden Fresh Café offers organic smoothies, juices, salads, wraps, burritos, soups, and paninis, including a delectable Green Energiser made with apple, kiwi, kale, spinach, cucumber, and lime juice.

A Sustainable Future for Aruba’s Culinary Scene

While the island currently imports a staggering 99% of its food, an initiative is underway to increase the amount of sustainable and organic produce grown locally. This commendable effort not only promises to enhance Aruba’s already exceptional food scene but also contributes to a more sustainable future for the island and our planet.


As you embark on your Aruban adventure, savor the rich tapestry of flavors woven into each bite and sip, and revel in the diverse cultural influences that have shaped this remarkable culinary destination. From fresh seafood to innovative plant-based offerings, Aruba’s dining scene promises a memorable gastronomic journey for every palate.

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