|Support ATC by using the links in our articles to make a purchase. We receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) so we can continue to create helpful free content. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases made on Amazon in addition to other retailers featured on the blog. Thanks a million.|
Two of the most sought after destinations for a Caribbean vacation are Aruba and St Thomas.
In this article, we will compare and contrast these two amazing Caribbean islands to help you make a wise decision for your upcoming Caribbean vacation.
As a general rule, St Thomas is better for travelers who are interested in duty free shopping, island hopping to other Virgin Islands and tranquility. Alternatively, Aruba is ideal for a visitor who is looking for sunny weather, beaches, entertainment with an interest in seeing flamingos.
Read on for further details and explanations on how these two beautiful Caribbean islands compare. Contribution to this article was made by individuals who visited both islands on vacation.
St Thomas Vs Aruba: Which Island Is Bigger
Aruba is the larger of the two islands being 69.5 square miles. On the other hand, St Thomas is only 32 square miles.
The highest point of elevation in Aruba is Mount Jamanota which stands at 620 feet whereas in St Thomas, Crown Mountain is more than double the elevation at 1,556 feet.
St Thomas Vs Aruba: How Does The Landscape Differ
The look and feel of St Thomas and Aruba are extreme opposites. St Thomas is lush, tropical and mountainous in appearance.
On the other hand, Aruba is a coral based island and incredibly flat in topography. The island is dry and arid in appearance.
Also, Aruba is very windy due to its location near the equator which makes it an excellent spot for kite surfers.
Visitors may prefer to drive in Aruba as the topography makes it easier for a newcomer to navigate.
St Thomas Vs Aruba: Does The Currency Differ?
The currency of the two islands differs. The official currency of Aruba is the Aruban Florin. It was introduced on the island in 1986, replacing the Netherlands Antillean Guilder.
It is pegged to the United States (US) dollar at a rate of USD$1 to AFL$1.79. The currency is issued and managed by the Central Bank of Aruba which began its operations in 1986.
Nevertheless in Aruba, the US dollar is accepted throughout the island. Prices by most businesses are quoted both in US dollars and AFL.
Some businesses may provide you with change in US dollars while others will give you the local currency. There are ATMs on the island that dispense US dollars.
As an overseas territory of the United States of America, the US dollar is the official currency of St Thomas.
St Thomas Vs Aruba: Does The Official Language Differ?
The official language of St Thomas is English and the official language of Aruba is Dutch. Nevertheless, English is widely spoken on the island.
Four languages are used Aruba. These are Dutch, Papiamiento, English and Spanish.
It is mandatory for children to learn English at school and if you are a Spanish or English speaker you will find it easy to integrate on the island.
St Thomas Vs Aruba: Entry Requirements
US citizens do not require a passport for entry into St Thomas. As an overseas dependency of the United States of America (USA), travel to St Thomas is considered an internal flight.
Contrastingly, US citizens require a passport as well as a return ticket for entry into Aruba.
However, there is a similarity in that US citizens can clear customs and immigration in Aruba on departure and pick up their bags on arrival into the USA just as customs and immigration in St Thomas.
St Thomas Vs Aruba: Can You Island Hop To Other Islands
St Thomas offer easier and more affordable island hopping opportunities than Aruba. St Thomas is the main commercial island in the US Virgin Islands.
The international airport Cyril E King International is located in the capital city, Charlotte Amalie.
There are ferries from the island to the other US Virgin Islands such as St Croix, Water Island and St John.
There are also ferry services available to the British Virgin Islands (BVI). US Citizens require a passport to enter the BVI from St Thomas.
On the other hand, there are no ferry services available from Aruba to Bonaire and Curacao. There is a regional carrier, Insel Air that provides direct and non-stop flights daily between the three islands.
St Thomas Vs Aruba: Which Island Is More Vulnerable to Natural Disasters
The hurricane season in the Caribbean starts on June 1 and ends November 30 annually. St Thomas is more susceptible to hurricanes of the two islands.
The last major hurricanes to affect St Thomas were hurricane Maria and Irma both in 2017 which hit the island as category 5 storms.
The location of St Thomas also makes it susceptible to earthquakes. The last major earthquake that affected St Thomas was in 1867 which led to a tsunami which caused major damage to the island.
One major advantage of Aruba’s location is that it is located outside the hurricane belt. As a result, a direct hit by a hurricane is highly unlikely.
Nevertheless, while a direct hit from a hurricane is rare, it is not impossible. In 2007, the island was affected by a category 2 hurricane named Felix. The damage to the island and infrastructure was minor.
It is always prudent for visitors to the Caribbean during the hurricane season to consider travel insurance in the event of travel delays and interruptions.
St Thomas Vs Aruba: Which Island Has Better Nightlife
Aruba is the clear winner when it comes to nightlife. There are a number of options that visitors can enjoy. Party lovers will enjoy the bars and clubs located along South Beach Aruba.
There are casinos, bowling alleys, cinemas and golf courses so visitors can enjoy a myriad of entertainment.
Contrastingly, St Thomas does not have so much variety when it comes to nightlife. There are several restaurants and beach bars in the Red Hook, Frenchtown and Haven Sight areas. These are located near to each other so it is easy for individuals to bar hop.
St Thomas Vs Aruba: How Does The Weather Differ?
The weather pattern in the two countries differs. Aruba has a longer dry season than St Thomas.
On a whole, the rainy season in Aruba is much shorter than other Caribbean Islands. Annually, the rainy season begins in October and ends in January each year.
Neighboring islands of Bonaire and Curacao also have similar weather patterns. As a result, visitors to the island are almost always guaranteed sunny and warm weather during vacation.
The warmer weather on the island means also little to no mosquitoes and flies when compared St Thomas where the rainy season is longer.
St Thomas Vs Aruba: How Does The Cuisine Differ?
The food in Aruba is more unique and the restaurants are top notch whereas in St Thomas the food is the typical West Indian cuisine. Fish and fungi is the national dish of the US Virgin Islands.
One factor that may have contributed to Aruba’s exquisite cuisine is the dependency on the tourism sector.
As a result, restaurants ensure that their culinary experience is world class. Sea food plays a major role in the dishes served in Aruba. There are many high end restaurants on the islands as well as affordable ones.
Some of the well-loved places to eat by the locals on the island include O’Neil Caribbean Kitchen, Zeerovers, Peanuts restaurant and Red Fish restaurant.
Additionally, Dutch snacks such as Frikandel and Bitterballen are unique to the Dutch Caribbean and you should try them if you visit Aruba.
If you love cheese, then the national dish, Keshi Yena which is a traditional meal made by Arubans is one that you will enjoy. Cheese is added to leftovers to create a casserole which is baked.
In Aruba the main and popular fruit drink is Awa di lamunchi. This is a local Antillean drink made with lime that is also served in Bonaire and Curacao. This drink is not served in Dutch St Maarten.
St Thomas Vs Aruba: Which Island Is Better For Duty Free Shopping
For duty free shopping, St Thomas is the better destination. St Thomas is one of the best islands for duty free shopping in the Caribbean. Each visitor including children is allowed $1600 each of duty free purchases back into the USA.
St Thomas is the capital of duty free shopping in the Caribbean. Brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Little Switzerland, Diamonds International and Bebe have a presence on the island.
Yacht Haven Grande is a premium waterfront development which features a marina and a number of medium to high end stores. In addition, to some of those previously mentioned, Coach and Bulgari have retail operations at Yacht Haven Grande.
On the other hand, in Aruba duty free shopping is available only on the airport where individuals tend to have less time to browse and make purchases. However, there are a number of high end stores in the capital city of Oranjestad.
These high end luxury international brands typically do not have a presence in most Caribbean islands. At The Renaissance Mall, there are shops such as Louis Vuitton and Kate Spade where you can buy luxury items.
St Thomas Vs Aruba: What Are The Unique Things To Do
Unique Things To Do In Aruba
Arikok National Park- this stunning area occupies about 20% of the island and is home to natural pools and caves. The appearance of the park is desert like and visitors can enjoy the park either by hiking or by driving. The cost of the visit is $11.00 per person at the time of writing.
Visit Renaissance Island– this is a private island that is owned and operated by the Renaissance hotel where you can get a direct and personal experience with flamingos. Access to Flamingo beach as it is fondly called must be via the Renaissance hotel which provides boat transfer to the island. Visitors at the hotel can access the beach during their stay.
If you are staying at another location, you will need to purchase a day pass. Some travelers opt to book a room for one day which gives you access to the beach twice which is the day that you check in and the day that you check out.
Explore The Butterfly Farm- if you are near the Palm Beach area, a unique attraction that you can enjoy is a visit to the butterfly farm. Tours explain the metamorphosis of the creature from the egg stage to the butterfly. This attraction is perfect for amazing pictures and for multi-generational families.
Unique Things To Do In St Thomas
Visit Coral World Ocean Park– This Park is an amazing way to see and learn more about sea life in St Thomas. There are activities available for all ages such as educational shark and sea lion tours. In addition, you can enjoy kayaking with the dolphins while at the park.
Visit Mountain Top & Drake’s Seat– These two areas are must visit spots to take in the panoramic views of the island. Mountain top is 1500 feet above sea level and provides a stunning view the other Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. From mountain top you can see a total of 20 islands.
Explore Fort Christian– This is one of the key landmarks located in the capital city of Charlotte Amalie and is the oldest structure in the US Virgin Islands. Built between1672 to 1680, Fort Christian has a red exterior with a Victorian clock at the front. A tour explores the history of the Danes and slavery. The admission fee is $10 for non-locals.
Climb 99 Steps- is another key feature that stands out in Charlotte Amalie. These steps were constructed from bricks brought to the island from Denmark and are used to connect the streets in the city. At the end of 99 steps is Blackbeard Castle which is another must visit historic site while on the island.
On a whole, Aruba is an ideal choice for a traveler who enjoys high end luxury shopping, unique cuisine, beaches and a bustling nightlife experience. Alternatively, St Thomas is an exceptional choice for a traveler whose priority is going the beach, snorkeling, island hopping and duty free shopping.
If you are contemplating traveling to St Thomas, Aruba or the rest of the Caribbean, cruising is an affordable option to consider. I have recently completed an informative course by cruise specialist, Emma Cruises which you should check out titled How To Cruise For Less.
This course provides detail tips and techniques on how to save money while cruising onboard, onshore as well as the importance of insurance. So if you if you are considering a cruise for your next Caribbean vacation, check out How To Cruise For Less.
Need More Information?
Feel free to browse our website for more content on the St Thomas, Aruba and the Caribbean by using the search bar located at the top of this page. The following are some of our articles which we believe may be suitable for you.
Living In St Thomas (Pros & Cons Fully Explained)
Living In Aruba ( Pros & Cons Fully Explained)
Best Currency For Aruba (The Ultimate Guide)
Anguilla Vs Aruba (Which Island Is Better For A Vacation)
St Thomas Vs St Maarten (Which Island Is Better To Visit)
St Lucia Vs St Thomas (Which Island Is Better For A Vacation)