Which ABC Island Is For Me? Guide to the Caribbean's Tropical Trio

Spice up a Caribbean getaway with island hopping from A (Aruba) to B (Bonaire) and C (Curaçao). From swimming through shipwrecks in Scuba Diver’s Paradise to beach bars or live music and theatre every Thursday night, the ABC islands stir up plenty of excitement. And if you’re into the idea of doing nothing all day in the sun, you’ll have a few flamingos to keep you company.

Pink flamingo, Renaissance Resort & Casino, Aruba.

Choose Aruba for… the nightlife and natural wonders

If you’re planning on seeing all the ABC’s, you’re best off starting in Aruba. Not only is the island easy to travel around, but it’s the most accessible for international arrivals.

Aruba is so much more than a layover destination, however. The  West Coast beaches give the rest of the Antilles a run for their money — as do the sunset views. You’ll find caves throughout all the ABC islands, but the most famous ones are located inside the Aruba Arikok National Park. The Fontein cave especially stands out since it contains drawings on the ceilings depicting the Arawak people.

You’re hardly ever alone in Aruba, but the locals are so friendly and the atmosphere is so lively that you won’t mind a crowd at all. From rolling dices inside the casinos of Palm Beach, to an LGBT+ friendly nightlife, Aruba attracts a diverse crowd ready to party.

Aruba is easily the most popular of the ABC islands, but also the most pricey. Dining and drinks can be eye-wateringly expensive, but what you get in return is culinary variety, high quality service, and the chance to experience some of the best nightlife in the Caribbean. Fortunately, there’s plenty of convenience stores and U.S chain restaurants to balance out the budget.

Daimari Beach, Santa Cruz, Aruba.

Choose Bonaire for… scuba diving and solitude

If Aruba is made for extroverts, Bonaire is the introvert’s answer. Its capital Kralendijk is painted similar shades of pastel, but without the heavy traffic and influxes of cruise ships. The nightlife is far more cosy, with a greater focus on local pubs and terrace bars than clubs.

The real reason people come to Bonaire has more to do with what lies underneath. Bonaire’s beaches are not so readily accessible compared to Aruba or Curaçao, but the payoff is better than you can imagine.

Home to 60 species of coral and 450 species of fish, Bonaire under the sea is even more colourful than Kralendijk. From green moray eels to sharks and dolphins, the abundance of aquatic life you’ll be surrounded by is surreal.

The Bonaire National Park encompasses the whole island’s waters and is one of the oldest marine reserves in the world. It frequently makes the Top 10 of the best diving spots on the globe — and there are a substantial amount of diving schools who can show you why that is the case. Beyond untouched attractions, you’ll find mysterious shipwrecks such as the Hilma Hooker…

Hilma Hooker Drug Smuggler Shipwreck, Bonaire National Marine Park.

Choose Curaçao for… the variety and vibes

The Goldilocks of the ABC islands, Curaçao is never too much of one thing. There’s all kinds of beaches to choose between — from commercial and secluded, to scuba and shopping — but Curaçao has more to offer inland. Whether you’re taking a free historical walking tour throughout Willemstad — the capital that shares a likeness to Amsterdam — or embarking on an early morning hike in Christoffel Park, Curaçao is amazing to discover on foot.

Daytime activities in Curaçao are easy to sort, but how about the nightlife? Shier than Aruba but more buoyant than Bonaire, this island’s party scene evolves throughout the week. Sunday is when the music gets dialled to the max, but every Thursday has Punda Vibes. The streets transform in the evening with vendors, live music and theatre performances in a celebration of Willemstad’s heritage.

Find out more with our guide to Curaçao (the Caribbean’s best kept secret) here.

Curaçao coast.

The ABC Islands & Carnival

Small celebrations start around November time, but when the months of January and February arrive, the ABC islands roar with the spirit of Carnival. Neon rainbow feathers and glitter everywhere is enough to get anyone in the mood to dance — even the reclusive Bonaire. Make sure you’re on one of the islands for the Grand Parade Weekend so that you don’t miss out on the non-stop excitement.

Carnival in Curaçao.
Header image is of Aruba’s Natural Bridge.
Starting from Skratch? Here are some links to help you get started:
Jurrien Wiss, This is Bonaire (4k) — Pride of the Dutch Caribbean
Kick back and relax with our Island Life series.

ABC Islands — Facts before you go

Languages 🇦🇼 🇧🇶 🇨🇼

Dutch (Official); Papiamento, English and Spanish are widely spoken. The ABC Islands are quadrilingual.

Currencies 💵

  • Aruba use the Aruban Florin (AWG) but US Dollar is also accepted.
  • Bonaire use the United States Dollar ($).
  • Curaçao use the Netherlands Antillean Guilder (ANG).

When to visit ☀️

January to May is the best time to visit. However, the ABC islands are outside of the Hurricane Belt, and so you can still visit from May onwards: just factor in the hot weather (which averages above 30℃).

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Hannah Douch
February 27, 2024

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