The Caribbean is full of golden shoreline and amazing backdrops. It might seem a little trite or over-worked, but the Island of Aruba is one of my favourites. You can reach nearly any part of the island in one day, and by escaping the lame casinos and getting away from the resorts (which are lovely, but come on…) you can have your own adventure. I find beach-only holidays a real bore – I get ancy on day two or three. Aruba is perfect for me, though – a balance of relaxing on the beach with cocktails against doing something else besides sitting around. Here’s a few of my personal highlights of things to do in Aruba.
The resorts are great but getting beyond the pool and cocktail bar reveals and island full of beautiful sights. The natural land bridge, shown above, takes top marks – it is gorgeous and a must see, especially since in another couple hundred of years it will have eroded away.
You won’t have to go far for a beach, by the way; Palm Beach is the most popular and the most crowded. I’d suggest it for people watching but then head to the south or north to get some space.
Aruba is covered by Divi-divi trees, and you’ll be looking for a long time to find one that’s straight. Apparently because of the trade winds, which keep the island at a comfortable temperature, force these trees to bend and contort into different shapes. They’re never too tall either.
Don’t miss the “green flash” at sunset: for just a couple of seconds, as the sun sets into the ocean, the sky will flash green. You can even find tours that will take you up to the best vantage points (and offer you a glass of champagne while you enjoy). At first we thought this was a local legend designed to drum up business for the tour companies, but in fact it is a real phenomenon.
A popular option, for good reason, is taking a 4×4 jeep and touring the island. The thing is, you can go wherever you want, and there really aren’t any rules, so off-road is allowed (and, well, kind of encouraged). This was my favourite part of the trip, but the most terrifying. While cruising in the sun with the dust whipping at our faces was great, my friend who was driving had no fear and at times the jeep seemed poised to flip over on a hillside. One of those situations where you were afraid to put your hand out and tip the balance.
You don’t have to risk life and death to see the island’s sights, and you can cover a lot of ground in a day. The AltoVista Chapel is an iconic sight that is a nice visit. You should also see the ruins of 18th Century Spanish gold mine.
Food & Drink
Aruba’s been under control of varying nations over the years, so there are a lot of different influences in play. There’s a lot of fantastic foods – here are some suggestions for things to try:
- Pan Bati (Aruban pancakes which usually are served as a side dish)
- Keshi Yena (a yummy chicken dish with melted Dutch cheese, usually Gouda or Edam)
- Cocada (sometimes served as a coconut drink or a candy, it is mostly coconut and milk)
- Sunchi (tasty little bite-sized meringues)
Wash down your meal with Aruba’s national beer, Balashi. It’s refreshing after a day out in the sun. Or if you want those ridiculous and oversized (but fun!) umbrella drinks, look no further than Iguana Joe’s.
The water is warm and welcoming, so get wet while in Aruba! My favourite was the natural swimming pool (which you can visit on jeep), which is a little hidden cove perfect for a dip in amongst the the rocks. I also loved the snorkelling – I haven’t snorkelled much so perhaps I’m not the best judge, but the views and clarity of the water is great.
Rounding out the list is deep-sea fishing, fly fishing, sailing (there are cruises with lots of different themes so look around – romantic, party, sunset, food, etc.), windsurfing, and heck: there’s even a submarine!
Daytripping to Venezuela
Aruba is only 20 miles from the coast of Venezuela. While there’s no ferry, there are scheduled flights with Tiara Air to Punto Fijo, the peninsula closest to Aruba. I would strongly advise you if you plan on travelling to Venezuela to use extreme caution and plan your trip with our travel concierge, because kidnapping has long been en vogue so you want to use reputable suppliers.. When I was there, our plans were scuppered by a series of outbreaks in violence (but somehow we didn’t mind replacing those days with cocktails on the beach).