Aruba: One Happy Island
Located some nineteen miles north of Venezuela, the small island of Aruba surprises the imagination and tantalizes the senses of the most intrepid traveler. A warm Arubian smile and “Bon Bini” (greeting) welcomes one and all to one of the most multicultural and ecologically diverse seventy-seven square miles anywhere on the planet.
As the “A” commonwealth in the “ABC” chain of Dutch-claimed islands comprising the Netherlands Antilles (the others being Bonaire and Curacao), Aruba lives up to its claim as “One Happy Island.” The first-time visitor to Aruba will discover white-sand beaches, rugged terrain, windswept brush-covered cactus trees and a rocky, New England-like coastline, all harmoniously co-existing, making Aruba unique among Caribbean Islands. Just five hours away from most East Coast gateways and average year-round temperatures of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, anytime is a good time to visit Aruba. Aruba’s high season runs December through August, and hurricanes are rare in the low season because of its westerly Caribbean location which makes the island a convenient port-of-call for many cruise lines.
The beautiful white sand and palm tress of Palm Beach welcome thousands of visitors annually to this quintessential Caribbean beach. Home to major hotels, Palm Beach offers sun, fun and water sports for the beach enthusiast. Whether it’s a day spent beneath a seaside palapa umbrella, an evening enjoying a romantic candlelight dinner beneath the stars or the nightlife and excitement of casino gaming, Palm Beach offers something for everyone. Just a short ride from Palm Beach, Aruba’s capital, Oranjestad, provides an array of shopping, dining, and entertainment options. Let’s Go Latin!, a high-energy cabaret style show featuring the best in Latin music, dance and awe-inspiring acrobats, packs audiences nightly at the Crystal Theater, part of the chic Renaissance Resort hotel-casino and shopping complex. For a memorable underwater experience, the Atlantis Submarine beckons after a high speed boat ride from dockside in downtown Oranjestad to the submarine launch site. From there, a 90 minute adventure to the reefs and shipwrecks awaits as Atlantis reaches depths of 150 feet below the sea.
The eclectic mix of natural beauty and imposing man-made structures creates some of the most stunning sites to be found in the Caribbean. The aptly-named Baby Beach, at Aruba’s southern tip, has shallow and calm waters inviting to big and little kids. Not more than five feet in depth, Baby Beach’s protective breakwater and reefs offer excellent aquatic sightseeing. In nearby San Nicolas, the towering Valero Energy’s refinery provides a stunning backdrop to the white sands of Baby Beach. Minutes north of Baby Beach, Arikok National Park offers a myriad of recreational and nature viewing opportunities. Arikok has several noteworthy caves, including Guadirikiri and Fontein Caves. Along the rugged eastern windward coast resides a stunning saltwater tidal pool known as Natural Pool. Enveloped by the rocky terrain, Natural Pool provides a spectacular location for cliff diving and snorkeling. If one can tolerate the bumpy roller coaster ride and somewhat challenging walk to get there, an experience of a lifetime awaits at Natural Pool. A short ride north of Natural Pool stood Aruba’s beloved Natural Bridge. Reclaimed by the sea on September 5, 2005, the remnants of this limestone bridge carved by the force of thunderous waves pounding the shoreline remains worth seeing.
No trip to Aruba would be complete without touring the island. While the most adventurous travelers rent jeeps or SUV’s to traverse the rugged terrain from any of the island’s many car rental companies, several local tour companies offer half-and full-day excursions where one can either do the driving or leave it to someone else. The notable ABC Tours’ extremely popular Land Rover-powered safari guided tours provide an exhilarating and uniquely Arubian experience.
From the rugged off-road trekking to the opportunities for snorkeling and swimming at two of Aruba’s best natural attractions—Natural Pool and Baby Beach, ABC Tours’ are an exceptional value. Be sure to bring sunscreen for any touring activity given the intensity of the morning and midday sun.
Whether after a lazy day at the beach or high-intensity off-road touring, Aruba restaurants offer even the most discriminating palate a wonderful culinary treat. Not far from Palm Beach’s high-rise hotels in the Noord district, Papiamento and Gasparito, serve some of the finest Arubian cuisine anywhere on the island in the most romantic of settings. Sole Maré blends Italian and the finest of the sea into a gastronomic tour de force. The Aquarius at the Renaissance Resort in Oranjestad has an impeccable seafood buffet. Some of the other popular restaurants highly recommended by Arubians include Flying Fishbone (offering private beach dining), Marandi and Driftwood for seafood. Other noteworthy restaurants include Madame Janette’s for Dutch-style cuisine and Simply Fish, located on the beach of the Marriott Resort. Couples can enjoy romantic sunsets at Flying Fishbone, Marandi, and Simply Fish while running your toes through the sand, savoring wonderful island bouillabaisse and enjoying the light ocean sounds. With so much to offer the “happy island” promises to fill you with many delightful memories.