Windswept Divi Tree
With its white-sand beaches, constant, cooling trade winds and warm, friendly people, Aruba lives up to its name: One Happy Island. Since it’s far enough south to be blow the hurricaine belt, Aruba has more stable weather than most of the rest of the Caribbean. It’s landscape is quite different as well, with a desert-like quality including a lot of low scrub and cacti. The iconic divi divi tree is blown into gorgeous twisted shapes by the always-blowing trade winds. Arikok National Park covers 20% of the island, and is the largest National Park in the Caribbean. Aruba is also a true melting pot, and South American, European and Caribbean influences are clear in the food, the language, and the faces of its people.
Memorial to lost seaman
Getting to Aruba
Most tourists fly into Aruba either by commercial or chartered air, landing at the Queen Beatrix International Airport.
Aruba is also a popular port for cruise ships, yachts and sailboats. We had a direct flight from New York’s JFK. After more or less successfully resisting the temptation to join the crowd of grumblers during our three hour delay, we finally took off. Landing in Aruba four hours or so later was enough to make everyone all smiles. On this visit, we stayed at the Marriott Aruba Surf Club
, one of Marriott’s timeshare properties. The Surf Club is relatively new, and we spent the first evening and next morning exploring its grounds as well as the sister properties: the Ocean Club and Stellaris Casino next door. Although there were a lot of people around, it didn’t seem overly crowded. American tourists dominated by far, and there were many older couples and families with children.
Boats at Sunset
Getting Around the Island
We took the local bus a number of times, since renting a vehicle can be a bit pricey. Getting to downtown Oranjestad is easy and hassle free, though you may have to wait a while for a bus to pass. Don’t be afraid to jump out and hail one down if it looks like it’s just going to pass. The bus is handiest to travel up and down the west coast of the island. We used it as well to travel up to the northwest tip of the island to visit the California Lighthouse. The lighthouse was designed in 1910 by a French architect and named for the S.S. California, which sunk near the shore at the end of the 19th century. The lighthouse stands 180 feet high. Our winnings at the casino one night inspired us to rent a jeep one day, and exploring Aruba’s wild side is something every visitor should make a point of. Get off the paved roads and explore! The island is only about 20 miles long, but allow plenty of time for rough roads, getting happily lost and making frequent pit stops. If you’re wary about venturing out on your own, there are a variety of self-drive, but guided jeep tours to choose from.
We’re not at all big shoppers, so we only had a quick look around the island’s capital, Oranjestad. It didn’t take long to see that this was the place to be if you were looking for some deals. All the big-name players were there selling high-fashion, clothing, sunglasses, jewelry and watches. Malls abound, and if you’re looking for good bargains on European imported luxury items, Cuban cigars or Dutch treats, you’re in luck. There are also the requisite souvenirs and beach items. There are lots of great restaurants in town as well. The National Archaeological Museum of Aruba
is located in Oranjestad as well, presenting Aruba’s rich archaeological history. There were several large cruise ships docked on the wharf, and the day trippers were loaded onto colorful, loud party buses for a spin around the island. We walked in the opposite direction, and hit the local supermarket to stock up for the week. Food shopping itself was a highlight. We took our time selecting Dutch cheeses, fresh bread, handmade sausage, seasoned chicken, organic eggs, coffee, fruit and pasta. Reading labels to figure out flavors and calculating how many grams of ham to ask for were challenges we greatly enjoyed. Oh, and we got a great deal on a case of Venezuelan Polar, Donny’s beer of choice on our last trip there. We made a great dinner that night including our hot and spicy kip (the chicken), pasta with cheese, and the bottle wine the front desk manager sent up after we had some issues checking in.
Looking down at Baby Beach
to link to the photo album from Aruba.