January 30, 2014
Aruba Is Truly “One Happy Island” By Mary Craft Everyone that can should visit the former Dutch colony of Aruba in the Caribbean . Yes it has beautiful turquoise water with white sandy beaches but that is not what makes it unique - it is the warmth of its people. The Arubans are a mixed bunch made up of earthy blond Dutch and South American blends that enjoy life and who love their island and love sharing it with you. This island paradise is only 20 miles long and six miles wide with basically three areas. There is the Dutch influenced downtown section that has many upper scale designer shops mixed with restaurants, bars and souvenir shops. The low rise section has all-inclusive beach resorts and is where you can enjoy large sections of beach to yourself and then there is the fun high rise section with all the major hotels my favorite being the Holiday Inn where I stayed. The beach that stretches out in front of these hotels are full of chaise lounges with ideal people watching opportunities. The tourists are mostly from Europe, Canada, northeast U.S. and South America and are attractive and easy to interact with because it is just that kind of atmosphere.
A Blue Water Playground
During the day everyone is on the water side of the hotels where there are many activities to enjoy including paddle boards, volleyball, kayaks, parasailing, up to four person tubing, wake boarding, kite surfing, sailboat cruises, deep sea fishing charters and snorkel cruise launches. One water sport I never saw before was the JetLev which is a water propelled jetpack that allows you to soar up to 30 feet above the water that was commercially launched in 2012. There are many restaurants and bars including several on piers over the water all with excellent seafood. Although the island is expensive the water activities are not. We went on the five hour $75 brunch snorkel catamaran cruise that included a continental breakfast, lunch with sandwiches, potato salad and fresh fruit and an unlimited bar that served gin, vodka and rum mixed drinks. There were three snorkel stops one being to view the largest shipwreck in the Caribbean of a German cargo ship from the 40s that is 400 feet long and five stories high the top
beach water area.
being close to the surface. The boat had a “third lung” which is a 40’ breathing hose that allows you to basically scuba dive without the tank. For those not so active you can rent a raft all day for $5 to enjoy the large roped off
Time to eat After enjoying the sunset it is time to hit the main promenade on the other side of the hotels that is lined with restaurants all with outdoor dining. There are variety of restaurants from There are two golf courses, a 9 hole and an 18 hole course. We played the 18 hole course and we got a chance to enjoy the cacti filled desert landscape with a water backdrop. Before tourism became the country’s main economy at 75% they were the main exporter of aloe in the world. The cost for clubs, a sleeve of balls and a contemporary golf cart with GPS screen was $170. The course was challenging especially with the windy conditions.
New JetLev water toy Venezuelan to Smoky Joe’s Barbeque with most European countries represented as well. It has been said this island has the best food in the Caribbean. The island is immaculately clean with beautiful landscaped areas everywhere. It has an average temperature of 82 and the most sunny days than any other island. It also has the most repeat tourists and I met many that come every year which explains why I was so often asked if it was my first time there. I have traveled a lot and this island with a population of 120,000 is the safest place I have been to.
Take a walk on the wild side There are more rugged activities to enjoy on the rocky waves crashing side of the island. You can rent off-road vehicles or ride horseback along this coast. My favorite tour was the jeep safari to this side that takes you to the highest point of the island, stops for a view of the natural rock bridge and then to the natural pool formed by rocks for a snorkel dive. It is a very rocky “lift you right out of your seat” ride. I knew when I heard the screams and laughter from the jeep in front of us to be prepared.
The natural Pool
For you gamblers there are casinos in most hotels but none have a sports bar only a sports board where you can bet on games but not watch them. For you party animals there is the Kukoo Kunuku party bus that picks you up at your hotel and drives you, with music blaring, down the streets to four local bars downtown. Places you would have never discovered otherwise. As you can see there is something for everyone of all ages and it is very kid friendly. Everyone speaks English and every place accepts dollars. There is no need to rent a car because you can walk to most places in the high rise section and besides it is fun and educational talking to the cab drivers. Hmmm, I think I might just go back.