Modern Day Treasure Hunting by Susan Campbell Aruba’s vast network of shops and malls hold a huge cache of special treasures and we’ve got your map! So follow our clues to unearth this island’s most sought after retail riches and designer delights.
Regardless of whether you are shopping for that special someone, or are simply out to spoil yourself silly, a good place to begin your treasure hunt is in recently rejuvenated downtown Oranjestad where you can hop aboard the nifty new trolley to preview the possibilities. Do the full loop to see what is where along Mainstreet and area, and there are stops conveniently located at all the major mall junctions. If parcels are getting too heavy, or your legs are getting too tired, you can hop back on at any stop and return to the cruise ship terminal or catch a bus at the main station that travels to all of the resorts. It’s the best way to map out your shopping travels ahead as there are so many fabulous stores and such an eclectic choice of finds, you’ll not want to miss any due to misguided meandering. And the trolley is free! Now let’s discover the prize locations for deluxe retail therapy. Mark Renaissance Mall with a big X on your map if you’re seeking upscale finds. Glitz and glamour galore resides among their 60-some shops overflowing with gold, 22 Nights
silver, diamonds, gems, Swiss watches, jewelry, and designer fashions. Their multi-level labyrinth offers a wide range of upscale wares and all the most popular name brands in demand. And kitty corner across the street is Renaissance Marketplace with scads of food and drink spots – most with terraces – where you can refresh and rejuvenate and take a
close look at the treasures you’ve found before continuing on your quest. Both Renaissance malls boast glittering casinos where you can try to seduce lady luck, and ship-watching along the harbor there is also a popular pastime. The marina is a prime place to spot super snazzy yachts. This area is also an ideal spot for purchases revolving around romance. Wedding rings, engagement rings, anniversary gifts, and unique tokens of affection are all among the many treasures to be found – all at competitive pricing. And if you decide on an impromptu tying of the knot, there are few better spots on the planet for postcard perfect destination weddings than on Aruba’s spectacular beaches. Next, and close by, also facing the harbor on Mainstreet, is the striking cotton candy-colored colonial style Royal Plaza Mall with three levels of indoor/ outdoor boutiques and arty kiosks chock full of beautiful baubles and objects of desire, a perfect choice for specialty items like cosmetics and perfumes. They also have dining options and cafés. E
Liquor photo by Karam Miri. Cuff links photo by Evangelos Thomaidis. Bottom center photo by Tara Markus. Bottom photo by Daniel Meunier. Other photos by iStockphoto
Shopping Moving on to Mainstreet behind the harbor, you’ll encounter more fashion finds and designer label offerings as well as crystal, leather goods, electronics, cameras, art, handicrafts, sportswear, and more. New famous name high-end emporiums have recently joined the established familyrun local businesses there in fresh new enclaves like the Margarita Plaza to offer a comprehensive kaleidoscope of choices. Souvenir shops and specialty stores offer unique island take-aways like Dutch delft blue pottery, chocolate, island spirits, and Gouda cheese. And the downtown alleys and side streets are liberally peppered with courtyards, cafés, take-outs, and restaurants. Next, and also new, is the Alhambra Casino & Shops just outside of downtown in the region known as the lowrise area, now a cornerstone of many Eagle Beach resorts. There you’ll find the newly refurbished Alhambra Casino, open 24/7 and one of the largest on the island. (So try your luck and maybe you’ll make out like a bandit so you can shop some more!)
This new mall holds some fast food and fine dining options as well as a classy wine bar, and a comprehensive deli marketplace. Retail stores there include high-end apparel and Aruba’s famous aloe products, and they all stay open late. For more retail riches, set your course for the Palm Beach highrise resort area along Mainstreet. The main tourist strip is awash with shops and restaurants and lined with souvenir stalls along the sidewalks. And most of the upscale resorts also have lots of shopping in their own on-site mini-malls. There is also plenty to discover in little side malls. The Village is one of them, with interesting finds like millinery specialties, and also worth seeking out is Arawak Garden on the main strip for offbeat art, crafts, cigars, and even furniture. Just off the main strip,
you’ll find the South Beach Centre with more snazzy retail outlets and restaurants, but not to be missed in this area is Paseo Herencia Mall. This old style village plaza and outdoor colonial courtyard has a nightly liquid fireworks show to enjoy while you shop among their 20-some stores offering a diverse selection of goods. They also have dining spots, cafés, cinemas, and a children’s play area on site. Those seeking a thoroughly modern mall to unearth their inner swank and swagger will rejoice at the multi-level Palm Beach Plaza, a massive retail and entertainment emporium just behind Paseo Herencia Mall. Once you’ve shopped ‘til you’re ready to drop at their multitude of outlets, you can rejuvenate at their excellent assortment of restaurants or in their large international food court. E
Top photo by iStockphoto. Bottom photos, from left to right, by Luis Mejia, Jean Saltoun, and Tara Markus
THE FINEST SELECTION OF CIGARS ON THE ISLAND!
Have we overwhelmed you with too many choices of where to go to unearth this island’s best shopping delights? No worries. There’s an app for that. No need to spin your wheels or walk in circles when you can access Aruba.com’s genius TravelGuide app for your iPod Touch, iPhone, or Android – free of charge! The new app lets you personalize your route so that you save steps and preview places so you never waste a moment of your precious vacation time. And it doesn’t need Internet access to operate, either! app.aruba.com
Now that you have it all mapped out, the only decision you’ll have to make is what incredible treasures you want to take home. And though chances are good you’ll run out of energy or funds long before you run out of places to dig up retail riches on this island, we guarantee you’ll enjoy the journey. So set a course for incredible shopping and pillage well! K
ROMEO & JULIETA
Shops along Mainstreet open at 9 a.m or 10 a.m. and close at 6 p.m., some also close for lunch between noon and 2 p.m. Shops in the malls are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. And don’t worry if you arrive on a Sunday or holiday – there will be some stores open for you!
DUTY-FREE ON ARUBA If you are in the market for jewelry or luxury items there are deals to be had on Aruba! While Aruba may not be a duty-free port, per se, manufacturers set Caribbean “duty-free prices” for branded watches and jewelry significantly below US retail prices. For example, Rolex, Bulgari, or David Yurman is between 10% – 20% below US retail prices. These items are also not subject to local sales tax. In order to make sure that you are buying something authentic, make sure that you choose renowned brands and purchase them from an official retailer, which can easily be identified by signs from the manufacturers that are visible in the store. For non-branded jewelry items, you’ll see lower prices because of the low duty on Aruba. Individual jewelers set these prices and so your best bet to ensure you are getting what you pay for is to pick a reputable jeweler.
RENAISSANCE MALL TEL: 582-5479 28 Nights
Top left photo by Krystian Nawrocki. Other photos by iStockphoto