February 2019. It’s been 3 years I’ve been married to this brilliant, amazing, and loving woman. Each year brings new adventures. As one anniversary vacation comes to an end, discussion and planning of the next year’s destination begins. With so many tropical vacation options to choose from, add in including friends and/or family in our trips, sometimes it’s just easier to go alphabetically.
Hello Aruba! Oh, you beautiful, sweet, sexy, friendly, island you!
This year, 8 friends joined us in celebrating our anniversary, and once again we made a great travel group. Two rental cars from the airport later, we were loaded and on our way! We had selected Aruba Beach Chalets for our accommodations, and with the size of our group, we ended up with 3 attached, 2-storey villas, literally about 6 steps from the sea.
Aruba is in the southern Caribbean and is situated about 18 miles off the coast of Venezuela. During our stay, we were told that on really clear days, the mountainous coast of Venezuela could be seen from our villa. Alas, upon our arrival however, we had only the first of many stunning sunsets as our view.
Our first morning on the island was high energy and full of excitement. We couldn’t wait to explore this tropical paradise, and we had all selected sites and activities that we wanted to engage in during our stay. The week would end up being broken into two “teams”, with the larger team travelling in the van, and the smaller team touring in the compact car. Invariably, we would all end up together at one time or place or another, and we would regale each other with tales of our daily adventures. It worked out great.
The first thing which surprised me about Aruba is the landscape. Used to seeing palm trees and jungles in previous Caribbean locations, I was amazed to discover that Aruba is a dry, desert island. Covered in cactus and rough scrub brush, it took a while to get used to. Aruba is also pretty flat. No hairpin, switch-back, mountain roads to manoeuvre, just a nice, smooth drive from one end of the island to the other.
The weather in Aruba however, is flawless. Warm, dry, sunny,…..all the time. Definitely a windy island, but that just adds to the appeal. There was definitely no issues with laying out and getting all the sun you could ever want.
Things to do in Aruba? Oh yes. Just ask. Just a few of the things our teams did on this awesome island included horseback and dune buggy rides through the desert and along the beaches, cave explorations, visiting the aloe factory, taking in the lighthouse, a submarine excursion, the local museum, feeding flamingos, shopping, exquisite dining, and of course snorkelling and beach time to name a few!
Did I say exquisite dining? I believe I did. Let me say it again. Exquisite dining. Although Aruba is a Dutch colony, the influence of the Spanish, Portuguese, and other Caribbean and South American cultures are very present. This is readily apparent in the food on Aruba. Seafoods are of course on every menu, but the preparation and presentation of each dish can be wildly diverse. Other proteins are primarily shipped in, but that same culinary diversity is evident at eateries across the island. Surprisingly, (at least for me) there are a large number of Asian cuisine establishments. These range from your neighborhood Chinese restaurant in the plaza, to high-end artisanal dining options in Oranjestad. Eating on Aruba was absolutely a high point for all of us on this trip.
We all had been looking forward to this trip for many months. Aruba did not disappoint. The people of the island are multi-cultured, and all are friendly and helpful. Navigating the entire island is easy, and does not take long. You can explore all the beaches in a single day. Warm rolling waves greet you on the west and south side, but the north and east coast are rocky and rough. High waves crash in and the surf will suck you out to sea in a moment, but the beaches on all sides are truly beautiful.
Aruba is not known for being an inexpensive destination. The local currency is the florin, and we found that prices for just about everything were either the same or in some cases much higher than prices here at home in Canada. A restaurant meal runs around the same price as one at home, and of course, anything vaguely “touristy” is going to cause a bit more pain to the pocketbook. Aloe was the main industry at one point for Aruba, but that has since been replaced by tourism, and prices definitely reflect that.
Nevertheless, we all agree that Aruba is an absolute “must” for travellers who enjoy the warmer climes, great water, and amazing vistas. Don’t forget the food! If you get the chance to visit this island paradise, take it. You won’t be disappointed!