When you’ve seen and enjoyed the big city of New York, where the tempo never stops, it is now time to change the scenery and hop from the city to the island. Only a 5 hour flight away and a popular vacation destination for many New Yorkers, the tropical island of Aruba awaits you.
The super friendly guide from ARUBA TOURISM greets you at the airport with the biggest smile and in the next few days, he shows you what the island is all about.
Aruba, a small island in the southern Caribbean Sea, only 29 kilometers northern of Venezuela, is one of the four countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. With beautiful nature, great weather all year round and very friendly and welcoming people, Aruba’s other name is »One Happy Island«. There are two really special things about Aruba. One is the Divi Divi tree, Aruba’s iconic symbol. And the other one is the Mangel Halto beach, probably the only beach in the world with 7 different colours of the sea.
Aruba is the island with the least amount of rain in the Caribbean, but with calmy winds it makes it pleasant to spend all day in the sun. The sandy beaches and crystal clear and bluest water you will ever sea are not all there is about to experience. On the northern part of the island you get to explore the natural hidden gems and limestone cliffs, with a feeling of being on a completely different island. Pastel colored buildings, local delicacies, calypso music, rich and diverse history and happy people – that’s what charms the tourists and makes them return to the island over and over again. In the recent years Aruba became a very popular destination and the average hotel occupany rate throughout the year is 70 %, with also having the highest repeat rate of visitors in the region.
»One Happy Island« has four languages, the official Dutch and local language Papiamento, with Arubans also speaking English and Spanish. You can see the unique mix of languages everywhere on the streets, where the signs are in all of the four different languages. Papiamento is based on Afro-Portuguese Creole and borrows a lot of words from Dutch, English and Spanish, while it still manages to sound really exotic.
On the northern shore, the winds and waves created several natural bridges along the cliffs. The largest one, the Natural Bridge, collapsed in 2005, but it still remains a popular tourist attraction on the island. This is the part of the island, near the Bushiribana gold mine ruins, that makes you feel like you’re in a kind of a dessert, surrounded by the majestic waves of the ocean. On the way back to the southern side of the island, »Aruba Aloe Factory« offers tours of the factory and plantation, all while educating you about the 160-year old history of aloe in Aruba. With two thirds of Aruba covered with aloe plants, Aruba is the world’s largest exporter of aloe.
The visit to Aruba wouldn’t be a wholesome experience without booking a cruise with Pelican Adventures. Sailing out from the beautiful Palm Beach, stopping to snorkel around one of the many shipwrecks, it takes you to Boca Catalina Bay, where the water is of the bluest colour. You get to jump in the water, swim with the tropical fishes and just enjoy in this perfect setting.
On the eastern side of the island is the city of San Nicolas, a developing cultural capital of Aruba. Aruba Art Fair brought to the city both local artists and artists from all over the world to participate in the creation of the most magnificent murals you will ever see. The walls of the buildings on the Main Street of San Nicolas simply amaze with the amount of talent and beauty of this art. As the majority of Aruba’s income is mainly coming from the western part, which is populated with resorts near the beaches, San Nicolas is starting to develop its recognition. Not only investing in the art projects, but to change into attracting more tourism in the next 5 – 10 years. One of the first steps towards that is building a new hotel, which is starting at the end of this year.
When vacationing in Aruba, you stay at one of the many resorts on the beach. Palm Beach is the strip of hotels, where most of the tourists book their stays. But if you want to escape all the crowds and relax a bit more, the perfect choice for your stay is the »Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort« on Divi Beach, which is right next to Eagle Beach, which was voted third best beach in the world by Trip Advisor.
Aruban getaway is also very rich and diverse in culinary, it offers you one of the most unique food experience in the Caribbean. With local Balashi beer and fresh catch of the day pulled from the sea, you get to explore the tastes you have never tried before.
Palm Beach not only hosts most of the hotels, it host many great dining spots. Hadicurari Restaurant is the perfect Caribbean-style restaurant. With sand on your feet and the view of the romantic sunset, you enjoy in the deliciously prepared catch of the day. Another favourite is The Pelican Nest, favourite restaurant in Aruba since 1994. Located on the Pelican pier, you are surrounded by the calm ocean, while you enjoy the unforgettable views with a favourite cocktail in your hands. Well, as breakfast is the most important meal of the day, in Aruba you gain a new favourite breakfast spot, Eduardo’s Beach Shack. Get your smoothie or a smoothie bowl with exotic fruits and enjoy the serene sound of waves.
Local food is a must try when visiting Aruba. The perfect place to try it at, is Zeerover, a local fisherman’s wharf. You get to experience something completely different, the fresh catch of the day is a lot of times the barracuda and all the food is prepared right in front of you. Unexpectedly, the barracuda is very tasty. Another local, caribbean dining spot is The West Deck, close to the capital of Oranjestad. It’s set on a deck over the white sandy beach, overlooking the ocean and offers an authentic island cuisine. Their specialty is the secret garlic shrimp recipe – a must try.
But dining in Aruba doesn’t only offer the local cuisine. The Screaming Eagle Restaurant is serving an interpretation of French-fusion boutique cuisine with a caribbean touch. You discover completely new combination of dishes, while enjoying a glass of one of their 300 different wines on the menu. And AZIA Restaurant & Lounge, on Palm Beach, is where the Asian cuisine meets the Carribean flavours in one of the most delicious combinations ever.
Once you’ve been to Aruba, you really understand why it’s so popular. It is an island that captures your heart with its friendliness and welcoming feeling. Not only will you definitely return, but you don’t even want to leave. »One Happy Island« becomes your happy island too.
PHOTOGRAPHY by JANA LETONJA
This article was originally written for Numéro Netherlands by Jana Letonja.