Hey folks. Sorry It's been so long since my last post but the hubby and I were in Aruba all last week! We were having such a wonderful time that I just couldn't pull myself away to post anything.
Interested in escaping to Aruba for a few days? Here are my hits, misses, do's and don'ts:
Do HIT the beach. Aruba's beaches were some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. Go to Baby Beach at the southern most tip of the island. It's called Baby Beach because you can wade hundreds of feet out and still have the water only reach your waist. Bring a snorkel and mask with you as well. There was an abundance of fish! No matter where you stay, however, there will be a powder white beach with calm, crystal clear water nearby. **Note...you can only swim on the western side of the island. The eastern side is truly wild and crazy, in that it's barren, the nature is as wild as can be and you would be crazy to try and swim amidst the crashing waves and rocks**
Don't go out of your way to scuba dive if you're a diver. The hubby and I are certified and like to dive about once or twice a year. We saw an OK airplane wreck and a few decent sized fish during our dives but nothing mind-blowing.
Do HIT up a local street food cart if you can find one. The island is very small (around 15 miles long) and we looked for what felt like forever to find a good local street food cart that wasn't touristy. We finally found this place when we were too famished to go on and we were happy we did. This may not look like the most amazing plate of food, but it was delicious! Homemade sausage spiced with turmeric, mango glazed grilled chicken and some cheese filled empanada-type-bites. It didn't look to me like there was a great local food scene so this find made us happy. As a side note to this, I had to remember that next to nothing grows on the island. They have no natural fresh water and perhaps grow a few coconuts, but it's a pretty barren place when it comes to agriculture. I suppose that, mixed with the fact that the entire island basically runs off tourism (and tourists don't always like eating from weird roadside carts) might result in a lack of local eating spots.
Don't spend too much time in the high-rise resort area. We stayed in the low-rise section at the Divi and our room was literally a stone's throw from the beach. The high-rise area is just what it sounds like, flashy looking high rise resorts with little to no beach front. We drove through and Nick said he felt like he was in Florida. Also, all of the restaurants and shops surrounding it were very touristy (I mean, they had a Soprano's themed restaurant and another place shaped like a big wind-mill). If you're going on a beach vacation, you want to enjoy the beach right? The low-rise resorts offered just that. **P.S. Trying to get the hubby to take a "nice" picture is like pulling teeth...silly/creepy faces abound (see picture right)**
Do order the FISH! Practically every single fish dish Nick and I ordered was delicious. Snapper, grouper, tuna and mahi mahi are all found in the local waters and are ALL amazing. If there is one thing you can count on it's that the chef at your restaurant will know how to cook this fresh local fish. We had amazing tuna carpaccio, grilled mahi mahi, broiled grouper (oooohhhh the grouper!!!) and so many other delicious seafood dishes while we were there. I ate fish an average of 2 times a day for the 7 days we were there and I happy to do so (although the minute I got back in Philly I headed to my local butcher for a big hunk of dry aged steak...I just had a craving). The rest of the proteins we tried were alright but didn't hold a candle to the seafood.
Don't even bother exchanging your currency. EVERYTHING is listed in dollars and Florins (Aruba's currency). Some places (like cabs) won't even have change in the local currency for you. We tried to use the local dollar for about 5 mins...when we realized no one carried it we just used US green-backs. You can get it out of the ATM's there.
Do rent a Jeep to explore the other side of the island. It will cost you about $100/day but you get to see geography like you've never seen before. Naturally formed bridges, ancient caves, pounding surf...it reminded me of a mix between the Grand Canyon, Mojave Desert and the rocky coastline of Maine...with a few water explosions added for fun. It will take you most of the day to explore the other side of the island and you will get dirty and hot, but the hubby and I both agreed that it was well worth it.
Don't try to explore the other side of the island in a sedan (or anything other than a jeep for that matter). There are very few roads on the eastern side of the island and those that were there were either dirt, sand or rock. And I do mean rock. We drove about 3 miles on almost nothing but rocks.
Do drink the water. Unlike some other Caribbean or Mexican destinations you've visited where they told you specifically not to drink the water, the tap water in Aruba is safe as can be and delicious. Aruba runs the worlds 2nd largest desalinization plant, which converts that sea water you're swimming in to fresh, pure drinking water. I mean honestly, the purest type of water because they boil it off and collect the condensation. The hubby and I were lucky enough to snag a tour at the plant (they only offer one a week on Thursdays at 9:30am, and only let in 8 or 9 people). We couldn't take pictures inside...sorry...and the pictures I did take of Nick and I in our hard-hats are stowed safely away...we looked ridiculous. We found it really interesting and were glad we went, but it might not be everyone's idea of a great way to spend your Thursday morning (it would be my Dad's idea of a great way to spend his entire day though). Whether you think it's neat or not, remember that most of the restaurants and some resorts won't even offer bottled water because theirs is some of the safest in the world, even right out of the hotel room tap.
And last but not least, do give Aruba a shot if you're the type of person that visits one same warm weather beach spot a year. Nick and I still can't get over how relaxing, beautiful and safe the island was. The food was great and we didn't even suffer from heart-burn, let alone the type of stomach ailments you can get from visiting places like Mexico. And although the island was small, it had everything you needed...crystal clear, calm beaches...dry, sunny days most of the year...and the ability to get away from it all and spend some quality time with the one you love. At least that's what I liked most about it.
Direct flights can be found in abundance. We booked our whole trip through CheapCaribbean.com and saved about $500/person over the other travel sites for this particular trip.
Want more pictures? Check out the slide show in the left banner...coming soon.