One Happy Island! I have been there, and I can absolutely attest to that fact! When choosing a Caribbean destination to vacation in – it’s hard to beat the all the positive attributes Aruba offers. From accumulating less than twenty inches of rainfall per year – earning it the name the Sunniest Destination in the Caribbean – to being one of only three islands located on the outer fringes of the hurricane belt – thus eliminating the worry about summer and fall tropical storms – to its natural beauty, abundance of things to do and see – and its fabulous cuisine – it’s no wonder its such a happy little place!
I recently sat down with my area rep for Aruba – Kim Riddle from Aruba Tourism – who has been with them for an amazing 22 years – to dish on all things Aruba. Below is a great synopsis of what the island offers and why it should definitely be on your list of places to travel in 2021!
So, grab a hammock and a cold drink, put on your sunglasses and let’s get started!
Getting There: Due to where Aruba is situated (just fifteen miles off the coast of South America) – the flight times to get there are pretty short. For instance – from the New York airports (with JFK – offering plenty of direct flights, LGA and EWR), Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and Houston (IAH and HOU) it is only a four-and-a-half-hour flight. Even from Dallas it is just five hours. Baltimore and DC clock in at just four hours, with Atlanta at three and half and Charlotte at three hours and fifteen minutes. And of course, Florida departures are the quickest at two and half hours out of Miami or Fort Lauderdale. So short flight times and plenty of air lift abound!
Climate: Hey I already told you it’s the sunniest destination in the Caribbean – what more could you ask for? You want more? Ok! The temperatures in Aruba are in the mid 80’s year-round with very little humidity. And due to that very limited rainfall they get, it’s a fabulous destination to ensure that you will be able to soak up the sun outdoors and enjoy the fresh air after being cooped up so long in 2020. No worries of a rained-out vacation here!
Language and Currency: In Aruba it is very easy to communicate and interact with locals as they speak four different languages – all taught in school – including English, Spanish, Dutch and Papiamento (which is the local language of the island and is actually a mixture of six different languages). As for currency – they take US dollars throughout the island and even price everything in US dollars.
Sightseeing and Activities: There are many, many things to see, do and experience here. And this is how it differs from other beach destinations as it’s a place you can really explore – especially with all that pent-up energy a lot of us have – this place will make you want to get out and move! And there are so many ways to do that!
Water activities abound – scuba, windsurfing, kiteboarding, jet skis, snorkeling cruises – you name it! And Kim also made a great point about snorkeling – there are many places where you can easily just walk in and out of the ocean from the beach – instead of taking a boat trip where you have to get in and out of the vessel – which makes it ideal for snorkeling for children or even older adults right from shore.
As for land activities they are plentiful as well! You can rent a car and head out to explore this gorgeous island on your own. And getting around Aruba is easy – the island is small – measuring at seventy square miles – which to put it in perspective is smaller than Manhattan! Or if you prefer you can take an escorted tour – which I would be more than happy to book for you prior to your departure. You can also explore the island via a UTV tour which will allow you to go off road where the tour buses can’t go, take advantage of the hiking and mountain biking trails that are found in Arikok National Park or you can opt to go horseback riding in the park or along the beach.
Topography and Hidden Gems: The diversification of topography on the island of Aruba is incredibly unique and you are encouraged to go off property and explore it. Where the hotels are located on the western side of the island the beaches boast of very calm waters. And thanks to a reef further out that protects it there is no worry of undertows or rough waters. One of the most popular local beaches – Baby Beach which is actually on the southern part of the island in San Nicolas is known as the best family beach in Aruba by the locals as you can actually wade out pretty far distances from shore and still only be knee deep in the water. Should you travel to the northeastern side of the island you will encounter a vastly different shoreline. It is raw, rugged and wild with thundering waves smashing against a coral shoreline. And then there is the interior of the island which is a desert terrain and is filled with cactus and rock formation due to low rainfall amounts.
Another hidden gem – that can also be filed under gastronomy is found in a town in between Oranjestad and San Nicolas call Savaneta. Here there is a restaurant called Zeerovers (which means pirate in Papiamento) where you order your fish or shrimp by the pound at a little window – note: everything is fried – and it will be served to you on wax paper with some fried plantain on the side – and – as per Kim it is yummy, delicious, goodness! The best part? From where you sit eating on the dock you can actually watch the fishermen bringing their catch to the restaurant and cleaning it! So, you know where your food came from and you know it is super fresh! Instead of farm to table – I call this boat to table!
Culture: Close to the hotel district – as well as having the distinction of being the capital of Aruba – Oranjestad is alive with Dutch architecture and worth a visit to stroll around and take in its ambiance!
Further South you’ll find San Nicolas which Forbes named the “Street Art Capital of the Caribbean” due to the fact that for the last four years they have hosted street art festivals. Down here you will find both local and international artisans’ paintings and as of now they have thirty different murals. Now my friends – I have been here, and I have seen these murals and they are spectacular! They feel very life like and made me feel alive as I studied them – a must see for artists or just fans of art!
Gastronomy: Kim has declared Aruba as a foodie’s paradise and I heartily agree! With around 250 different restaurants on the island – featuring pricing – and flavor – for everyone’s needs – you must check out the cuisine while you are there!
Since we just spoke about San Nicolas – I must say that among the beautiful artwork, there are many great restaurants mixed in. And these dining spots are not to be missed as they offer authentic Caribbean food at local pricing – not resort pricing!
Then there are the culinary tours – and quite a few to choose from at that! There’s Wine on Down the Road – Kim’s personal favorite that runs on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Included in this tour are stops at four different fine dining restaurants. At each stop you will get a sample signature dish and a glass of wine to go with it! And of course, you will have a sommelier with you to talk to you about food prep and wine pairings. Another popular tour is Beer Flights and Bites which takes you to local, open air cafes where you will hang out with the locals and enjoy local fare with them.
There is also what they call Toes in Sand Dining – which is exactly what you might think it is – dining on the beach with your feet on the sand! There are actually twenty-two venues where you can do this and it makes a very romantic – and zen setting – for anniversaries, honeymoons and even proposals!
Finally I have to mention the Dine Around Card because I truly believe that you should do an EP plan as opposed to an all-inclusive so that you so you can get a true cultural immersion by going out on the island and experiencing all the food it has to offer. The Dine Around Card is valid at several different fine dining restaurants on the island and is good for a three-course meal at them – which includes appetizer, entree, desert, coffee and tea and tax and gratuities. This is a great way to pre-pay for some of your meals if you choose not to stay at an all-inclusive – and of course I would be happy to set this up for you!
Wellness: So, by this point I am sure fairly sure you get the idea that Aruba practically screams wellness. From the varied shades of blue and green waters to the soft white sand beaches to the warm ocean breezes – it is a great place for mind, body and spirit.
Type of Traveler: It would be an awesome destination for a family reunion or get together after the year so many of as had! Also, a great place for work offsites since it is easily accessible. And of course, couples as it can be a very romantic destination. And since it is a destination where you can be as laid back as you want or as active as you want – its great for adventurers and beach bums as well!
Safety: In Aruba you can absolutely go off property and explore as it is a very safe destination. And it is a relaxing and stress free experience as you will not find street (or beach) vendors asking you to buy things or offering to braid your hair – which is a major frustration with visitors to some of the other Caribbean islands. And even though the island is small it’s easy to social distance thanks to its secluded and hidden coves and beaches allowing you to find a remote area to take it all in away from everyone.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing all visitors will be required to complete the online Embarkation/Disembarkation card process and be approved in order to be permitted entry to Aruba. This will require visitors to provide truthful, accurate answers to questions regarding their health. These questions will likely include: Have you (or the person for whom you completed this form) been suspected of or diagnosed with pneumonia or the COVID-19 infection within the past 14 days? (Among other questions.) All visitors, 15 years and older, traveling to Aruba must take a Molecular COVID-19 test. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Aruba must ensure that all visitors are properly insured. The Aruba Visitors Insurance is a mandatory insurance that helps protect visitors against incurred medical and non-medical expenses if testing positive for COVID-19 during their stay in Aruba.
All that being said – it’s highly likely that once you go to Aruba you will get hooked – I know I did! Of course, this is not anywhere near a complete list of the information that I can provide you with on Aruba – it’s simply intended to highlight some of its key features. For more details on things to see and do, where to stay, it’s price points and more – contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!