Bon dia, welcome to Aruba! The most visited island in the Dutch Caribbean, Aruba is blessed with gorgeous beaches and steady sunshine. Its capital of Oranjestad has been described as “Holland meets Disney Fantasia” and it sports an impressive collection of Dutch colonial buildings and colorful markets. Popular cultural attractions include the Frenchman’s Pass, Alto Vista Chapel, the California Lighthouse and the Casibari Rock formations. Nature enthusiasts flock to the Ostrich and butterfly farms. Younger tourists flock to the beaches for fun in the sun. Aruba’s white sand and blue water have landed it on several of the “best beaches in the world” lists. Beach volleyball, swimming, snorkeling and scuba are all in a day’s work for an avid beachgoer.
After disembarking the Coral Princess, we walked to the beautiful city centre of Oranjestad. Just a five-minute walk from the terminal, the heart of the city is a majestic shopping centre. Painted in a striking medley of floral hues, this iconic landmark is the most famous visage on the island. Our plan for the day was to catch a taxi to one of the island’s premier resorts: the Marriott Beach Club. Located amid a strip of stylish hotels along the Palm Beach strip, the Marriott is about a 15-minute drive from the terminal. This is the place to be for a day of poolside decadence. The pool is among the best in the Caribbean and features a lazy river, waterfalls, water slides and water volleyball and basketball. Waiters are always on call to deliver poolside beverages (The local beer is Balashi). You’ll need to purchase a wristband to enjoy the amenities, but as long as you’re spending money they’ll let you stay. We enjoyed a few laps around the lazy river and were entertained by the local lizards and iguanas that live in the poolside foliage. One of the iguanas actually jumped in right in front of us and swam to the other side - brilliant!
After a quick workout of swimming a lap against the current, we explored the adjacent Surf Club. Located right on the Caribbean beach amidst swaying palms and Divi Divi trees (Aruba’s natural compass as they always point southwest due to the trade winds), the Surf Club is the place to be for watersports and volleyball. We peppered a few balls and caught some rays in the strong Aruban sun before making our way back to the Oranjestad waterfront.
The best spot for views of the harbor and ships is Iguana Joe’s on the second level of the shopping centre. We scored a table with a view on the deck and greeted the oncoming sunset with a round of their “Potent Potions.” Our favorite was the Iguana Mama. Billed as “Mama Iguana’s solution to the pressures of living in Paradise”, this vibrant creation is a blend of dark rum, white rum and coconut rum with dashes of banana and coffee liqueur. Dinner was delightful. Cassandra savored the award winning Shrimp Josephine. This house special features Caribbean shrimp sautéed with scallions, tomatoes, peppers and coconut cream served in a coconut half shell. I opted for Aruba’s national dish of Keshi Jena. This traditional Aruban dish dates back to the days of the Dutch West Indian Trading Company. Originally made by hollowing out the round Gouda cheeses and stuffing them with a mixture of chicken, vegetables and spices, their modern adaptation of this ageless classic was quite the tasty treat!
We finished our day with a stroll around town and some leisurely souvenir shopping (Unlike many of the Caribbean isles, no one hassles you here). Aruba is one of the better run destinations in the Caribbean and is definitely worth a visit. The two main languages are Dutch and Papiamento (a creole dialect) but you’ll have no problems getting by with English. If you’re up for sun, shopping and smiles you won’t be disappointed. Te aworo Aruba (Papiamntian goodbye), we had a blast and hope to return again someday!
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