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My main reason for being this side of the Atlantic was for me to meet up with family from New York state in Aruba. An offer of a spare room while they holidayed here was too good for me to refuse. And it did seem a waste of money to just come all the way over this side of the world, just do Aruba and then fly back. Hence why this trip ended up including some time in NYC, Colombia and a long stint in Costa Rica. It was, for us, a fantastic opportunity as although we love a Carribean island (what kind of crazy person doesn’t), most of them are fairly pricey so aren’t top of the budget travel list.
Aruba was quite a surprise, in that it didn’t have a particularly tropical climate or vibe, being very far south, almost on the north coast of South America. The generally calm, warm yet breezy climate, is what draws so many to move to this island. Landscape-wise it was quite fascinating – it was quite arid and desert-like, while surrounded by the most beautiful turquoise sea.
The star of the show (apart from my lovely family of course), was the beaches. Some areas were rocking going into the sea, which actually made for some great swimming spots and the rest were pretty much perfect white sand. And the sea was warm and turquoise and dreamy!! I’m not particularly an ocean person, but these Caribbean beaches always do it for me. Clear and warm and often fairly calm #winning. We had a few amazing swimming trips, which included having the pleasure of watching nearby pelicans dive-bombing into the sea. The snorkelling was actually the best I’ve ever done as well. We even, while in the water, got to watch the filming of what we assumed to be a tv commerical, with a moustached man pretending to fish off the rocks.
Beachside Pet Cemetry
Across on the more baron side of the island is Baby Beach which is a beautiful secluded beach, round the corner from an oil refinery. This area is much more out of the way and fewer tourists venture out here. There was, we realised on further inspection of some wooden crosses scattered around the cost just up from Baby Beach, a pet cemetery. I’m guessing unofficial as it seemed to be scattered around in no obvious fashion. Was a rather lovely place to bid farewell to your beloved animals.
As I mentioned, the landscape is not your typical tropical island. A lot of the island is built on, that which is not is rock and cactus-filled or rather on the barren side. It’s particularly interesting on the North side where there is a national park. Back from the beach, there are these vast spaces which go on for ages with nothing but the odd goat or donkey, eventually backing up to some amazing cliff-like rock formations.
On the entrance to the national park, there are some gigantic wind turbines, which you can walk straight up to. They are amazingly powerful and quite dramatic. Many rental car companies seem to not want people to take their cars to the national park. This is with good reason. It would be fine in a four by four, but it’s a very interesting drive in a normal car.
Most of our fun was had just hanging out with the family, but we ventured out a couple of times to experience various forms of entertainment the island has to offer.
De Palm Island
We spent most of a day at the De Palm island which is a tiny activities island which you pay for on land and then take a boat over to. They offer various activities, such as a smallish zipline, mini waterpark, off shore snorkelling – and all the food and drink are included in the price. First up, this was eye wateringly expensive, but as we were there at a quiet season, there were not a vast amount of people there. This actually meant we barely queued, didn’t have to fight for sun loungers or seats etc. This I think probably made a big difference. It’s much smaller than you think it’s going to be so if it had been busier, I think it would have made for a more painful experience. But we had a really chilled, fun time. The snorkelling, off the side of the island, for which they supply the equipment, was worth the trip alone.
Sopranos Piano Bar
This is a favourite with our relatives who already knew Aruba – and it would be difficult to not have some fun here. Especially fascinating for people watching. Get there early if you want a seat. I always do! The very talented pianist and singer takes requests from those who pay. You can get a song for a dollar or two early in the evening, but as the night goes on, those with the big bucks and who’ve had the big drinks – get their requests of course. It’s a mostly American crowd and quite frankly we didn’t know half the songs and it was generally soft rock type songs – though I was totally loving his No Diggity rendition. Mark seemed to know all the words to a couple of 80s tunes I’d never even heard of!
This pier bar is in a lovely pier setting, reaching out over the white sand and has that nice boarded, beachy vibe. We went on karaoke night, as my niece is an incredible singer, though it wasn’t quite what we’d expected. It’s apparently the same people who do the karaoke party bus, which we’d managed to get out of doing 😉 and there was a lot of high energy jumping up and down and asking us where it was at. We were at Aruba of course. But as karaoke always is – great people watching and it was a fun night. I now also know a couple of new songs that I clearly need in my life – Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and a Dutch song Blood, Sweat and Tears which made the dutch in the crowd go quite crazy.
The souvenir shops are hilarious. We spent quite some time pottering around looking at some of the ludicrous, garish souvenirs on offer. There were also some normal shops, though shopping on holiday has always seemed a little odd to me. I actually needed some things and managed to pick up some clothes and sunglasses at a surprisingly reasonable price.
Food and Drink
We spent most of our time in the house just chilling out, but I don’t think we were missing out a huge amount on food. The local supermarket was quite high end and was pretty great. It’s a Dutch island so gouda cheese, a favourite of mine, is freely available and in everything. There were also plentiful English muffins which were a treat. The closer, local shops were your usual, packed to the brim shops selling mostly non-fresh, but definitely at lower prices. When we ate luncg at a nearby Dutch cafe, it was quite an interesting experience – the food wasn’t anything to write home about, but the Rembrandt prints on the walls and the playing of multiple Craig David songs was not the usual.
We weren’t there on a holiday, rather to see family, so we would have had a wonderful experience wherever we were, but being on a lovely sunny island certainly helped! The prices and the lack of character wouldn’t have me running back to Aruba, but there’s no denying it’s stable, pleasant climate and unbelievably awesome beaches make it a most agreeable place to spend your time.