We have always wanted to visit Aruba and finally got a chance to. We made arrangements to stay at Aruba Marriot Surf Club. We packed are bags and headed off to Miami International Airport on a clear May morning. After three and a half hours we landed in the capital city of Oranjestad (Dutch for Orange) on the island of Aruba. The city of Oranjestad, with a population of approximately 30, 000. The 20 mile long and 69.1 square mile island as a whole has over 101,000 people. Aruba is just west of the Lesser Antilles in the beautiful Caribbean Sea and is part of a chain of islands that make up the Netherland Antilles, or Dutch Antilles as they are sometimes referenced. Unlike most of the Caribbean neighboring islands, it has an arid and desert-like terrain. The island experiences sweeping trade winds that keep it tolerable during extreme hot months.
We landed right on time at Aruba’s Queen Beatrix International Airport. It’s not a large airport, but it supports the continuous flights that arrive and depart daily as it’s a popular vacation destination, especially for Europeans. We took a 45-minute ride in a shuttle van to The Marriot Resort, located on the north end of the island at a cost of $56 USD for both of us. The US Dollar is accepted everywhere on the island. We arrived at the resort around three o’clock and had no problem checking in. As we expected from a Marriot property, there were lots of lush colorful plants and Royal palm trees, an exceptional pool area and very well maintained grounds.
We went to our room to put away our weeks worth of clothes and then venture around the resort to see what it offered. The pool and lounge areas are divided into two sections. One section was considered, but not limited to adults (pictured left). The more family friendly section (pictured right) offers a Lazy River ride around some small man made island like formations that have tropical plants growing from them. The first pool area is located towards the front of the resort and is considered to the family lounging area. This pool allows you to enter and exit the Lazy River ride with an easy sloping incline into the water. You must have your own floating device(s). There are two ways to obtain a floating device. The Marriot resort has a variety of stores on-site . You may purchase a floating devices from one of these retailers or wait till someone is going home that day and make arrangements to have or buy theirs. Some people will come up to you and ask if you would like to have theirs or they will stack them by the towel hut for the taking.
The adult section is much quieter and has lounging sections that takes you away from the crowds and typical resort commotions. There is also a smaller and more private pool area that caters to the grown ups. Marriot seems to pay attention to all their various clienteles’ wants and needs. The particular section that we felt most comfortable with was a smaller section in the more adult area where the chase lounges were nestled underneath some shaded palm trees. Every once in awhile you would have to share your space with the local iguanas. At first they seem a little frightening, but after awhile you get use to them. However, it is a little strange knowing that these larger reptiles are crawling around underneath your chair.
The follow day we spent time enjoying the sun and pool. We had breakfast and lunch snacks at one of the resort’s many eateries. When happy hour arrived, we cleaned up and ventured down to the beach. Aruba’s pristine white sandy beaches play host to many smaller piers that extend out approximately a hundred to hundred and fifty feet into the crystal clear Caribbean waters. These aquatic structures supported quaint little open air wooden buildings that serve such businesses like dive and tour shops, restaurants and afternoon “waterholes”. There are also plenty of beach bars and grills that hug the sandy shores as well.
We spied a watering hole that was just down from the Marriot off one of the many piers along the beach. This particular bar was right next door to a shop that offered group snorkeling tours that utilized a catamaran to shuttle their guess from one place to another. Before we stopped to wet our whistles, we inquired about their snorkeling tours. We collected the information and took it with us to out next stop. We enjoyed some local rum and discussed the rest of the weeks itinerary. After a few drinks and some local cuisine, we headed down the beach to find some future points of interest. We stopped a few more times to sample some of the local libations before we called it a night.
The weather in Aruba is pretty consistent. The daytime temperatures would reach 90 degrees and the evening’s temps cool down to a comfortable 85. There is almost always an island breeze during the day. There are also ten to fifteen miles per-hour (mph) sustained trade winds that gust up to twenty five or more. When the day time temps are 90 plus degrees, the winds help keep the heat and humidity tolerable. We got up from a good nights’ sleep and decided to take a walk to a little town square that was fifteen to twenty minute from the resort. This is where we started to have our morning breakfasts. The morning’s destination actually serves two purposes. We walked before our meal and again afterwards. We found a quaint little restaurant that offered a six dollar breakfast. There is one thing that I have not mentioned and that is Aruba is not a cheap place to visit. Their economy is strong with the support of oil exports and tourism dollars. But with poor soil quality and limited rain accumulation, Aruba’s agriculture industry is a weak commodity and has to rely very heavily on importing a lot of its basic food needs. However, they are able to offer fish and livestock as a daily supplement to its own population’s diet.
We spent a lot of the days strolling the beautiful beaches and wading in the calm clear water. We also scoped out some eateries that we might want to try later on in the week. There was this one pier bar where we were enjoying an afternoon drink when all of a sudden a small flash mob dance erupted. They were dancing on the bar and all around the tables. They were promoting a live show that was performing directly across from our Resort in a shopping center. The show’s producer got on the bar’s PA system and offered a two for one special. After the host was done promoting the show, we went up and asked her about tickets. We mentioned to her that Maureen had a birthday coming up in the next couple of days and thought the show would be a good idea. The producer sold us a two for one ticket and after all was said and done, we both received VIP Passes for a table right up front that included a complimentary beverage of choice. The show’s performance date just happen to be on Maureen’s Birthday.
We headed back down the beach towards home. There is a place next to the resort Called Moomba Beach Bar & Grill. You can hear the live entertainment every night from our suite when we left the windows open. It was right at happy hour so we decided to stop for a couple libations before we got ready for dinner. Happy hours are the less expensive way to start the evenings celebration. We had a couple of margaritas and some friendly chit chat with fellow vacationers. After we paid our tab we went to the room and cleaned up for dinner. We found a pier earlier that day that had a restaurant on the end of it. When we arrived I ask for a table closest to the water’s edge. The hostess seated us at a table that nestled the waters edge in a rather tight outdoor area. The waiter came over and asked for our drink order. When he returned he placed our beverages in front of us along with a basket of bread crumbs. Without hesitation he proceeded to pick up some on the baskets contents up and throw it in the water. Before you could say what the heck there were fish swirling around in the water feeding on the crumbs. The restaurant had fixed lights below its piers deck that shined directly into the water. All I can remember for the rest of the night was throwing breadcrumbs in the water and watching as the variety of fish feasted on our generosity.
The following morning we had made arrangements to go snorkeling. We gathered our gear and walked down to the pier next to the resort and boarded the fifty foot catamaran. The waters were calm and the outside temperatures were hot. It was a great day to be out on the water. Our first stop was at a reef that was approximately three hundred yards off the rocky shoreline. The water’s temperature was a comfortable 86 degrees and the clarity allowed us to see from the surface about thirty feet down. We jumped in and found our buoyancy levels then started our excursion. The marine life was full of curiosity as we casually floated along. The reef below us was a sanctuary for many shallow water tropical fish. Their colors were so vivid and transparent against the reef’s floral shades of green. After taking in all the sites for an hour or so, it was time to move to another location. This time we are heading northwest towards a sunken WWII German cargo ship. The ES Antilla was a 398 foot Electroschiff (ES) powered German freighter that took 35 crew members to operate her. During WWII the German vessel was anchored jus a quarter mile off the NW shore of Aruba. After Germany invaded Denmark and Norway, the Dutch Antilles were fearing that they were next. The Dutch Government (Royal Marechaussee) ordered it’s capture. The German captain would not let the Dutch Marines board the ship that evening. They returned the next day with more firepower and the captain let them board. One crew member locked himself in the boiler room and opened the water hatches flooding the engine compartment. One thing lead to another and the ES Antilla sunk in about a 100 feet of water. It was stripped of any salvageable materials and left to be home to lots of sea life. Our catamaran hovered just over the portside of the sunken vessel as we entered the crystal clear Caribbean Sea. Once we stationed ourselves mid-ship, you could see where the vessel split into two halves after the boiler room had exploded. We snorkeled from bow to stern twice taking in the ships final resting place. There were many types of sea life moving in and around the grave site. There were sharks, eels and game fish using the wreckage as a protective shield. After we spent more than an hour snorkeling over and around the Antilla, we swam back the catamaran and headed for to port. When we arrived at to the dock we thanked our tour guides and made our way back to the resort. We got cleaned up and had dinner at the resort and just hung out for the rest of the evening. We have just two days left here on this beautiful Caribbean Island paradise.
We started our morning walking around after our breakfast. We did some exploring by mingling around with the locals and visited some shops and markets. As I mentioned before, Aruba’s basic cost of living is very high. Groceries, needed paper products and all types of beverages are very expensive. Here are some examples; a four pack of toilet paper is $5, Lunch meat is $7 and basic bread is $3.50 a loaf. As for beverages; cans of Coke are $2, single cans of beer or $3.75, small bottle of water is $2.50 to $3, and juices are anywhere from $7 to $9. Fruit and vegetables are the most reasonable considering where you are with a cost difference from the US of about 150%. Rum is the only reasonably priced spirit because of its Caribbean roots. But the island is a sight for sore eyes. It is gorgeous here. The waters, the sand, the people and the marvelous weather. What else could you want.
Tonight is our last night on the island and we
are cashing in on our VIP tickets we purchased for the live show in the plaza across from the resort. We got dressed up in our island style attire and set out for a nice dinner and a show. We found a Mexican style restaurant that arched itself on the second floor overlooking the plaza. While we were enjoying out romantic dinner, the live show we were going to attend did another dressed flash mob dance in the middle of the plaza. This time it was adjacent to the theater and had a stage set up for the entertainers to perform. We finished our dinner and proceeded down to the plaza and the venues main doors. We were greeted by the staff and they took us to a table that was positioned directly in front of the low-rise stage floor. The host of ceremonies and the producer we meet came to our table and greeted us. She whispered in my ear that she had a surprise for Maureen’s birthday. The show featured past and present impersonators that sang and danced. It was a production that you would have never guessed to see on a far off Caribbean island. It was a standing ovation performance. During the intermission break our host and producer came out and spoke to the audience. She proceeded to announce a few special occasions on this night of entertainment and brought Maureen and two others up on stage and had everyone sing happy birthday to them. They gave each one of them a bottle of Caribbean rum and wished them a wonderful night.
The next morning we sadly had to say good bye to a wonderful place. Our trip to Aruba was a fantastic adventure. The people, the culture and beautiful surrounding must be why they call this place “One Happy Island”! IF you ever have a chance to visit the island of Aruba, don’t even give it a second thought. Like the saying goes, “Live, Love and Enjoy”. Happy travels!