Travel: Aruba – One Happy Island
I have a wonderful travel guest post from the beautiful Debra Dunbar about Aruba, and it truly does seem to be one happy island. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did.
I’d like to dedicate my blog post about Aruba to the memory of our friend Buck Miller. Buck spent a significant amount of his time each year on his favorite island, and was always happy to drive us around and show us the amazing history and natural phenomenon the island has to offer. We miss you Buck. You were the real-life Most Interesting Man in the World!
Aruba has had some bad press in the last decade, but my well traveled friends assure me that this is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean, and I concur. The locals have always been friendly and helpful, and I’ve never felt uncomfortable walking around solo. Sweetie and his family have been going there regularly since he was a teenager, and I’ve been eight times. My in-laws love the island so much that they spend six weeks of the winter there every year.
There is so much more to see in Aruba than I can detail in this post, so I’ll just highlight what I feel are the best spots
Places to Stay
There are many nice resorts in Aruba, but each year we stay at the Playa Linda, which is in the northern, resort section, of the island. The beaches are groomed each night, and I love having a little kitchen in my room so I can save money by eating breakfast and lunch in. The kitchen is stocked with all the usual appliances, and we’ve also saved money by purchasing our own drink mixes and having friends up for some yummy blender drinks. Aruba can be an expensive vacation spot, so every little bit counts. The average age of tourist when I’m there in February or March is mid forties. I love that I’m surrounded by adults my own age, but that does mean that outside the casinos, the resort area winds down fairly early. If you want some kicking night-life, there are busses that take you downtown for the action, and taxis are also reliable and readily available.
I’m not a huge gambler, but my father-in-law and his buddies give the casino at the Holiday Inn rave reviews. They have a great selection of slot machines for any budget, and I’ve always been able to find a seat at the tables with smaller minimum bets. I enjoy Caribbean Stud, but there are several other choices of poker there. It’s friendly and rather intimate, with a quick access to the beach so you can mourn your losses at the outdoor bar and watch the lights from the boats dance out at sea.
If you’re in Aruba, you must try a Brown Lady. It’s one of those sweet, chocolaty frozen drinks that will quickly have you wondering why your pants don’t fit anymore. But hey, you’re on vacation, right? You should also try the local brew, Balashi. It’s a refreshing European style pilsner. If you’re like Sweetie and want a variety of beer, I’d recommend “Bavaria Food and Beer”, on Palm Beach 186, next to Wendy’s, of all things. They have an amazing selection of German and Bavarian beers, and the owner is one of the nicest people I’ve met. I’m not a fan of German food, but our friends have had dinner there and say it is wonderful.
Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but the best place to eat on the whole darned island is Ramada Columbiana off Highway 2 (965-4406 phone number). This has nothing to do with the hotel chain. It’s a tiny, owner-operated restaurant serving authentic Columbia cuisine only a few miles off the resort area. We eat there every single day we are on the island. Meals are reasonable, the food is amazing, and the staff friendly and cheerful. They do speak English, but have always encouraged our rusty attempts to practice our high-school Spanish. Get the fish. Offered stewed, grilled, or fried, it comes with rice and plantains. My mouth waters thinking about the pan fried fish. I hate that I have to wait until next year to have it again.
During World War II, there was a large American refinery on Aruba, and as the Germans invaded Holland, Aruba as a Dutch island became undefended. America was neutral at this point, so Great Britain was kind enough to send troops to safeguard both the island and the refinery until 1942 when the U.S. joined them with large weaponry. You can still see the huge base foundations for these guns at the southern edge of the island. I stood there, on the desolate rocky beach, right next to where the gun would have been mounted and looked out into the fury of the sea while my imagination ran wild. The island was actually attacked during the war by a German U-boat seeking to take out the refinery. I can only imagine what it was like being stationed on this amazing island with its cactus, intense sun, and brutal winds, facing a German assault to protect one of the most valuable supply sources of petroleum in the world.
The resort area is close to the northern tip of the island, and the beaches along the western island edge are calm and warm. A short drive around to the eastern side of the island, and you see its beauty in a whole different light. Away from civilization, the waves batter their force against the rock strewn coast. Scrub and cacti sprout from gravity defying spots, and goats whose ancestors went wild years ago freely roam the beach. You’ll be amazed that such a small island could have this rawness just a few miles from paradise. The California Lighthouse at the northern tip of the island is less than four miles from the resort area. I like to jog there and back in the early morning before the heat sets in, but four wheeler, mountain bike, and guided jeep tours abound. Don’t miss Aruba’s wild side.
Sports and Activities
In addition to four wheeling and mountain biking, Aruba also boasts incredible scuba diving and snorkeling. There are dives for all levels, and many outfitters offer a quick certification course so even a newbie can join in on the fun. The waters are warm and clear, and the famous Aruba wind creates a perfect environment for windsurfing. There’s the usual horseback riding on the beach, and what would an island be without a golf course? Golfing in Aruba can be very challenging though, as the wind constantly snatches your ball and hauls it off the fairway.
I hope this inspires you in your vacation planning. If you’re down in late February/early March, stop by the Playa Linda and see if we’re in. We’re always happy to meet new friends on One Happy Island.
About the author: Debra Dunbar is a writer of Urban Fantasy novels, a blogger, a book reviewer, and an all-around cool person. You can see her in action at on her self-named website, Debra Dunbar and follow her on Twitter @debra_dunbar.
Debra, thank you so much for this memorable travel post. I can’t wait to visit Aruba myself. RIP to your friend.
For everyone else, have you been to Aruba? If not, what would you love most? Tell me in the comments!
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