Monday, August 9, 2021
One Happy Island
It calls itself "One Happy Island," and anyone who has visited the Caribbean paradise of Aruba knows its more than just a marketing tool or T-shirt slogan. The independent island nation, which is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is a fabulously fun and engaging island located on the far south of the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Venezuela. It is one of the A-B-C islands; the group of Leeward Antilles also includes Bonaire and Curacao. I've visited twice now, staying at the Marriott Surf Club in Palm Beach and La Cabana in Eagle Beach, and I will definitely visit again.
The island is just 21 miles long, and it's incredibly easy to get around to all the spots you want to see ... though if you landed in Palm Beach for a week and never left, that wouldn't be a shame. It's also easy to get around because Aruba is incredibly safe and accessible. Cab rides are pretty inexpensive -- usually about $10 from one beach area to another -- but it's also easy to simply walk from one resort and oceanfront area to the next. All beaches are public, and kind of like Vegas, many of the hotels want people to walk in off the beach for their casinos, bars, and restaurants. The only restrictions are pool and activity related. Honestly, we walked three miles from Eagle Beach to Hadicurari, and I'd have done so whether it was seven in the morning or midnight.
While we head to Aruba to lay on the beach and enjoy the pool, there are a few places and activities I'd recommend. We rented a UTV and drove the island one day, hitting the donkey sanctuary, the chapel along the eastern coast, and the California Light House. I also windsurfed with Vela at Hadicurari Beach, just past the Ritz-Carlton. My teenagers did as well after an hour-long lesson. And even if you don't want to try it, the trek can be fun just to check out all the kite surfers.
Finally, the dining options in Aruba are exceptional, but if I were to recommend one place it would undoubtedly be Azia in Palm Beach. I've been to the island twice and eaten at Azia four times. This classy, chic spot has incredible cocktails, fabulous food, and an ambience that can't be beat. Another great spot, as much for the views as for the food and cocktails (which are also quite nice) is Barefoot in Oranjestad. Below is a view from our table on the beach.