BY: NICOLE DEFOREST
I was fortunate to travel to Aruba and experience the food, culture and nightlife of the island. Aruba is known for its white sandy beaches and calm turquoise waters. It has some of the best beaches I’ve seen in all the Caribbean (Eagle Beach was just named top 10 beaches on TripAdvisor!). Aruba is a tiny Dutch/Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela which means it sits south of the hurricane belt. You can almost guarantee there will be no rain on your vacation, even during hurricane season. Although Aruba is situated closer to the equator than the other islands, it’s known for its trade winds which makes even the hottest of days comfortable. The constant trade winds make wind and kitesurfing a popular sport and if the hotels don’t offer this, you can rent the equipment for a small cost. You will see lush trees and bushes in the hotel district but the rest of the island is very desert like.
You can travel to Aruba on a budget staying at a cheap and cheerful hotels, or renting a house close to the beach. There is also the option of going all out at a boutique hotel or a luxury hotel and enjoy your getaway in luxury. Getting around this island is very easy and felt very safe using the public transportation with the locals. The bus will take you from the hotel zones to downtown every 20 minutes. At a cost of $2 USD each way, why not take advantage of seeing the island? If you have a free day, I recommend renting a jeep, 4 wheeler, or dune buggy, and travel off-the-beaten-path to the north coast. This countryside mixed with stunning seascapes takes you to some of the best historic sites, caves, and breathtaking views. Downtown Aruba is very Americanized as it’s a very popular cruise port. All the buildings are so colourful and you can spend hours just walking through the streets. You can literally “shop till you drop here” and visit the hundreds of local vendors for deals on your souvenirs. You can also find shops devoted to leather goods, jewellery, electronics, Dutch goods and high-end stores like Louis Vuitton. Aruba is one of the only smaller islands that offers casinos. The Crystal casino is open 24 hours, every day of the year and carries not only slots but table game options as well. You can also dance the night away at nightclubs, experience wine tastings, attend the local beach or piano bar, or look into some of the festivals held year-round.
Whether you stay on or off the resorts, you have to try the local dining. I ate extremely well in throughout my week in Aruba. The cuisine is very colourful, bursting with flavours and there is a ton of selection so you’re not eating the same thing daily. Aruba is known for its Dutch pancakes (between the texture of pancake and crepe that you can make sweet or savory). It’s also known for its fresh seafood offering the catch of the day. Don’t forget to spice it up with the local pica di papaya (Aruba hot sauce) or Ciboyo Temerpa (Onion and Vinegar sauce).
I now know why they call Aruba “One Happy Island, and I hope you have the opportunity to experience it first-hand in the near future!