HOW TO ENJOY ARUBA
One Man’s Opinion
Charles W. Smith
Published by Charles W. Smith
This edition not updated since July 31, 2016.
NOTE FROM AUTHOR: THIS JULY 31, 2016 EDITION IS THE LAST EDIT THAT THIS DOCUMENT WILL RECEIVE. I WILL NOT BE KEEPING IT UP TO DATE IN THE FUTURE. MUCH OF THE MATERIAL WILL STILL BE CURRENT AND OF VALUE TO THE READER. BUT SOME WILL AGE AND GROW OLD AND BE OUT OF DATE AND JUST PLAIN WRONG AFTER A WHILE. I WILL CONTINUE TO WELCOME YOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT ARUBA AS I ALWAYS ENJOY HELPING ARUBA NEWBIES FALL IN LOVE WITH THE ISLAND. CHARLIE SMITH MARCH 20, 2017.
Copyright © 2008-2016 by Charles W. Smith. All rights reserved. The author grants permission to print this document for personal use only. No part of this document including its pictures may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever for commercial use without written permission.
Email address: ArubaSmith@Yahoo.com
Photography by Charles W. Smith
TO JUMP TO A TOPIC IN THE TABLE OF CONTENTS CLICK ON IT
PREPARING FOR YOUR NEXT TRIPS
TO PACK OR NOT TO PACK
ARUBA AND THE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN
POST TRIP QUIZ
We just met in April, 2013, but I feel like I’ve known Charlie Smith for quite some time since we have both frequented the same Aruba bulletin boards for many years and share the same love for the island. I’ve been traveling to Aruba since 1996 (30 trips and counting) and, like Charlie, who considers Aruba his “hometown” from growing up on the island, I also have developed a relationship with the island of Aruba and now it feels like a “second home” to me as well. Over the years I’ve enjoyed reading about Charlie’s trips to Aruba, his recommendations, his insight—and, of course his wonderful pictures. Aruba is rich with so many different activities, history, incredible scenery, amazing food, and wonderful people--so please do not limit yourself to the confines of a resort. Get out and explore this wonderful island!
Charlie has written a very thorough e-booklet about Aruba that captures almost every question that you might ask as a first time traveler, and it also includes updated information for those who travel to Aruba on an annual basis. As he has said, there are many ways to enjoy Aruba depending on your own personal preferences--this e-booklet is a good starting point to begin to enjoy Aruba YOUR way (with a little help from Charlie!)
~Amy~® (aka ArubaAmy)
Trip Advisor’s Destination Expert for Aruba
Charles, Just wanted to let you know that we really enjoyed your e-book. We were contemplating a vacation in Aruba (we’ve never been there), but were also looking at several other islands. After reading your e-book we were sold on Aruba. CT
Hello, Mr. Smith, I would like to congratulate you on your e-book "How To Enjoy Aruba", it's just amazing. It's full of very useful & precious information of Aruba. My wife & I are going there in about 2 months from now, and I was very happy to fall upon it as I was doing some research on Aruba , it is really helping me out a lot planning out my trip. It's our first time going there, but after reading your book, I am already convinced that I will be going back again. MC
My wife and I will be taking our first trip to your beautiful island next week and I am confident we will have a wonderful time in no small part because of the helpful information we have picked up from your website. Thank you for all the tips on accommodations, dining, shopping, sight seeking and all the other activities we will soon be enjoying. G&JM
Good morning Mr. Smith, I just wanted to quickly say thank you for writing such an interesting and informative guide to Aruba! I have never flown or traveled anywhere, but I am going to Aruba this month, finally. Your guide has answered so many of the questions I had. I’m sure it took you quite some time to compile and I thank you for making this available to us non-world travelers! MBC
I'm planning a Christmas trip to Aruba for my parents. I stumbled upon your Aruba E-booklet and it made planning so much easier! Thanks a lot :) CC
Thank you so much for sharing such wonderful information about Aruba with us. I'm so excited about my first trip to Aruba and now I feel very prepared to enjoy our trip to it's fullest. DO
Just want to thank you for your wonderfully informative e-book. How nice of you to put that information out there! We went for our second trip to Aruba this past July, newly armed with your e-book. It was very helpful in picking out where to stay, where to eat, and everything else. PP
May I introduce myself? I’m Charlie Smith, and I very much want you to enjoy Aruba as much as I do. That is my objective in writing this little e-booklet: having you, the reader, absorb this material and then enjoy your visit to Aruba more than had you gone on your own. I will try to be light and informal, as if I were talking to you. And by the way, I would enjoy communicating with you via email. Please feel free to email me with questions or suggestions or comments after you finish the booklet.
This e-booklet had its beginnings when friends and friends of friends asked me about Aruba—where to stay, what to do, and where to eat. I started writing emails and adding to a growing document describing how to enjoy their stay in Paradise. I couldn’t stop myself, and that document got bigger and bigger and more and more unorganized! So I finally rewrote that disjointed collection of documents and replaced them with this one. I want you to find the booklet to be a valuable source of timely and accurate material about Aruba. I intend to keep it up to date in the future.
I was born in Aruba. I’m not telling you WHEN, but it was a long time ago. My American parents were on assignment in what has since been named Seroe Colorado. We called it Lago Colony, a company community owned (or more properly, leased) by Lago Oil & Transport Company, an affiliate of Standard Oil Company (N.J.), now Exxon. Lago operated a refinery in Aruba which processed crude oil transported from Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. My dad worked as an expatriate in the refinery.
Anyway, I graduated from high school in Aruba, so I consider it my “hometown.” It was a wonderful place to be raised. Of course as kids we didn’t know that at the time; it was just…home. And frankly, it took a long time for me to make the transition from a “resident” mentality to a “tourist” mentality—to stop thinking, “This isn’t the way it was when we lived here.” When the lesson of accepting Aruba as it now is finally was learned, our enjoyment of the island increased many times over. It is this sense of enjoying Aruba as a special world class tourist location that I wish to convey to you. I hope you will enjoy Aruba my way. Oh, oh. That’s a problem. Read on…
ENJOYING ARUBA MY WAY
The problem is that there are MANY ways to enjoy Aruba, and none of them is wrong. It depends on what you like, and where you want to spend your time and money. Some people just love to come to Aruba, stay in an all-inclusive, and just relax there until they go home. Some people like to come to Aruba and stay on the beach all day and go to the casino all night. Some people like to consume as much alcohol as is possible during their stay. Who am I to say that is wrong? It isn’t wrong for them.
However Aruba has much more to offer than sun, sand, slots and…er…sauce. And I am going to try to introduce you to many ways to enjoy Aruba. My general principle in providing advice is: if you can do things when your home then you need not go to Aruba to do these same things. I will constantly be telling you to do things that are unique to Aruba. For example you can eat all the pizza you want at home; why have pizza for dinner in Aruba? There are so many fine restaurants in Aruba! But pizza?
Also, I may have tried only one or two ways of doing an activity that has many ways of doing it. For example, there are many fine companies that will take you snorkeling. I have tried three and liked them all. I will recommend them to you (later). But I can’t talk much about companies I haven’t tried even though other Aruba travelers have liked them. So keep in mind that I have a relatively narrow perspective overall. I am not writing a comprehensive book to familiarize you with ALL there is to do in Aruba, just the things I have done. However, I am confident that if you start in Aruba doing things “my way” you will enjoy them…unless you insist on pizza for dinner. (God help you.)
ENJOYING ARUBA YOUR WAY
Many people go to Aruba for the first time and love it. They go back again and again, and they repeat certain activities each visit. They develop their own what I call “Aruba traditions” and repeat them each time they come back. For example, we always have our “traditional exit lunch” at Linda’s Pancake & Pizza [but we don’t have pizza!] on the day we fly home. I used to go on a “bagel run” each morning for fresh bagels, but that tradition turned bad when the bagels did. We still go back to the same spots to snorkel; we go to the same beaches to check out the shelling. We shop at the same stores, eat at our favorite restaurants, and walk the beach each morning at 7:00. Sharp! Come join us—we leave Costa Linda Beach Resort at exactly 7:00am walking with the ocean on our right. I can’t tell you how many people have seen me and my wife on this traditional morning beach walk and have come up to me out of the blue, and ask, “Are you the guy that wrote the booklet about enjoying Aruba?” LOL Makes me feel good I can tell you. Sure, come join us!
Anyway, if you are going to Aruba for the first time keep these traditions in mind. Another thing I will repeat: FOR SURE you are going to go back, so review in your mind what you want to repeat next trip. Develop your own favorites and traditions. Like children at Christmas you will want to open your Aruban stocking and see how the presents look this time. You could then write your own booklet on enjoying Aruba, and it would be different from this one, but just as informative.
In this regard, by all means talk to people about Aruba. Get on the Aruba bulletin board (more on this later), and seek the views of a variety of people about stuff to do in Aruba. Talk to friends that have been to Aruba. Talk to your fellow travelers on the plane or where you are staying or in restaurants. Their pleasant experiences can be yours. I can advise you about Aruba only from the way I “do” Aruba. As I mentioned, there are many ways to experience this wonderful island. Find your own way from the many sources available to investigate. As the title of this e-booklet hints, you will find some of my advice strongly opinionated. Some people might disagree with my opinions. Develop your own customized Aruba favorites.
Because after all is said and done, remember: You WILL go back!
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
This e-booklet is written in Microsoft Word. It is meant to be read online. In this way you can see the pictures in color and, more importantly, you can click on a link and go to a website right away. If I am writing about a restaurant you can click on the link I provide and instantly view their menu. If I am talking about an activity or service the link will connect you to the appropriate website. Of course you can print it out to read on the plane or while in Aruba, but the most value for you is in preparing you for Aruba, and that is best done reading the booklet while online before you arrive.
I do not produce the e-booklet in hard copy. If I do, it immediately becomes fixed and not able to be updated. Again, a key value is the internet links that allow you to visit many Aruba websites without losing your place in this document as you read.
The website links are in blue in this text. To go to a website simply click on the blue link. Occasionally a link will become obsolete. I will be constantly testing the links provided in this booklet to make sure they are current. That is an advantage of an e-book: I can update it frequently to be sure it is accurate. However as time goes on the booklet may contain obsolete links. I hope by that time you will have become an expert on Aruba yourself and don’t need the book anymore.
Aruba has a lot going for it. The following is a list of positive points about Aruba. Most will be expanded upon later. Meanwhile I’d like you to be getting excited about Aruba. So, in bang-bang fashion, here are some things that tourists like about the island:
Weather: One of Aruba’s BEST positives! The days are consistently warm and sunny year round, but strong trade winds keep things comfortable.
Security: Mostly full employment keeps crime to a minimum. There is virtually no reported bodily harm to tourists. The tourist environment is very safe despite what you may have heard from the shameless press reporting on evil goings on. (More on security later.)
Drinking Water: The water is completely safe out of the tap and it tastes great. It is advertised as “the best water in the world.”
Beaches: The beaches in Aruba are world class. Eagle Beach has been named the best beach in the Caribbean. Sugar-like sand is kept clean. And all beaches on Aruba are open to the public.
Snorkeling: There are many wonderful snorkel spots in Aruba, accessible by tours but also by car with no boat necessary.
Tourist Activities: There are a lot of activities for tourists like water sports, day trips, hikes, tours, cruises, places to take the kids, things to rent, night life, casinos, carnival (in season), restaurants, and your favorite, of course--sky diving!
Tourist Infrastructure: There are non-intimidating grocery stores, bus & taxi service, internet cafes, car rentals, ATMs, a good telephone system, etc.
Accommodations: There is a wide variety of places to stay including hotels, timeshares, all-inclusives, apartments and houses.
Restaurants: Aruba has many, many world class resort restaurants. There is much variety in location, cuisine and pricing. See my separate Aruba Restaurant Guide e-booklet by clicking HERE.
Ambience: Aruba has a relaxed, cosmopolitan feeling about it stemming from the Caribbean, Dutch, and European cultures found there. Summed up: One Happy Island.
Shopping: Aruba has good shopping including a wide variety of shops with stable and reasonable pricing. There are US-like supermarkets; they are not intimidating.
Currency: All of your expenses can be paid for in dollars at the legal conversion rate.
Language: English is spoken everywhere by everyone.
People: Locals are very friendly and helpful. Many tourists list this as their number one reason for coming back to Aruba.
Airport: Aruba has a modern, efficient airport. For your return to the States, US customs is done in Aruba, not at your port of entry back in the States.
Accessibility: Aruba has direct plane service to many US cities including: Charlotte, Atlanta, Newark, Boston, Miami, and New York. And connections from almost anywhere.
Driving: You drive on the right side of the road. (But careful--no “right on red” in Aruba.)
Power: Electrical power is 110volt service, exactly the same as the US.
Jet Lag: Aruba is in the same time zone as the eastern US on daylight savings time. So here is no jet lag from eastern US cities.
Medical: Aruba has a fully equipped hospital located near where most tourists stay, and there are other pay-as-you-go urgent care organizations on the island.
Internet Access: If you have to keep in touch with your friends or customers while in Aruba, all hotels and resorts have internet access for its guests.
Inoculations: None needed.
Visa: Not needed.
Reputation: There are overwhelmingly positive reviews given by tourists who have vacationed on Aruba. Aruba is constantly given awards by travel magazines and travel organizations.
Poverty: There is little or no panhandling evident in Aruba. Tourists are not approached by souvenir vendors.
Timeshare salesmen: In many Caribbean vacation spots you can get bothered by aggressive timeshare sales people, bugging you to listen to their pitches. In Aruba, you are not pestered.
Yes, there are a lot of positive things than can be said about Aruba. They can be all wrapped up in a general feeling of well being one feels while in Aruba. The sunshine, the beautiful water, the clean beaches, the security you feel--all combine to keep tourists smiling when they are there, and scheming to figure out how to return when they are not.
The best single piece of advice I can give you about Aruba is simply this: join the Aruba Bulletin Board. Register for it and use it frequently to learn about all aspects of Aruba that tourists care about. It is at the following location on the internet: http://www.aruba-bb.com Go to the General Q & A About Aruba, and read the posts there. Post questions yourself. Read trip reports and restaurant reviews.
By doing this you will get a great cross section of experiences and opinions from people that have been to Aruba. You will start to form opinions of what you want to do and what you wouldn’t enjoy. This will add considerably to your preparation for your trip and therefore your enjoyment of the island while you are there.
By the way, look for my posts on the bulletin board. My ID is ArubaKid. My avatar is a black silhouette of a pelican on dark blue. More about pelicans later, but for now you should know one of my favorite pastimes in Aruba is taking pictures of them. Great fun.
So visit the Aruba bulletin board often. Posted topics change there daily. Ask your own questions. You will soon learn what posters have the same likes and dislikes as you do. In my opinion ArubaAmy is one the best posters on the board. She loves Aruba, she has been there dozens of times, and she is very thorough and helpful with her advice. She also enjoys Aruba the way I like to: by taking advantage of the many activities there, by repeating the things that are fun and especially by looking for new things of interest each trip.
There are other bulletin boards about Aruba. I recommend this one because I use it more than the others and I am used to the people there. I have met some of them in Aruba and maintained contact with them via email. They are good people and fun to interact with. And of course you can use a search engine to look for specifics about Aruba. Google, or my favorite, Dogpile. LOL Search on “nightlife aruba” or “shopping aruba” or “pictures aruba” and see what you come up with.
Another good internet location to visit is www.aruba.com It has a lot of things to look at. Include this site in your research about the island.
In order to get you real excited about your upcoming visit to Aruba, I recommend you go to the YouTube website (www.YouTube.com) and do a lot of searching of that website for things Aruba. Search for “Restaurants Aruba” or “Vacations Aruba” or “Shopping Aruba” or “Activities Aruba” or anything else you can think of. Watch the videos that you find listed. Every one will help you with your Aruba research.
The weather is great. What else do you have to know? Next topic. Seriously, the weather in the southern Caribbean is sunny and windy with relatively little rainfall. What rainfall there is usually local, that is, you will find it raining hard in one place and half a mile away it isn’t raining at all. And the showers are usually brief.
There is very little change in the weather throughout the year. The temperature is very consistent: about 80 degrees at night and up to about 88 degrees maximum during the day. Oh there is a LITTLE more rain in the November through January period (a few inches), and it is a LITTLE warmer in June (4 degrees), but these differences are not large enough to alter your vacation plans for. Just treat all Aruba weather the same. I do.
You may have heard that Aruba is “out of the hurricane belt.” This is true according to Wikipedia. It states, “The only places in the Caribbean that are not in the hurricane belt are Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Bonaire, Curacao, Aruba, Providencia Island, San Andres, and the islands off of Venezuela.” In history there have been three hurricanes that have passed south of Aruba. However in all the years I lived in Aruba there were no hurricanes there. We did feel the effects of hurricanes--rain, high winds, high waves—but the eyes of the hurricanes were nowhere near us. It is pretty safe to say that you don’t have to worry about hurricanes even in the hurricane season. I would never pass up a trip to Aruba in any month because I was worried about hurricanes.
Temperature tables can be found at: http://www.arubatravelinfo.com/climate.html
PAYING FOR THINGS
Don’t worry about currency either. Pretend you are in the US and treat carrying money the same as you would at home. All transactions are done in dollars, from the super market to the restaurants to your hotel. You can pay with credit cards in all but the smallest stores. You can get US dollars at ATMs located all over, especially in casinos. All stores and venders will take US cash. Not many people carry travelers checks any more.
The local currency is florins. There are 1.75 – 1.77 florins to the US dollar, and that ratio remains very stable over the years. Prices in the supermarkets are sometimes in florins, but they have recently posted prices in dollars. Make sure you know which you are looking at. Occasionally you will get change in florins for something you paid cash for in dollars. If you have some change in florins accumulated during your stay, leave them for the housekeeping people that clean your room as part of their tip. But you will be almost totally unaware of local currency because everything is done in dollars.
If you have to convert florins to dollars, here is a pretty good (but not exact) formula of thumb: Divide the florins in half and add 10%. So a bottle of wine that costs 26 florins costs about $14.30 ( 26 / 2 = 13, and 13 + 1.3 = 14.30). You will get used to it.
By the way, it’s not a bad idea to call your credit card company to tell them the dates you will be in Aruba. In that way they won’t stop authorization on your card thinking someone stole it and ran off to Aruba. Hum—not a bad idea. Please email me your MasterCard number. Just kidding. Many credit card companies charge a so called foreign transaction fee for purchases made out of the US. Check to see if yours does, because that can add a significant 3% or more to everything you pay for on the card. Discover and Capital One do not charge the dreaded FTF.
Aruba is very safe. That being said, do not act foolishly. Aruba has a low crime rate because of relatively full employment, but that does not mean crime is zero. Tourists do experience stolen wallets, cameras, and equipment. Do not leave your belongings vulnerable. It has been said that much of stolen stuff in Aruba is taken by other tourists, so keep that in mind too.
If you have a safe in your room, use it for your passports, extra cash, and other valuables. If it has a key, don’t leave it in the room when you are not in your room. Do not leave valuables in your car, even in the daytime. Most of the tourist crime I hear about happens with rental cars being broken into. Rental cars have unique license plates (starting with a “V”). Because of this thieves can identify them quickly. Just be wise about guarding your belongings and you should be fine.
I’m sure you have heard about the Natalee Holliway disappearance, and another internationally publicized disappearance. They are unfortunate occurrences, but each was carried out with the assistance of someone’s bad judgment. Just keep your head about you and you will be fine.
The people of Aruba are wonderful people—pleasant, helpful, friendly. Many people list the Aruban people as one of the main reasons they like Aruba. Service people in the hotels, clerks in the stores, taxi drivers—you will find all of them to be polite and accommodating.
When an Aruban resident graduates from high school they speak 4 languages: English, Spanish, Dutch, and Papiamento (the local language). Arubans are smart, courteous, cosmopolitan people.
One time recently my wife and I had a flat tire in San Nicholas. I called the rental car company, and they sent someone to help us. In the 40 minutes we were on the side of the road four people stopped to ask us if they could help. Three of them were women, (and two of them were by themselves); they were as helpful as they could be. Great people.
The power in Aruba is exactly the same as in the US, 110 volt AC service. You don’t need any converters or adapters or any special plugs.
The water in Aruba is safe. You can drink it right out of the tap. You will not get sick. It is produced in Aruba from seawater. The water company advertises the water as, “The Best Water In The World.” They filter it through coral to make it taste good. So buy ONE plastic bottle of water when you arrive (or keep the one you got on the plane) and fill it up with tap water throughout your stay.
Everyone speaks English, so don’t worry about that. The official language is Dutch. The local island dialect is Papiamento, a mixture of many different languages. (Some phrases are contained in an appendix.) So when you speak to a resident, don’t ask if they understand English. They all do.
As I have been saying: Aruba is a fantastic place to visit and spend your vacations. However it has its warts. I think you should be aware of some of them in order not to be surprised about certain aspects of the island.
Aruba is not lush. If you have been to Hawaii, you know what lush is—with everything green and growing, with vegetation and flowers all over. Aruba, in the interior, is more like Arizona—scrub coral, cactus, and long stretches of blah. It is more like a desert than a rain forest, believe me. The beaches are world class, as I have said, but not the interior of the island. Roads are not always great on Aruba, either. They are being upgraded over the years, but roads in the interior are…well, they are not really roads even. And road signs are not always…er…helpful. I don’t know why, but the tourism ministry and the Aruban government do not seem to attach high priority to road signs. Another thing that grinds me is the amount of trash you see on the island. It seems to me this could be handled by the government, especially with all the tourist money that comes in. Alas, no. However, I must say that the “trash on the roadside” problem has been worked on in recent years, and is improving. Another thing that might strike you is the amount of development on the island. There are a LOT of hotels and resorts on the northwestern side of Aruba, and more being built and more being planned. But in the high rise area things are crowded, parking is scarce, and hotels are right next to each other.
And the 2 best things in Aruba—weather and beaches—are not so much fun when the wind stops. It is HOT! One woman who read this booklet went to Aruba in August, 2008. The wind stopped completely during all of her 1 week stay. She still loved Aruba, but could not cope with the unbearable heat. The wind had stopped because hurricane Gustov sucked most of the wind from the Caribbean during her stay. She stayed in a private house with no beach, so she couldn’t take refreshing dips in the Caribbean. Fortunately, a windless week does not happen often. She says she will go back.
Another thing to be careful of is the hot sun. You must protect yourself! The strong wind cools you off and tends to disguise the effects of the hot sun; however the disguise wears off a little later!
Another Aruban wart is their drivers. Simply put: they drive too fast. Not all of them; not even most of them, but there seem to be several crazy ones. However, this is not a serious enough problem for you to cause you not to rent a car. Just be alert. (Oh and remember: no “right on red” in Aruba.)
I don’t like to document negative things about Aruba. However, I don’t want you to think it is perfect and then be disappointed about certain things you see or experience. Better to be informed, prepared, and not surprised.
Aruba’s hospital is located in the so called “low rise” area. It is within ½ - 3 miles from the timeshares and hotels in that area. It is about 6 miles from the high rise area, where most of the tourist hotels and activities are. I have little personal experience with the hospital, but the reviews are mixed relative to quality of care and price. You should ask your own questions of the aruba-bb people who have experience with the hotel and judge for yourself.
There are other sources of emergency care, for example, an outfit called Urgent Care Aruba. It
is located in Noord and open 24/7 to treat your malady immediately. I have talked to several people who used UCA in 2015, and they were very pleased with the facilities, the staff, and the treatment. If your situation requires hospitalization or an ambulance then you would naturally use the hospital. But for less serious conditions you might want to consider UCA. I used their services myself in January, 2016, and I was very impressed with their layout and their professionalism. To go to their website click HERE. For more pictures click HERE.
All resorts have access to the internet for their guests. Some are more costly than others; many are free. Some have high quality and fast service, others do not. You should get on aruba-bb and ask the posters there about the resort you are considering and find out what their experience has been, and then judge for yourself whether that is sufficient for your needs.
There is an outfit called MIO, which sells a device to give you a “hot spot” within X number of feet from the device. They have an office in Oranjestad and also at the Alhambra Casino which provide sales and customer service. You buy the device once and add gigabytes to it as you need them, in order to provide internet service for your phone, iPads, laptop, or whatever. I personally have purchased a MIO device and used it extensively in my timeshare unit and on the beach. It works fine, except streaming video is a little slow. Anyway, it is another alternative for internet access. To check out their website click here: http://mioaruba.com/
Agh, this is an important topic. It has a lot to do with what kind of accommodations you like, where you want to be, how much you want to pay, and where you want to have your meals. All those considerations are very individual. As I mentioned before, I can only advise you from my own experience, and I have only stayed at one place in recent years (tell you where and why later). This means you must seek help from other sources. So get on the Aruba Bulletin Board I referred to previously, and read some of the trip reports. Use the search facilities to find previous posts about hotels. Post your own questions about where to stay, and the “bulletin board people” will be glad to share their experiences with you.
Let me tell you of some of the general considerations to help steer you where you might want to go. One early decision is whether to be “in town” or at the beach. Being in Oranjestad, the capital of Aruba and the only large town, means you are close to town restaurants and shopping. The Renaissance Hotel is a big tourist hotel in Oranjestad. Expensive at first glance, but you can find discount plans. Many people love that hotel and go back to it often.
However, I would advise you to get out to the northwestern end of the island for one important reason: Beaches. Sand. Sun. Ocean. (How’s that for one reason?) Aruba’s two main attractions, weather and beaches, provide a stunning combination when you can literally step out of your hotel or even your room and be within a few feet of sugar sand and the beautiful aquamarine, clear water. That vision of beach and water is the one that will stay with you when you go home after your trip. Staying in town does not provide the same thrill. Of course all of this is what I think. Remember what you are reading: “One Man’s Opinion.”
Another decision to make is whether to stay in an all-inclusive or not. My advice: not. Staying in an all-inclusive means that your meals (and alcohol on some plans) are included in the price you pay for accommodations and are provided by the facility where you are staying. Many people like the idea of going to Aruba and just relaxing without having to care about where else to go, especially for dinner. They don’t have to drive, they eat where they stay, and even have some latitude of choice of multiple restaurants within their resort complex. However, this limits your Aruba experience by not having you take advantage of the MANY great restaurants on the island. Remember that old underwear ad, “Next to myself I like BVDs best?” Well, next to the beaches in Aruba I love the restaurants best. I have been to almost 150 restaurants, and they are one better than another. If you stay in an all-inclusive you sacrifice these great restaurant experiences.
Another decision is whether to stay in the “high rise” section of hotels or the “low rise.” My advice: go low. But again, this depends on what you like. The high rise area contains large hotels, 10 or 12 or more stories. You have beautiful views, but you must put up with elevators and generally less personal conditions. The beaches are crowded, yes they are. The parking is squeezed. There is more traffic. There are more people. Shops and restaurants are within walking distance, but the whole ambiance in the high rises is touristy and generally crowded. Thousands of people who stay there or own there may rise up and scream if they read this, but that’s the way I see the high rises. They are a very necessary part of the tourist culture or there wouldn’t be near the number of tourists coming to Aruba and therefore not nearly as much great tourist infrastructure: restaurants, activities, tours, etc.
That being said, the high rise is where the action is, and for many people (especially singles and young couples) this is important. Many people start at the popular high rise hotels (Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, etc.), but after a few years of the crowds and “touristy” setting they migrate to the quiet, low rise timeshares and all inclusives. It’s up to you; I am trying to describe these areas as they are and as they appear to me.
Yes I prefer the low rises. The beaches are better—they are wider and not crowded, and there are more chickee huts (palapas) available. There is more parking, less people, and most importantly to me it is quiet. The ambiance is less commercial. There are fewer shops, fewer restaurants, more space.
The above picture is of Eagle Beach early in the morning, taken on my 7:00 beach walk. Would you call it crowded?
One last decision to be made before selecting a specific place to stay is whether to stay in a hotel or timeshare. Timeshares have more space, full kitchens and can be cheaper (especially if 2 or 3 couples share the cost of a 2 or 3 bedroom timeshare). However you have to go through the trouble of renting from an owner for a specific period and negotiating a price, and that is a pain in the neck for many first time Aruba visitors. However, I like timeshares more than hotels, and I don’t mind the extra trouble it takes to acquire one for a week or two. But for first time Aruba visitors I recommend staying away from timeshares and staying with hotels. You can do a little investigating of timeshares while you are there first time, and maybe later the timeshares will be more attractive.
There are other accommodations available too. There are apartments on and away from the beach. There are also individual houses you can rent. For your first visit to Aruba I advise staying away from these. Thieves know which houses are rented to tourists, and not all houses are in areas close to beaches, shopping or restaurants. I think it is better to stay in common tourist accommodations your first trip. While you are there you can check out other places to stay for your next trip. (Remember, you ARE coming back…)
I stay at the Costa Linda Beach Resort when I am in Aruba. It is in the low rise area; it is a timeshare. It is on Eagle Beach, the nicest beach in Aruba. Even at the high season (mid-December through March or so) it does not feel crowded. It has a nice pool, good services, and it is clean. The 2 and 3 bedroom units are large. Housecleaning comes in every day to make beds and clean (except Sunday). The picture below is of Costa Linda taken from a boat we chartered to take us fishing. A lot more on Costa Linda just below.
I don’t have personal experience with the following resorts, but I provide the following list for your use:
CASA DEL MAR: http://www.casadelmar-aruba.com/
BUCUTI AND TARA BEACH RESORTS (No children hotel): http://www.bucuti.com/
MANCHEBO BEACH RESORT & SPA ARUBA: http://www.manchebo.com/
LA CABANA BEACH AND RACQUET CLUB: http://www.lacabanabrc.com/
ARUBA BEACH CLUB: http://www.arubabeachclub.net/
AMSTERDAM MANOR BEACH RESORT (hotel): http://www.amsterdammanor.com/
MVC EAGLE BEACH (hotel): http://www.mvceaglebeach.com/
PARADISE BEACH VILLAS: http://www.paradisebeachvillas-aruba.com/
LA QUINTA BEACH RESORT: http://www.laquintaaruba.net/
DIVI ARUBA (all inclusive): http://www.diviaruba.com/packages/family/index.php
So from the guidelines and advice I offer above, try to get an idea of what type of accommodations you prefer. Then go on the bulletin board and ask the posters there about specific places and then go on from there.
MY FAVORITE PLACE TO STAY
It is difficult to call the Costa Linda Beach Resort my favorite place to stay, because that is the only place I have stayed since coming back to Aruba regularly in 2004 and visiting there several times a year since then. But it is my favorite, and I would like to introduce you to it. Costa Linda is one of the best timeshares around: It is always in the top 20 timeshares in the world as rated by Trip Advisor. It is # 3 on their list for 2016. It is one of only 3 timeshares worldwide to be named a Golden Crown Award winner by RCI for the past 25 years.
Costa Linda, a Friday-to-Friday timeshare, is in the low rise section of Aruba. As described above, the low rise is quieter and more peaceful than the hussle-busselly high rise area. It is a low-activity, less-touristy, highly-secure corner of the island. The low rise area is very family oriented where every square foot is not taken up by stores, venders, restaurants and malls. There are only 155 units at Costa Linda. Only 5 floors. So you don’t feel like you are in a valley surrounded by mountains of high rise hotels. Relaxing, peaceful, comfortable.
Costa Linda is on Eagle Beach, named in 2016 by TripAdvisor as the 3rd best beach in the world. And Costa Linda was named in 2014 by Redweek (the premier timeshare publication) as the 12th best timeshare in the world. In the world! It is clearly Aruba’s best beach—wide, with sugar white sand, and spacious. And Costa Linda Beach Resort is right on the beach; you don’t have to walk across 2 streets to get to the beach like some of our neighboring timeshares. Some of the units are 10 steps from the sand. You can walk back to your unit from the pool or beach to get your book or towel without a major hike.
Pool? A world class resort pool! With room for pool volleyball, pool aerobics, and just paddling around. No depth greater than 4 feet. There is a kiddie pool too. And nice Caribbean/calypso music, but not so loud you can’t snooze in your chickee hut.
These chickee huts, or palapas, surround the pool on 2 levels and provide shade while you relax, read, nap, or chat with the guests you met from years before. There are over 110 chickee huts on the beach too. While guests at many of the high rise hotels bite and scratch to get shade coverage on the beach—and many have to reserve, show up early, and even pay for them—at Costa Linda they are free, and you will almost always find a chickee hut available on the beach or pool.
The picture above is of Eagle Beach right in front of Costa Linda.
Feeling restless after so much relaxation? Costa Linda has a long list of activities too. There is a fully outfitted fitness center, and 2 great looking tennis courts. No hike to them either; they are right on the premises. Free kayaks, Zumba lessons with Marilu, pool aerobics with Andres, beach games galore (like shuffleboard, ladder golf, cornhole and horseshoes), and organized activities for children (like crafts, tie dying t-shirts, and bingo games). And 2 movies a week in the open air beach “theater.”
To round out some additional amenities, Costa Linda has the following on the premises: a spa and salon, a market and gift shop, a souvenir hut, an Avis car rental desk, a de Palm tour desk, a wedding planner, a silver shop, a lobby bar, a beach bar and 3 fine restaurants.
Did I say restaurants? The Water’s Edge restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Popular Pizza Bob’s draws tourists from all over, and Ellioti’s Italian restaurant rounds out Costa Linda’s restaurant trio. Also, within walking distance are other fine restaurants, over 20 of them: Screaming Eagle, Passions, Matthews, Mangos, Tulips, the French Steakhouse, Ike’s Bistro, and Chalet Suisse (but you are renting a car, right?).
Now the best til last: the rooms! Costa Linda has 2 and 3 bedroom units, 155 in total on 5 floors. They have all been completely renovated and updated (except for furniture) during a 3 year, 13 million dollar project ending in 2012. New tile floors, new marble countertops, new appliances, artwork, beds, TVs, and WiFi. The end result is that each unit has a new, modern look and feel about it.
Each unit has a full kitchen, a living room, a dining area, and a porch or balcony. Two room units have 2 bathrooms. The master bedroom has a king sized bed; the second bedroom has 2 double beds. Three bedroom units have 4 bathrooms. The master and second bedrooms have king sized beds and the third bedroom has 2 double beds. All units also have a pull out couch in the living room area that can sleep an additional 2 people. The 3 bedroom units have a huge wrap around patio with a private large hot tub (maintained daily), and a private grill (cleaned by staff whenever used). Oh, there are full housekeeping services each day except Sundays (when only towels are renewed and trash is removed).
Speaking of the staff, Costa Linda has wonderful people throughout the organization making sure guests are comfortable and happy. They go the extra mile day after day. A highlight for returning guests is being greeted by the same Costa Linda employees they hugged goodbye to the year before.
In the past I have owned and rented out many units at Costa Linda throughout the year. I am no longer in the Costa Linda rental business. I have sold the rental units in order to have the money for higher priority purposes at this time. However I am still VERY positive about Aruba and Costa Linda. We still occupy 10 units and look forward to 2 Aruba/Costa Linda trips a year—in January/February and June/July.
In order to rent units from Costa Linda owners follow these steps:
First click on the following link: www.costalinda-aruba.com
Then mouse over The Resort and click on Rentals & Sales
Click on Rentals
Fill in the week and year you are interested in and click on Search
Then communicate via email with the owners renting asking about price, etc.
Here are some links to some of my other pictures of Costa Linda:
For pictures around the beach: http://www.pbase.com/scsnapper/aroundthebeach
For pictures around the pool: http://www.pbase.com/scsnapper/2010augaroundcl
For pictures around the resort: http://www.pbase.com/scsnapper/arubaaroundresort
Above is Eagle Beach and Costa Linda Beach Resort.
Costa Linda also has a website. To get there click on: http://www.costalinda-aruba.com
As I wrote earlier, if you want a quiet vacation on a world class beach consider Costa Linda. If you want action and nightlife and nonstop activity you will enjoy the high rise area more.
There are the normal things: secure accommodations, make plane reservations, make sure your passport is up to date. You must have a passport now to go throughout the Caribbean. This is a change from the past. You used to be able to travel to Aruba on your birth certificate.
There are 4 other things I strongly suggest you do too. They are as follows:
(1) RENT A CAR
Having a car is an important part of how I want you to enjoy Aruba. That sounds pompous of me? Well, you should rent a car and get around and explore the island. Strong recommendation. Yes, you can take buses and taxis or walk to places, but you will probably find you will stick pretty much around where you stay, and that would be unfortunate. Also, you don’t want to WASTE time arranging for transportation. You should be out enjoying the island, not stuck in a shed waiting for a bus. I will be recommending day trips in a later section, but if you don’t have a car you will miss that important activity entirely. You can take tours, but…well it just isn’t the same. And you will find yourself eating at the same restaurants close to where you stay instead of partaking of great restaurants further away.
Now I understand your reluctance to renting a car: (1) It is a hassle to arrange. (2) The thought of driving around where you don’t know exactly where you are and how to get to where you want to go confuses you. (3) What if you get lost? But let me appease you: It is impossible to get lost in Aruba. Oh you might not know where you are or how to get where you are going, but that is not being lost! Seriously. You just keep driving until you come to a landmark or a major intersection and you are “good to go” from there. There are LOTS of landmarks; you can not be “lost” for more than 10 minutes. And it is satisfying to recover from “being lost” and finding your way again. Last resort: ask one of those helpful Arubans for help. [Men—I didn’t say this.]
Which rental agency to rent from? There are 10 rental agencies whose offices are located right at the airport: National, Budget, Hertz, Thrifty, Alamo, Dollar, Avis and local companies Economy, Econo and Amigo. I know how to locate the agencies that are AT the airport: you walk across the street with your luggage on a cart and go into the agency office. They are clearly marked.
If you rent from an agency that is not housed at the airport you indicate when you reserve what plane you will be arriving on. These agencies will meet you at the airport. They will have your name on a card, and you will see them as you exit Aruba customs into the airport lobby. That is how you connect with them. If they do not contact you in this way, what then? You can ask one of the shuttle drivers that IS there to call your agency. They will even know the number (although you should have it with you). People are very helpful in Aruba, and this is one situation where you might need help. Not to worry. To be on the safe side, when you chose a car rental agency be sure to check with them to see if they have an office actually AT the airport or not. If they don’t then confirm with them exactly how to contact them after you get out of the airport. Again, be sure to have their telephone number with you.
Here are my recommendations for rental car agencies. Their web links are below.
Tropic: Hands down the best, but you must reserve 9 months in advance because their fleet is small.
Top Drive: They are reliable, but many of their vehicles are old. They have a desk at Manchebo timeshare, which is only a short walk from Costa Linda.
Avis: Their prices are high and they are not always reliable. They have a desk at Costa Linda.
Wheels2Go: Agent meets you at the airport. No waiting for your contract. Website is: http://www.wheels2goaruba.com/index.html
Econo Car Rental Aruba Good reviews
Smart Rent a Car Good reviews
Top Drive Car Rental Good reviews
Tropic Car RentalGreat reviews
I now am using Tropic exclusively, and I recommend them highly.
The question always comes up when renting a car as to whether or not to accept the extra insurance. My usual practice was not to. However, I used to make an exception for renting in Aruba, and I accepted the additional insurance, even though it is at rip off prices. My reasoning was: I didn’t want to interrupt a nice vacation filling out forms, chasing down a police report written in Dutch) or fighting with agencies in case there is a problem. This might not suit YOU, but I offer it as advice anyway. Accepting the additional insurance means you don’t have to pay for damages to the car you are renting (unless you are speeding or drunk or something). Many people think they are covered by their US based credit card. That may be true, but check the small print in your credit card contract. There are many restrictions and conditions, even deductibles. (By the way Aruban car agencies usually include liability insurance in their contract with you. That means if you damage some one elses’ property you are covered.)
The best plan I have discovered for car rental insurance in Aruba is to get insurance from American Express—but wait! This is not just any old credit card coverage. You have to have an American Express credit card, yes, but this is a comprehensive program specifically for car rental coverage. It is called Premium Car Rental Protection. Features: no cost to enroll, up to $100,000 protection for theft and damage, no deductible, coverage for up to 42 days, excellent claim processing.
When you use your card to pay the rental agency at the end of your trip American Express automatically charges you a one-time $24.95. That is only slightly more than rental agencies charge PER DAY, and the benefits are much better. I had some…ahem…er…damage to my rental car a couple of years ago and filed a claim. The ONLY things I had to do were to fill out a form online and fax AE a copy of my rental agreement. They did the rest, and paid off the rental agency in full. How easy was that! (But I won’t try to squeeze into the alley behind Wacky Wahoo again!) To get information on the program from American Express click HERE.
PAID PARKING: I don’t want to scare you off renting a car. It is an integral part of enjoying Aruba. But Aruba has recently (November, 2015) started to use a sophisticated paid parking system in many popular parking lots and even side streets. This system includes getting “booted” (a boot put on your back wheel preventing you from driving) if you do not pay properly. And the steps for paying are a little complicated. The point I want you to understand at this point in your trip planning is that the paid parking system exists, and you must adhere to it. The biggest problem for those new to this system is recognizing that paid parking is in place. The signage is VERY poor. Once you understand that it is in place, you will persevere until you either pay properly or move to another spot (which isn’t easy either, since most streets are included in the system. See pictures below.
If you want to know the details of the Aruba paid parking system, I have it for you. I write a newsletter for Costa Linda Owners called CHARLIE’S CHICKEE CHATTER©. I devoted one issue to the details of using the paid parking system. You may look at it by clicking on the following link: http://www.arubakid.com/CCC-43.htm
To repeat--a couple of post scripts about driving: first, there is no “right on red” allowed on Aruba. Also, watch the traffic lights carefully. Being used to driving in the States, the lights are not intuitive. They don’t always act like you expect. It isn’t a major concern, but be alert. And please drive defensively. The Arubans are wonderful people, but, as I said, many of them drive too fast! Oh, and pedestrians always have the right-of-way.
(2) ORDER A MAP
Order a map of Aruba online before you leave. The map company is Borch, and their website is: http://www.borch.com/ The map costs $11.95 plus shipping. It is a good, heavy duty plasticized map, and you will use it every time you go to Aruba. (Remember: you WILL return.) I actually have two copies of the map. I keep one in the glove compartment of the car and the other in our room for daily trip planning. I recommend you order this map directly from Borch. This Aruba map is a new edition. Some people have trouble on the Borch website actually ordering the map. You can also get it from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com Then search on “Aruba maps.”
I will be referring to spots in Aruba shown on the Borch map. For example the airport is at (L4), the high rise hotels are at (F2 and G2), and the low rise area is at (H & J 1 & 2). Study your map before you leave home. Figure out how to drive from the airport to your hotel. Review that route with the car agency person you rent with. Hey—you are performing like an experienced Aruba tourist and you haven’t even LEFT yet!
(3) RESERVE A CELL PHONE
Yes, another strong piece of advice: have a cell phone. There are several reasons for this: 1) you should have a cell phone with you in your car in case you have a road emergency, 2) landline phone calls from hotels are sometimes more expensive than cellular calls, and 3) in case you have to call the States your cellular phone will do the trick easily and cheaply. I recommend using your cell phone to make local calls. It will prove to be much cheaper than having your hotel charge you for using the phone in your room. Call restaurants and tours to make reservations from your cell phone. Call the States with it (just key 001, the area code and the number and hit Send.). Call stores to inquire about their hours.
For example, I have a Verizon phone in the states. You can call them ((800) 711-8300) and they will tell you how to use your Verizon phone to call to the US from Aruba and to Aruba from the US. These individual calls are expensive on a per-minute basis, but you might want to keep all your cell phone business with your current carrier.
See how the three recommendations above fit: rent a car to see Aruba at its best; rent a cell phone to have in a road emergency, and have a map in hand to plan your trips. All things you must arrange before you leave home (except for the Setar phone). Check, check, check. You’re doin’ good!
(4) COMPLETE AN ED (EMBARCATION/DISEMBARCATION) CARD ONLINE
Doing this online will save you a little time and hassle in the arrival area when you depart the plane and enter the airport proper. This card used to be handed out by the stewards on the airplane (and it still is because the airline people don’t know about the new procedures at the Aruba airport). The data asked for are things like your flight number, your reason for coming to Aruba, your passport number, etc. Instead of completing this card on the plane (who has a pen?), you can complete it online before you even leave from home. Much easier. Oh, be sure to fill out this form 48 hours or more before you arrive in Aruba.
Go to the Aruba website: https://edcardaruba.aw/ and follow the instructions on that website for the completion of that form. It is a little confusing at first but you will figure it out. One separate form must be completed for each passenger. The good news is that when you come to Aruba again (remember I said you would) you will only have to fill out the part with your dates and flight number. The rest will be taken from when you first completed the form. It is worthwhile doing. Be sure to print it at the end of the completion process so you have proof of it. Bring that printout with you (along with your passport) when you enter the immigration area in the airport.
MAKE OTHER RESERVATIONS
Depending on what you chose to do in Aruba, there may be other reservations you should make via the internet from home before you leave. I will be suggesting some great activities later, and some of them require you to make reservations. Many offer discounts if reservations are made online. I will provide the websites for you to make reservations. However, be sure to confirm your reservations when you arrive in Aruba. I KNOW you will have reserved your phone by NOW…haven’t you?
What a thrill it was for us as kids—to walk down the stairs from the plane onto the tarmac at the end of our stateside vacation and feel that wonderful Aruba sun and heat and humidity and WIND! Yay, we are home again! You will feel some of our excitement when you step out of the airport.
But first things first. As you leave the plane you go up one flight on the escalator. Look at the people in the departure gate. They are all sunburned, and they are all looking sad. That is because they are returning home on the plane you came in on after a week or 2 in Aruba. Look happy—you have that to look forward to. LOL
Next you walk down a long corridor. Look for a display area on your left inviting you to take a free, brightly colored tote bag. Take one. They will be good for carrying stuff during your stay, especially carrying stuff to the beach. They are very sturdy; you will get a lot of use from them.
Next you will enter the large immigration area and have your passport checked by a kiosk reader. If you followed my above advice to complete your ED card you probably won’t have to hand it to an immigration person. You just go to the kiosks at the LEFT of the immigration area and then you should pass right through without delay.
The processing of incoming airline passengers has been changed in early 2016 to a much more speedy system. Still however, many times many airplanes arrive in Aruba at the same time, and the room for processing is completely full and people have to wait to even enter this room. If the room is relatively clear, simply follow the passengers to a speedy pass-through. But if the room is super crowded I am pointing out a way to clear immigration faster. I’ll tell you, but you will be skeptical. You have to trust me. The shortest line—sometimes there is no line--is at the far right of the immigration room. Yes, the one with the sign above it that says: Airline Crew, Aruba Residents and Dutch Passport Holders. But they will take anyone in that line, even…gasp…tourists! Trust me. Try it next time you fly in if the immigration room is crowded. (Of course all that really means is that you have a longer wait to claim your luggage. OK, my next project will be speeding up that service.)
When your passport is reviewed as you pass through the airport, the agent will tear off the bottom part of the immigration form and leave it IN your passport UNLESS you completed this form online at home. (By the way, the agent always says, “Welcome home,” when she sees from my passport that I was born in Aruba. Makes me feel good.)
Next is baggage claim. Check out your fellow passengers waiting to claim their bags. You should have been talking to some on the plane asking their advice about their previous trips to Aruba. If you didn’t have the opportunity then, do it now. “Have you been to Aruba before?” “Where are you staying?” “Have you been snorkeling?” “Where are the bargains?” You will be seeing these same people over and over throughout your stay: at the shops, on the beach or on your tours.
After your baggage arrives, just breeze through the customs exits. Tourists are rarely stopped at customs. If you are carrying a duty free bag you might be asked what you have bought and how much. In February, 2009, some tourists were stopped by Aruban customs and asked if they were bringing in alcohol or cigarettes. They did have to pay duty on their hard liquor. This happens very infrequently, but it does happen; now you know.
So now you exit to the front of the airport, into the lobby. This is where you would meet your car rental agency guy if you are renting from an agency not physically at the airport. This is where Setar (the local phone company) has a stall for replacing your SIM cards if you want this service for your phone from home or adding time to your Setar phone if you have one.
No, don’t leave the airport yet. There are brochures on a rack located just as you are about to step out of the airport. Many contain coupons for discounts on the many activities on the island. Grab one each of the 20 or so flyers there. They can save you some $$.
Yes, now is the time to pick up your rental car. You should have made arrangements for it over the internet or via email. Next you drive to your hotel. You should have your map in your carryon so you can review with the car rental agent exactly how get to your hotel. Hey—do you KNOW what you are doing, or WHAT?! You are a pro, and the vacation is just getting started!
As I indicated earlier, I hope you will be doing things during your stay in Aruba that take advantage of the island’s great opportunities. That will mean doing things differently from the way you operate at home. To repeat my general advice: don’t do things in Aruba that you do at home or could do at home. You have access to a pool at home? Don’t spend too much time in Aruba at your hotel pool. You like to gamble? Go to Vegas. You love Tony Roma’s ribs? Get them at home then, not in Aruba. This is only MY opinion. Many people say they have a traditional first restaurant meal in Aruba at Tony Romas, and they love going back. OK. But you’ll never know the restaurant you MISSED because you went to a franchise place the same as all the others in the States.
The not-to-do things are my opinion. Many might agree. But I have your attention now, so here goes: Don’t eat at American franchise restaurants, like Taco Bell, MacDonnalds, Tony Romas. Don’t spend more than a little time at the casinos. Don’t eat pizza for dinner. Don’t spend more than a little time at your hotel pool. Don’t spend all your daytime time at the beach. Don’t have the highlight of your trip to Aruba be how much alcohol you consume. Don’t veg out reading all the time. Don’t sleep late in the morning unless it means you were out late the night before partying. And a particular pet peeve of mine: don’t walk the beach with ear buds blocking out the noise of the waves! (Listen to your music at home while you are bored commuting.) Don’t repeat activities if you have an opportunity to do new ones. If you go snorkeling 4 times in a week you’ll miss great picnics and climbing Hooiberg and going to Charlie’s Bar and taking the kids to the ostrich farm or the donkey sanctuary or the animal park. Don’t take the bus, because you have your rental car of course. (However if your circumstances are such that you must use Aruba’s bus system, you can get information on the busses at the following website: http://www.arubus.com/ )Even golf and tennis are activities that can be done at home. Let them add to your fun in Aruba rather than being the basis of your activities. So--there are too many other great things to do in Aruba to waste time repeating or doing what you do at home…you pizza lover you…
First time tourists often ask me if they should arrange to obtain a VisitAruba Plus card for discounts on shops and restaurants. My advice: don’t do it. For 2 reasons: 1) It restricts where you can go, especially to eat, because you tend to want to go to the restaurants that give you a discount on the card. You should go to any restaurant you want, not the ones supported by the card. 2) You forget the doggone thing and end up not using it. We used it for about 3 or 4 years but haven’t used it now for the last 10 or so and haven’t missed it.
I have to be frank: the shopping isn’t THAT great in Aruba. There are several areas to shop:
the mall in Oranjestad (just like US malls),
the Paseo Herencia mall across from the Holiday Inn in the high rise area (small, specialized boutique shops),
the local shops behind the Renaissance hotel in Oranjestad, along Main Street,
the stalls for souvenirs located along the water in Oranjestad near where the cruise ships dock, and
the many exclusive stores located in the hotels.
Also worth checking out are the stalls for local merchandise and souvenirs. They are located in the parking lots of stores along the shore of the road northwest of Oranjestad, located at K2 on your Borch map. There is now a colorful strip of stalls near the parking lot behind the bus station. And there are several slightly inland from the Valero gas station in Oranjestad. The best buys are men’s shirts (the nylon ones) and caftans for the ladies--very light and colorful.
The best things to buy in Aruba are from jewelry stores with products you don’t see in the states. However you must negotiate, or you will be paying much too much. You should negotiate too at the interesting shops at the high rise hotels. You can extend your period of negotiating over several days if you are staying at a hotel with an expensive shop. Walk out unsatisfied with their price and come back the next day to see if they will lower it.
There are many ATM’s, especially in hotels and casinos. Most, if not all, dispense US dollars. Fees are associated with cash disbursements from an ATM, but I’m sure you know that.
It bears repeating: many credit card companies are now tacking on a fee for purchases in foreign countries, up to 3%. So called “foreign transaction fees.” These fees do seem to get applied to purchases in Aruba, even though the amounts are entered in US dollars, not Aruban florins. Not all credit cards impose this, but many do. I call this to your attention so you aren’t surprised if this happens to you. You can call your credit card company to find out for sure. Certain Capital One cards and Discover cards do not have foreign transaction fees.
Back to shopping, grocery shopping this time. We stock our kitchen by going to the grocery store on the way from the airport to our timeshare. Although we almost never prepare dinner in our timeshare, we do buy wine, beer, soda, snacks, fruit, coffee, tea, milk, cheese, butter, water (for the bottles, right?), lemons, sugar, paper towels, juices, and stuff like that. We go to Ling & Sons and Super Food for most of our groceries. The stores are clean, and you can pay in dollars by credit card. Ling & Sons is located at (J2) on your Borch map, near the word “Madiki,” but it is a little difficult to find. It is better to ask someone for directions when you are ready to go than have me try to explain them in writing. Super Food is located at (H2) on the Borch map, at a light just inland from La Cabana. They have many items that come from Europe, especially Holland. Their baked goods are outstanding. We shop there for food to eat at our timeshare, but we also buy things at Super Foods to take home to the States.
Remember that the prices in the grocery stores are in Florins, 1.75 – 1.77 to the dollar. So a case of Balashi Beer (“Aruba’s Beer”) that is marked Afl. 41.50 is US$ 23.45. Snap it up! (However, some grocery stores now have prices marked in dollars as well. Be sure you know which is which.)
Well it seems that Aruba is beginning to celebrate another American tradition: Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when big discounts are offered by shopkeepers. The following short video explains this in Papiamento, but you can get the gist of it. Check it out by clicking HERE.
SPENDING TIME ON THE BEACH
The beach at the high rise hotel area is OK. But it is crowded and narrow. The best beach on Aruba is Eagle Beach. Very spacious, with nice sand. Go there for a nice picnic even though you don’t stay there. Beach walks are fun in the early morning too. ALL beaches in Aruba are public. No one can kick you off a beach, even one right in front of someone’s house. Of course you shouldn’t use someone else’s chairs or other equipment on a beach, but you can be on any beach itself, and stay there and sun yourself there, etc.
The picture above/left is of Palm Beach at the Marriott Surf Club (high rise area). Crowded, noisy, active. The next picture is of Eagle Beach at Costa Linda Beach Resort on the same day, 30 minutes later. Spacious, quiet, relaxed. That’s why we like it on Eagle Beach in the low rise area. Course we aren’t in our 20’s any more looking for “action.”
This bears repeating: the sun is very strong, and especially dangerous because the wind is always blowing, and that means you don’t FEEL the effect of the sun so much. I once knew of an elderly gentleman that I heard was going to Aruba on his own. Sure enough, I missed him at the fitness center for a couple of weeks. When I saw him again, I said to him, “I hear you went to Aruba for a couple of weeks. How did you like it?” He said, “It was the worst vacation I ever had in my life!” Jeez. “How come?” He said, “The first day I was there I fell asleep for an hour and a half on the beach before I put any sun screen on.” He had to go to the emergency room at the hospital for treatment. Don’t let this happen to you. Slather on sunscreen, and err on the side of too much, rather than too little.
Baby Beach (pictured above) is a nice place to snorkel and picnic. Unfortunately, it is at the other end of the island from the hotels and timeshares. However, if you have listened to me so far you have your map and rental car, so a 45 minute drive is no problem. Baby beach is in Seroe Colorado, located at (R13) on your map. The beach has very calm and very shallow water, ideal for small children. The snorkeling is great too—brightly colored fish in water you can almost stand in, right close to the reef. For even more variety you can swim out a bit from the lagoon itself, but don’t swim further out than your swimming skill level, certainly not out into the dark blue water without a buddy. Every few years there are tourist deaths at Baby Beach. Please be careful and don’t venture out too far.
In 2009 Aruba has put a lot of money into its beaches, including Baby Beach. There are 21 shade huts at Baby Beach now. There are 2 places to buy burgers and drinks and rent snorkel gear. See the picture of the guy in a blue bathing suit just above (my son)? About 400 yards to the right down the beach is a bar and a lunch place. Very nice lunches there. In late 2014 the Aruban government also upgraded the road which goes by Baby Beach. They put in nice sidewalks and provided a lot of nice parking. Things are looking up at Baby Beach! It’s a winner; go there and you will not be sorry. (Incidentally, when I lived in Aruba my house was just over the cliff above Baby Beach. I used to go for a swim at lunch time. Sigh…)
TOURING THE ISLAND IN YOUR RENTAL CAR
Now THIS is great stuff! This is the main reason you rented your car. However, let me say first and foremost: The MOST fun about touring by yourself is getting lost and subsequently finding your way. You will get lost MANY times if you drive around the island. Not to worry. Aruba is small enough that you are never really lost, just temporarily confused. So have a good time driving, check the Borch map, try this and that, get into trouble, and find your way again.
As I have said the road signs are terrible in Aruba. There aren’t very many, and those that are there aren’t consistent with the map. Don’t count on them. Just try to follow the map as best as you can. Get to recognize some landmarks: Mt. Hooiberg, the California Lighthouse, the power plant, the windmills, the refinery, etc. Remember, you are learning about Aruba’s roads, and this will stand you in good stead for your next trips. There are some roads you will begin to recognize too. The road from Oranjestad to San Nicholas. The road from Santa Cruz through traffic circles to the western part of the island. The road from the California Lighthouse to Oranjestad. Most roads connect to these. By the time you leave, you’ll be a pro.
I have several day trips to recommend to you. First, the Baby Beach Day Trip is as follows: Drive to Baby Beach in Seroe Colorado (R13). It takes about 45 minutes from the high rise area. Snorkel there, renting snorkel equipment from Big Mama Grill. Then drive around Seroe Colorado, checking out the houses there. (This was my hometown. Too bad about the run down houses now.) Then drive up to Colorado Point (R14), the high point you can see from Seroe Colorado. On a clear day you can see Venezuela; on a very clear day you can make out the sandy beaches in Venezuela. Walk on the path to the ocean straight ahead and to the left of where you park. Great view. Stop at Charlie’s Bar in San Nicholas (P11) on the way back. Ask directions from anyone. Once when we went there I stopped to ask a pedestrian where Charlie’s Bar was, and before I could utter a word, he said, “Charlie’s Bar? Straight then off to the right.” LOL It is an institution. Have a beer there (Balashi, of course, brewed in Aruba), but don’t get a meal there (too expensive for what you get).
The Hooiberg/Natural Bridge Day Trip is a great one. Drive to the Casiberi rock formation (J6) and walk around the little nature path there. Great for family pictures. Be sure to take the stairs to the top of the big rock there. Then drive to Mt. (LOL) Hooiberg (K6) and walk up the 586 steps to the top. Oh come ON, its not that bad. Great view from the top for pictures. It takes only about 45 minutes to walk up, and that’s with 2 stops to rest. Then drive from Santa Cruz (L7) to the Ayo rock formation (J7). Drive to the Ostrich Farm (H8), to the gold mine ruins (H7) and on to Natural Bridge (J9), (still a popular tourist location, despite its collapse in 2005). Great trip.
The Boca Grande Day Trip is nice also. There are many Subway shops in Aruba. We stop in and order a picnic lunch to go. We put it in our Styrofoam cooler bought in town and packed with ice from the hotel. Put in some sodas or beer and some sandwiches from Subway for a nice picnic lunch. Yes, I know this is a franchise found all over in the States, but it is convenient for a quick picnic lunch. Drive almost all the way to Seroe Colorado (R13), but turn left at the red anchor (by “Gate” at K13), not right. Boca Grande (P13) is a beautiful, usually deserted beach. Sit there on the sand and think about me surf casting there over 65 years ago. I was there! Then continue northwest up the coast to a place called “Rincon” on the map (O13). It’s a nice picturesque beach with some shells in the sand. Continue northwest to the Guadirikira Cave (N12). Check it out and also stop at Fontein Cave (M11) near Boca Prins (M12). There are guides at these caves. Stop at the sand dunes (M11) for your picnic lunch, and then get back via the road marked 7B/7A through Santa Cruz (L7). [Note: the type of construction of this road is a mystery to everyone. You have to go slow because of the numerous water runoffs, but it is much better than before it was paved. You’ll see what I mean.]
Many newcomers to Aruba do not reserve cars, but wish they had one for a day to do some island touring. They ask if there is a one day loop of the island. Well, there isn’t a convenient loop, but I can give you one anyway. You can arrange for a car rental for one day where you are staying. Most big hotels and timeshares have a car rental desk, and they will deliver a car right to your hotel if you arrange for it in advance. The best one day car tour of Aruba is the Boca Grande Day Trip (described above), with one addition: when you get to the red anchor, turn right, not left and tool around Seroe Colorado for 20 minutes, including going to Baby Beach. After you have seen Seroe Colorado, go back out the red anchor and continue straight (with the anchor on your right), and continue on with the Boca Grande Day Trip. This is a full day, and you will love it. This trip will give you confidence to rent a car and do the rest of the tours on your next (yes next) trip.
None of the above day trips require a 4 wheel drive vehicle. The Wild Side Day Trip does, however. On your first trip to Aruba I wouldn’t recommend it. However, if you are especially adventurous or experienced with rough roads you could try it. Drive almost all the way to the California Lighthouse (D2), but just before going up the hill to the lighthouse turn off to the left. Follow the “road” (LOL) down the coast in a southeast direction. You will eventually get to the Natural Bridge (J8). Have your picnic lunch at one of the many deserted shacks on the shore, for example at Boca Chikitu (G6). Backtrack to the Ayo rock formation (J7) and take the road down past the donkey sanctuary (K8), however the donkey sanctuary is no longer located there (although it is shown on the map). Continue past it and look for small signs to Natural Pool (K10). The actual trip to Natural Pool is a very difficult drive. It is not for everyone. We have been stuck several times, and it is a very difficult drive even with a 4x4. Natural Pool is worth it, though. The pool itself is protected by high rocks from the rough waves. Be careful not to cut yourself on the barnacles; they can be deceiving. I suggest water shoes or sacrificing a pair of sneakers. Oh, and take your camera; you’ll get good pictures. (I understand that there is a $10 per person fee for driving to Natural Pool.)
Other good places to check out by car are (in no particular order): Alto Vista Chapel (F5), California Lighthouse (D2), Crystal Mountain (northeast from traffic circle at J5), Mt. Jamanota (M9), Tunnel of Love and Huliba Caves (N12) if you like bats, the Donkey Sanctuary (M7) open (9:00 – 12:30 Monday thru Friday and 10:00 – 3:00 on weekends). This a great place for kids. Their website is: http://www.arubandonkey.org/.
Aruba has great snorkeling in several places. There are 2 ways to snorkel: 1) Go with a tour outfit that takes you to the snorkel locations by boat (they supply masks, snorkel tubes and fins at no extra charge), or 2) Drive to snorkel locations yourself and snorkel by entering the water from the shore. You have to provide your own equipment in this later case, either by bringing gear with you or buying or renting it in Aruba. Renting is only a good choice if you snorkel at Baby Beach because the rental outfit is close by. Baby Beach is a great place to snorkel, because it is very shallow, there are many brightly colored fish, and the current pushes you into the smooth, shallow lagoon, not out to sea.
A snorkel tip: you should test out your goggles and mask if possible in your hotel pool so you don’t get any surprises at snorkel locations where you can’t make corrections or adjustments easily. Remember to spit in your goggles then wash with sea water to prevent fogging. Yes, I know there is commercial stuff you can squirt in your goggles. But “One Man’s Opinion” says—spit!
The areas at which you can snorkel by driving to the water are: Baby Beach (R13) (picture at left), Mangel Halto (O7), Malmok (E2), and Boca Catalina (E2). It’s best if you first go with a tour and see if you like it. You can then determine if you want to invest in or rent gear to snorkel on your own. (By the way, I would keep one person near the car while the others are snorkeling. There have been reports of too many car break-ins near the popular snorkel spots.) I will recommend 3 snorkel tour outfits later.
Some of the snorkeling spots identified on the following website are a bit advanced. Try out the easier ones (above) first. http://www.shorediving.com/Earth/ABC/Aruba/index.htm
WEDDINGS AND VOW RENEWALS
Aruba is a romantic place [I married my high school sweetheart from Aruba, so I should know!], so there are many weddings there—many of them right on the beach. Whole wedding parties troupe down from “home” for weddings, and the bride and groom stay on for their honeymoon. Very nice. And wedding vow renewals are very popular too for anniversaries or for anytime. Because of this, a growth industry in Aruba is being a wedding planner. You can use your search engine to search for “wedding planners Aruba,” and you will find a whole host of them.
I have personal experience with one such planner: Fairy Tales Weddings with Indira Maduro, located (guess where) Costa Linda Beach Resort). Her website is http://www.ArubaFairyTales.com Her phone number from the States is 011-297-593-0045.
Another avenue to check out for weddings is: http://www.ceremoniesinaruba.com/ If their website is still “unavailable” check out their FaceBook page at: https://www.facebook.com/ceremoniesinaruba/?fref=ts
ACTIVITIES FOR TEEN AGERS
There are several wholesome activities that teen agers can participate in on Aruba. Moomba’s at Palm Beach near the Marriott is a gathering place for teens. It has a beach bar, food, air hockey, pool tables, beach toys, shops, cool lighting, live music and a DJ. Other activities that teen agers enjoy are dinner cruises, snorkeling, ATV excursions, bike rental, horseback riding, the donkey sanctuary, the ostrich farm, the Phillips animal park, the Arikok hike, Segway, JetLev (see below), and the Jolly Pirates trips. Teen age boys and girls will love the propeller driven devices provided by one of the snorkel outfits. See section “SNORKEL TRIPS” below.
OTHER ACTIVITIES ON YOUR OWN
There are many other things you can do in Aruba on your own. I will list some together with websites and you can check them out on the internet. I have tried an ATV rental with bad results, but I’ll try it again and hope for better. I haven’t rented bicycles in Aruba yet, but Tri Bike Aruba in Santa Cruz (L7) is a neat store and will deliver bicycles to your hotel for your day of biking. The Aloe factory (J3) tour is good, but don’t get there at the same time as a tour bus. Those tours are cut short and not worth the time. The Balashi Brewery (N6 but not identified on the map) tour is fun. You can have lunch after the tour right in their restaurant. The butterfly farm is mildly interesting, but not worth $12.00 per adult. $8.00 would be OK. Others have said that the butterfly farm is worth the price. You can return as many times as you want before you leave Aruba.
We attended the Archaeological Museum of Aruba, and it was VERY interesting. It was free, and just full of interesting stuff about the history of Aruba. And the museum was very well presented: displays were nicely done, well lit, and well documented. It is conveniently located in Oranjestad. I know you will enjoy it.
Another fun thing to do is go on a hike at the Arikok National Park. It is located at L9 on the Borch map. There is a well marked trail that you follow. It is in a loop, so you come back to where you started. You’ll see lots of lizards and birds and goats and cactus! Indian carvings too. Very nice scenery. The hike takes about 50 minutes if you go very slow, checking things out, taking pictures, etc. You have to pay $5.00 per adult to go past a gate, but it is well worth that small price.
Try a new activity; it’s called JETLEV. It is best described by the pictures. A jet of water is forced from a floating device into two jet streams which zap you up in the air. It is controlled by someone on the pier, not by the rider. Er…it is said when you finish the 45 minute ride you feel lighter…lighter by about $175. It really is a hoot! Check them out at their website: http://www.redsailaruba.com/en/activities/jetlev/index.html
The Ostrich Farm is a fun place for lunch—yes, they have ostrich burgers (I heard they are no longer serving them, though). They also have a Saturday and Sunday brunch. Their 30 minute tours are expensive, but you have to do it once. Reserve for brunch and get the tour at half price. That’s the way to do it. You can feed the birds. They go bazerk over the feed. Small kids (maybe 6-8 years old) can even ride the ostriches. I suggest going on a day with blue sky because taking pictures of these goofy birds is great, and they don’t look nearly as good with a grey sky background.
For tennis, check with the activities desk at your hotel for the nearest courts, and check the link below for tennis clinics.
The Donkey Sanctuary is a fun place to go, with or without kids. The sanctuary is located at [M7] on our map. It is free, but they hope for donations. I suggest going in the morning, as the donkeys often retire to a remote area in the afternoons. Pay attention to the staff’s guidance; some of the donkeys can get a little testy. But it is a great place—chickens running around, donkeys hee-hawing…you always leave with a smile on your face. The staff has apple slices to feed the donkeys. Er…watch your step, though… LOL
WHAT ABOUT SIDE TRIPS?
Many people ask about taking a side trip to nearby Curacao or Bonaire or Venezuela. I have a strong opinion about that: don’t! Oh I’m not saying you should never go to those places because Aruba is better. I AM saying that for your first visit to Aruba of a week or even 2 weeks you shouldn’t break up the Aruba-time with outside-time. You have to remember: you will be coming back to Aruba, so you don’t have to cram in a lot of stuff that is better to experience later, including side trips. If you only have 7 days for Aruba, and you plan to quickly visit Curacao, for example, it will take you a day and a half minimum to do that. That takes a big chunk of time away from your primary spot, AND you can’t do justice to Curacao in a day, never mind the travel time. It is better to see what you think about Aruba, and for one of your future trips there plan to start or end your trip with a side location of 2 or 3 days to minimize travel time.
Is Aruba better than these other locations? Well if your objective is to visit a spot as a tourist only once to experience it and enjoy it and move on to other places, well you will experience Aruba and enjoy it and move on. But that isn’t the way it usually happens (as I have been repeating throughout this booklet). If you are typical, you will LOVE Aruba and want to come back regularly. You will want to bring your family down; you will want to bring your friends down; you will want your grandchildren to come back year after year; you might even want to put down roots like a timeshare or even move here. OK, OK, I’m getting carried away. But the point here is: no side trips first visit. Promise me!
SIGHTS AND PLACES TO VISIT
ARUBA GOLF CLUB
Back in the day…there was only one golf course on the island, and it wasn’t at Tierra del Sol or Divi. Aruba’s first golf course was a couple of miles from where the windmills are now. 18 holes, but some are repeats. And sand greens! Yep, beach sand saturated with crude oil. How did you putt? The caddy would scrap a path from your ball to the hole with a squeegee device. The interesting thing is—the course is still there today and playable. It has a membership of about 35, and it has tournaments and social events. You should visit the course and check it out (closed on Mondays). One of the local rules: if your ball hits a goat it is still in play…the ball, that is. For more pictures click HERE. For directions click HERE.
A SPECIAL TIME—WHEN TURTLES HATCH
What an exciting time it is on Eagle Beach when one of the turtle nest hatches! The crowd gathers, the turtle protection people arrive, and the little turtles start digging their way out of the nest. Cautions are communicated, pictures are taken, and every last baby turtle makes it way to the water—with lots of applause for the last one. Look forward to being there in July one of these years when your grandchildren come out of school and the turtles come out of the sand.
BEAUTIFUL ARUBA SUNSETS
As you know the refinery in Aruba is no longer operating, but prospects for a re-opening are good with the announcement in 2016 that Citgo will take over the refinery. A reopening is good for the economy and good for sunset photography too. Why the later? Because as bad as air pollution is, it makes for beautiful sunsets like the one above. To check out other pictures during an incredible period in October, 2011--right in front of Costa Linda--click on: http://www.pbase.com/scsnapper/aruba2011octsunsets
HAVE YOU SEEN THE GREEN FLASH?
I’m sure you have heard of the green flash that is supposed to occur the instant the sun sets below the horizon when conditions are j u s t right. Some people think it is a myth. Nope, it really happens although it’s rare. It lasts for only a fraction of a second. I have caught several green flash pictures with my camera in Aruba. The picture above was taken right on Eagle Beach in front of Costa Linda. (Sorry for the…er…focus.)
Aruba houses are so neat and colorful. We went house hunting one day, driving all over the island. We discovered many attractive ones, and of course I had to take pictures of them. To see more click on the following link: http://www.pbase.com/scsnapper/aruba2011houses
THE CONTROVERSAL TROLLY
A lot of money has been spent on the trolley tracks and cars by the Aruban government to help the downtown Oranjestad area. We were in town during our October, 2013, trip and saw the double decker trolley in action. Nice looking and very popular. I hope it helps the stores along Main Street.
Downtown Oranjestad is looking much better now that the government has (almost) completed the expensive face lift. Main Street is a pedestrian street now if you don’t count the trolley. Let’s hope you all discover this area of Oranjestad, especially off the cruise ships. It is the “old” area before stores moved to the high rise area which has been modernized to look contemporary.
OTHER ACTIVITIES, SIGHTS, AND PLACES TO VISIT
ATV rental http://www.enjoyaruba.com/atv/index.htm
Bicycle Rental http://bikerentalaruba.com/
Aloe factory tour http://www.arubaaloe.com/
Balashi Brewery tour http://www.arubatourism.com/exploring/balashi.html
Butterfly Farm http://www.thebutterflyfarm.com/contact-us
Ostrich Farm http://www.arubaostrichfarm.com
Donkey Sanctuary http://www.arubandonkey.org/
Alcoholics Anonymous 583-8989
Of course there are the water sports activities that you can arrange right from the beach: boat rides, parasailing, jet ski rentals, etc. A lot of people enjoy those activities, and there are a lot of companies offering them. Check out one of the providers: http://www.arubawatersportcenter.com/
Another activity that is great fun is photography in Aruba. With the beautiful water and the sun and the beaches, the blue sky and puffy white clouds, cactus, coral, divi divi trees you can lose yourself on the island taking pictures all day long. Check out my own pictures at: http://www.pbase.com/scsnapper/aruba Oh, I love taking pictures of pelicans. I swear they recognize me by sight each time I go back, and they perform--just for me!
Great fun! This is a must. I have gone on snorkel tours with 3 outfits: The Jolly Pirates, Tranquillo and Aruba Bob. All were outstanding. You have to devote most of a day to these excursions, but they are a blast. The Jolly Pirates take you snorkeling to a sunken wreck and then to spots near shore. They have an open bar and a nice lunch too. They have a rope swing for customers, and the staff shows off on the swing too. You get good pictures. Captain Anthony of the Tranquillo takes you to two super snorkeling spots and is famous for his home made Dutch pea soup. Aruba Bob provides a propeller device to guide you through the water. GREAT fun! All provide masks and snorkels and fins. You can’t go wrong with any of them. Make reservations on their websites before you leave home.
Free snorkel tips: To prevent fogging in your goggles when snorkeling, I suggested rubbing in saliva and rinsing in sea water. But there are better ways to prevent fogging: 1) Rub a raw potato on the inside of your goggles and rinse, or 2) buy a product, called sea gold, from www.mcnett.com Click on “Dive Products.” Their anti-fog gel is very good. (But as I said earlier, I am old fashioned: spitooey!) Also, if you can do it: test out your mask/snorkel fit in the pool at your hotel. Make changes there, rather than not being able to make adjustments while you are actually on a trip.
Jolly Pirates http://www.jolly-pirates.com/
Aruba Bob http://www.arubabobsnorkeling.com/
This is another super action packed day of kayaking and snorkeling and having lunch. The kayak people pick you up at your hotel, transport you to their kayaks, give you a brief lesson on kayak control, and you are quickly in the water with experienced guides. There are 2 tours. Each involves kayaking and snorkeling and lunch. I have done this tour four times and recommended it to friends and relatives. Everyone enjoyed it very much.
Kayak trip: http://www.arubawavedancer.com/arubakayak/
The cheapest and best way to play golf is to sign up for the Wednesday and Friday Golf Tournament at the Divi Golf club. About $75.00 per person, best ball net. They provide clubs, golf shoes, a sleeve of balls, and 9 holes of golf plus drinks. The course is nice. Easy to find. Call to reserve, 581-GOLF. The 18 hole golf course at Tierra del Sol is a nice one, but more expensive. Tierra del Sol also has a tournament every Friday afternoon. Currently the price is $89 for the round, cart, prizes and 3 Balashi beers (about half of their usual green fees). You can use www.teeoff.com to make reservations.
Tierra del Sol http://www.tierradelsol.com/
A REGRETFUL NOTE
Those of you reading this e-booklet previous to June 15, 2015, might have seen a recommendation for an "outing with Madi." Unfortunately, I no longer recommend Madi for tours on the island.
OTHER ORGANIZED DAY ACTIVITIES
I have not taken any tours with the outfits below, but I offer them for your information. I suggest you ask the bulletin board posters about their experiences before booking with them.
Aruba tours http://www.abc-aruba.com/
Horseback riding http://www.aruba.com/things-to-do/horseback-riding
Deep sea fishing http://www.fishingonaruba.com/
Scuba diving http://www.divearuba.com/
GREAT PLACE FOR FAMILY PICTURES
We had all 10 of us in the Smith family at Costa Linda in 2013; what a wonderful 2 weeks! We found a great place for family pictures—right across from Talk of the Town in Oranjestad. The colorful Aruba sign is a great backdrop for family pictures. PS—it is practically deserted on Sunday mornings.
ANOTHER GREAT PLACE FOR FAMILY PICTURES
The Casibari rock formation provides a wonderful backdrop for family pictures. As you inter the gate to the rocks turn right immediately. That puts you on a little trail which gives you great backgrounds for family pictures—rocks, cacti, and trees—eventually leading up to stairs to the top of the rocks which gives you the surrounding miles as background. Your children will want to climb up on the rocks for pictures. Great photo ops! There is a nice barbeque restaurant right there at the rocks too, and a small souvenir shop.
The Casibari rocks are found at J5 on the Borch map. There are signs for it on the 4B/4A road.
PARASAILING IN ARUBA
You have seen the big high parachutes drawn behind a power boat almost every day at the high rise area. Well in 2013 our grandchildren tried it, and of course I had to go along in the boat to take pictures. Great fun! And not dangerous at all. I can tell you first hand: the grandchildren will love it (and so will YOU)!
SNORKELING WITH CAPTAIN ANTHONY
We have been with Captain Anthony on his sailing vessel the Tranquilo about 4 or 5 times now. He starts from the Oranjestad harbor about 9:45am and sails east toward the airport stopping at Spanish Lagoon. He has you snorkel in the shallow water outside the barrier reef before lunch (including his famous Dutch pea soup), and then conducts a drift snorkel in the deeper water off his dingy. Consider him an alternative to Jolly Pirates and Mi Dushi; are all great fun.
A GREAT SNORKEL ACTIVITY, ESPECIALLY FOR TEEN AGERS
This is a snorkel activity, but wait—there is a twist: you use a propeller-driven device to pull you through the water. Great fun! The device is not heavy (it floats). You hang onto it with both hands, and it drags you through the water. No need to use your arms or legs to swim. It is very easy to operate; you control your speed with your thumbs; and you don’t get tired. Just point it where you want to go (including “down”) and that’s where it takes you. To check out a video click HERE.
Aruba Bob or his sidekick, Stuart, goes with you on your snorkel run. You float with the current and end up at Mangel Halto. I highly recommend this unique snorkel trip. Lots to see, very safe, and reasonably priced. Your grandchildren will love it! (And Bob will even pick you up at Costa Linda.) For Aruba Bob’s website click HERE.
ANOTHER GREAT ACTIVITY—SEABOB!
Ever picture yourself bobbing along underwater at high speeds like a dolphin? Now you can act out your fantasy next trip to Aruba; Seabob Aruba will see to it. You start at Malmok Beach for your instruction. Then a guide leads you to Boca Catalina and Arashi Beach. You can power up to 9 miles per hour underwater. Two hours of great fun. One reviewer writes, “Just one word: Amazing! This was by far the coolest thing I did on Aruba. Thnx for this unforgettable experience.” Kids or grandkids over 12 years old will try it; how ‘bout you? To go to the Aruba Seabob website click HERE.
ANOTHER SNORKEL ALTERNATIVE—DRIVE, PARK AND SNORKEL OFF SHORE
There are 4 places in Aruba you can get to by car to snorkel: Catalina Cove, Malmok, Baby Beach, and Mangel Halto. No tours involved, no fees (but no open bar or lunch, either). Just drive there and wade in. My advice: 1) Check out your mask for leakage at your pool before leaving, and 2) Don’t forget to spit in your goggles to prevent fogging.
An alternative to deep sea fishing in Aruba is Bottom fishing. You go out only a mile or so from shore, anchor, and fish off the bottom. When you feel your weighted hook hit bottom you bring it up a couple of feet and fish on from there. It is NOT deep sea fishing, so it isn’t rough. We have gone 7 or 8 times with John and Marcela (local telephone 586-5026). They go out at about 8:30 or so and return at about 2:00. Reasonable prices, and lunch is included. For more pictures click on the following link: http://www.pbase.com/scsnapper/arubajan2013bot
A GREAT ACTIVITY—THE SEGWAY TOUR
In January, 2014, we went on a Segway outing. Segway—you know those strange looking contraptions that you stand on and ride around on. Great fun! You will enjoy the 2 hour guided tour from the high rises up to the lighthouse and back. I know what you are thinking as you look at the pictures: “I will probably fall off the doggone thing.” You won’t. You get some practice in the parking lot before starting out with the guide, and after 10 minutes you are full of confidence. This is a wonderful family activity. I know you will enjoy it. To see the Segway website click HERE.
GREAT FAMILY FUN—THE ARIKOK HIKE
Like goats, cactus, Indian carvings, great scenery, and a little exercise? Then try the leisurely 50 minute walk starting from the Arikok Visitor Center. The walk is a loop, finishing where you started. Guaranteed to have grandchildren expend lots of energy. My advice? Take water. Check out the Arikok complex by clicking on: http://www.arubanationalpark.org/
PHILLIPS ANIMAL GARDEN
Philip’s Animal Garden is a lot of fun to visit…for the grandchildren and for yourselves. It has a variety of animals—an ocelot, an emu, and camels, goats, kangaroos, snakes, ponies, tortoises, a lot of birds, and alas: skunks. Most are rescue animals that they have obtained from all over the world. They ask for a $10 donation from adults which gets you a packet of animal food. They have a guided tour. This is another interesting place to take children and guests. Add it to your list which I know already contains the Donkey Sanctuary and the Ostrich Farm. Great fun. For more pictures click HERE. For directions click HERE then scroll down. It is located somewhere in G4. For their website click HERE.
MODEL TRAIN MUSEUM
The model train museum is at the other end of the island from the tourist spots. It is on the way to Baby Beach, at location Q13 on your Borch map. Our family spent an interesting 45 minutes looking through the museum under the guidance if its Director, Mr. De Vries. He was a great host, full of stories about trains and the early days of the refinery in Aruba. I recommend a visit. You MUST call first to see when it is open. The local number is 584-7321. For more pictures click HERE. Oh, you can see the original lens from the California lighthouse on display too. Great story about how Mr. De Vries acquired it.
This landscaping business is a great place to visit. To me, it is more like a botanical garden with no entry charge than a landscaping outlet. A visit to Fantastic Gardens is an activity unto itself. It is huge, and contains flowers after flowers nicely presented for sale. Not that you would buy flowers to take home, but just go and look, and you will spend a pleasant 45 minutes taking it all in. Maybe you’ll get some ideas for your own garden for when you get back home. For more pictures click HERE. For their website click here: www.fantasticgardensaruba.com
GLASS ART FOR ADULTS—TERRAFUSE!
Terrafuse is a glass-oriented artist’s dream! It has been open for sales and hands-on workshops for years, but I have just discovered it in 2015. It is the home of Ciro Abath, renowned Aruban artist, and his wife Marian. He creates all sorts of famous art objects displayed all over Aruba; she is a talented artist in her own right and a very patient teacher. Their back yard is amass with art objectives. My wife, daughter and granddaughter participated in a workshop on glass bead making—3 hours of instruction and hands on practice. It was the highlight of our daughter’s 16 day stay in Aruba.
The pictures describe the workshop and artistic atmosphere better than words do. Click HERE to see more pictures. Your family and guests will love the workshop. I urge you to check out Terrafuse and sign up for a workshop. Call early (592-2978) in your stay; classes are not held frequently, and sometimes they are full. It is instructive, fun, and a unique way to enjoy yourself in Aruba. For directions click HERE. For the Terrafuse website click HERE.
TYPICAL DAY IN ARUBA
The way we like to organize our days in Aruba is to get up early, walk the beach for an hour or so at dawn, make a towel run and a free daily newspaper run, then I do my 25 minutes of exercise walk, then return to our timeshare unit to have coffee and a quick breakfast and think about what to do that day. We then get an early start, about 9:15 or so, and we sometimes hit the nearest Subway for sandwiches to pack in our cooler right next to the Balashi beer and water. Then we head “out” on our day trips to Baby Beach or wherever. We then do whatever we have planned for the day, returning about 2:00 – 3:00 to our timeshare. We then relax for the rest of the afternoon at our pool, on the beach, or on our patio. We then have some wine in the late afternoon, hang around the beach for some sunset photographs, and head out to a restaurant. Life is good. What a day! They are all the same, yet they are all different. And now for the best part: the restaurants. Yum!
So our meals in Aruba are generally as follows: breakfast in our timeshare, picnic lunch at a beach or wherever we happen to be at lunch time, and dinner at one of Aruba’s fine restaurants. Truly, Aruba has world class resort restaurants. I don’t know which is more fun: returning to a proven winner restaurant or trying a new one. Of course we have done both over the years. We have been to well over 140 restaurants since 2004, and we love MANY of them.
Many of you email me to ask about sports bars. Here is a list of some of them in no particular order:
Carlito's Sports Bar at Playa Linda Beach Resort
Champion's Sports Bar at Ocean Club
Buster's Garage at the Tropicana resort
JC's Sports Bar Palm Beach Rd Noord
Gilligans Beach Bar & Grill at the Hilton
Champions Sports Bar at the Marriott's Aruba Ocean Club
Hooters on Palm Beach
Cleos at the Alhambra Casino
All restaurants are casual in Aruba. Men don’t need a jacket in any that I have been to, not even the Ritz Carlton. Even sandals are acceptable (but not flip flops). Good looking shorts are usually fine. But hey—dress up a little for the better restaurants. Bring up the level, don’t lower it.
Locating restaurants in Aruba can be difficult. Some of the best ones are out of the way. We have found that the best way to locate them is to drive around during the DAY and locate the restaurant when time isn’t so important. You can be late for your reservations if you are looking for some of these inland restaurants in the dark. Aren’t you glad you rented a car rather than adding $30 to your dinner bill by taking taxis to and from the restaurants? Glad you are doing it “my way.” LOL Speaking of my way, directions are included for the 100 restaurants referenced in my “Aruba Restaurant Guide.”
Yes, I have written a companion document to this one, entitled, “Aruba Restaurant Guide, One Man’s Opinion of 100 Aruba Restaurants.” It is also free and online, and I recommend it. It gives an in depth review of good restaurants in Aruba: a description of each restaurant, its good points and bad points, recommended dishes, their website, their menus, their phone numbers, what days of the week they are closed, whether or not they have a service charge and more.
I have grouped the restaurant into 5 groups as you can see from the index below. Within each group the restaurants are listed in alphabetic order. They are not ranked within the groups in order of preference.
To get to my “Aruba Restaurant Guide, One Man’s Opinion of 100 Aruba Restaurants,” click on the following link: http://www.arubakid.com/index.htm then scroll down and click where indicated.
The following is the index of that document. You should know though, that if you click on any of the blue underlined links below it will take you right to my website inside the Aruba Restaurant Guide document. You will no longer be in “How to Enjoy Aruba…” This can be confusing unless you know what is happening.
EXCELLENT! WORLD CLASS
TO READ THE REVIEW FOR A RESTAURANT CLICK ON ITS NAME
STRONG FAVORITES—GO BACK EVERY TRIP
TO READ THE REVIEW FOR A RESTAURANT CLICK ON ITS NAME
FAVORITES—ENJOY GOING BACK
TO READ THE REVIEW FOR A RESTAURANT CLICK ON ITS NAME
TO READ THE REVIEW FOR A RESTAURANT CLICK ON ITS NAME
NOT UP TO THE COMPETITION
I don’t think it is productive for you, the reader, if I review the qualities (mostly negative) of the restaurants below. As I indicated above: we had a very bad meal at some; we had a bad experience with some (for example food poisoning); some are so overpriced they should be avoided. So I am calling on a principle I learned at age 5 from Thumper the rabbit in the movie “Bambi:” “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
LA PLAYA TORCHLIGHT DINNER
TEXAS DE BRAZIL
THE NEW WEI TAI
SUNDAY BRUNCH RESTAURANTS
COCKTAILS IN ARUBA
You know I wouldn’t want you to go to Aruba and do exclusively one thing—like stay at the beach all day every day, or play golf every day, or be at your hotel pool all day, OR drink alcohol all day all night. But in case you are looking forward to some classicly Aruba and Caribbean cocktails, let me suggest the following website: http://www.visitaruba.com/aruba-cocktail-recipes/aruba-cocktail-recipes-cocktails/ Many of these 40 or so cocktails were invented in Aruba. Check them out and enjoy…but leave time for other things too…
Well, I don’t have much experience with night life on Aruba. We usually eat dinner and return home, play cards or read and go to bed early (in order to get up early to walk the beach at sunup).
Of course you can go to the casinos at night.
If you want to relive your wilder days I can suggest the following for the young at heart:
Senor Frog for drinks, dinner and pickup. It is in the high rise area. Walk around; you can’t miss it. Lots of stuff going on.
Kukoo Kunuku. Dinner and Barhopping tour. Call 586-2010 $65 per person. They pick you up at your resort or hotel at 6:00pm, and you go bar hopping across the island. First drink in every bar is “free.” They deliver you home at midnight…or so. You are all on a big multi colored bus, and make a lot of noise going from one bar to the other. Everybody waves at you when you go by. For the young and restless it is a blast. Discount coupons in the Little Switzerland bag at the airport. Their website is: http://www.kukookunuku.com/
Moombas restaurant is in the middle of a lot of young people activity. It is on the beach in the high rises. Food isn’t great, but you can meet people and enjoy yourselves. Check them out at http://www.moombabeach.com/
I know I have told you how to enjoy yourself in Aruba—rent a car, buy a map, get a cell phone, tour the island, go on picnics, and take advantage of what Aruba has to offer in the areas of activities, restaurants, entertainment, and culture. I stand on that approach for a wonderful vacation. However, I do know that many people who go to Aruba do it with a minimum of funds, and they want to know how to enjoy the island when they have a tight budget. OK, I understand that, so let me tell you how to enjoy Aruba without spending a lot of money. The thing I would have you keep in mind if you don’t want to spend a lot is that you are just whetting your appetite on this trip. You are doing a combination of 2 things—enjoying Aruba now, and planning for your next trip later. So go ahead, go on the cheap this time if you must, but plan to save more for your next trip.
The first thing to save on is: don’t rent a car. That means you don’t buy a map and you don’t have to rent a phone. That’s quite a lot of savings right there. Arrange for airfare and hotel accommodations through one of those websites like Travelocity that can get you good deals. That saves a bundle too. You could also save a little money by getting a shuttle to your hotel, but I would still recommend taking a taxi because you don’t want to be confused waiting for a shuttle the instant you land in Aruba. So for peace of mind, take a taxi to your hotel. Make arrangements for a shuttle to the airport when you are returning.
Even on a shoestring, you don’t want to be “stuck” at your hotel all the time. So I would recommend getting familiar with the bus system in Aruba. It is very inexpensive to take busses. You can go to and from the shopping area in Oranjestad by bus, and depending on what you want you can go to many places by bus. I would recommend buying groceries if you have a kitchen in your hotel or timeshare; that will save on restaurants. However there probably are many restaurants within walking distance of wherever you are staying. Check with the concierge for those close ones that are inexpensive.
Of course you will stay away from the casinos, and you won’t drink much. Those are givens. You should go on one island tour. It is an expensive day, but you have to establish expectations for your next trip to Aruba, so taking a tour will show you what the rest of the island is like so you can dream about it before your next trip.
Not spending much money probably means you will be staying at your hotel more than I would like you to, but that’s OK. There are great beaches and pools for your relaxation and enjoyment. Be beach bums for a week; that is not all bad, and it doesn’t cost much money. Change your daily routine: get up early, go to bed early. Take beach walks early. It is a different lifestyle, and it is not at all bad! Walk, take hikes, take pictures with your cell phone. Good fun and very inexpensive.
There are many activities in Aruba for children. All the tours I document above are great with kids. They love the pools, the ocean, and yes, you can take them to MacDonalds because that’s one of their favorites. Maybe even pizza if they promise to be good. They will love climbing Hooiberg. They will love the rough 4x4 rides and getting stuck in the sand. You can take them bottom fishing. You can fish off shore (just bring some line, hooks, and a couple of sturdy balloons and buy some shrimp for bait). You can hike with them and look for shells with them. Take them snorkeling with the Jolly Pirates or Captain Anthony. Take them to the Ostrich farm and the donkey sanctuary and the butterfly farm. Or play tennis with them. There are a lot of activities for children during the Carnival season, January and February.
There is a small animal park in Aruba. We went there, and it is delightful. They do charge you to enter ($10 for adults), but that is for the care of the animals. It is a private “zoo,” and they do have expenses. Anyway, there are a lot of goats and birds, and other very interesting animals. It takes you, oh about an hour to go through slowly and see the animals and feed them. There is a guide which takes you on a tour and explains things. It is a fun outing.
Speaking of MacDonalds and children and restaurants--one bit of feedback from a reader of this e-booklet suggested something that worked for her: going to MacDonalds for a takeout meal for the kids then taking it to your restaurant of choice and having the kids there with you eating their Big Macs while you dine yourself. Well, its American franchise…but…I’ll allow it! LOL
There are a few restaurants especially appropriate for kids: The Buccaneer (with one wall of fish tanks with a lot of fish), Marina Pirata (which is on a pier with lights into the water so you can see and feed the fish), Barefoot Aruba (which is right on the beach so kids can run around in the sand a little), the ostrich farm for lunch, and Zeerovers (which is on a pier where the fishing boats are and where there is a lot going on).
And if you want to escape at night you can arrange for a babysitter with your hotel front desk.
Many people are introduced to Aruba by going on a cruise that stops in Aruba. Alas, it usually is only for one day or less. People have emailed me asking me what to do if they find themselves in Aruba from 8:00am to 6:00pm on a single day. My answer is to visit the 3 main places where you could stay when you return to Aruba. And here is how to do it:
1) Walk around Oranjestad. Walk off the cruise ship and around the only large town in Aruba. There is now a trolley that goes right from the cruise ship area into town. It is free for now. See the picture below. There are many shops to check out. Look at the Rennaisance Hotel to see how you like it. Walk around the harbor and the malls to get a flavor as to what it would be like to stay in Oranjestad. Spend maybe 90 minutes doing this.
2) Walk Eagle Beach. Take a taxi to the Casa del Mar timeshare. It does not cost much. It is on Eagle Beach. March through the resort right out to the beach, take off your shoes, turn right at the ocean, and walk the length of Eagle Beach. Walk slowly up the beach all the way until there is no more sand. You will find yourself at Amsterdam Manor about 60 minutes after you started. Meanwhile you will have seen many timeshares in the “low rise” area of Aruba.
3) Walk around the “high rise” area: Take a taxi from Amsterdam Manor to the Holiday Inn. Spend the rest of your time walking around the popular high rise area checking out the hotels, shops, and restaurants. Have a late lunch in one of the restaurants that appeals to you. Then take a taxi back to your cruise ship.
By following the outline above you will have checked out the 3 general areas where you might stay when you come back to Aruba by plane: Oranjestad, the low rise area and Eagle Beach, and the high rise area of hotels and touristy things. You then can make a decision about where to stay when you come back. A simple and inexpensive way to see Aruba and plan.
I recognize this is unusual advice and probably not popular. This is NOT what your fellow passengers will be doing all day. They will take tours and go shopping and go swimming and rent a car for the day. You can do those things on other cruise stops. You can do those things in Aruba when you come back. Meanwhile you will know where to come back to and be better prepared to make the return trip.
What? Rainy days in Aruba? But you told me… Yes, it’s true that one of Aruba’s best attributes is the weather. And it’s true that although there are local showers occasionally but not many out and out rainy days. However, bad weather in other places sometimes affects the weather in Aruba. So it is always good to have a Plan B, especially with children. Here is a quick list of activities that can be part of Plan B:
Board games (bring some)
Day tours by car
Visit the gym
Visit the casino
Go to a sports bar
Research other hotels and timeshares for future trips
Attend quickly organized games at your hotel or timeshare like bingo, etc.
(Well, it is last on the list…)
Alas, it is time to go home. Never mind—I know you will decide to come back. An important thing for getaway day: don’t forget to return your cell phone.
Flying home and want to know how crowded the airport will be? Picking up someone at the airport and want to know if their flight is on time? A good place to find out the answers to these questions is the Aruba International Airport official website. Just click on: http://www.airportaruba.com/ Then mouse over “Flight Information” and click on “Live Departure Times” or “Live Arrival Times.” The website contains a lot more useful information also. Check it out.
Get to the airport three hours earlier than your flight leaves. As you drive into the airport follow signs to Departures and drop off your luggage with those that came with you. Circle all the way around the airport again and follow the signs to Rental Car Return. Be sure not to get into the Parking lane. It is a little difficult getting OUT of the airport parking lot. (You have to go inside the airport and pay in a machine and then come out and exit.) Then join the others waiting in line with your luggage.
The Aruba airlines in the airport are very picky about the weight of bags. Many times we are in the airport we see people opening their luggage and switching stuff from one bag to another. In June, 2008, our daughter had one suitcase that weighed 51 pounds and one that weighed 48. They (Jet Blue) made her move one pound of clothes from the heavy suitcase to the other. Why? I have no idea. Stupid, if you ask me. So be careful when you are packing at home in the States before you leave for Aruba that your luggage isn’t too heavy (ie. more than 50 pounds). Remember you probably won’t have a scale in Aruba to use to balance out your suitcases. (But I do recommend buying a scale from the travel websites (e.g. Magellens) and using it to be sure you are under 50 lbs. going home.)
Aruba has a complicated check-in process, because US customs is done in Aruba, not in the US. US security is done in Aruba, not in the US. So this is the process:
1) Check your luggage with your airline and get your boarding pass. Your checked luggage is taken by the airline, as usual.
2) Go outside the building to the left where your boarding pass, passport and the bottom part of your immigration card are checked (unless you completed one online).
3) Go inside the next building where the same things are checked (yes, again) and where your immigration card is taken (unless you completed one online).
4) Go through Aruba security (placing your stuff on the X-ray machine roller, etc).
5) RECLAIM YOUR CHECKED LUGGAGE at a carrousel. (Yup, you pick up your luggage after checking it with the airline.) Now go through US customs with all your luggage and carry-ons. You stick your passport in a machine; it takes your picture; it spits out a customs card; you then go through the snake dance line and hand your customs card to a US customs officer; and you are on your way (unless you have something to declare or if the machine didn’t like something about you or your passport).
6) Deposit your luggage on another roller. You are now done with it in Aruba.
7) Go through US security (placing your stuff on the X-ray machine roller, etc.) That’s correct--through another security line.
8) Go to your gate and wait for your plane.
It all seems a bit overwhelming at the time, but remember you are going through Aruban security, US security and US customs. When you get to your destination in the States, you will have no customs or security to contend with. It will be just like a domestic flight: claim your baggage and exit the airport.
LOST PASSPORT? I had my passport stolen several years ago in Spain. This prompted me to ask the US Customs officer upon exiting Aruba on my next trip: “What if I lost my passport in Aruba?” I pass his answer along to you, but take no responsibility for the accuracy of it. He said that you could present yourself to a US Customs agent (like himself), and explain your predicament. He would then look up your data in the US database, and if all checked out, he would give you a pass to exit the airport. You would not have to go to Curacao or Venezuela or Colombia to a US office or embassy in order to get home. What I did not ask him (but I will the next opportunity I get) is how do I get through the airport to arrive at the US customs location in the airport. But anyway, I just pass along what I do know. Hopefully you will never need this information.
The following are some websites that you might find useful:
Aruba airport: http://www.airportaruba.com/
Aruba time & weather http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/city.html?n=689
Birds of Aruba http://www.arubabirds.com/
Aruba Tourist Information http://www.arubabound.com/packing/firsttime.htm#dining
I hope you have a wonderful time in Aruba! Remember to do the things I have suggested before you leave home: make your rental car reservation, order your map, and make your cell phone arrangements.
I would love to hear from you, either before you leave with questions or after you get back with your experiences. Of course I would like to know if this booklet has been helpful. Email me at: ArubaSmith@Yahoo.com
I hope you have been on the Aruba Bulletin Board with questions too. And when you come back you can get on the bulletin board and help ANSWER questions that the next freshman class of newbies will have.
Aruba is a great place. More and more people are finding that out. I hope you will be one of them…er…one of US!
Masha Danki (Thank you very much), and Bon Voyage!
Aruba Restaurant Guide, One Man’s Opinion of 100 Aruba Restaurants:
Current listings of my units for rent at Costa Linda Beach Resort:
Some interesting videos about Aruba:
Some of Aruba Webcams:
PREPARING FOR YOUR NEXT TRIPS
I TOLD you you would be back to Aruba many times. And now it is happening, just like I said. You are preparing to go on your second, third (who is counting?) trip to Aruba. Well, you should prepare for these trips a bit differently. You have no doubt settled into some Aruba “traditions,” things that you look forward to doing each trip: a favorite restaurant and waiter, your best snorkeling place, your favorite beach, a fun trip, etc. And that’s good. But its time to branch out and do some new things. Things that maybe pull you away from your hotel to some different activities. The following are some things that you should add to your list of things you enjoy in Aruba:
New places to stay: If you are hopelessly hooked on Aruba and know you will be returning often, you should arrange for the nicest accommodations at the cheapest price. In my opinion, this means TIMESHARE! Yes, staying at a timeshare is like buying a house instead of renting an apartment. It is a much thriftier way of paying for an abode in the long term. You might arrange to rent a timeshare for a visit or two to see which timeshare you like best. (We like Costa Linda Beach Resort.) For a 2 bedroom unit you might have to spend $700 - $900 a year maintenance fees for a one week unit. You can sleep 2 or 3 couples in that unit, costing about $50 - $60 a night per couple. MMmmmmm! Yes, you have to come up with $7,000 - $15,000 purchase price, but you can get that back when you sell it. Check it out. We did in 2004, and we are still buying units today.
More adventurous activities: Rent that 4x4 and do the wild side tour and go to natural pool. Rent bicycles, rent ATVs. Go snorkeling at new places. Go bottom fishing. Go deep sea fishing. You will be expanding your Aruba activities slate and enjoying these activities as you add to your list of favorites. Go on the tour of the aloe factory and the Balashi beer brewery; visit the caves when you tour around; go on the Arikok hike; walk around Crystal Mountain. No, these aren’t things the first time visitors would do, because there are easier activities to do close at hand. But you should do them after a trip or two. Venture further away from your hotel. Go to San Nicholas to Charlie’s Bar. Go to Seroe Colorado and Baby Beach and Rogers Beach. Go to the Flying Fishbone and Zeerover restaurants. Get out and away. You will round out your Aruba experience and enjoy it as you do so.
Bring visitors: Now you’re cooking! Bring your friends and relatives to Aruba with you! YOU will be the expert, and your visitors will look up to YOU for advice and suggestions. Plan day trips, tours, dinners. Your friends will love you for it, and you will feel a sense of satisfaction for bringing them into the relaxed Aruban atmosphere. Get on the Aruban bulletin boards and offer up your experiences to the new visitors at that time.
Storing stuff: When you really become an Aruba junkie and know you are coming back once or twice or more to the island you will find yourself taking the same heavy items with you in your luggage. Things like: snorkel gear, beach chairs, kitchen articles, sandals, fishing equipment, beach toys, soap powder, tools, tennis gear, the last bottle of wine you didn’t get around to, cards & games, reef book, etc. Why take these things with you and have to take them home each trip. There is a fine outfit called Timeshare Storage which stores your stuff in large canisters. You email them before you arrive and they bring the canisters right to your hotel or timeshare. And they pick them up as you leave. Reasonably priced. Contact them by emailing them at email@example.com I highly recommend them.
To repeat: I would love to hear how you liked Aruba and how this booklet may have helped you. Email me at: ArubaSmith@Yahoo.com
What follows is lesson one in your use of Papiamento, the local language of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao (the ABC Islands). If you want more details check out the website: http://www.papiamento.com/
English Papiamento English Papiamento
Thank you danki Thank you very much masha danki
Good afternoon bon tardi Good evening bon nochi
Yes si Good day Bon dia
No no I am fine mi ta bon
How are you? Kon ta bai? What time is it? kuantor tin?
Very good masha bon Welcome bon bini
Please por fabor See you later te awero
Food kuminda Cheese keshi
Money sen Kiss sunchi
Hot kajente Boy mucha homber
Big grandi Girl mucha muher
Cold friew I love you mi ta stimabo
Beer serbes I’m hungry mi tin hamber
Party fiesta Sweetheart dushi
Small chikito I am happy mi ta kontentu
Sun solo Love amor
Fat gordo Beautiful bunita
Wine bina I love Aruba mi stima Aruba
To Pack Or Not To Pack
The following are important reminders regarding baggage and packing. Don’t forget that on your RETURN, all airlines leaving Aruba will make sure you do not exceed your 50 pound limit per bag. They will make you switch items from a heavy bag to a light bag, and they will charge you if you are overweight.
When you leave for Aruba, don’t forget your map. Don’t forget your email confirmation of your car rental and your cell phone. Don’t forget your driver’s license. And don’t forget: you now need a passport to travel to Aruba from the States. In addition, the following are some other suggestions for things to bring:
Outfits: Aruba is very informal. Too informal, if you ask me. I don’t like to see tourists dressed like bums. That brings Aruba down. That said, Aruba is still informal. Many first time visitors to Aruba pack too much, especially women who pack too many evening outfits. If your accommodations are on the beach you literally live in your bathing suits (or shorts and a T shirt) from morning to evening. Men wear bathing suits and T shirts. Women wear bathing suits (or shorts and a collar shirt or T shirt). That leaves evening wear. To dinner men wear shorts, a cotton collared shirt and sandals (not flip flops). Women should mix and match shorts and slacks with shirts. Yes, you should take a nice outfit for going to the upscale restaurants, but not many.
All hotels and timeshares have laundry facilities. There are outside laundries too. If you pack too little you can always wash.
Laptop: Some people can’t be without their internet access (me). Others want no part of “normal life” while in Paradise. There is an inexpensive internet café located in the lobby of the Renaissance Hotel in Oranjestad. It is near where the boat docks there in the lobby. You can check for emails, etc. Wireless internet service is available in some form in most hotels on the island. Lobby computers can be free or available at a small charge. You can purchase internet access for your wireless configured laptop; this costs about $35.00 per week. Bring laptops in your carryon, though, NOT in your checked luggage (for security reasons and to guard against damage). A laptop tip: Burn a CD at home with all your Bookmarks on it. You can take it to Aruba and use it on your laptop or even on an internet café PC. In this way you have readily available all the websites you usually visit at home. (Don’t forget your passwords.)
Bug spray: The little biting insects do come out when the wind stops—which doesn’t happen often, but you might as well be prepared.
Soft ice chest: If you have room and if you are picnic-oriented, a soft, folding ice container is very handy. For the beach too. Almost wherever you stay will have ice available. I say SOFT ice chest, not the Styrofoam ones. You can get the styroform ones in Aruba, at the grocery stores.
Cards and board games: Not for the beach (because of the wind), but to relax in your room with the beach and sea in sight.
Camera: There are so many scenic places in Aruba to use as background for your family shots. The same locations provide great scenes for pictures outright. Bring extra batteries for everything and extra media cards for the storage of the pictures you take.
Wine bottle opener: You never know…
Insulated mugs: For coffee in the morning on the beach or for happy hour drinks in the afternoon on the beach. I have mine! Course you can buy mugs in Aruba too, but you might not go shopping for a couple of days after arrival.
Copies of documents: A good habit to get into when traveling overseas is to make copies of your passport (just first 2 pages), tickets, driver’s license, rental car document, and credit card information like credit card numbers, customer service numbers to call from overseas. Put this in your safe when you get into your room. We have someone else have a copy of this information too, in case our copy goes missing. This has helped us and others several times over the years. Another way to accomplish the same objective is to take pictures (or scan) your passport and other documents and email them to yourself as attachments. Then if you are in a jam you can access them via email, print them out, and have documents to present for quicker processing.
Bags: Bring some net bags for transporting stuff on day trips in your rental car. If you go on picnics or tour the island, you will want to tote stuff. The net bags are ideal for this.
Small bills: I always bring 50 five dollar bills and 50 one dollar bills for tipping and for small purchases.
Meds: Of course you would bring your prescription drugs with you; bring them in your carry on. I would recommend bringing your favorite brands of over-the-counter medication too. There are good drug stores in Aruba, but they do not have the variety of drugs you are probably used to.
Some things you do not have to pack:
Booze: Many people ask
me whether or not they should buy liquor in Aruba or buy what they can in duty
free shops. I personally don’t like lugging duty free purchases around in the
airports and on the plane. My choice is to buy liquor in
Aruba. Booze is readily available in the grocery stores. Yes, they are about 15% more expensive in Aruba than in your stores at home. I don’t mind the increase; I chalk it up to convenience. Aruba has all the wine and hard liquor selections available.
If saving money is very important to you, there is another alternative: buy most of your liquor in the Aruba grocery stores but buy what you can in the duty free shop in the Aruba airport after you arrive. Many tourists don’t even know there is this duty free shop in the airport because they are so interested in picking up their suitcases and exiting the airport. However there is a shop and it is located in one corner of the airport. With your suitcases in hand you turn to the left to go through Aruba customs and exit the airport. If you look RIGHT, you will see the duty free shop. You can buy there and not have to lug packages through your stateside airport or on the plane. And liquor is much cheaper in this shop than the grocery stores. Nice alternative.
Jackets for men: Jackets are not necessary for dinner anywhere on Aruba. Bring one if you want to be nicely dressed, but they are not necessary.
Rain gear: It rains only about 20 inches a year in Aruba, mostly in November through January. Umbrellas are tough because of the wind. We don’t bring any rain gear at all.
Hairspray for women: The wind will wreck havoc with anything you do, so you might as well let it go…
ARUBA AND THE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN
You may be wondering how Aruba is doing with the worldwide economic down turn in 2008 and following years. This is being written in July, 2016. I have been to Aruba about 14 weeks a year during the bad economy years. I have not noticed any reduced tourist activity on the island during that time. The hotels seem as full as ever, the streets and beaches seem to be populated as much as ever, the restaurants seem as busy as ever. The tours and island activities seem to be going on as usual. However, several tourist businesses have folded: Adventure Golf, the “new” water park, and several restaurants (Le Dome, Brisas del Mar, Chez Mathilda, Amadeus, Carpaccio, and Rumbas, for example). Countering this, new restaurants have popped up, and some good ones too (like Carte Blanche, Terraza Italiana, Alamar, Quinto del Carman, and Barneys). I understand that not as many cruise ships are stopping at Aruba, but as I walk the beach each morning in January, 2016 I saw many cruise ships approaching the island, and this continues, especially in the high season. Celebrity Cruises have been added; Carnival Cruises are back; KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is back; the refinery has reopened—oops but then it closed again—oops it is supposed to open again. Super Food built a giant new multi-story grocery store which is now open; the Ritz Carlton has opened (but is not doing well); Aruba has restored the main street in Oranjestad; work is finished on the walking area from the airport circle into town; the road from Oranjestad to San Nicholas is being widened, and the trolley is operating. So there is a lot of expansion construction and building going on.
As a tourist-observer, there is nothing noticeable overall that would indicate that Aruba is hurting. Certainly nothing that would cause me to think twice about visiting Aruba. In 2012 and 2013 Aruba set records for number of tourists visiting the island. In December, 2014, Aruba counted its one millionth stay-over tourist—a first time ever, making our tiny island the 6th most popular tourist spot in the Caribbean! In early 2015 Redbook (the Bible of worldwide resort travel) anointed Costa Linda Beach resort as #10 of the BEST RESORTS IN THE WORLD. In August, 2015, Aruba increased its tourism for the first 6 months of the year by some 16% over 2014—tops in the Caribbean. So Aruba isn’t hurting, and it would like to welcome you! (OK so I get a little carried away at times…) So: “Come On Down!”
POST TRIP QUIZ
Now you are back home! I hope you loved it and are already planning for your next trip. I have prepared a quiz for you, to see how closely you followed my advice. Remember, you are going to email me (ArubaSmith@Yahoo.com) after you get back, so before you do please take this quiz and you can report your grade to me. LOL
1) Did you rent a car and order a map and have a cell phone?
2) Did you use the Aruba bulletin board to help plan for your trip?
3) Did you eat in any franchise restaurants while in Aruba?
4) If you had a choice of accommodations, did you choose low-rise over high-rise?
5) Are you indeed planning to return to Aruba? (I KNEW it!)