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Published: March 30th 2014
Aruba... One Happy Island... similar to Virginia is for Lovers, Aruba has staked claim to One Happy Island. Having visited just recently for a week... I can wholeheartedly agree. Aruba is one happy island.
The minute the airplane started the descent onto the island, I immediately relaxed. The whole week we were there the weather was partly cloudy, low to mid 80s, with a constant Caribbean breeze. Upon landing, you go thru Aruban customs, which was relatively painless. We stayed in Oranjestad at the Renaissance Ocean Suites, which was considered "downtown" and the less touristy section of Aruba. The island in itself is about 19 miles long, not too big. The airport was a short cab ride to our hotel. In Aruba, the driving is the same as if in the States. In addition due to daylight savings, the time was exactly the same. no jet lag.. if flying from the east coast. The flight was a short 4 hours from DC.
We spent 6 nights in Aruba, with the 1st three days spent exploring the island via a rented car. First day was spent unpacking and lounging by the pool and the lagoon. Days 2-3 were spent driving
around the island.
• Driving around the island was easy once you got your bearings; there were no true street signs on the island, so you need to be a good map reader and interpreter.
• Ostrich Farm was interesting. We were able to feed the Ostriches and pet it if you so desired. Takes about 30 minutes.
• Bushiribana Gold Mines - worth visiting. Windy, ruins were fun to climb, fun to leave your "innuksuk" mark with the masses. Allow 30 minutes
• Ayo Rock Formation - not much to it. Allow 15 minutes.
• California Lighthouse - closed to the public, but you get to see the Northern end of Aruba
• Hooiberg aka Haystack - Fun to climb 562 steps to the top. Views from at top were good, but hindered by all the antennas. Had to strategically climb around them to get good views of the entire island. Go early in the morning, but go with a group. On a clear day, am told you could see Venezuela. Allow 30-45 minutes to climb, enjoy the view and climb down.
• Arikok National Park - Interesting. $10 entry fee. Drivable all the way thru. Sand Dunes at Boca Prins
are worth stopping by; Beware of random goats on green vegetation in the sand dunes. Boca Prins are breathtaking. Quadirikiri Caves stop by only if you have time.
• Baby Beach - BEAUTIFUL water, white sand. Only 1 restaurant around the beach area, can rent beach chairs for $8, umbrellas are free, good for snorkeling.
• Renaissance Island is the private island owned by Renaissance. Beautiful clear water, nice sand, random iguanas on island, has children friendly side (Iguana side) and an adults only side (Flamingo side), pretty flamingos and lots of hermit crabs.
• Casa Tua - Good lunch place to eat at. Right in Marketplace by Hotel. Had a grilled mahi mahi sandwich. Nice flavor, marinated in salt and pepper, needed lemon. French fries are yummy.
• Salt and Pepper - Tapas place near Palm Beach. Enjoyed the beer battered shrimp, mussels, calamari, ceviche and spicy beef. The piri piri chicken was not good (according to my travel mates),
• Don Pinchos (Santa Cruz) - Hole in the wall, local place near Santa Cruz. AMAZING pinchos, which are essentially kabobs on a 12 inch stake. Had the mixed one, which had chicken, beef and chorizo. Can't go
wrong. Flavor was tasty juicy grill taste.
• Madame Janette's - Their menu was named "book of culinary pleasure." That says it all... I had the surf and turf, which came with a 1 pound lobster, 4 ounce filet and grilled shrimp. YUM. Skip the Crepe's Janette though, unless you are a big fan of bananas.
• Rum Reefer - Standard grill restaurant. Only one in Baby Beach area. Had the chicken wings. Pretty standard with a slight hint of spice.
• Giannis - French themed in Palm Beach area. Had Linguine Vongole - a little gritty on the seafood side, but the noodles were cooked to perfection... right hint of al dente.
• Grill on Renaissance Island - Not much to write home about, but when on a private island, what's a girl to do.
• Driftwood - Traditional Aruban food near Oranjestad. Pretty good, had fixed menu special which came with appetizer, entree, dessert and coffee. I had Fish soup as an app, which was broth based with pieces of Wahoo and Grouper. For dinner, I had Wahoo grilled with Aruban spice (which was similar to Old Bay?). For dessert, yummy flan.
• Iguana Joe's - Good place for a quick grab. Had Ribs
and Shrimp on the Barbie off of the appetizer menu. My travel mates ordered the full rack of ribs, but we decided the Ribs from the appetizer menu were tastier.
• Papillion - My favorite meal of the week. I had an awesome Rose (Minuty) to go with my Foie Gras app and canard. The Foie gras has a great liver taste without overpowering and the canard just melted in my mouth. Delicious!
• Yemanja - Also traditional Aruban Food. Had vegan/vegetarian options to choose from. I had the Yoga Quinoa Salad for an appetizer and Fried Vegetable Tempura entrée. Yoga Quinoa Salad had a good flavor, right balance on vinaigrette dressing. The Vegetable Tempura was way over fried. It was too overwhelmingly fried to have as a meal by itself. Too much, hard to determine what vegetables you were eating. Would probably be OK as a shared appetizer.
• Dutch Pancake House - Big huge crepe pancakes with meats of your choice... how could you go wrong... Better to get meats than veggies. Veggies only were a little bland.
Words of Caution:
• Beware of bugs. Not sure where exactly and didn't when they were happening, but I got
bit all over my two legs. We've determined that they were probably no see ums. So bring bug spray. I wish I did.
• Customs is BAD. We got to the airport around 12:20. It took us about 2.5 hours to get thru customs when we left on Saturday. We had to wait in line to go thru TSA, then we had to wait in line to go thru Aruban customs, then we had to wait in line to go thru USA Customs and finally we had to wait in line to go thru one more line of security checks before allowed to go to the gate. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 3:50, United started boarding all passengers at 3:10. If you don't give yourself enough time, there's a high probability you will be running to your gate and barely making it.
Lasting thoughts... Aruba is worth returning too. One Happy Island... One Happy motto, One happy visitor... bug bites and all.
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