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Published: June 14th 2017
Anchor near St. Nicholas
This anchor is at the intersection next to Bachelor's Beach. From here, you can easily explore Boca Grandi and Grapefield Beach on dirt roads. There are hardly any tourists on this part of the island.
Before our trip, when I searched for things to do outside of the usual all-inclusive, package-oriented Aruba vacation, I found very little information, so this blog will concentrate on getting off the beach and hired jeep path.
Peggy and I stayed two nights at the posh Stellaris Marriott (using her points), two nights at an Airbnb in St. Nicholas, and the last night at the Renaissance near the airport.
Anything on the northwest coast of the island (where the best beaches and calmest waters/winds are) caters toward traditional tourists. From Palm Beach and north, it's mainly honeymooning couples and retirees. The restaurants are 100% short-stay tourists and are very expensive and predictable. This extends into the town and mall area near the beaches. However, walking fifteen minutes inland from the resorts for much more authentic and less expensive restaurants, like Wacky Wahoo and Pika's Corner Aruban Cuisine, both on route 3.
The Far Noord
I jogged north of the resorts (which was pretty good - there is a wide, dusty shoulder along route 1 / LG Smith Boulevard) to the lighthouse a couple of times, which gave me a pretty good idea of the area. North of
Moro Beach, in Arikok National Park.
The water here is pretty dangerous but the scenery is stunning.
Palm Beach the hotels trickle away and are replaced with posh homes. This would be a terrific place to get an Airbnb. All the beaches in Aruba are public, so it would be easy to walk or drive to the various beaches, including the ones at resorts. The very northern tip of the island (Arashi), near the lighthouse, is wild and covered with dunes - perfect for hiking or biking - though it's unprotected from the winds.
The town itself has put quite a lot of money into making it comfortable, safe, quiet, and eyesore-free. If you're staying at the big resorts next to the town, there's no reason not to walk into the town itself to go out to eat. We walked from the Renaissance to a nice taco shop about 10 minutes inland. Of course, the farther you get from the water, the more locals there are, and the cheaper it is.
We rented a car near the airport (no - it's not easy at all to get around by Arubus, though it, as well as a light rail, could be useful near the resorts) and drove the half hour or
Goats in Arikok near the Natural Pool
so to the far eastern side of the island - to St. Nicholas, which is near Baby Beach. While the rest of the island definitely has more plight, it's hardly in abject poverty. Still, the town itself is a bit Detroit-blended with Miami ghetto, so you have to be comfortable with that.
Arikok National Park
Url of park map: http://www.arubanationalpark.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/arikok-map-big.jpg
Most tourists cruise through here on tours or in rented 4x4s/jeeps. We hiked here for 3-4 hours and only saw two other walkers on the trails. We drove to the park office at the western entrance and parked there. They had English-speaking rangers and even a guide you can make appointments with, though that's pretty unnecessary. There are no water sources along the way, so take at least 2 liters for the day. We hiked from the entrance through the arid hills, on the trails and jeepable roads to Moro beach, to which the approach was probably the best scenery on the island. Other than a group on horseback that passed and another couple, we had the beach to ourselves. A five minute walk from there are the natural pools, which can be crowded with people on
group tours. Luckily, there was a lull for about an hour, so we really enjoyed swimming there as well.
Running in Aruba
From Palm beach, it's a nice run north, along the main road, to the light house. There's a shoulder, so it's easy to get a meter or so from the passing cars, but it's pretty exposed, so I'd take some water.
However, the best area I found to run on the island is near the giant red anchor just outside of St. Nicholas. Heading north, along the eastern side of the island, I passed Grapefield Beach, which is overlooked by the prison, but the ancient, weathered road is flat and has wonderful views of the turquoise water, kite-surfing beaches, and cardboard bungalows built along the waves. The breeze is consistent and takes away the edge of the sun.
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