Aruba is one of the best values for travelers to the islands. Located just off the coast of South America, it’s tucked away from the hurricane zone, meaning that there’s no chance of any unwanted vacation interruption. And with so many flights from US gateways to the island, it’s one of the most accessible islands. Aruba’s Dutch heritage is noticeable from the moment you touch down. Oranjestad’s architecture, the local language Pappiamento (a mix of Portuguese and Dutch), and a variety of Dutch-influenced food are all part of an experience that, in my opinion, other islands cannot match.
Here are four reasons why you should pay a visit to this happy island.
1. The food
Aruba has a variety of delicious restaurants. The culinary scene is surprisingly vibrant and engaging with chefs interested in using island-grown ingredients while showcasing the Dutch heritage.
The newest restaurant opening on the island is Quinta del Carmen (right), which is located in a former country house with a magnificent garden and dining terrace. The chef and owner uses many of his grandmother’s popular recipes with plentiful Dutch inspiration. The watermelon and feta cheese salad was the perfect combination of sweet and salty, and the Dutch braised beef is a signature entree.
Hangop is a creamy Dutch dessert made from strained yogurt and is one of the best dessert options on the menu.
Another delicious island treat is keshi yena, which is typically served in a hollowed-out wheel of gouda cheese and stuffed with ground beef or chicken, vegetables, raisins, and more delicious cheese. The chef at Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts makes a particularly tasty version, which can be served as an appetizer or an entree. The iPad menus at the beachfront restaurant showcase the wide range of other options on offer.
When strolling through downtown Oranjestad, be sure to stop for a pastechi, a fried pastry stuffed with cheese or meat. Pastechi is a popular breakfast item that locals often eat on the go. It’s often served with a variety of sauces, savory or spicy.
2. The shopping
Downtown Oranjestad has a variety of shopping options that include European brands like Mango and numerous duty-free shops. Travelers often come to the island to purchase jewelry and watches, which bear substantial discounts compared to shops in the US or abroad. A trolley winds through the heart of town taking visitors (often from the daily cruise ships) through the main shopping area and downtown core.
Many guests like to pay a visit to the Archeological Museum, which displays exhibitions from the island’s history and culture. Allow an hour to stroll through the museum before visiting the downtown area. A popular shopping venue sits across from the Renaissance Hotel on the waterfront.
3. The outdoors
When visiting an island, the first thing that comes to mind is lounging along the beach. And there is plenty of opportunity for that here. But Aruba also has a stunning landscape that ranges from desert scenery with blossoming cacti to lush forests with the famous Divi Divi tree that grows with twisting branches shaped from the island breeze.
Tip: Check out more on Aruba flora and fauna here.
A popular activity for visitors tired of sunning by the pool is hiking through Arikok National Park, where guided walks show off the flora and fauna on the island.
If you have a rental car, ask for directions to Gaudirikiri Cave, where stalagmites have defined the shape of the cave.
4. The resorts
As with many islands, there are numerous resorts on the island. All-inclusive options like the popular Riu and high-end hotels like the Ritz-Carlton lure vacationers. The adults-only Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts sports a quiet, relaxing atmosphere that appeals to those that want to avoid the rowdy activity found elsewhere.
Guests that book a suite at the Bucuti have a reserved cabana along the beach, and romantic dinners can be organized by the staff at sunset.
The Bucuti guest rooms are recently updated and feature cushioned mattresses with thick duvets and bathrooms with TVs built into the mirrors. Guests love the Aruba Aloe products in the rooms. Resorts on the island are grouped together in a cluster along Palm Beach, which is known as the high-rise area. Here, dozens of restaurants and shops keep the area hopping, especially after sunset.
Dutch culture, ever-present sunshine, and beautiful scenery make Aruba a popular choice for sun seekers. You’ll be surprised by the European feel of Aruba and its cosmopolitan vibe.
For more on Aruba, check out this piece from December: An Aruba hotel to treasure.
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