“Aruba, Jamaica, oooh I wanna take ya….”
That song has been stuck in my head for the past two weeks and you know why?! Because I took a trip to Aruba! And it was amazing. And now every time I think of Aruba, I can’t help but sing that catchy little line from Kokomo. Thanks, Beach Boys.
Anyway, back to Aruba (but actually, can I really go back?). I’m such a beach bum, and I have wanted to go to Aruba for years. I’m not exactly sure what sparked my desire for Aruba (maybe it was The Beach Boys’ song) but something just draws me to the sand and the sea and I knew Aruba would be the epitome of perfection of the two.
What I didn’t realize until I started researching was that Aruba is actually a desert, so it has an arid climate, an average temp of 82 degrees all year round, hardly any rain, and a nice steady breeze from the tradewinds. 18 miles off the coast of Venezuela, Aruba is even located outside of the hurricane belt, so there will hardly ever be any bad weather. So basically, to sum things up, Aruba is perfect all year round.
Exploring the Island
There are many different geological regions of Aruba, even though the island is only about 20 miles long, and it’s really interesting to drive around and see all the different parts of it. The western side of the island, where most of the resorts are, has the calm, bright blue Caribbean Sea with gentle waves that lap on powder white sand.
These are the beaches you want to spend your time at, with the most popular ones being Eagle Beach (where we stayed) and Palm Beach. Eagle Beach has the low-rise resorts and condos and Palm Beach has the tall, glitzy resorts with all the nightlife. You can also watch the sun set over the ocean at these beaches.
If you go north of these beaches, to the northern tip of the island, you’ll find Arashi Beach and Malmok Beach, which have some reefs right off of them that are popular for snorkeling, and California Lighthouse that looks out from the tip of the island. The beaches to the north are more rocky though, but also less crowded.
The eastern side of the island is for the adventurers. With tall cliffs and crashing waves, it’s not the side that you can (or want) to go swimming on, but it is beautiful to see.
Also on the Eastern side of the island is Arikok National Park. It costs $11 a person to enter the park but inside the park are the Natural Pools, caves, and even a beach with pink sand called Boca Prins. Unfortunately, you need an off road vehicle (like a Jeep or ATV) to get to the Natural Pools, so we didn’t get to see those in our little Kia Rio, but we saw everything else.
Boca Prins is carved out of a cliff, and the sand has streaks of pink sand made from crushed up shells. It was beautiful for photographs.
The caves were also really cool to explore. Aruba was formed from a volcanic eruption, and it’s interesting to see how these caves formed. Some people believe that pirates hid their treasure in these caves!
As I mentioned previously, Aruba is a desert, so as you’re driving through the park and also around the interior of the island, it looks as if you could be in Nevada or Arizona, with cacti, shrubs, and rocks and dust. It’s really interesting to see this juxtaposed with the beauty of the beaches.
Get Your Snorkel Ready
One of my favorite things that we did while in Aruba was snorkeling at Baby Beach, on the southern end of the island. I went on the trip with one of my best friends and her parents, who had previously been to Aruba, so they were able to give us some insider tips. They had gone snorkeling at Baby Beach on their previous trip and raved about it. Instead of paying to do a snorkeling excursion, we purchased snorkeling gear at home and brought it with us since you don’t have to be taken out on a boat to snorkel at Baby Beach. This saved us money and also allowed us to snorkel all day and be flexible with our schedule.
Baby Beach is a semi-circle beach that basically acts as a holding tank for calm waters and tropical fish. The mouth of the beach goes out to the Caribbean Sea and can have strong currents near the outlet sometimes, but as long as you don’t go past the buoys, you’re fine. There is even a roped off area for snorkelers over the reef. You will feel the current pull you, but since it’s roped off, the ropes keep you in the area and you don’t have to worry about drifting.
The fish were amazing. As my friend’s dad said, “it’s like swimming in a saltwater aquarium.” We saw so many tropical fish in shades of yellow, blue, yellow and black striped, silver, and more. My favorites were these type of boxy looking fish that were black with white polka dots and yellow fins. I think they are Trunkfish! (Soon I’ll have my underwater camera developed, too.) We also brought some bread to feed the fish and it was amazing to be surrounded by entire schools of multiple types of fish. Some even ate right from our hands! I would definitely recommend Baby Beach for snorkeling. And after you’re done snorkeling, you can relax on the beach under one of the divi-divi trees with a local Balashi beer. 🙂
Aruba, mi Dushi
All in all, Aruba was amazing and I immediately fell in love with it. What also makes it interesting is that it is its own country, unlike many other Caribbean islands. It has it’s own culture and it’s own language (Papiamento), but it’s also part of the Dutch Caribbean, so you see the influence of the Dutch culture on the island, as well as a Latin influence from its proximity to Venezuela. Most Aruban people speak four languages (English, Spanish, Dutch, and Papiamento) and it’s fascinating to see all the cultures collide in one small little island.
One of the words we learned from Papiamento was “dushi,” which means sweet or sweetheart depending on how you use it. Although it sounds like an American slang word that has the exact opposite meaning, we loved the saying and heard it used around Aruba quite frequently. So Aruba, mi Dushi, thanks for the amazing experience and I hope we will meet again someday!
Want to know how you can visit Aruba on a budget? Check out my post on Family Travels On A Budget!