Where: Aruba (Oranjestad)
When: July 2005
How: direct flight to / from Newark and Oranjestad
Duration: eight relaxing days
Currency: Aruban Florin
Tourist facts: In recent history, Aruba is probably best known for the late Natalie Holloway. When we visited in the summer of 2005, there were still occasional fly-overs by police helicopters and Mrs. Holloway was still holed up in the hotel. Other than these small facts, only one of which was visible, the tourism continued. Aruba is best known for it’s climate, always sunny and warm with a pleasant breeze off the ocean. Add this to posh resorts, fancy casinos and white sandy beaches? Indeed: One Happy Island.
Links I recommend during trip planning: If you can believe it .. I didn’t plan a single day of this trip! I looked it up on a map and was shocked to see how close it was to South America (a mere 17 miles from Venezuela). Then I carried on with my life as a college graduate and let my friend’s family do all the planning. As Aruba returnees, they knew exactly what to expect.
My absolutes: Tropical destinations can be complicated for me, and you’ll see that I rarely choose a beach alone. Usually I gravitate toward the cities and not so much the endless sandy beaches in the middle of nowhere. Granted, there are plenty of things I could get into (water sports, spa, restaurants) but you won’t see my laid out on a beach for hours on end. After all, I’m Lithuanian. Porcelain is the new tan.
What I saw: The biggest turtle in my LIFE. We got up close and personal with a leather backed sea turtle named Hap. We were actually about to leap into the ocean in our birthday suits (circa 1 am) and then Carol came tearing into the living room yelling “TURTLES!” Fearing we would miss something epic, the three of us dashed outside in towels and parked ourselves on the sand at a safe distance away from this massive animal. Turns out “Hap” means “bite” in Papamiento, aptly named because she’s missing a piece of her left flipper. She weighed 700 lbs and was five feet in length from head to tail. BIG turtle. We learned a great deal that night, including the fact that the egg laying process can take up to 3 hours (giving us ample time to return to the apartment and put some clothes on). Each female lays up to 100 eggs per clutch and about 8-9 clutches per season. Edith, the naturalist from TurtugAruba, responded to a call from resort police and gave us lots of information and later, photos.
Consider visiting Aruba during the turtle nesting season and get a chance to see the little ones make a break for it!
What I did: Horseback riding in the National Park / Natural Pool with Rancho del Campo – galloping across the open beach is something I will not soon forget. Snorkeling out at sea in a glass bottom boat. Dancing til dawn at the infamous Carlos and Charlie’s. Trying our luck at the many casinos nearby and taking advantage of 2-for-1 happy hour at the Turtle’s Nest.
What I ate: Don’t be disappointed by my inability to tell you what I ate on this trip. You’re shocked, I know. But it was six years ago! I do remember the one pound steak at El Gaucho‘s Argentine Grill. We also dined at Driftfood (seafood caught daily by the owner), Moomba Beach (stunning outdoor seating under the moonlight / on the beach) and Madame Janette‘s. What I did not eat: lizards. But I feel like I could have gotten one on the grill somewhere .. they’re everywhere!
If (when) I return I will: try to catch a glimpse of the tiny turtles headed to sea; hit the jackpot at one of the casinos.
Sorry I missed: The town of Oranjestad. Unfortunately, many resort destinations like Aruba, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica suffer from a stereotype that is further enhanced by all-inclusive resorts. Not only is city-wandering not a popular thing to do, it often shows up in the “Not Recommended” column of your guidebook.
Thanks to: The Long Family and their generous offer for me to share their family timeshare. I would have never gone if it had not been for you guys! Also, to the K9 resort cop that gave me his baseball hat for no reason other than I liked it. I still have it.
Now, you: Aruba .. Jamaica .. ooh I wanna take ya to __________. What tropical paradise is calling your name? Do you have a favorite?