Aruba is blessed with an average of 20 mph wind ALL THE TIME. It can be more, sometimes less and 95% of the time in an easterly direction. What that means is that it’s more comfortable (less humid) than most of the rest of the Caribbean in the summer. It will mess your hair, but we grew fond of what we came to call our “Aruba-doo”.
The wind and their location beyond the typical hurricane belt is why we selected it for our annual July honeymoon this year. There are a lot of other pluses to Aruba as well.
It’s billed as “One Happy Island” and indeed, the people are very nice. English is spoken EVERYWHERE. The electric outlets are the same voltage and configuration as here in the US so you don’t need converters or special plug adapters. US dollars are also accepted everywhere and many prices are even quoted in US dollars. They drive on the same side of the road as we do here in the States so if you rent a car, for a day or for your entire trip, you won’t have trouble driving. It’s clean – we didn’t see a restaurant we would be afraid to eat in and we found the food to be both familiar enough and still different enough to be interesting. There are also a number of casinos so there is adult entertainment for after dark and various musical entertainment at the different resorts as well.
A great resource if you want to plan an Aruba vacation is called “How to Enjoy Aruba”. It’s a free booklet full of practical, useful information on everything from where to stay to what to do and even where to eat. The author was raised in Aruba and visits several times a year so it’s like having a local show you around. I took much of his advice and found it helpful.
Here are the LAND BASED things we did that we especially enjoyed:
The caves. There are 2 you can visit and we went to both. They are both in the Arikok National Park so once you pay the admission, plan to visit both. You can do this on your own with a rental car or you can book the tours with one of the local tour companies. We went on our own but did see the tour group as we were leaving the first cave. Fontein features both Indian paintings and a natural spring “fountain”. There is a local there to show you around and answer questions. The Guadirikiri Cave didn’t have a guide but there was a sign that it is home to bats. Yes, we saw some but they didn’t seem to pay any attention to us. This cave is large and you can visit 2 chambers. We used the flashlight apps on our cellphones as our torches and that was sufficient to see in the dark passages between the chambers. We didn’t see any lizards or iguanas in the park but they were in abundance at our resort.
While in the park you can visit the sand dunes. Not the most impressive dunes you’ll ever see but hey, you’re there so you might as well take time to appreciate them.
Casibari Rock Formations. These natural rock formations are interesting and there are paths to let you explore them. Some stairs and not handicapped friendly but worth a visit if you can appreciate them.
Same is true for Mt. Hooiberg. Sure, calling it a “mountain” is a stretch – more a hill but it is the highest point on the island so it’s their “mountain”. Not for the weak kneed, it’s 587 steps – yes, actual STAIRS – to the top. There are a couple of places to stop on the way and catch some shade and have a sip (be sure to bring water). It’s still a LONG steep uphill climb. You’ll be grateful for the wind. Great view (and even more wind) from the top. Not a good place to sit and take it all in but we managed.
After your visit to the top of Mt. Hooiberg, stop at the Donkey Sanctuary. For a donation you can make friends with the donkeys and even have them eating out of your hand!
Nearby (at the coast) is the “natural bridge” – the big one collapsed a few years ago but there still is one to see though not as impressive. Also the Bushirbana gold mine smelter ruins dating from 1825 are a fun place to explore and take some creative photos.
Lastly, the Ostrich Farm. It was a little pricey to visit and the only big attraction was getting to feed them for a photo opp. We had planned to have lunch there, the cafe shown on their website looks great and hey, an ostrich burger at the ostrich farm sounded just wrong enough but when we arrived we learned it had burned down earlier in the year so there was no place to eat. No, to date they haven’t updated their website…
You can skip a visit to the California Lighthouse unless you are just checking off Lighthouses around the world. Someone jumped from the top a couple of years ago so you can no longer go inside. There’s a great Italian restaurant in the shadow of the lighthouse so you can snap a quick picture when you go to dinner if you are so inclined.
In the booklet I mentioned earlier he stresses how little signage there is along the roads. THIS IS TRUE. We had to “feel our way” a lot – we could see Mt. Hooiberg but the road that leads you to it is not marked and takes you though a neighborhood. The locals have made their own sign to point you to the Casibari Rock formation, no doubt tired of pointing the way to countless lost tourists. If you go prepared to make wrong turns and consider it part of the adventure, you’ll not only be fine, you’ll have fun!