Aruba – Final

May 5, 2006 at 4:46 am | Posted in Travel, Travelogues | Leave a comment

All in all the diving isn’t bad in Aruba.  The 30-40 ft average visibility was a little disappointing but as far as wreck diving goes Aruba is supposedly in the top 5 destinations in the world and I can see why.  The neighboring islands of Bonaire and Curacao supposedly have better visibility.  However, according to Scott and John, Bonaire is very rocky and desert-like with beaches nothing like Aruba.  This accounts for the better visibility.  Bonaire also has very little in the form of dining and night life, no casinos, etc. Curacao supposedly has lots of good drop offs (walls) to dive.  I don’t know much else about it.

Aruba confirmed that it deserved a place on my must-dive list which I can now cross off. Over the week the Island and the town has grown on me.  I must admit I unfairly provided a premature description of the capital.  After spending more time there, it actually turned out to be larger with more character than I initially thought (possibly larger than the town on
Grand Cayman.)  While there were a fair share of somewhat grungy looking streets and alleys a block or two back from the main drag the town as a whole was pretty clean and had tons of shopping from little T-shirts shops to high end stores including all the designer brands and a nice little modern shopping mall.  The architecture at least on the waterfront street did have some consistency and character. One thing I think they did screw up on was how they have allowed the waterfront area to be developed.  Right on the water in the harbor, these ugly little vendor booths block the view of the water so the restaurants across the street are mostly on the second floor of the buildings.  They are also allowing one of the tallest new buildings (5 or 6 stories) to be built right at the waters edge by where the ships dock, further blocking the view of the water and in some cases eliminating it for places like the famous Carlos and Charlies.  The prime real estate on the other side of the Harbor is taken up by a casino and the restaurants sit behind it with no view of the water.  Go figure.

This Island is/has been booming.  New timeshares going up everywhere, lots of construction all around.  The economy did take a hit from the publicity of the whole Natalie Holloway disappearance a year ago but it wasn’t that bad and is slowly coming back and I’m sure it will be full steam ahead in the coming years.

One thing I keep realizing in traveling to the Caribbean is how lucky we West Coasters are being so close to Hawaii.  You realize that most of the Americans on the island are from the East Coast since Hawaii is quite a trek for them (the other major visitor group is the Dutch of course since they control the island.)  From this perspective I would venture to bet that Aruba is probably one of the top 3 best vacation destinations for anyone living in the eastern half of the United States.  The beaches are gorgeous and the water is warm and safe to swim in.  The town area is clean and the water is safe to drink and very good.  The people are friendly and all speak English. There is no one on the beaches or on the streets downtown bothering you trying to sell something or braid your hair like in Mexico or the Bahamas. Crime is very low. There is a nice selection of resorts of all types.  They have a couple decent golf courses.  They have numerous fine dining choices, decent casinos and lots of bars to keep those fast-paced East Coasters and jet set party crowd satisfied all day and night.  There are lots of direct flights from major US cities on the East Coast.  The island never seemed crowded.  The multi-cultural aspect (a blend of Dutch, Aruban, American, and South American people on the island) gives it a unique character. There weren’t very many bugs.  I got a few mosquito bites on my legs at night in the lobby or at dinner but they must have been small as they only itched for a few minutes and didn’t swell up.  Other than that there were no pesky insects.  I loved all the lizards. I think if you examined most any other Caribbean Island you will find it lacks one or more of these positive features.

The main downsides of Aruba in my opinion are:

1)    It’s a little too hot and humid but people from many of the East Coast cities are probably much more used to it than me and I would suspect the climate is more comfortable in January than at the beginning of May.
2)    It’s expensive (like most all vacation destination islands.)
3)    The island has very little natural beauty other than the beaches (no lush mountains to go hiking)
4)    I doubt it has very good snorkeling compared to many other places in the world since the beach is not protected by a continuous reef.
5)    It has only one 18-hole and one 9-hole golf course so getting tee times during the busy season could be hard.  Build a gold course here if you want to make a fortune.

The island is really perfect for the person that likes to hang at the beach/ pool  during the day and then wine and dine at night.  I doubt I will ever return or explore the other two of the ABC islands, with so many other places to see in the world, but I wouldn’t hesitate recommending it to a beach/sun worshiper that’s wants good dining, water sports, and nightlife options (gambling, dancing, shows.)  If you’re not into water sports or sitting around the pool/beach all day I definitely would not recommend this place in the least.  It is very different from Hawaii or theVirgin Islands.  Similar to Grand Cayman but with better beaches (especially since the Hurricane that hit Grand Cayman a couple years ago I hear.)

I wish we would have explored the island a little more (not that there was a ton of stuff to see.) But I would have liked to have seen the ‘Natural Pool’ even though it probably isn’t as big of a deal to a diver than it is to your average tourist donning a snorkel.  I also would have like to do a little more gambling.  We spent about 10 minutes at the craps table and I made one sports bet and that was it.

All in all we had great time both exciting and relaxing.  I am fortunate to have such easy going friends as Scott and John to come along and join me.

P1000242.jpg P10002401.jpg P1000238.jpg P1000236.jpg Architecture mismatch Waterfront view P1000251.jpg Vendors on waterfront P10002341.jpg


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