I’ve sung this song since I was a child, all the while dreaming of the beauty of the Caribbean islands. But it wasn’t until I recently visited Aruba that I realized just how song-worthy this destination really is. A short visit was all it took to enamor me with its breathtaking beaches, friendly people and glorious (truly glorious!) sunsets.
Aruba is a tiny place, a 33-kilometer long island located just 20 miles off the coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea. Along with sister islands Bonaire and Curaçao, the three form a group known as the ABC islands of the Leeward Antilles. What you may not expect of this Caribbean jewel is its surprising landscape. Unlike many of the other islands in the region, Aruba has a comparatively dry and arid climate and is heavily dotted with cacti. But don’t worry! It’s not all sprawling desert. Aruba still boasts the gorgeous white sandy beaches you’re dying to relax on, mostly on the western and southern coasts of the island. The weather is typically warm and tropical year-round though rainfall is most common during the late autumn months. Aruba is located outside the hurricane belt, which means that tropical storms and hurricanes are rare. For more information, visit the Official Tourism Website of Aruba.
Where to stay
The eight-story Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino (pictured above) is ideally situated overlooking the perfectly picturesque Palm Beach. A recent $50 million facelift has transformed this spot into a sprawling resort with everything guests will need. The spacious lobby, full of natural light, is an instantly welcoming feature, minimalist in design and exuding a feeling of peace and calm.
The resort features six on-site restaurants: Ketsu Sushi Bar; La Vista (delicious Italian fare); Lobby Bar (a sleek bar situated in the open-concept lobby; it’s the perfect spot for cocktails before dinner!); Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Simply Fish (enjoy a fresh seafood dinner on the beach with your toes in the sand and front-row seats to the best show in town – the sunset! It’s extraordinarily romantic!); and Waves Beach Bar & Grill. The dining options here are extensive so you’re sure to find something that suits you each night.
Guest rooms at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino are full of creature comforts; most notably, the Revive bed (a Marriott signature feature) is the absolute definition of comfort. Rooms are non-smoking and have standard features like a safe, hair dryer, iron and board, coffeemaker and mini-fridge. But more importantly, each room has a large private balcony (opt for an ocean view room for the best views), and enjoy the warm afternoon sun as you watch the bustling activity below. The 37” LCD flat-panel TV isn’t too shabby either. And the robes … they’re so soft and luxurious, you may have a hard time taking yours off to leave your room!
As if lying on the beach all day long isn’t relaxing enough, this resort offers up lots of alternative ways to unwind. Besides the beautiful on-site pool, there are a myriad of activities nearby, including hiking, horseback riding, jet-skiing, kayaking, kite-surfing and sailing. If hitting the links is more your thing, the Tierra Del Sol Golf & Country Club and The Links at Divi are both about two miles from the resort. But ladies, who are we kidding? What we’re really interested in is the spa! The Mandara Spa offers a full menu of treatments including body scrubs and wraps, facials and massages and manis/pedis. Be sure to make your appointment in advance, as the spa can be busy. Tel: 297-520-6750. For more information, visit the Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino website.
Things to do
Despite the petite size of this island, Aruba is full of things to do and full of astounding natural beauty. From the pretty sand beaches and desert-like terrain to the rugged and rocky coastline a short drive from the resort, the island’s landscape is diverse. Take a tour and be sure to make these stops along the way:
Not far from the island’s northwestern tip stands proud the old stone California lighthouse. Named after a U.S. ship that sank nearby, the lighthouse dates back to the early 1900s and has become one of the island’s most scenic landmarks. It’s a wonderful place to watch day turn to night as the sun sets over the nearby rocky coastline.
Alto Vista Chapel
Alto Vista Chapel was the island’s first Roman Catholic church. This small chapel stands alone amidst the surrounding cacti in the middle of the desert, just northeast of the town of Noord. Originally built in 1750, the chapel was reconstructed in 1952. The winding road that leads to the chapel is lined with white crosses, marking the Stations of the Cross. This serene place is a good place to stop for quiet reflection.
One of the most popular attractions on the island, the Natural Bridge is truly a natural phenomenon. The coral and limestone bridge collapsed in September 2005 but it’s still a sight to see. It was one of the largest natural bridge spans in the world, standing about 23 feet above sea level and spanning more than 100 feet. There’s no charge to visit and there are nearby refreshments stands to buy a cold a drink on hot days.
Along the island’s windward coast you’ll find another natural delight. The Natural Pool is a hidden spot surrounded by rock cliffs; it’s a natural pool formed on the edge of the sea, protected by the high cliffs and making it an ideal spot to swim away from the open water. It’s a beautiful and romantic getaway.
After a day of outdoor activity, there’s no better place to relax and have a bite to eat than the quaint family-owned bar and grill Pinchos (pictured above). Situated over the water at the end of a short pier, Pinchos is a casual dining spot but the atmosphere is undeniably intimate and romantic. Serving up fare of fresh seafood straight off the grill and hearty marinated steaks, this place is a definite must-visit destination when visiting Aruba. Reserve a table around sunset and watch as the colours of the sky change from one second to the next. It’s a spectacular view you won’t soon forget.
Natalie Bahadur is the editor of styleathome.com and is a regular contributor to ellecanada.com.