As we move into fall and the temperatures start to cool down I always start planning my Travel Therapy trips to warm weather destinations so I can make it through another New York City winter.
The Caribbean is always a favorite pick of mine and when I recently learned about all the easy direct flights to Aruba from around the country, with direct flights from New York only being about four hours, Aruba moved to the top of my “must go” list, especially when I heard about some undiscovered adventures you can do on the island.
Aruba, in the southern Caribbean, just 16 miles from the South American coastline, is known for its beautiful beaches, like Eagle Beach photographed here. The island calls itself “One Happy Island” and is also known for its luxury hotels, casinos and nightlife but on my recent trip I found there is so much more to appreciate about this island if you just get off the beaten path and explore, starting with a visit to Aruba’s Arikok National Park.
Stretching across Aruba’s northern coast the Arikok National Park makes up almost twenty percent of the island and what’s so unique is that the park has this wild and rugged desert like landscape, cacti and all!
To get to the best hidden gems you’ll need a four-wheel drive or just do what I did and go on a Jeep Safari with De Palm Tours. This way you can just enjoy the scenery and let them do the driving.
Highlights in the Arikok National Park not to miss include stops at Conchi, a natural pool where there’s excellent snorkeling the Fontein and Guadirikiri Caves, where if you’re lucky you’ll see some insect and fruit bats and Boca Prins, a stunning stretch of beach with giant waves crashing into the shore.
Just outside the Park be sure to stop by the Donkey Sanctuary that’s completely run by volunteers and funded by donations to help protect the wild donkeys on the island.
When you’re ready to cool off an ideal spot is the beautiful, quiet crescent shaped Baby Beach with it’s calm turquoise water.
Feeling sporty? You can head over to MooMba for Beach Tennis where you can rent a racket for just five bucks. On the island they say Beach Tennis was born in Aruba and coming up November 12-17, 2013, there’s a huge international Beach Tennis competition that’s expected to include close to 1000 competitors from around the world. Beach Tennis is a new sport, a combination of tennis and badminton, because the ball is never allowed to hit the sand. After a quick 15-minute lesson I found it easy to learn and so much fun to play!
Also lots of fun and a great way to take in the scenery is Stand Up Paddle Boarding. The folks at SUP gave me a lesson at Mangel Halto, another Aruban hidden gem, where the gentle water is ideal for Paddle Boarding and for snorkeling.
For where to stay I also wanted something unique, authentic and special so I picked the Boardwalk Hotel in Aruba and instantly fell in love with the 14 colorful and cheerful casitas that are quietly tucked away in what use to be an old coconut plantation just a three minute walk from Palm Beach. Sisters Stephanie and Kimberly own this exceptional property and go above and beyond to make you feel at home with so many thoughtful touches.
When you’ve worked up an appetite Aruba also impresses in the culinary department. I’ll admit I was very surprised at the quality of the world-class cuisine I found on the island. Some favorites include my meal at the new hip and chic White Modern Cuisine where Chef Urvin Croes uses all local ingredients to create dishes that not only taste sensatonal but are visual masterpieces.
Of if you’re craving a more laid back beach vibe you’ll find some of the best ceviche on the island at Piet’s Pier…where the restaurant is literally on a pier surrounded by water.
Another secret find for a quick snack, Le Sandwich, a tiny hut behind the bus station in the city center serves up a fantastic and cheap ($6) Panini and fresh fruit smoothies. I tried the passion fruit and strawberry smoothie and it was incredible.
And finally, when the sun goes down on Thursday nights be sure to head to San Nicolas for the Carubbian Festival where you can put on your own mask and dance down the streets alongside Carnival performers. Let me tell you it’s a blast!
Also, ladies you can get into the island spirit by wearing a little white dress on Monday nights for the new Little White Dress Night promotion. Forget it about it being after Labor Day, in Aruba wearing white on Monday’s at many places will actually get your some great discounts.
And these are just a few of Aruba’s hidden gems and secret finds. There is so much to see, experience and appreciate on this island it’s no wonder close to sixty perfect of all visitors return for another trip.
I know one thing for sure, I’ll be adding to that statistic…because I’ll be back!
For more cool things to do in Aruba click here.
TRAVEL THERAPY FAVORITES FOR ARUBA ADVENTURES
De Palm Tours
The Boardwalk Hotel
Arikok National Park
Beach Tennis at MooMba
Stand Up Paddle Boarding with SUP
Carubbian Festival in San Nicolas
Little White Dress Night
White Modern Cuisine