Aruba Over view
The family planed a vacation that has not happened in a few years. Why, no vacation in a few years. Wrestling and school has taken up most of the time. So back to Aruba, I searched on here for things to do and you were all on point. I would like to take this opportunity to give my opinions on all that is Aruba.
Plan well in advance and you can save a ton (this goes for where ever you are traveling). Also don't be afraid to stay an extra day or head out a day early to save massive amounts of money. We drove from Philadelphia to Dulles International. we stayed the night in VA and flew straight to Aruba on United. On the return trip we stayed an extra night to save on a American Airways flight form Aruba to NC than back to VA.
Traveling around Aruba. Honestly I would get a jeep for the week. It will run you something like 180ish. And it will serve you well. don't forget to get the insurance on it because odds are you will need it. Unfortunately we did not get any rental cars the entire week.
Cab drivers will kill you funds if you let them. There are no meters so be ready to hand them money like you know how much it costs. It seems like it will cost $10 just to step into the cab and after 10min it will be about a dollar a min. Early in the week we learned the hard way and paid $35 to go from the airport to the Marriott Surf club, just south of Malok. It also cost $10 to go to a place just short of the airport one night and it also cost $10 to go just past walking distance to the grocery store. After that just hand them a five for all short trips and increase appropriately. Add an appropriate tip for any bags and stuff.
Take the buss and it is almost free. A buck will get you form the beach resorts to down town and another buck to get form one end of the island to the other. We never took the bus so this is what I was told.
Locals are always willing to give you a lift if your stop is on the way.
We have a Marriott time share so the majority of the trip was spend at the Marriott Surf Club. It is a good set up and the location could not be beat. If you wanted to you could spend the entire vacation with in a mile or two of the resort. Nice pools with a lazy river, beach front, lots of dinning and activities with in walking distance. There is also a small shopping area just up the beach.
Our extra night was spent at Renaissance Hotel and Casino in Oranjestad. For a 4 star resort and paying for a sweet it was more of a dump. I have stayed in motels nicer than this. Our room smelt like mold and it is so close to the clubs the place is bumping till 3am. O and any sizable airplane shakes the building. We stayed in the ocean front property and it looks nice form the outside but what a dump on the inside. The other property is located a stone throw away and houses the plaza as well as the casino and many restaurants. The Renaissance also has its own island. There is a boat that runs ever 20min give or take a few to an island that is no more than a massive pile of dead coral and rocks. There are two pools that are created by rock walls. The people staying at the resort loved it but we told them how much nice the beach was near the beach resorts.
We ate at a number of restaurants. All the beach side restaurants were good and servings were sizeable. All food is expensive we are talking $12 for a Cheeseburger or $10 for a hot dog. Almost all appetizers will run you about $8-10. The calamari everywhere is good, and the wings are dry almost everywhere as well. two notable restaurants that stick out are The Driftwood in Oranjestad and a small beach side restaurant near the Marriott surf club. If your back it to the water and you are looking at the Marriott you will see a small restaurant followed by a bar under a straw roof followed by a nice restaurant under another straw roof.
The Driftwood excellent seafood restaurant down town and probably the best seafood I have ever had. The lobster appetizer was amazing and I went with the fish of the day both trips. First time I has Wahoo and the second I had Barracuda. Between the four of us we had a wide verity of ways to cook the two of them. The restaurant is located in a back alley in Oranjestad but ask any one and they can tell you where it is. The owner runs a charter and that is where the catch the fish of the day so if you wanted to go on a chartered fishing trip they would be a good start. As a note if you plan on eating any time after 6pm I would have a reservation.
The other beach restaurant that stood out I forgot the name but it was one of the better spots we ate at. Never crowed the food is excellent and you can eat as the sun drops below the horizon.
Finding food elsewhere. There is a grocery store near the beach resorts. Starts with an L I think but it has everything you can find in an American store. Prices are all in florin. (1us is about 1.76 florin.) and the weights are metric so just a head note. You can however use the dollar anywhere. Things are more expensive than you will find in the states.There are also a number of smaller food marts run by Asians that can be a little better priced.
We packed a bunch of breakfast foods but it would be worth paying for extra bag of food to bring with you. Pick up licker at the airport. It is much cheaper there.
On Sundays you can find a ton of people having BBQ's down at the beach as well as many corners. They cook up some mean BBQ and will gladly fix you up a plate for $10.
There are hundreds of things to do on the island, but the main attractions I would have to say, our in the desert. We took a jeep tour early on and it was amazing. If you like romping around this is a must. You will start off at the California light house. After some romping about (your group gets to drive you own jeep)you will pass some cool coast line. This half of the island is rough lava rock and coral reefs cut out by pounding waves. The other side is as calm as a bay. Baby bridge, a old stone house, the Alta Vista Chapel, Fallen natural bridge and a natural pool. After this trip my parents hand enough but my brother and I couldn't wait to get back there again. We actually got a local to take us around a day later. the local guy showed us where he went fishing and explained how to use hand lines for sharks. The little fishing huts the jeep tore told us about were actually stash housed for drugs back in the day. the local beach back there is probably the best beach on the island. Half of it was calm and the other half was wicked rough for surfing.
Many boats run snorkeling and diving but I would have to say there are many better vacation destinations for this. The reefs are fairly dull and the ship wrecks did not hold any different fish than the inshore spots. You can also easily find these spots and go there your self. Two of the three spots were in Malok and within 10 yard form the beach in 10-15' of water. You will notice the mooring locations and if you go in the evening people will be fishing.
Along the beach there are countless water sports that you can find at home. I am stoked by the kite boarding and want to learn how back at home.
There are also a number of casinos and at $5min I can get aggressive at the craps table. Even my 19year old brother was in on the action. I would keep and eye on the dealers because they have a tendency to mess up. Didn't pic up on losses a few times and thought they paid out of a few others. Had to go up stairs to the video twice to get paid.
Now when I searched everyone said the fishing was almost none existent. I would have to disagree but it is deff different. If you want a charter I would search out the owner of the driftwood. He has two business tied up in what he catches on a daily basis. Other than that you have to send out chunks of bait under a balloon in hopes of snapper, barracuda, small grouper, and king mackerel to name a few. You could also have your pick of tropical fish if you were to fish around the reefs. Just toss out some crumbs and they fish will be on top of it. Add hood to the mix and you will have a palmed sized trigger fish, red snapper or who knows what else. All I could get were these little red fish three different people named them three different things, one was red snapper, the another was robber, and the third was shamed one. Get rid of all snaps and swivels. These fish are very shy of hard where. I did very little fishing but it was all done in the Malok area. If you go out back you are more likely to get sharks and if you head closer the light house you can use lures around the rocks for many of the fish mentioned.
Bars and Clubs
I have been in a number in my day and hit up a bunch in Aruba. Around the beach resorts I would have to say I had the best time at the Mambo beach bar. All the beach hotels make there way here and it is a fairly prominent local hang out as well. Down town Oranjestad holds many clubs, but they are jam packed. Either get there early or find a local to get you in. but I had a much better time at the beach bar.
Another stop many people recommend is the Charlie Bar. It was the first bar on the island and is located in San Nicolas. It is on one extreme end of the island near the refineries. On and it is also the red light district. Now everyone talks about these being beautiful girls that could model, so If that is your thing take a visit but personally I found better at the beach and wish I had not even went along for the ride. Not even worthy of eye candy.
The locals are very nice and I would not hastate to speak to any of them. the island has a bout 100,000 residents and about 50,000 illegal's so it is a very small community. Most people know each other's faces but that doesn't mean they are friends.
Hoses run about 50-300K but many true locals start with a piece of land and straw hut and build form there as needed. Open floor plan with bed rooms off to the side is the norm and most are one floor maybe two if your family is large. Family is family and everyone lives under one roof. Out back you can find dogs, birds, car parts and three of three of the four homes we visited they grew their own weed (it is illegal).
It is 82-89deg and breezy every day.
I have a bunch more to share, so ask away.
In the end if you have chosen Aruba as a vacation destination it is a wonderful place. I don't think I would return and def not for a week. It just seems like there are so many more beautiful places to see.
Here are some photos I think have more.