I vacationed in Aruba for the first time in mid January this year, and I must say this is one of the few Caribbean islands that I have visited that keeps calling me back for a revisit. My husband and I rented a beautiful villa with another couple near the hotel zone with a private pool, and rented a car from the airport. We had no problem navigating the new roundabout at the airport, and it was a smooth drive to our house rental.
The house we rented was in the Opal area on the north end of the island, just minutes from the beaches, restaurants, shopping, supermarkets and casinos. The private pool was wonderful and we spent a lot of time chilling there. We didn’t have to fight for beach chairs or umbrellas like at the hotels. The washer and dryer also proved to be very helpful .
We also made most of our breakfasts at the villa. The BBQ was very useful. We drove to Zeerover’s in Savaneta to buy fresh fish and prawns, and grilled them for dinner. SanNic44’s video on how to get to Zeerover’s was very helpful!
There are several supermarkets that we could drive to:
- More Dutch products: Super Foods– second traffic light as you leave the Marriott properties, heading towards the airport.This is the closest grocery store to Palm Beach area
- Ling and Sons – near Druif Beach between airport and Opal
- TIng Wei – within walking distance of our rental villa in the Opal area. Not big but very well stocked. Closest to the Marriott
One thing I must mention is the water in Aruba. There is no need to buy bottled water in Aruba. Simply drink from the tap. It tastes delicious! It actually is cleaner and tastes better than tap water in Ontario! Aruba has the world’s second largest desalination plant and the tap water is produced by the reverse osmosis process. If you buy bottled water in Aruba, it is from the tap anyway. As a matter of fact Aruba water is sought after overseas as bottled water. So this is one of the rare places in the Caribbean where you do not have to worry about ice in your drinks when you dine out.
The first night we arrived in Aruba, we went to Le Bistro because we figured it would be easy to find. Can’t fault the location of this restaurant, overlooking the courtyard of Paseo Herencia. I had booked a table at Le Bistro for dinner. The tapas were delicious, especially the crab salad. We got to walk around the plaza after dinner, shopped a bit and bought cupcakes at the really cute cupcake stand.
Pelican’s Nest was one of my favourite restaurants. I loved the casual, laid back atmosphere, the friendly service and the wonderful food there. The sunset dinner on the pier was wonderful! I believe I saw reviews on this site for Pelican’s Nest, and that’s why I went there. Loved their grouper sandwich and mahi mahi cerviche.
Linda’s Dutch Pancakes & Pizza was conveniently located on Palm Beach Road near my rental. I loved their pancakes and freshly squeezed orange juice. My favourite’s the pineapple-coconut-rum pancake. They also let you mix and match the toppings, and I also had the gouda-bacon-apple pancake for brunch.
I must say the steamed grouper at New Wei Taai was the best meal I had on the island. They did it authentic Cantonese style with ginger, onion and soya sauce, and the price was very reasonable. With the 2 pound fish steamed whole, it brought out the freshness and delicate texture of the fish. Having had chinese steamed fish in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Toronto, I must say that New Wei Tai ranks up there with the restaurants in these chinese culinary centers! Deeeeelicious! Totally recommend!
We went to Zuzuroh but were very disappointed. We went in at around 6 pm when the small restaurant was empty. The 3 people working there were chatting at a table, saw us come in, and stood up. We said hi and asked for a table, then one of them said hi , and then turned to use the phone. The other two then kept talking to each other and totally ignored us. We stood there looking at them and waited for 5 minutes and felt we were not welcome. So we left, and once out of the door, one of the employees came out and asked us back in….strange ! The food was OK, but that first impression totally took away any pleasant dining experience we might have had at the restaurant.
Being so close to Wacky Wahoo, we went one night for an early dinner. The lobster and wahoo that my husband and I had were really good, but our friends complained about the sword fish which they said tasted like gasoline. Just wondering…would the BP Gulf Oil Leak have anything to do with it?
We rented a car so we went beach hopping during the week.
(Map courtesy of orangesmile.com)
Our house rental was just 2 minutes’ drive to Hadicurari Beach where we tried Stand Up Paddling. Amazing!
We were also a couple minutes to Malmok Beach where the snorkeling was great. I even brought my own fishing rod and went fishing from shore at Malmok …after all the snorkelers had gotten out of the water : )
Snorkeling at Malmok
There are Palapas at Malmok and Arashi Beaches that you can use for free.
Also Palm Beach was a bit too crowded for my taste. But then when compared to the sardine packed beaches of the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico and the Mediterranean, Palm Beach is heaven.
Eagle Beach had much nicer powder fine sand, especially in front of Amsterdam Manor and Oceania Condos. We parked near the famous divi trees, and we couldn’t believe our eyes …there was nobody under the divi tree!!! We grabbed our beach towels from our car and raced over there like little kids and had a very enjoyable afternoon under our own divi tree!
Believe it or not, I went to the local supermarket and bought a play set (shown at the top left of this photo) for building the sand castle.
The drive to Baby Beach at the southern tip of the island took about 45 minutes but was well worth it. Baby Beach is at the southeast tip of the island. As the name suggests, it is so shallow that it is suitable for babies and kids to swim in.
There were numerous drownings at Baby Beach. People were misled by the name, and ventured over to the inlet from the ocean, and were pulled out by the current. I read about it on the internet, and so took the caution and stayed away from the inlets stayed way inside the bowl. The shallow water was perfect for my husband who was once a drowning victim and still learning how to swim : )
(above photo courtesy of threebestbeaches.com)
The snorkeling inside the bowl was not bad, but the water was murkier than Malmok.
Having a rental car is a must. We rented via the internet an SUV for $399 excl taxes with Econo. Their rental office is just across the road from the airport building. This interactive map of Aruba is very helpful. I also found this very useful blog on driving instructions in Aruba including videos.
As for the house, I rented from Aruba Happy Rentals. Their service was great. Geraldine is the especially helpful one. I picked the Opal Villa for its location and the gorgeous pool. The villa was beautiful. The pool was cleaned twice a week, and the property itself was very clean as well. We were two couples so this house was perfect. One problem with this house was that off all the bathrooms, only one had window coverings. That made it very inconvenient for showering and using the toilets, especially when 2 of the bathrooms with no window coverings faced the front road.
One pointer about renting a house in Aruba. I have read horror stories about break ins at vacation rentals in the Caribbean. Aruba is already one of the safest islands where I would dare to rent a house. I also noticed that of the few break in reports in Aruba that I found on the net, the robbers returned the passports the next day by tossing them back into the house in a sealed plastic bag or pillow case, quite “considerate” compared to those in other islands who come in with a machete and attack the tourists.
- I first asked the rental company in writing (via email) whether the rental has ever been burglarized before. (Since I read from one post that it is a recurring thing to the same property).
- I rented from a company with good reviews and not the manager of properties which I could find on the internet having been burglarized.
- I found a rental with a garage where the rental car can be parked inside. Since all Aruba visitor car rentals come with a licence that starts with V, any car with the V licence parked outside a home or condo will be indicating there are tourists staying there. By the way, car rental break ins are prevalent all over the Caribbean, no matter where, not that I want to alarm you further. We sometimes left our cars unlocked when in Grand Cayman, St. Martin and Turks and Caicos, so that the windows would not be smashed.
- I did not rent the car from the villa rental agency, and I did not disclose the address of the rental villa to the car rental company. When filling in the address, I filled in the office address for the rental company and not the actual address of my rental house.
- I made sure we did not have a set schedule, e.g. going out for dinner every night at set times. We would sometimes cook at home, sometimes go for an early bird dinner and sometimes later at night. I read that most break ins would occur between 7 and 10 pm.
I must say I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Aruba…and hopefully I will be back. I also hope that the details I have posted will help you in planning your trip.