Caribbean charm: The allure of Aruba
For those who yearn to escape the relentless pressures of life in the fast lane and keen to seamlessly slip into that endearing laid back Caribbean attitude, Aruba, a truly beautiful and tranquil island, is bathed in glorious sunshine most of the year, and offers the ideal retreat.
Aruba, one of the ABC islands, along with Bonaire and Curacao, is just two hours and 30 minutes by air from the hustle and bustle of Miami and although the island is only fifteen miles long and six miles wide, it is the perfect destination for being utterly and unashamedly idle and, at the same time, it’s crammed with activities for fun loving thrill seekers.
Rich in history and culture Aruba offers visitors a fascinating insight into its distant past. The first known inhabitants of the island were the Caquetios Indians from the Arawak tribe and ancient painted symbols dating back to 1000 A.D. are still visible inside several of the island’s limestone caves. Ardent explorers should head for the Arikok National Park, which encompasses the three primary geological formations that shape the island.
The Aruba lava formation (a quartz diorite and limestone formation extending inward from the coastline) has played a pivotal role in supporting the indigenous plants such as cacti, aloe and the enchanting Divi divi tree and an abundance of wildlife including snakes, lizards, parakeets and owls.
Be sure to wander around the park’s Guardirikiri Caves, which feature a pair of intriguing domed entrances, said to have formed when two entwined lovers crashed through the rocks and then together flew directly up to Heaven. Although the interior chambers are somewhat eerie and the inner sanctum is inhabited by a pungent colony of bats it is well worth a visit as traditional carvings remain on site.
For bird lovers, the four San Nicolas Bay Keys, located at the south eastern part of the island, are major nesting sites for different tern species such as sooty terns and black and brown noddies, usually found nesting in or under buttonwood trees.
Oranjestad, located on the southern coast, is Aruba’s old, Dutch capital city. The charming multi coloured houses dotted along Wilheminastrat feature intricately carved wooden doors with traditional Dutch tiled sloping roofs and all along the busy wharf fishermen sell their wares caught in the early morning, a practice that goes back centuries.
For a deeper insight into Aruba’s history visit the Archaeological Museum located on Schelpstraat, which was once a family home and has been beautifully transformed into a modern museum whilst retaining its character. The museum exhibits one of the most comprehensive collections depicting pre historic and early historic Amerindian life and Caribbean culture.
A visit to Aruba’s Butterfly Farm on Irausquin Boulevard is also a must and provides the opportunity to encounter the hypnotic beauty and diversity of nature. A relaxing walk around the tropical garden teeming with butterflies from around the globe is simply unforgettable. Adults and children alike are in awe when the miracle of metamorphosis is observed. Early morning visitors may be fortunate to witness new butterflies emerging from their chrysalis and embarking on their first flight.
Aruba offers a wide choice of hotels to suit every budget but the Marriott Resort situated on Palm Beach is absolutely stunning. Accommodations include junior suites, which measure 625 square feet and feature floor-to-ceiling windows and wraparound balconies; just the ticket for a pre dining tipple, whilst admiring the fabulous sunsets.
Plush furnishings with ultra comfortable beds swathed in luxurious linens enhance the experience and the level of service is excellent. This choice of accommodation also includes access to the Club Lounge and guests are welcome to take advantage of the complimentary breakfast, midday snack, afternoon tea, hors d’oeuvres, desserts, complimentary cocktails and more.
Resort facilities include two spectacular outdoor swimming pools (the H2 Oasis pool is exclusively for adults), a 24 hour gymnasium with cardiovascular equipment and weights and the Balinese-style Mandara Spa which offers a wide choice of treatments.
Local water sports include snorkelling, scuba diving and kayaking attracting the adventurous and for those of us who prefer to take things a little easy consider hiring a boat and spend the day sailing on the translucent azure waters.
Or, you could take part in some paddle board yoga followed by a snooze on a gorgeous white sandy beach and soothed by the sound of the palm tree fronds rustling in the breeze. The allure of Aruba is hard to resist and this tranquil island is most definitely the perfect sanctuary.
Top tip – Entertainment
The Aruba carnival, held every year, (this year it was held from 5th January to 3rd March) celebrates the history and culture of the island and locals and tourists are encouraged to participate. Infectious music and colourful costumes entertain the crowds and during the evening torch-lit parades wind their way through the meandering streets. For more information go to visitaruba.com
Top tip – Accommodation
For more information on the featured accommodation, visit Marriott.com or call +297 586 9000.
Images (excluding the Marriott) supplied with the kind permission of the Aruba Tourism Authority.