This is a featured blog article from Philadelphia Gay News editor Jen Colletta. She and her wife Ashlee traveled to Aruba for their One Happy Honeymoon.
Small island, big fun
Aruba’s moniker is “one happy island” — and the Caribbean island more than lives up to that name. Perhaps it’s the weather, perhaps it’s the setting, but whatever makes the fine people who live on Aruba as good-spirited as they are, we want to import some of it to the East Coast.
In our cab ride from the airport, while our driver excitedly pointed out tourist spots, we asked if the island had a rainy season — and we were met with a hearty chuckle.
One of the most striking things about Aruba is its daily picture-perfect weather. As lifelong East Coasters, I thought we might get restless of constantly sunny skies during our 10-day trip, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Jen & Ashlee at Pure Ocean
Aruba, located outside of Hurricane Alley, is generally known to have some of the best weather in the Caribbean. During our late-April trip, the temps hovered at 90 every day, with sunshine in abundance. But there is a steady breeze that keeps it from feeling too hot (and which can also trick sunbathers into not being as generous with the sunscreen as they should!).
The island is bordered by rolling white sandy beaches and the bright blue Caribbean that is nearly waveless near the shore. Inland, Aruba is rife with a cactus-dotted desert landscape.
view from Divi Phoenix
Aruba is just about 20 miles long and 6 miles wide — but its small size certainly works in its favor, as it’s an easily navigable island with a lot of activity packed into the tourist areas, but also a wealth of the natural landscape preserved for picturesque sightseeing.
You’re in luck if adventure is on your agenda.
Arikok National Park is one of the island’s most popular tourist sites, covering nearly 20 percent of Aruba. Visitors can hop in guide-driven jeeps and ATVs or rent their own off-roading vehicles to traverse the rocky roads of the park. And when I say rocky, I truly mean hold-onto-your-hat-and-the-handle-and-anything-else-you-can-find rocky.
Wild goats roam the park, and you can also spot rare birds and snakes as you traverse the hills, from the tops of which you will find spectacular, panoramic views of the island. The park is home to a number of caves that carry drawings and inscriptions dating back thousands of years. Watch your head when you enter, though, as bats now call the caves home. The Natural Pool at the base of one side is a must-see. Visitors have to descend about 100 steps to reach the entrance to the pool, a near-circular swimming area into which the daring can catapult from the top of the natural rock formations and the less-daring can snorkel for stunningly colorful views of fish and coral.
Natural Pool "Conchi"
While Arikok has the market on desert adventure, there is also an abundance of water sports along the island. Rentals are set up along the beach near most of the large hotels, and hotel concierges can also book trips with larger excursion companies. Prices for the water sports — from jetskiing to parasailing to tubing — are often reasonable and no experience is necessary, so they’re a great way to see the island and have a fun, active afternoon.
Palm Beach Aruba
Five o’clock somewhere
If you prefer to burn your calories on the dance floor, Aruba offers plenty of nightlife options.
The “it’s five o’clock somewhere” slogan is often at play on the island, as nightlife on Aruba isn’t necessarily defined by the sunset.
Throughout the day, the sea is chock full of “booze cruises” — sailboats that carry visitors out into the water for an afternoon or evening (or, in our case, morning) of all-you-can-drink-and-eat fun in the sun. The Jolly Pirates Cruise was a particularly entertaining trip, complete with several rounds of snorkeling, a plank from which you could dive and a rope swing. Frivolity was had by all.
Jolly Pirates Sailing
Another boozey adventure was Kookoo Kunoko, a four-stop bar crawl that takes visitors to authentic Aruba watering holes. While it is at first a bit discomfiting to be among the campy, quirky Kookoo enclave — who are all given moroccos to wave as the open-air tour bus wends its way from bar to bar — it was a fun way to see what a Friday night on the island is like for natives, and to mix and mingle with other visitors.
Kukoo Kunuku Party Bus
Aruba also provides ample opportunity to lighten your wallet.
If you’re looking for some serious retail therapy, Renaissance Mall is a collection of upscale, luxury brands — with names like Gucci and Louis Vuitton — in downtown Oranjestad. More than 60 stores, as well as restaurants and cafés, fill the mall in the heart of the town, directly across from its marina. The shopping mecca is easily accessible to the high-rise hotel section, and makes for a great daytrip when you need a break from the sun.
If you’re in the market for more authentic Aruban shopping, stalls line the seaside next to the marina with handmade Aruban goods, a must-stop for souvenirs and trinkets. And make sure to check out the tiny shops and restaurants tucked on the winding streets behind the mall complex for a fun taste of Aruban flavor.
This article where it was originally posted here. Read the other two articles that Jen wrote about her Aruba experiences: