Trip Report Aruba May 13-23 2015
We flew Southwest from Columbus to Baltimore Washington International. No delays and we landed a few minutes ahead of schedule. We breezed through Customs and Immigration. We did not get assistance from a porter and others that did were able to access the lines ahead of us. So if you are in hurry, get a porter. From the time we landed until we were in the van to get our rental jeep was about 30 minutes.
We rented from Royal due to pricing. The person who picked us up was very cordial. Once we got to the rental agency the door was stuck and a man named Adjay had to come open it for me. He acted like it was such a big deal to have to get up and open it. It was an old heavy metal door without a door handle and the wind was blowing so bad I couldn’t open it. He actually yelled at me “it was open!” Anyway, he had an attitude about getting up and I thought was a bad first impression of the island. The jeep was pretty beat up but that was ok with us because we got a 10 day rental for under 500 dollars. We did a video around the whole jeep so we couldn’t get charged for any damages. We then headed out to our condo.
We rented from Prestige Vacations through Alan Riley. We were in penthouse 512 at Oceania Residences, also called the Amber Penthouse. Raquel from PV met us there (with chilled champagne) and walked us through the condo explaining things and giving us the codes to access the safe and beach gate. The condo was great! The rooftop terrace was awesome and we made use of the nice lounging area and hot tub. It was also great for catching sunsets with a pre-dinner cocktail. As usual, the grounds of the condo complex were well kept and clean with gated 24 hour security. Eagle Beach is right across the street and we tried to use the beach but the winds were so strong the first few days we went back to the pool area. I have to say I am not sure if it was just the winds or what, but the beach appeared a lot dirtier than when I was last there. I noticed lots of glass on the beach, mostly green from Heineken bottles I guess. I hope Aruba gets a handle on this, I would hate to see this beach get trashed.
We headed out to the new Super Foods for groceries and I was surprised by the prices. There was a better selection of items and the prices on most things seemed pretty reasonable and not as high as my last visit. Some items still have premium prices on them like 11 dollars for Dunkin Donuts coffee but who needs that when Folgers is 4 dollars?
We headed downtown and ate at Kowloon’s near Renaissance that night. The food was great with large portions so we had them for lunch the next day. The bill came out to under 15 dollars a person. It]s off the beaten path about 2 blocks from the mall. We had to ask a security guard to point us in the right direction.
Our first full day there we tried the beach but had to return to the pool due to the high winds. After two days the winds seemed to die down a lot and be closer to the normal trade winds. We stayed in the pool area and cooked Argentinian steaks from Super Food that night on the terrace. We also did a short ride to the light house and got smoothies from the truck there. They also have chilled coconuts they open with a machete so you can drink the chilled water for $3.00. The mango-pineapple smoothies were delicious.
The next day we just relaxed poolside and took a short ride to the Chapel at Alto Vista. We had a jeep so we took the path from the lighthouse. Once there we noticed a new paved road that we used to get back. We also went to the Donkey Sanctuary which took us forever to find and we got there just after 4. We were still able to see the donkeys even though they closed at 4 PM. We fed them carrots and got some great pictures. We stopped at Senor Frogs for 2 for 1 Yard drinks. The drinks were really bad. Very weak and it took forever to get them. We left there and went to try the new food truck, Eataly, in the parking lot at Eagle Bowling. They has just opened at 7 and it was around 8PM. We tried to order Beef Lasagne and were told they were bringing more over. We waited about 10 minutes and a van with some generic lettering pulls up and hands the workers a foil covered pan. The worker then tells us that chicken lasagna with Alfredo sauce was delivered and there was no more beef lasagna. OK, whatever, we will take the chicken. So then he “finds” a single serving of beef lasagna. OK, then give us one beef and one chicken. They add a slice of bread toasted to the food and we leave to eat back at the condo. The food was terrible. The chicken lasagna was dry and tasted more like reheated tuna noodle casserole from elementary school. The beef lasagna was like a canned Chef Boyardee product. We have no idea what was used on the “garlic bread”. It was white and sweet and tasted like sweetened lard. I am going to do a review on Eataly so I won’t go in to any more detail here. Just don’t go to Eataly planning to get decent food. It was awful.
We went to Iguana Cantina the next day for dinner. I had printed out coupons from Aruba Nights online that were for free margaritas that clearly had “Print and Redeem” on them also had dotted lines around them indicating where they should be cut. The manager said he would not honor them as we had to have the original coupon from the free books found on stands. HUH? It clearly said print and redeem on them? The magazine is free and also can be read online. We were about to leave when he decided he would honor them. To bad for us. The drinks were mediocre and the food weak. The salsa was like canned tomatoes. The taco salad was actually good, fajitas good, but the fish tacos were dry and tasteless. At that point we were done with the strip eateries and decided to go local and go south the rest of the trip.
The next night we headed to Zeerovers, always one of my favorite dinners. The catch that day was Wahoo and we also got shrimp, Funchi, plantains, fries and ice cold Balashi’s for under 20 dollars a person. We had plenty of leftovers too. I love Zeerovers!
We went to the Old Cunucu House the next night for an authentic Aruban dining experience. Our waitress Jasmin was a doll! I had the Keshi Yena which was very good but doesn’t compare to the version I loved at Nos Cunucu. I looked but I guess Nos Cunucu has closed. Anyway all the food we tried was great including liver and Palm Beach seafood, pumpkin soup and pan bati. Some local dogs roamed in the restaurant looking for a hand out, and we loved it! Great place and a little off the beaten path.
The next day we started out early to take the jeep to the natural pool. We got there no problem and had the pool to ourselves for swimming, snorkeling and pictures. By the time the tours starting showing up we were headed out. We headed out to Baby Beach to snorkel. The beach was filthy. Maybe due to the winds? Not the way I remember it and I probably will never go back. The reef is mostly dead. Some fish to be seen but not the way I remember Baby Beach. We went on to Charlies Bar in San Nicholas and had calamari and cold Balashis. I had heard that Charlie’s did not have good food but we had the calamari and found it to be very good. We were reading “An Island Away” by Daniel Putkowski so it was great to be able to see places mentioned in the book. We found out that the people in the book are actually based on real people and both Charlie and Sam had been in that morning. Herr Koch was our bartender and even helped me dry my money with napkins. My money had got soaked in my pocket at Baby Beach. He pressed my bills between napkins to dry it. Loved him! We had a great time and got hit up for cash by an authentic choller. He refused a Balashi from our cooler so we gave him a dollar. We stopped by LaGranja on the way home for seafood paella and it was cheap but flavorful. The staff were very friendly and I would recommend this place for a cheap but delicious meal. Although we were tired we stopped at the Aruban Taste in Orange Plaza for rum tasting. She let us try everything and we had a great time just doing that. We mentioned the book to her (An Island Away) and she was not aware of it. We made plans to return and drop off the book and buy liquor prior to our leaving.
The next night we shopped a little downtown and it was packed. There were two cruise ships in port and the Soul Music Beach Festival was going to start the next day. We headed to Hard Rock Café but left prior to the Pre-Festival party that was going to start there at 9:30. The Red, White and Blue burger was awesome!!
The next day we bought some Aruba charms at Kay’s and used free coupons for a free Aruba charm that came in gold or silver. For something that was free, it was actually nice. We stopped back at Arubian Taste and bought some Coiecoie and Poncha Crema to bring back. Also went to Super Foods for 4 packages of Stroopwafels by Jumbo to bring home. We cooked some more Argentinian steaks from Super Foods and enjoyed our last night. We stopped and dropped the jeep at Royal. Well remember Adjay from the first day? I tried to open the door and it was stuck. So instead of having Adjay be rude to me again for making him get up to open the door, I pulled it open myself. Well….now he loudly yells at me that “THE DOOR WAS OPEN!. Never again will I rent from Royal due to this man’s rudeness. We got to the airport by 10 for a 1PM flight. We were completely through everything by 11:AM, on a Saturday. We had a great time and will definitely be back!
Sorry to hear that Eataly was terrible. Unfortunately we all from time to time get stuck with a place that is sub par.
How ridiculous about the coupons at Iguana huh?
Also, Royal gets some mixed reviews and in the negative reviews, that same person is mentioned.
Why can't folks be courteous and kind?
Glad to hear most all was wonderful.
We were in Aruba from May 6 - 19 and yes indeed the winds were unusually strong making for much blowing sand and dust.
One of the days we were at Baby Beach and found it wonderful and not dirty. Day to day changes i guess
Thank you for sharing your review. I absolutely love Oceania, it was the first place we rented when we started coming to Aruba. Sorry you had a bad Eataly experience we actually enjoyed it twice on our trip but when it comes to food I guess that's how it goes. Same thing with Iguana, probably the worst meal I've ever eaten,but I know some people who enjoy it.
I think I know which guy at Royal you are talking about, probably the second most testy person on the island. I keep saying I won't be back but when I compare there Jeep prices to others I keep end up coming back. This next time we won't be renting a jeep so I guess I'm free.
We did the same thing with "An Island Away" trying to see all the places mentioned in the book. I wanted to go into the refinery but she isn't as adventurous as I am so we only got as far as the gate. Probably saved me a lot of money in legal fees so I guess its a good thing. We also had a good time with Cornelius and had just missed Sam earlier that day but Charlie couldn't have been there Daniel told me he passed away a few years ago. I wonder if the choller you met was the same one who got me for a couple of dollars lol. I was hoping it was Frankie but it wasn't.
We were told the original Charlie who started the bar had passed away, and his son also named Charlie, had inherited the bar. The bartender we talked with said he was Herr Koch in the book. As far as Eataly, I'm glad you enjoyed them, maybe they were having an off night when we were there. We really wanted to like it. And the jeep rental guy, we probably won't rent a jeep again so I will never have to see him. I love Aruba and will be back.
Thanks for sharing.... sorry about the coupons. I am an extreme coupon person.
Try to buy what I only need with coupons... especially bogo.
Good attitude about going back too. Never let one bad experience take the best of ya.
Keep telling myself "I can make lemonade out of those lemons.."