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Travellers staying in today’s ultra-efficient resorts have holiday happiness handed to them on a plate.
But in Aruba that might mean missing out on a massive menu of other holiday ingredients.
Cocooned in their slick hotels, visitors are undoubtedly having the time of the lives but what a shame if they don’t venture further afield occasionally to get a real flavour of the island’s genuine hospitality.
This Dutch Caribbean island is foodie heaven and even if you are not an out and out gourmet, the island’s tourist board, together with chefs, believe visitors are missing out if they stick solely to their hotel’s restaurant. With more than 600 places to eat and catering for all budgets and palates, Aruba dishes up dining out like few other destinations.
All major international cuisines are represented. From burgers to baltis, South American churrascarias to Chinese, and haute cuisine to humble local specialities, Aruba is an adventure for the taste buds.
Aruba is also cooking up a reputation as the perfect destination for healthy eaters. It has embraced the growing trend for vegan and vegetarian diets and despite a deeply-rooted food culture that favours meat, fish and barbecues, there are more and more options to eat healthier.
With the launch of Vegan Aruba it is easier than ever to stay up to date with where to eat, shop and meet up with the vegan community at fun events. Even the popular Pastechi House in downtown Oranjestad, the island’s capital – a mecca for the iconic savoury-filled pastry snack, pastechi – has launched a vegan version.
Meanwhile, for visitors not sure which of the wider choice of restaurants to try, the island offers a solution with its innovative Dine Around programme. Operated by the Aruba Gastronomic Association, the scheme enables visitors to pre-pay at a discounted price for meals at a choice of dozens of restaurants. Available online (http://arubadining.com) or bought on-island, the Dine Around scheme enables visitors to sample some of the top local restaurants – or, of course, can buy it for friends of relatives as a gift or for a special occasion, such as an anniversary or birthday.
Dine Around packages start at US$150 (approx. £117) per person for three dinners. Other options, to lunch breakfast and lunch, are also available.
Meanwhile, although most visitors will be staying in the main hotel areas along the western coastline, they should be sure to visit the vibrant atmosphere of the island’s capital as downtown Oranjestad remains a bustling seaport.
The harbour area is a glorious example of living, breathing history. Downtown is a celebration for the eyes with charming architecture drenched in rich, vibrant Caribbean colours.
Two of downtown’s distinct streets, Wilhelminastraat and Mainstreet, are home to a myriad of culinary offerings—from fine dining and intimate chef’s-table concepts to creole and ethnic food.
Asian Delight, for example, known as the best Dutch/Chinese restaurant downtown, invented the Yami Yami lunch special, which was so amazingly popular that it gave birth to a sister restaurant called Yami Yami in Bubali, close to the island’s hotel area. This restaurant has a full bar, a casual/child friendly environment, and is rich with Chinese culture and culinary delights.
For the culinary adventurous, try Carte Blanche. This exclusive chef’s-table experience can accommodate no more than 14 adults (18+ only) who will watch their master chef for the evening create and serve a five-course meal perfectly paired with exquisite wine.
Wilhelmina Restaurant is Carte Blanche’s slightly more structured big sister. The menu is fit for the Queen after which the restaurant was named: extremely classy yet completely unpretentious. For diners (especially groups) reservations are highly recommended since space is limited; but the bar is open to anyone who wishes to be offered exceptional service and excellent food in an exotic ambiance.
Housed in a historic building, Maroc features a menu of intriguing tapas, and is a favourite gathering spot for locals. A nibble of this, a nosh of that and just “un tiki” of the other thing is an amazing way to enjoy a meal.
For meat lovers, El Gaucho is a must. A favourite since 1977, its transports diners to the heart of South America where grass-fed beef is king. Live guitar music entertains in this restaurant, which also has an extensive wine list.
Also carving a name for itself is Yemanja Woodfired Grill. In addition to her signature meats cooked on a wood-fired grill, the chef is well-known for her colourful, creative vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Taste My Aruba sources locally-grown produce to make their tasty treats. From homemade doughnuts and smoothies to a renowned in-house hot sauce recipe Taste My Aruba will always keep you on your toes. Because the menu is crafted daily around whatever they can buy fresh and local, it changes each day.
Alternatively, for a taste of Surinamese and Indonesian cuisine, head to Fusion Deli. Their signature roti with chicken, potatoes, and curry is popular, as well as the nasi and bami dishes.
At Coco Plum Original keshi yena, goat stoba (stew), beef croquettes, bacalow, and fresh fish are all traditional local dishes you will find on this cute café’s daily specials menu.