Sergio and I just returned from a vacation to the Caribbean island of Aruba, and I wanted to share some of our photos and impressions while we still have the tan lines to prove we were there.
We spent five nights in Aruba exploring parts of the island, checking out different beaches, and eating. The island has many reefs and the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean make it ideal for snorkeling and SCUBA, but Sergio and I opted to forgo such activities. This was truly a “fly-n-flop” holiday as my friend Tracey put it.
Where the gays are: I have a hunch one reason gay Caribbean cruises are so popular is because with the exception of Havana, Cuba and San Juan, Puerto Rico, there is no “gay life” to speak of on Caribbean islands, and Aruba is no exception. We didn’t see a single beach, bar or space the LGBTQ+ community shared or called their own. However, we did spot and chat with a few gay travelers, and we never felt uncomfortable or unwelcome. However, I did notice at times we did pull back and were less affectionate than we might have been if we were in Provincetown, SoBe, or another more outwardly gay friendly destination.
The lack of an LGBTQ element didn’t take away from the fun and we both returned from Aruba refreshed, tan, and happy. Below are some details about our trip, and observations about Aruba.
Aruba’s beaches: We did not visit the undeveloped East Coast but there are many half and full day tours to this part of the island that are very popular. We opted to drive up and down the West Coast from the Arashi Dunes behind the California Lighthouse in the North down to Rodger’s and Baby Beach in the South. We made a number of stops at small beachside groves and larger beaches but our favorites were Arashi Beach, Flamingo Beach on Renaissance Island, and Baby Beach.
Food & drink We really liked the food on the island. Aruba may be a Dutch colony, but its cuisine is more influenced by Venezuala and Colombia. The seafood is excellent and nearly every night we ate on or near the beach. Some of our favorite places to eat and drink were:
- Azia is located across from the Hilton at the southern end of Palm Beach. The menu is pan-Asian and everything we ate was excellent. This place also made the best cocktails and had a cool bar / lounge for pre- or post-dinner drinks.
- Barefoot was a favorite spot to dine in part because most of the tables are on the beach. We made reservations about 30-minutes prior to sunset, and it made for spectacular dining. The only deterrant is the beach club next door which played rather loudly, 90s Hip Hop and R&B.
- Pelican Nest is a rustic restaurant on a pier on Plam Beach. I very much appreciated the shade and cold beers they served at lunch to escape the heat and sun.
- The West Deck has picnic tables on the beach or tables on their deck with very nice and attentive staff who offered some great suggestions for our stay. It’s also a great place to grab a Balashi (Aruban lager) and waste away a few hours after the sun goes down.
Observations about traveling in Aruba
- Currency: You can get money from the airport ATM if you want Aruban Florins, but the island uses US $ and you are more likely get your change in US currency than Florins so no worries about converting currency if coming from the US.
- Weather: In late January it was warm and sunny with temperatures in the low 80s F / 28 C. The big surprise was how arid is Aruba’s climate.
- Customer Service: Everyone from hotel staff to taxi drivers to waitstaff was friendly and helpful. It really does seem like one happy island.
- Getting Around: We rented a SUV for two days to visit beaches and restaurants up and down the island. The heat makes biking impractical and while taxis are plentiful it does get expensive. Parking was free everywhere we went so the car rental became a no brainer.
- Taxis: You must have cash because taxis do not accept credit cards and ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft are not on the island.
If you are planning a trip from Boston, I’d encourage you to book JetBlue’s nonstop flight. At the moment, they are the only carrier offering nonstop service to the island. If you’re contemplating a trip and have questions about Aruba, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave your question in the comment section.