story and photos by Christopher M. Halleron
For a nation that’s basically twice the size of Manhattan, Aruba is an island of stark contrasts.
The windward side is a battered, hardened shell of a landscape with adventure at every turn, while the leeward western shore is a soft tropical paradise with tranquil beaches and extravagant resorts.
Their tourist tagline is “One Happy Island,” which seems true for the most part. The native language of Papiamento is a somewhat cumbersome hybrid of Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish and West African Creole—a nod to the vast array of cultures that all cohabitate on this tropical outpost off the coast of Venezuela.
What’s important for travelers from our part of the world to remember is the fact that Aruba is very, very sunny. Despite the ever-present breeze, the sun will beat down on New Jersey skin with a vengeance. You can take our word for it, or you can learn the hard way.
The resorts speak for themselves, with everything you’d ever expect from such an environment. The beach is tranquil, the drinks are fruity, the rum is strong, and ice-cold cans of Balashi are a thing of beauty when you’re looking to sit back and unwind.
But Aruba’s enchanting eastern edge begs exploration, as you head north from Oranjestad and reach the California Lighthouse, overlooking Arashi Bay. From there, you cut back down along sandy trails to Andicuri Beach and Arikok National Park, where you take in the rugged majesty of Aruba’s truly dynamic topographical peculiarities.
Back at the resort, it’s time to wash off the grit and grime of your expedition. Snorkeling the Antilla shipwreck off Boca Catalina Beach is a great way to clean up, before heading out for a world-class dinner at any one of Aruba’s fabulous beachside restaurants.
Direct flights out of Newark will have you in Oranjestad under five hours. Once you clear customs (be prepared to wait), you’re about 15 minutes from the beach, boat, golf course, or bar.