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Aruba

Aruba Vacation Review: Why the Island is So Popular

Palm Beach is one of the best reasons to vacation in Aruba. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Three Aruba vacations have convinced me that this is an island with balance -- nice people, decent shopping, great beaches and the ability to move around.

It's also convenient. Land at Queen Beatrix airport and drive only about 15 minutes by taxi to the capital of Orangestad. Drive another few minutes to an Eagle Beach or Palm Beach hotel. Walk out and enjoy some of the best beaches in the Caribbean.

We spent our first vacation at a Marriott hotel in downtown Oranjestad. We spent our second and third visits at hotels on Palm Beach.

We had easy access to a number of nice restaurants, plus plenty of shopping. Be advised that almost everything important lies along L.G. Smith Boulevard, which is the single busiest street on the island. So plan on walking rather than driving whenever possible to avoid heavy traffic.

One unique aspect to the Marriott hotel was the privately owned, 40-acre Renaissance Island just off the coast. Boats come and go all day from the hotel, including a boat that comes to a small dock inside the Marina Hotel by the lobby.

Renaissance Island features two private lagoons with clean white sand, plenty of palm trees, pink flamingos, iguanas and even parrots. At least when we were there, it was quiet, peaceful and difficult to leave again. Most of our plans for other activities during the week quickly vanished.

Our second and third vacations to Aruba took us to Palm Beach, one of the most famous beaches in the Caribbean. The sand, water and trees were beautiful and relaxing, but what made Palm Beach special was the line of hotels, shops, restaurant and entertainment at the edge of the beach..

Irausquin is possibly the busiest place in Aruba at night -- people are walking, eating or hanging around everywhere. A small outdoor shopping center entertained people with a laser light show. Others went shopping before or after their dinners.

Restaurants range from casual to elegant, and every one of our meals was eaten outdoors and enjoyed for both the food and the people watching.

Outside of beaches, shopping and restaurants, Aruba emphasizes water sports in part because of shipwrecks and coral reefs off the coast that make the island a good destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. The island itself is one of the most arid in the Caribbean, and so visitors who prefer land activities will find that it offers standard things to do such as jeep rides, ATV tours, horseback rides and other adventures on the rocky, desert-like landscape.

A few other attractions are worth noting. They include the California Lighthouse, baby natural bridge, Butterfly Farm, Ostrich Farm, Donkey Sanctuary and various island caves.

If shopping and plenty of walking around is high on your list, consider staying in Orangestad, although the shopping is no different than any other mid-sized Caribbean island. If beaches are attractive, consider Palm or Eagle beach.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Vacation Reviews   

January 12, 2021
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