Alluring Aruba

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Located 15 miles north of Venezuela in the southern Caribbean, the tiny Dutch Island of Aruba is not only home to some of the best beaches in the world but also to some of the friendliest people you will ever meet making it a perfect honeymoon destination.

As we flew in over the island my jaw dropped as I gazed sleepily out of the airplane window at some of the most pristine blue waters I have ever seen. Was I still asleep or was I dreaming? I shook my head and pinched my cheeks to make sure I was really awake and my whole body filled with excitement as we made our descent onto the little runway just meters from the white sandy beach. After collecting our luggage and making our way outside to the car, the warm Caribbean air hit our faces and we knew that we were in for an amazing week.

Aruba is a very small island, just 20 miles from the North to South, so it only took us 10 minutes to drive from the airport to our home for the week. Being quite an active couple we decided not to stay in a beach hotel and instead opted for somewhere a little more private that would provide us with a perfect base for exploring everything the island has to offer. This led us to choosing Paradera Park which is a little oasis in the middle of the island that combines boutique charm with an easy access location. The award winning resort was recently awarded TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Award 2015 for best value resort in the Caribbean and the Zoover Award 2015 for best small resort in Aruba. It is a family run business owned by husband and wife Deborah and Henk and comprises 17 self-catering rooms from deluxe studios to royal one and two bedroom suites which have everything you need from kitchenettes to air conditioning, wifi and housekeeping. Our one bedroom suite was lovely and had, as all the rooms do, a private outdoor space which was perfect for relaxing in with our morning coffee or enjoying that last glass of wine before retiring for the night.

The 17 rooms are set amongst mature tropical gardens with a beautiful central area which has a large swimming pool and a number of loungers and hammocks for chilling after a busy day’s exploring.

If self catering isn’t your thing or if you would prefer to spend your days lazing on the beach and soaking up the sun then there are plenty of other options on the island from the gorgeous boutique Bucuti & Tara eco-friendly Beach Resort, an Adults-Only property located on the award-winning Eagle Beach, to the grandeur of the trendy Renaissance Hotel with it’s own private island and luxury shopping mall.

During our week-long stay we were lucky enough to spend a day at the Renaissance Hotel’s private island which is usually only accessible to guests of the hotel. Just a few minutes by speedboat from the hotel lobby and you will find yourself on Aruba’s only private beach. This pristine, secluded beach gives you a sense of peace and solitude that is simply not found anywhere else in the world, a true escape within an escape. With sand as soft and white as powder and warm shallow waters in infinite shades of blue and green, it almost couldn’t get any better until we saw the 10 pink flamingos that live on the island casually strolling up and down the beach and cooling themselves off in the pristine waters. Spending the day on this private island, having cocktails bought to our loungers and bathing amongst the pink flamingos was one of the most memorable days of our lives and one we will treasure for years to come.

If you are not staying at the Renaissance hotel then fear not, there are plenty of other spectacular beaches for you to enjoy from the award-winning Eagle Beach to the secluded Boca Catalina Beach and, my personal favourite, the breath-taking Baby Beach. All of these beaches offer Aruba’s trademark picture-perfect stretches of white sand and crystal clear water

The snorkeling on Aruba is fantastic, you can snorkel on almost any beach and you are bound to see something special on every trip. You can even take a boat tour for the day as we did and be taken to some of the best snorkeling spots on the island including the Antilla Ship Wreck. This is one of the island’s most famous snorkelling spots where angelfish, stingrays and morays swirl around the remnants of a WWII freighter. Aside from snorkelling there are many other water sports on offer in Aruba from kite-surfing to stand up paddle boarding so there is no shortage of cool things to try out. We booked a two hour wind surfing lesson with Aruba Active Vacations and we had so much fun. By the end of the two hours we were actually surfing on the boards which was exhilarating although we didn’t quite master turning around in that short time which was pretty hilarious as every time the wind changed direction we would get blown off the boards into the water!

After our day out on the water there we decided that there was no better spot for watching the sunset than Bugaloe beach bar on Palm Beach (from which most of the boat trips depart). This funky little beach bar is set over the water and serves fantastic cocktails for you to sip while watching the sky turn 50 shades of orange.

On the days when we felt like having our feet firmly on dry land we enjoyed strolling around Down Town, riding on the colourful tram which goes up and down Main Street and taking photos of all the pretty colour buildings. One of the highlights of our trip was doing a Jeep Adventure which we booked through ABC Aruba Tours and which was so much fun. On the adventure we were taken around the North coast of the island in an open-air jeep to explore some of Aruba’s most secluded spots. Beforehand we didn’t realise that so much of the island was made up of volcanic rocks and covered in cacti and at times we felt like were out in the Wild West! The dramatic landscapes in the North were beautiful and completely different from the South and West coast of the island. On the tour we stopped off at sites such as Blackstone Beach, Twin Bridges, Eyes of God, Natural Bridge, Andicuri, Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins, Wish Garden and the famous California Lighthouse and we even got to swim in a natural pool.

After seeing how much diverse landscape the island had to offer we decided to rent a car the next day and visit the National Park which a desert-like preserve with a variety of wildlife, cacti and dramatic rock formations. We spent the entire morning exploring the park before heading off to Baby Beach to spend the rest of the day swimming and relaxing. It’s well worth renting a car for at least one day so you can explore the island and a 4×4 is highly recommended as some of the trails in the National Park are only accessible with off-road vehicles.

The night life in Aruba is nice and laid back. It’s mostly about sipping cocktails and listening to live music so it’s no wonder the best bar on the island is Moomba as is known for its great bands and to-die-for cocktails. We spent an entire night here dancing barefoot on the sand and drinking the best Pina Coladas we have ever tasted.

Drinking aside, if you are foodies then you are also in for a treat! Aruba has an exceptionally diverse population with more than 90 nationalities present and their rich, multicultural past is reflected in their eclectic mix of cuisines on offer from beach side casual restaurants to exquisite fine dining, this tiny island is a culinary delight!

Start your day with a champagne brunch at A Taste Of Belgium where, for $42, you can enjoy 3 hours of bottomless mimosas and an entire menu of dishes that you can order until your belly aches. With pancakes, waffles, omelettes and salads there’s no need to have food envy as you can try as many dishes as you like! If that sounds just a little too indulgent for you then the Dutch Pancake House next door does amazingly good pancakes that will leave you rolling yourself back to your sun lounger.

We tried so many great restaurants which all had something different to offer. There was the fun and funky vibe at Que Pasa which doubles up as an art gallery, the spectacular views from the outdoor terrace at El Faro Blanco with its scrummy Italian food and a casual lunch the Hadicurari on the beach where you can bury your toes in the sand while you feast on fresh sea food and enjoy an ice cold beer. For an even more casual dining experience why not eat like a local at Zeerovers. This seafood spot is a firm favourite with locals and there are no fancy menus or complicated dishes at this fishing village eaterie, just a counter where you choose from two options: catch of the day or shrimps! They weigh it up, cook it up and bring it to you at one of their tables overlooking the beach. Delicious!

For evening meals there were a few restaurants which stood out above the rest such as Pinchos Grill. This is a very romantic restaurant set on a private pier over the water. Not only is the setting picturesque setting but the food is absolutely fantastic. The surf and turf, in particular, was exquisite and consisted of a juicy filet steak and a large meaty lobster tail served with creamy mash potatoes and it was a miracle that afterwards I was still able to fit in their famous chocolate and banana cake. Another restaurant which we loved was Screaming Eagle. This trendy fine dining restaurant offers stylish indoor and outdoor dining and serves some of the very best seafood on the island. The swordfish was the incredibly succulent and tasty and the tuna tartar and the beef tataki were both out of this world!

For something a little bit different I would highly recommend visiting The Wine Room. This hidden gem is an absolute must for any wine lovers or for those simply wanting to try a variety of beautiful wines paired with delicious food. The rustic, cozy ambiance and charming owner Monrick’s abundant passion for wine make for a wonderfully relaxed and homely atmosphere. At The Wine Room you can just stop by for just a glass or two and a small cheese platter or spend the entire evening enjoying one of Monrick’s wine and food pairing packages where you will sample up to 6 wines accompanied by small dishes such as escargots in garlic and herb butter, slices of steak in blue cheese sauce and delectable melt-in-the-mouth chocolate truffles all of which have been prepared by Monrick himself. We had a really enjoyable evening here and it felt like we were over at a good friend’s house rather than at a wine tasting venue. As this is a very small intimate venue which is only open a few nights a week I would recommend calling ahead to make a reservation.

Getting married in Aruba

Aruba is not just an amazing honeymoon island but it is also the perfect setting for a destination wedding. With its mix of white sandy beaches, beautiful azure waters and exquisite food I can’t think of a better place to tie the knot. Experienced wedding planner and Aruba native Lissy Lampe is one of the best wedding planners on the island and can turn any bride’s vision into a reality.

Toy can find out more about Aruba by visiting www.aruba.com

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