Once again, in order to make the Canadian winters more bearable, the wife and I decided to get the hell out of the country for a little bit to enjoy the sun. Like always, we checked some flights and found the cheapest one to some sunny place. It turns out that this time around, it was Aruba. Well, I’m some glad the plane ticket was cheap because the rest of the country was completely the opposite, but more of that below. So, read on dear reader, and check out some awesome travel tips, and other things I wish I knew before heading down south.
Life Is A Highway. I Wanna Drive It - Much like previous countries the wife and I visited together, we rented a car so we could experience the entirety of the country on our own terms. Like always, it was a great decision. Aruba measures thirty-two kilometers from its northwestern tip to its southeastern tip. Tiny fucking country, I know. So, if you wanna road trip the whole thing, it’s gonna take you less than an hour. This means you can go anywhere you wish in a very short span of time. It’s nice to have such a free reign when you want to experience a country on your own accord. One final note, you don’t need a big car, nor a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get around Aruba. Stick with a tiny compact car, because when in Rome, mi amigos.
All Night Long - One of the funniest things I found about Aruba is the size of their beers. They’re tiny; like, super tiny. They’re only 22 centiliters. That’s wayyyyy smaller than the average beer here in Canada while containing the same 5% alcohol content as back home. That’s cool and all, because it allows the beer to stay cold while you drink it, except that it’s generally the same price at a bar or grocery store as it is in Canada. It also took about a million beers to begin to feel a buzz happening. The two factors were their size, and the fact that I’m a white guy dealing with the heat and the sun made me sweat out the alcohol quicker than I could ingest it. While it’s cool and makes you feel like a God when drinking with the locals, it has the detrimental effect of burning an enormous hole in your wallet quicker than you can ingest said tiny beers. Nothing, however, makes you feel more like a giant that holding one of these tiny troublemakers in your hand, but maybe stick to the hard stuff if you wanna tie one on.
My Poor Fucking Wallet - Remember when the Canadian dollar used to be close to the American one? Yeah, neither do I. Luckily, the currency of Aruba comes in two different kinds: the American dollar or the Aruban florin. The nice part is one Canadian dollar gets you about a dollar twenty-five in florins. The bad part is everything is mucho expensive; remember, you’re vacationing on an island. It takes a lot of money and resources to move products to said island, which means the prices are jacked up. A two-four of beer will run you about seventy-seven Florins (and remember, they’re tiny beers too). The local food is relatively cheap, about twelve bucks for a decent meal, but if you go to any of the fancy foreign spots, you’re gonna be looking at at least a twenty to thirty dollar hit on your Florin bankroll. Speaking of food…
Mmmmm, My Belly - We spent quite a few meals feeding ourselves, either because we picnic’d on the beach, or decided to cook for ourselves in our Airbnb (it came equipped with a functioning kitchen!) as buying groceries is a lot cheaper than eating out for every meal; however, there are a plethora of tasty treats awaiting you if you wanna step out and spend your hard-earned dollars in someone else’s kitchen. Here’s a couple of our favourites:
The Flying Fishbone - This is one of the more premier restaurants on the island. It cost us about two-hundred and fifty bucks for a cocktail, appetizer, and main course each, along with a bottle of wine. While the food is delicious, I’d stay away from the lobster bisque as an appetizer as it lacks salt and is heavy on the flour. The mains, however, are out of this world, most notably the unicornfish. It was lightly seasoned and grilled to absolute perfection. Now, while the food is impressive, it’s the atmosphere of the place that makes it worth the price of admission. You’re on the beach, feet in the sand (wear sandals), and if you can book a reservation at 17h30, you’ll be witness to one of the best sunset locations on the island. (FYI, you need to reserve a space at least a month in advance to witness said sunset. Also, if you book extra early, you can garner a seat with your feet in the water, which is awesome because sometimes fish, or the occasional octopus, will spend your dinner time swimming around your ankles).
Zeerover - A greasy favourite where you can get the catch of the day, or shrimp, or both. All of it deep-fried. Be prepared to wait an hour in the ordering line, and don’t forget to have someone save your spot so you can step to the bar and buy the bucket special of beer so you can stay hydrated in line. Once you have your order, find a seat along the dock and they’ll bring your food to you. (FYI, If you visit Aruba and don’t eat here, I’ll reach through the internet and punch you in the genitals).
Sightseeing - There are some really cool sights to see around this beautiful island, so I’m gonna drop you a few of my favourites. A cool spot if you wanna see some donkeys is the donkey sanctuary. It’s not a tour, but you can drive up there and scope the place out all on your own. It’s free, but they run on donations, so I’d suggest a ten-spot. It doesn’t take long if you just wanna chill there, and we spent about twenty minutes chatting with the staff, chatting with some donkeys, and being chased by a couple of horny female peacocks (having colourful tattoos does it for them, I guess).
My favourite thing we did was take the ATV tour of the northern part of the island. It’s about four hours, and I recommend going on the nine am time, that way you’re not too sun-fucked to enjoy the whole thing. They take you to the oldest church on the island, an abandoned gold mine, a natural land bridge, and finally the natural pools (it costs fourteen bucks to go for a swim, but it’s pretty cool). If you wanna book a tour, you can follow the hyperlink here.
Two Final Things Of Note - It was very bizarre to be on an island that feels like South America, yet is populated by a lot of Dutch citizens while all the street names are in Dutch. It’s a rather big culture shock, to say the least. Still cool, though.
Second, Aruba's got some bomb-ass beaches. Obviously you wouldn't sleep on 'em, but hey, I felt like I should give 'em a shoutout just in case.
That’s it. Don’t sleep on Aruba despite it being rather expensive. If you’ve been there, feel free to drop some of your favourite spots in the comments below.