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My Aruban Adventure

The pandemic has been long and challenging and because of that, I wanted to go somewhere warm where I could sit out on a beach and relax... but also adventure!

By: Nick Palastro + Save to a List

Because of the pandemic, it had been more than a year and a half since I was able to take a vacation and I had to get away. I wanted to go somewhere warm to escape the winter cold and I wanted to go somewhere I could sit out in the sun, read a book, and not have anyone telling me what to do or where do go. I didn't want a mountainous trip but also wanted to be able to go out on some day trip adventures to explore. I began looking at airbnb costs around some of the Caribbean islands to see what some of them had to offer. This was a solo trip and I ended up choosing Aruba. Aruba sounded fun, was considered a safe island, and the airbnb cost was relatively cheap yet the island offered some great photographic opportunities. Once I really began to dig in and do my research of what Aruba offered, I began to really see how interesting the island was. There is a
ton of history and adventurous activities to be found!

I stayed in this studio, hosted by Chris and Elisa. It was very affordable, in an exceptional location, and offered the amenities I needed for five nights, just myself!

During the trip, I was able to put together an itinerary of some trips, tours, and dives that fed a bit of my adventure need while allowing me plenty of time for relaxation. I will share some pictures and give a brief summary of what I was able to find! These are in no particular order, just some things I did and saw.

Flamingo Beach

Flamingo Beach is a private beach located on private Renaissance Island, owned by Marriott Resorts, and just offshore from the capital, Oranjestad. There are two sides to the island: Iguana Beach is family friendly and offers a full restaurant and restrooms while the Flamingo Beach is (mostly) adults only. It is unique in that while you are relaxing on the beautiful sands by the turquoise waters, Flamingos wander around where you are able to photograph them while they mingle around. With just a quarter, you can get a cup of their feed and are able to feed them right out of your hand in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Flamingo Beach on Renaissance Island

Skydiving

Skydiving is something that I had never done but always had been something I wanted to try. It isn't a cheap hobby or adventure, so I hadn't wanted to dive over the mundane Washington DC suburbs near where I live. I wanted to do the jump somewhere fairly special. When I saw there was a skydive operator working there, I signed up right away. Skydive Aruba runs a very fun small business. These guys love what they do which helps calm any nerves. The views over the tiny Dutch island are incredible and you're even able to lookout in the distance and see Venezuela.

My first skydive!

The Beaches

The entire western shore of Aruba is one large beach broken down into different 'named' beaches. There are a other beaches scattered throughout the island, this strip of about 6.5 miles is where the majority of the resorts are. Starting in the north, you will find Arashi Beach and Malmok Beach. Arashi Beach is the classic, sandy beach while Malmok is made up of coral limestone. Both of them are very popular snorkeling destinations are there are reefs in the area. Moving along south you'll find Hadicurari Beach. This sandy beach is exposed to the strong winds and as such, you can take Kite and Windsurfing Lessons. From here on, you will find the resort beaches. Palm Beach and Eagle Beach are where you will find the highest density of crowds and restaurants. At the north end of Eagle Beach you will see the iconic Divi-Divi (Fofoti) Trees of Aruba. People are always trying to capture instagram worthy photos with these rare, Aruban exclusive beach trees. Once you're past Eagle Beach you find yourself on the wide and smooth sands of Manchebo Beach. The resorts on the southwest corner of the island are smaller and the beach is very wide, giving you the feeling of more peace and quiet. This was my favorite beach that I visited because of the smaller crowds and open sands. It is also a great sunset location with all of the palapas and palm trees to use in your images. Water sports are banned from here, adding to the peacefulness.

Divi Tree at Eagle Beach

A couple things to note:

The thatch palapa umbrellas throughout the island are first come, first serve. There are no reserving spots. Underneath them however you may find beach chairs/benches that are only for use by those staying at the resort. As long as you have your own chair to sit in, they cannot ask you to leave. None of the beaches are private. All of the main beaches have plenty of options for beverages and food for you to enjoy nearby. Lather up on sunscreen as you are closer to the equator and the UV rays are strong.

Sunset at Manchebo Beach

Photographing the Dunes

Tucked up in the very northern tip is the Arashi Dunes and Westpunt Beach. These may be the most interesting to visit during golden hours as the rising/setting sun casts its golden light on the variety of sand patterns and the boulder strewn landscape. If I had more time, I would have been at this location multiple times for sunrises and sunsets as it is a haven for composition opportunities.

Windblown sand patterns and golden glowing boulders in the Arashi Dunes at Sunrise

Arikok National Park

Arikok National Park comprises of 20% of the entire island. While exploring, you will be immersed in a desert landscape with foliage and animal life to match. This dry, rocking part of Aruba is suitable for hiking and 4x4 exploring. You'll find rocky coastlines, secluded bays, and limestone caves that have ancient native drawings along the walls. I chose to explore the park for a few hours via 4x4 Jeep tour that took me to some of these locations. The tour was a good idea for me as it is small group based and the guides can give you some history of Aruba along with unique gems on the island. There are numerous different types of Tours offered to suit any of your adventure speeds and needs. Be on the lookout for the wild goats!

Quadirikiri Cave in Arikok National Park

Snorkeling

The last adventure tour I partook in on my Aruban Adventure was snorkeling. If you're going to be visiting a Caribbean island, you have to explore some under the sea life, right?!? Like Arikok, there are numerous choices of Tours for you to choose from. I chose the Champagne Breakfast & Lunch tour. You'll be fed, which is always something I am looking to do, and there is an open bar on the boat to enjoy adult beverages. This cruise takes you to two coral locations and what I found most interesting, the SS Antilla WWII shipwreck. I will admit however, the snorkeling wasn't my favorite. The crowds are larger which does make it tough to swim around without bumping into people. If I had time, I may have explored learning to SCUBA. I personally wanted to be able to get right out into the water which was why I chose the snorkeling.

The SS Antilla

Final Thoughts

I loved Aruba and it is a place I would certainly go back again to visit. I felt like I had gotten a fairly good grasp on the larger beaches and would love to go back to explore some more of the hidden spots on the island. I chose Aruba because of the airbnb affordability. Flights to the island were easy to find and once there it was fairly easy to navigate. You don't need special phone plans and the food is very much the same to what we eat in the States. The landscape is what really highlighted the trip. Cacti right next to the white sands and turquoise Caribbean Sea made for a unique experience, for me!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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