Aruba: Nov 17-26, 2012

I’ve had this kickin’ around for a few years and thought I should lad it official.


1. Air Travel: Flew direct to Queen Beatrix Airport (AUA) from BWI via AirTran. No issues with the flight. Rental car offices are directly across the street from the arrivals terminal. We used Budget as they offered the cheapest rates for an economy car. Note: our car was a Hyundai i10 with a manual transmission (most of the rental cars are also manual transmission). 2. Lodgings: DIVI Village Golf and Beach Resort: we used a good friend's expiring timeshare points (and recommend you do the same). Divi Beach is excellent and are one beach away from the world famous Eagle Beach (easy walking distance). 3. Groceries: We shopped at Ling & Sons, but there are other places to buy groceries (you can buy beer, wine and liquor at grocery stores in Aruba). A new Super Food (who comes up with these names?) grocery store opened last week and it's a sight to see. Make sure to check out the bakery section for Dutch pastry, breads as so forth. And of course an excellent cheese department too. 4. Restaurants: 

a. A great place to have a drink, appetizers or dinner/lunch is the Trattoria El Faro Blanco. Take the main coast road (Route 1) north all the way to the end (the California Lighthouse). Food is delicious and the beer is icy cold. Roberto is the bartender and he's very kind and informative. 

b. For authentic local food and atmosphere, try Carbon de Palo (297 734-7374).  Have an ice cold Polar (beer from Venezuela) while you watch the locals play a version of boccie ball. Hungry? Order whatever is being cooked outside on the open fire (in our case delicious oxtail soup). We went there on Sunday 18 Nov.  We're not sure if they make soup every day. Turns out it was a day after a big local celebration so the vibe was very relaxed & perhaps unique. Uh ohh, this place might be closed. c. Madame Janette Restaurant: excellent food (refer to Charlie Smith's ebook) d. Make sure to try the fresh local ceviche (anywhere).  e. We also heard good things about (but did not get to visit): i. Chalet Suisse: The best “fine” dining on the island (although we did enjoy ii. The Old Fisherman (The best local authentic Arubian food). Across from the main bus stop in Oranjestad.

f. Stop by Otto’s coconut stand on the road north from the airport across from the Toyota dealership (there are other stands but Otto is the best). Ask for a refreshing cup of coconut water ($3) and watch Otto hack open a coconut with a machete and pour it through a gizmo that chills it. Otto also makes a great coconut smoothie ($4). 5. Fun Stuff

a. Take a tour with Madi (http://www.madimagicaltours.com/). Tell her Mike and Susan sent you. We visited the Natural Pool (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g147247-d150409-Reviews-Natural_Pool-Aruba.html) and the sand dune of shells (where you can find yourself a large conch shell - we took ours home with us in our checked luggage - no problem).  For the Natural Pool you need an off road vehicle (four wheel drive or ATV) and then it is still a very bumpy ride. The rocks around the Natural Pool are very slippery and may not be kid friendly. I cannot recommend Madi enough, you will not be disappointed. She charged us $50/person. b. If you go to Baby Beach for snorkeling (it is good snorkeling, shallow, calm and plenty of fish), rent snorkel gear and lounge chairs from Big Momma (there’s a kid on the beach in charge of renting, try negotiating with him a little). Do not eat at Big Momma restaurant (check out the “Flinstone” furniture though). Across the lagoon from Big Momma’s is the old abandoned Esso Club used last when Exxon operated the now shuttered refinery. When you drive to and from Baby Beach note the old semi-abandoned company town for the refinery employees (a little eerie, but interesting). Also note the all the tankers that are anchored out at Druif and Eagle Beaches are loading/unloading at the old refinery (which is now just a terminal).    c. If you are driving around the island it is worthwhile to stop at Ayo and Casibari Rock Formations (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g147247-d196345-Reviews-Ayo_and_Casibari_Rock_Formations-Aruba.html). 6. Charlie Smith’s ebook: An Aruban-American has created a comprehensive website of all things Aruba. Invaluable. Email him any questions you may have. 7. Bonaire: Tried to arrange a flight to Bonaire (which we had heard good things about - more laid back and authentic than Aruba), but found trying to arrange it at the airport in Aruba to be impossible. Recommend if you want to go to Bonaire or Curacao, you make arrangements before you leave home (or via the internet while in country). Note that if you do fly to Bonaire or Curacao you may be able to park your rental car at the airport for free, check with your rental car agency when you pick it up. 8. Currency: No need to change your dollars into Florins. Dollars are accepted everywhere. 9. Departure: We heard (and read) from numerous sources that you need to arrive at the airport 3.5 - 4 hours before departure. We followed this advice but found that two hours would have been more than sufficient. You need to make your own decision on this (better safe than sorry). Note that you actually clear US Customs in Aruba.


Misc:

1. The trees you see all over the island leaning away from the wind is the Divi Tree, the national tree of Aruba.

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