As I previously mentioned in my last blog post, Aruba – One Happy Island: Part I, we had so much fun on our trip to Aruba that I had to break up the recap into two parts. Last time I talked about how to enjoy all the luxuries that Aruba offers its visitors. Now we are going to take a deep dive into how to see Aruba through the eyes of a local.
Like many islands in the Caribbean, the majority of the infrastructure is geared towards accommodating visitors and so you may miss out on some local gems if you don’t venture far from the resort. For this reason, you need to invest in local guides as much as possible, they are the ones who will give you the low down on the local scene.
Aruba is full of natural wonders, even beyond the beach, but you are going to need 4-wheel drive to experience many of them. So you have to do a jeep tour! Pelican Adventures is our pick; we did their Wet ‘n Wild Jeep Adventure.
You will visit all the major landmarks on the island, natural and man made, and the wonderful tours guides will give you their local perspective on what each of these landmarks means to the Aruban people:
Unfortunately, a few years ago, one of the biggest tourist attractions on the island was destroyed by a rare hurricane–the Natural Bridge. However, there is still a piece of it left, and it is amazing to go to this side of the island on a Jeep Tour because the terrain is so different from what you see on the resort side.
And then after all that sight seeing in the hot Aruban sun, you will get to cool off with a typically “One Happy Island” style snorkel cruise. Trust me, that cool turquoise water will feel great after a day of exploring the dusty side of the island.
As a certified foodie, I am up for anything; fine dining, food trucks, you name it. So whenever I visit a new place, I like to try the full spectrum of cuisine. And in Aruba, that means lots of seafood. A hyper local haunt that only tourists with great concierges will make it to is Zeerover’s. A fish market, restaurant combination, Zeerover’s is unique because they only serve the catch of the day. Whatever’s freshest, that’s what you will eat.
Even if you are staying in one of the high-rise hotels on Palm Beach you can still indulge in “local cuisine”, you just have to know what to order. A solid go to is humble “fish sandwich”. You will find variations of this all over the island, but for a superbly Aruban take, within reach of the resorts, go to Moomba Beach.
The people of Aruba are some of the nicest, most helpful people you will ever meet. And for that reason you need to make the effort to actually engage with as many local people as you can. You’ll be surprised where you have the most authentic conversations.
One of our favorite experiences was dining at the Ritz-Carlton’s Solanio Restaurant on the far end of Palm Beach. As one of the mega resorts on the island, it was surprising to us how genuine and down to earth all the staff were. And throughout the evening we spoke to many staffers and each one of them gave us fabulous recommendations for the rest of our trip. In fact, they were the ones who gave us the inside track to Zeerover’s. And I can not go without saying, that the meal at Solanio was amazing as well. Check out all the delicious food we feasted on:
And finally, since we participated in almost every water sport Aruba had to offer, we were quite exhausted by the end of the trip. However, as soon as we got to our last activity, Seabob Aruba, we knew we were in for something special.
As we went along on our guided snorkel tour, we saw entirely different aspects of the same popular locations that we had visited earlier in the week on our snorkel cruises. An entirely different experience, it was fantastic to get the local perspective on the popular sights.
Where to Stay
To truly experience Aruba like a local you have to go off the beaten path a tiny bit for accommodations. The Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba is a place unlike any other on the island.
A boutique hotel that instead of rooms, offers “casitas”, which are small suites, is great for those looking for a more self-service experience. With clean, streamlined accommodations, combined with the warm service from the owners, who are two sisters, truly makes the property stand out. Located right off Palm Beach, The Boardwalk is a great choice for the more adventurous Aruba-goer.