Aruba for the faint of heart

Pretty much anything we’ve done here this week has been preceded by a mimosa and followed up by the favorite local cocktail, the Aruba Ariba, which is a mixture of rum, vodka, a bunch of liquors and a couple drops of pineapple juice, a deadly combo which is hugely popular and probably explains the proliferation of piano bars and karaoke on this island. The drink even comes in a magical glass that draws tourists in like bugs to a zapper.

So today, I’m in full on detox mode, and kidding myself that I can actually work by a pool. Pretty much a third of everyone I know has already told me my Facebook posts make them want to punch me full in the face, just so you know I’m not expecting any sympathy.

I’ll live.

Yesterday we snorkeled just off Palm Beach. The winds were fairly normal for an Aruban afternoon, which means strong enough to make you forget the heat (as well as – hopefully – how many Aruba Aribas you may have had the night before), which also means the water was pretty choppy. I remembered belatedly that putting my face in the water with or without a mask makes me hyperventilate a little bit, but when they asked if anyone was new to snorkeling, I did my regular thing, and acted like I was all kinds of a snorkeling ninja.

We stopped in a shallow area, and one of our party said something about how it was to get the less experienced snorkelers acclimated. I knew I could use a little acclimation, but went in under the guise of testing my abilities with an underwater camera.

DSCF0158I managed not to panic or drown or get eaten by a shark, all of which are high on my list of things that could screw up your afternoon, so I figured I was off to a good start.

The next stop was to see a shipwreck in 60 feet of water a little further up the coast. This time the water was really choppy, and I was glad I’d become acclimated with the first stop.

Our group leader suggested getting in the water and swimming about 50 yards toward shore, and then letting the current pull us back along the length of the shipwreck so we could explore at our leisure.

There were about three dozen people on the boat, and it looked like about half of them chose to hang out at the open bar rather than get in the water at all. I’m guessing the choppiness was intimidating to others besides me. Part of me sympathized, but the other part wondered what in the heck people who pay good money for a snorkeling expedition feel like at the end of the day when they let a couple of waves keep them from doing what we came for. And I’ll bet a good percentage of them were just last night singing at the top of their lungs, sipping on their Aruba Ariba’s and thinking YOLO, ya’ll.

Anyway, I got in and paddled like crazy to get to the point where I could presumably float back and leisurely explore the length of the ship, in the process ingesting more than my share of the Caribbean than is probably healthy, then put my face in the water to see this:

DSCF0180I’m glad these photos turned out, really, since without my glasses, and given the choppy water, this thing looked mostly like a big, scary blob, and I wasn’t sure if I even had the camera on the right setting.

If I’d thought the waves were intimidating, hovering above a monstrous ship was the stuff of nightmares for me, really. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the realization that there’s all that space below me, and that really scary stuff could lurk in the shadows of that thing.

DSCF0138 DSCF0167The wind was strong enough that I floated from one end to the other in about five minutes, flat, which wasn’t enough of a look, even if that look made me want to screech a little bit into my snorkel. So after floating down the thing once, I swam to the top and floated down again two more times.

Despite the choppiness we experienced this afternoon, the water off this side of the island is generally calmer and warm. There aren’t big waves, so traditional surfing is one activity that doesn’t get a lot of play here, but pretty much every other water sport does.

Windsurfing and kite surfing are very popular, and Aruba hosts Regatta and World Cup competitions every year. Anyone who really wants to see a whole ‘lotta nope from me can just suggest I tie a big parachute to my back and hang out over the ocean for a while, but people say it’s fun.

There were other highlights of the day, including a site visit to the Renaissance Hotel and their private island, which features family and adults-only sections, which is where we found these lovely things:

IMG_4469Our excursions were followed by dinner at Fort Zoutman, a military fortification built in 1798 by the Dutch army and the oldest structure on the island. We were treated to a performance by a youth dance group and more Aruba Aribas.

Oh, and I won third place for this photo of our sunset sail the other night.

DSCF0043So I guess my photography skills, at least above the surface of the sea, aren’t half bad.

For those who’ve stuck it out this long, here are a couple other items of interest about Aruba:

  • Aruba has no significant source of natural freshwater, but the tap water is fabulous, thanks to the second largest desalinization plant in the world. The water here has been rated by the World Health Organization as some of the highest quality anywhere.
  • Aruba has it’s own currency, the florin, which tracks fairly closely to the dollar, although there’s no real need to exchange your cash. Dollars are widely accepted on the island.
  • Aruba is one of the safest Caribbean destinations, although normal safety precautions are always a good idea. There aren’t many designated crosswalks, but drivers are polite and typically stop for pedestrians whenever they see someone waiting to cross the street.
  • Aruba doesn’t offer many all-inclusive resort options, although some are available, and some hotels offer inclusive packages (I love the idea of the Holiday Inn’s “booze and breakfast” package), but there are a number of fantastic restaurants within walking distance of the hotels on the Palm Beach strip and downtown at various price points.


Again, apologies for any errors or typos in this entry. It truly takes a good few hours to get one of these out there in cyberspace. I’ll review and correct later for all of you who want to point out stupid crap I missed because I’m in a hurry (you people know who I’m talking about).

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  1. I love snorkeling in shallow water, but just can\’t handle the deep stuff. I have the same panic that you feel and on top of that, I get seasick if it is at all choppy.

    Still jealous.

    1. I would definitely go again, next time with my family, hopefully. I\’ve never seen a live flamingo before. I didn\’t know they had any on this island, either, I just came around a corner and there they were, in all their stunning pinkishness. It was surreal.