Aruba – Not our cup of tea

When Visited

  • A week during mid-February 2016


This was the furthest south we had ever traveled – Aruba being located just off of the northwest coast of Venezuela. It also had always had a bit of an exotic feel to it so we looked forward to our visit.  However, in retrospect, as far as the type of location that Deborah and I look for in a vacation destination, Aruba was generally disappointing.

Now if you just look at the pictures without commentary, you may get a bit different impression from what I just stated.  But then again, isn’t that what pictures are for – to capture the best of what you experience and see?  However, the reality was quite a bit different.

First the good.

We flew to the capital city of Aruba – Oranjestad – from Albuquerque via Houston.  The flight is surprisingly quick considering that we flew almost all the way to South America.  Thanks to my many travels in business, we flew Southwest Airlines and Deborah flew along with me for free.  The fact that Southwest flies directly into Aruba made this a much more convenient trip for us as well.

We stayed, as we most often do while on vacation, in a rental unit we found on VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner – AirBNB before there was an AirBNB).  While certainly not one of the nicest units we have stayed in, it was pleasant enough and the two owners, from Canada I believe, were quite nice.  Their dog, Zarra, was also very friendly.

There was an excellent beach bar – the Bugaloe – which we visited on a couple of occasions.  During one of those visits, the staff did quite a nice job of karaoke for the patrons.  We also met a nice young couple.

One of the few other activities we enjoyed was a short boat trip to visit the site of a wrecked ship, which we were able to make out, through murky water, from the glass portals on the lower deck of the ship.

I’m afraid that about does it for the positives, which ought to tell you something.

Now, the not so good

Primarily, we found the country/island to be frankly pretty boring.  It is VERY flat.  One of the things that we particularly like to do when we visit somewhere is to sight see.  Interesting terrain, whether it be mountains, or at least some variations in elevation, always helps.  Well there is just about none on this island.

We joked that two of the main sights that you see mentioned in most “Things to Do in Aruba” lists, are the California Lighthouse and the Alto Vista Chapel.  We made a point to see both and they were, to say the least, underwhelming.  Granted, the scaffolding all around the California Lighthouse did not improve the “experience”.  However, it is simply a basic lighthouse, in a fairly boring setting.  The Alto Vista Chapel is very small, and cute, but La Sagrada Familia it is not.  Ok, I’ll grant you that comparison is more than a bit harsh, but even with limited expectations, it was nothing special.

Our VRBO unit was located about 6-7 miles northwest of the capitol of Oranjestad and the airport.  We drove into town a couple of times but it was very congested for such a small island.  We did not find any activities in town that were particularly of interest.

There is a national park, so to speak – Airikok – which we did drive to, but it did not seem worth the fee to visit so we just stopped at the main visitor center.  We also drove to the southeastern tip of the island – the city of San Nicholas.  That city is notable mostly for the large, and rather unseemly oil derricks.

Now, there certainly did appear to be some very nice resorts along the southern beaches – in particular Renaissance Beach where we found that Bugaloe beach bar.  There is the Stellaris Casino attached to the Aruba Marriott if you are into that sort of thing.  But even if that’s what you are into, it seems to me that there are plenty of Caribbean island destinations that offer that plus at least a few other things to occupy your time while away from the beach.

So, without dwelling further, suffice it to say that this island is not on our list of the few places that we would ever want to go back and see again.  We would rather take our chances seeing some place new.

Picture Locations on the Internet –

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