Loud Travels: Vacationing in Aruba like a Boss
I love traveling. My wife and I just got back from a serene and mind-clearing vacation in Aruba. Traveling is an essential part of my mental health maintenance practice. The world is too big to stay boxed in a small bubble. Traveling to Aruba and other places allows for me to reflect on my place in the world, and reminds me that there is so much out there that the world has to offer.
Now I know I’m blessed to be in the position to travel to beautiful spots like Aruba. And that it’s not feasible for people who are getting by. But I’m here to help. That’s why I’m starting a series called Loud Travels that will give tips to aspiring travelers who want to get away on a budget.
When I was younger, I wanted to be a hip-hop artist. I think the underlying driver for this was either self-validation, but more so the opportunity to travel the world for a living. Travelling can help reduce stress, provide perspective, and help form new relationships with locals from another part of the world.
The benefits of travel of course come at a cost. There are ways to do it right though and maximize your enjoyment for money spent. Traveling in a post-pandemic world is going to present its own twists and challenges, but it’s time to hit the road again. The first stop on Loud’s Travels is the amazing beaches of Aruba.
What to know about Aruba?
Aruba is located in the southern part of the Caribbean and is about 18 miles off the coast of Venezuela. The island is only about 21 miles end to end and can be easily navigated using a rental car – if you stay on the main roads.
The island is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands but is mostly autonomous. Despite this cannabis is still not legalized – boooo!
The northern part of the island is basically the desert. You’ll see plenty of cactus and red rocks if you venture in a Jeep to that side. The southern side of the island has been developed for tourism with dozens of hotels and restaurants for all kinds of visitors. This is where you want to be.
The beaches are only safely swimmable on the southern side. The north side has a few spots like the Natural Pool, but the water is too rough, cold, and shark-infested to enjoy. But hey, who am I? Take your chances!
Where to stay in Aruba?
There are so many different lodging options in Aruba. Hotel chains like Marriott, Hilton, and the Holiday Inn are located in what is known as the “High-Rise area”. The “Low-Rise area” consists of non-major hotel chains and more local brands like the Divi brand of hotels.
Having stayed in both areas my preference is the Low-Rise area of Aruba. Here you will find much better prices, fewer crowds, and more of an authentic international experience. My view is that I don’t want to travel to another country and feel like I’m in a completely Americanized version of reality. No, I want the real deal.
My recommendation is to check out the Divi chain of hotels. They are relatively cheap compared to the major chains, and you won’t have to fight other tourists for a palapa on the beach. Most high-rise hotels make their guests line up the night before for an hour to select a spot on their crowded beach. This is not the case for somewhere like the Divi Village and Golf. I mean check out this view:
As much as I don’t want to blow up our spot, I have to recommend the Divi Village and Golf Resort. I don’t even play golf but the rooms give you access to a fantastic beach, gym and beach-bar area.
Another advantage this particular resort offers suites with a full kitchen including a large refrigerator. This means you can order online from the local Super Foods or Ling and Son’s Grocery for delivery directly to the hotel. Pick up a couple of cases of water, and of course Balashi beer, and you’ll be able to save a few duckets from ordering at the beach bar every time you want a brew. And if you are like me on vacation, it adds up.
All this for less than $200 a night as of April 2021. They are always running specials so be sure to check their website for current offers.
One side note, Aruba has some of the most drinkable tap water in the world. Their desalination plant is as advanced as anything you’ll find in the United States. So feel comfortable drinking the tap water when in a pinch.
Hit up a Local Spot to Get Some Local Culture
Aruba’s largest industry is tourism. As a result, there are many Americanized offerings on the island. You’ll have no problem finding Italian restaurants, Domino’s Pizza, Subway, KFC, and hordes of other bland American cuisines. My suggestion is to find a local spot!
Get out amongst the people and hit up where the locals like to go. One suggestion is Zeerovers in Saventa area of Aruba.
It’s a straight shot in a rental car, which is probably your best option to get there. A cab would probably run $30-40.
Zeeroves has outdoor dock seating and you are right where the fishermen go out every day and hook the catch of the day. The menu option is simple, whatever fish they caught that day, shrimp, plantains, and “papas fritas”.
Many locals gather there to watch soccer, throwback a bucket of Balashi and eat the lightly fried offerings. Plus it’s cheaper than ordering a frozen mahi-mahi filet from a restaurant on the Marriot property. And more flavorful!
Other Loud Tips for Aruba Travel like a Boss
- Bring a collapsable cooler. Aruba is beautiful but it is a desert climate so you will need to drink a lot of water. Stuff a collapsable cooler into your suitcase for bringing water and beers to the beach. It will help keep your lounging uninterrupted and the hangovers soft
- Edibles can look like cough drops. Aruba is not a cannabis-friendly country. The penalties can be harsh. This section is not advice and for entertainment only so find the right kind of eddies. Get a package of Halls and razorblade and start the process of re-packaging. Don’t be an idiot, and take a few to get by and not a suitcase full. You should be fine, but if not don’t call me.
- Rent a car. You will be bumrushed by rental car salespeople as soon as you step out of the airport. Book from a reputable chain before you arrive and it’s a piece of cake to pick it up right outside the terminal. Hertz, Alamo, and Enterprise, and many others are located right at the airport a few steps from the terminal. Also, Aruba is an easy island to drive. There are plenty of hidden gem snorkel spots and beaches to enjoy
- Meet the locals. One of my favorite parts of traveling is getting to know the locals who work in the hotels and restaurants we visit. We’ve made many friends over the years traveling. In Aruba, the hospitality staff is generally hesitant of guests. Probably because they deal with plenty of jerks. Most people are obnoxious when they travel and in Aruba, they get a lot of New Yorkers and New Englanders so yea…who can blame them? Any engage them in conversation and find out the best recommendations on the island and build up a friendship that can last a lifetime
Find a Routine in Aruba and Remember You’re on Vacation!
Our final recommendation is to enjoy your time and RELAX! The key to this is finding a routine that works for you. It’s easy to sit on the beach every day and stumble over to the beach bar for happy hour each night before going to dinner. Aruba can make this routine easy.
If you want to snorkel, scuba, and do excursions in Aruba, there are plenty of places that will take you anywhere on the island. Private and public tours are available by the dozens.
Most importantly take some time to enjoy the beaches of Aruba. The water is warm and crystal clear. They call Aruba “One Happy Island” and after a day or so of decompressing you won’t want to leave.
Bonus Aruba Graff Feature
Took these graff snaps while driving around Aruba on our last day. MadIzm is from Philadelphia from what I’ve researched. I haven’t found much info on Deemer. They could be local because Deemer was up everywhere down there!