By Carell Augustus
I had just flown back into LA from a hectic week of shooting NYC. It was high time I left the loud cold city behind. I was eager to leave for my trip to Aruba. It was October 31, Halloween in West Hollywood, CA, is getting underway. The starting of the festival, the hustle and bustle would soon be behind me. I head to the airport for my flight to the beautiful Island of Aruba.
Arriving in Aruba was superb and easy to manage the small, quaint, fully efficient airport. With blue skies, electric-blue water and year round 82 degree weather, this all foretold of a great trip to come. The Marriott is a huge luxury hotel that stretches over three different properties, with pools, live music, Starbucks, casinos, gift shops and eateries scattered throughout. The view of the ocean is spectacular. The palm trees swaying in the breeze, the sounds of the island music at every turn on the island told me that Aruba was a different place. My dinner on the beach at the famed restaurant Atardi was amazing, watching the sunset while enjoying my delectable barbeque ribs and scallop potatoes alongside island cocktails was the best.
The morning following my arrival on the island, I was ready to start my ABC jeep tour through the Arikok National Park, miles and miles along the northwest tip of Aruba. My first stop was the California Lighthouse, it was named for the steamship California which was wrecked nearby in 1891. The lighthouse stands 98’ tall, located in Hudshinana near the beach. The view is amazing – you can see up the entire coast of the island from atop the lighthouse. Following that, we next headed across the bumpy and invigorating terrain to the Buchiribana Gold ruins; it’s located on the desert coast.The island itself is arid but this coast is known as and for being a desert. The formation of rocks creates a castle like vibe with no roof. Next to the ruins on the beach most tourist stop and stack seven rocks on top of each other in hopes of having their wishes come to pass, an ancient island tradition. Across the way is a natural pool created when the land mass overhang (a natural bridge) broke and fell into the ocean, creating a refreshing natural pool that is great for a quick dip. You’ll find tourist stopping and jumping in from sun up to sun down on any given day. Less than a quarter mile away we found one of the most fascinating sights in the world and that’s the natural bridge, still standing here in Aruba. This bridge is formed naturally out of the coral limestone after it collapsed over a decade ago a natural arch was formed that is about 30 feet high and 100 feet long and is the site of remnant of an ancient cave.
Up the road is the oldest Catholic church in Aruba built in 1952, the site of the first church built on the island in 1750, it’s still functioning and services are still held. The pews are located on the grounds outside around the church.
After the church, it’s time to head to Zeeovers for a great lunch. On the menu today is king shrimp and fries and a couple Chill, the local beer. Perfect name for a bear, don’t you think? Positioned right on the water with seat facing the beautiful bay, this restaurant had everything a sun-seeking tourist would be looking for and one that locals prize. Pier seating lets you know that you are in one incredible place. The staff is wonderful, offering suggestions for drinks and desserts. As a local, you’d be fine indulging as you’re most likely a member of a gym or apt to walk along the miles of shoreline.
We headed for a really unique adventure on another day of the trip. Art class was a nice touch, the instructors were attentive and it’s located in the back of a local shop filled with paintings and artwork for sale. Art done by the very talented locals. This was a really fun way to get to know the island from a different perspective. On this day, a step-by-step, guide to drawing a Flamingo, the rear an exotic birds that you can find scattered on the island. After a few tries and a little help from the instructor a picture began to emerge and it was a Flamingo, standing on one foot. I have to say it’s pretty good, and I drew it.
Papiamento, one of the premier restaurants on the island; located in an old house, has tables situated around the pool. The cuisine in exquisite, the wine, the soup, and the delicious desserts are key. Please try those tasty treats and enjoy the ambience when you visit.
After a great breakfast at the Aruba Marriott Resort, it’s time for a private sailing tour. This is a five hour round trip boat ride from downtown Aruba to a private dock for some state-of-the-art snorkeling. Tranquillo Charters sails out towards the dock on our departure, passing private islands, real ship wrecks, and flamingos. Tranquillo Charters feels like a private boat trip, offering water, soda, cocktails and sandwiches, also the world’s most awesome dog, Buster. He belongs to one of the crew members. Once the boat drops it’s anchor – it’s snorkel time. The three man crew provide all of the required gear for the occasion. Once in the water, you see the most vivid colors and varying shapes and sizes of the fish; some big, some small but all exotic and plentiful. It’s quite a sight to witness what’s happening just underneath’s the waters surface.
For dinner I head to a local bar and grill called Local Store, a great menu with burgers, fries, and Drinks. Funchi Fries (those Dutch Caribbean specialties made of delicious cornmeal that becomes a golden crisp outside and gooey inside.), craft beers and wonderful outside lighting. Seating inside or outside is available and the down home feel is inescapable. It is really like you are in your local pub.
Night life was split between beach bar Moomba for drinks, shot-skis, dancing, and the electric feel of the night club Gusto, that could easily be right of South Beach, Miami.
The next morning it was time for a paddleboard and or wind surfing lesson from Vela, located on the beach just behind Marriott. The lessons were fast and effective. I had never paddle boarded, so I was nervous. There was need to be because the instructors were great and attentive and quickly put me on the water where I paddled like a pro. The wind surfing bit was a little longer and more involved, it requires more skill and patients, but once you get the hang of it, its pretty phenomenal.
My last lunch was at the popular spot on Palm Beach called Pelican Nest, located in the heart of what’s happening on the island, surrounded by so much activity going by while I enjoyed a couple drinks and a chicken sandwich.
My last dinner would be a Moomba, I decided to have a buffet, complete with the amazing Caribbean Rice, vegetables, sausage, chicken, macaroni salad. This was a great way to wrap up my wonderful trip. The locals, from the servers, to the casino workers, to the hotel staff have been nothing but helpful. The entire experience from the moment I landed to the moment I left, made it crystal clear to me why this place has the mantra One Happy Island.