Adventurous guests can explore Aruba via a 4x4 Jeep caravan. // © 2016 Aruba Tourism Authority
Feature image (above): Flying Fishbone provides a toes-in-the-sand dining experience. // © 2016 Aruba Tourism Authority
Think of Aruba, and it’s a safe bet that the resorts of Palm Beach and the adjacent delights of the capital city, Oranjestad, come to mind. It’s true that the resorts are world-class, and the capital offers off-the-charts shopping, dining and nightlife. But to get an authentic sense of Aruba, clients should consider getting out and exploring the island — which is not hard to do, considering Aruba is only about 20 miles long by 6 miles wide.
The most adventurous way for your clients to explore off-the-beaten-path Aruba is to join a 4x4 jeep caravan or rent one of the vehicles themselves and create their own itinerary. Here are some of the must-sees for visitors who want a more in-depth taste of Aruba.
Arikok National Park
Any road trip exploring Aruba should include a visit to Arikok National Park, which covers 7,907 acres, an impressive 20 percent of the island. The park is home to indigenous creatures such as the Aruban whiptail lizard and Aruban cat-eyed snake, which can be viewed in the park’s visitor’s center. Arikok National Park can easily be explored by vehicle. Hiking tours are also available, with park rangers acting as guides.
Tourists can also visit caves, several beaches and the Natural Pool, which is protected from the sea’s currents, making it perfect for a dip. Boca Prins Beach is the site of the al fresco Boca Prins Restaurant, the only full-service restaurant in the park.
Baby Beach, on the island’s southeast shore, lives up to its name. It’s a sandy and shallow expanse, with gentle waters perfect for families with small children. Snorkeling is superb within a confined area, there’s a snack bar, a dive shop and showers, as well as beach beds for rent.
Donkey Sanctuary Aruba in Paradera, north of Oranjestad, is a facility that cares for lost or abandoned donkeys roaming the island. The nonprofit sanctuary has a simple mission: Save the donkeys. The creatures, while not indigenous, have been on the island for 500 years. Once the principle mode of transportation, donkeys are now at risk of being hit by the cars that replaced them. Visitors can stop by to feed the animals and give them an affectionate pat. While there is no admission fee, donations are accepted.
Flying Fishbone Restaurant
The Flying Fishbone restaurant is tucked away on the southeast shore of the island, in the fishing village of Savaneta. Here, hungry travelers can have a toes-in-the-sand dining experience. The menu is surprisingly sophisticated, with an extensive wine selection and entrees such as scallops florentine and grilled maple-leaf duck breast.
If an overnight or two is in order, the Old Man and the Sea Ocean Villas is adjacent to Flying Fishbone. The cabana-style property is on the luxe side, with rates hovering around the $900 mark.
One of Aruba’s puzzling oddities is the abundance of rock sculptures consisting of rocks stacked upon another. These can be seen along the north shore, driving south of the California Lighthouse. There are hundreds of these sculptures, and travelers are welcome to create their own stack and then make a wish. If clients are superstitious, tell them to be careful if they walk among the sculptures — it’s considered bad luck to knock one over.
San Nicolas is a small town conveniently located near Baby Beach and about 12 miles southeast of Oranjestad. Originally an oil company town, its fortunes changed, and now San Nicolas is often referred to as the “Sunrise Side of the Island.” If clients visit decidedly non-glitzy San Nicolas, tell them to drop into Charlie’s Bar, which has been pouring cold ones since 1941.