Aruba is a multi-dimensional gift wrapped up in a 20-mile-long package. The first sibling of sister isles Bonaire and Curaçao, Aruba is an offering of powdery white beaches dotting the southern shores, quiet cunucu (countryside) in the east, bustling capital of Oranjestad to the west, and cactus-studded desert in the north. Its strategic position outside the hurricane belt assures year-round sun and minimal rainfall. Add the bonus of easily traveled roads that reach every part of the island, and it’s no surprise that more than a half million visitors make Aruba their vacation choice every year. The island’s 120,000 residents are genuinely happy to welcome them—whether for the first visit or the fifteenth. Options abound for every kind of traveler. Want to simply relax, reconnect and unwind? Not a problem—with over 20 palm-fringed strands and an iridescent sea, serenity is at your fingertips. Looking for a thrill-a-minute vacation? Adrenaline pumping activities are around every bend on land or at sea, whether you ride on an ATV through the back roads or windsurf on the sparkling blue waters in a steady trade wind. Guests of all ages enjoy the energy-fueled nightlife and business travelers and families appreciate the extra care and amenities that come with our full-service resorts. The dining scene is also appreciated by those looking for a treat, whether it’s home favorites or sampling the world-class international dining. No matter what your plan, this lucky charm of an island is yours to discover on your own terms. For such a small island, there’s so much to discover. Whether you’re fascinated by tales and talks of times past, dedicated to the study of Dutch colonial architecture, attracted by art and nature or enamored with the sophisticated pleasures of a capital city, you’ll find something to enjoy. Attractions Acces Art Gallery, Oranjestad. 297- 588-7837. Works by local and international artists are featured and informative evening lectures and art presentations are offered once a week. Antilla Wreck, Underwater, off the northwestern coast near Malmok Beach. One of the largest wrecks in the Caribbean and locally referred to as the “Ghost Ship,” this 400-foot-long German freighter was scuttled during World War II. The Antilla is now a favorite dive spot (especially at night) where you can explore the inside and outside of the ship, including the captain’s original bathtub. It’s home to nocturnal lobsters and giant tube sponges. Archaeo logi cal Muse um of Aruba, Schelpstraat z/n. 297-588-9961. This museum was recently renovated and expanded. It includes a selection of funeral urns, Indian artifacts, jewelry, tools and cooking implements that document the culture of the Caiquetio Indians and the other pre-Columbian peoples who once lived on Aruba. Local archeologists explain the history and significance of some of the displays. Arikok National Park, on Highway 7B near San Nicolas. 297-582-8001. This desert-like ecological preserve stretches inland from the northeastern coast, occupying almost 20% of the island. Hiking trails take visitors to important sites like the Miralamar Gold Mines and the Prins Plantation. Iguanas and migratory birds nest in the Jaburibari section of the park and at dusk parakeets and other birds bid the day farewell with a wild cacophony that splits the air. Half-day organized ranch tours lead horseback riders through the park and along the coastline. Some tours combine land and sea, taking vacationers along a rocky trail to the Natural Pool. Also found here: Mount Jamanota (Aruba’s biggest hill), the ruins of a gold-mining operation, Arawak petroglyphs and vestiges of Dutch plantation houses. There are also some caves worth exploring, such as the surprisIngly sun-filled grotto at Guadirikiri and the Fontein Caves, where you can view ancient Indian drawings on the ceilings. Aruba Aloe Museum, Pitastraat 115. 297-588-3222. Aloe can be seen hanging from the ceilings of some Aruban homes, as it’s a sign of health and prosperity. Learn the history of this intriguing plant and its effect on the local economy. Aruba Museum of Antiquities, Tarabana. Enjoy an intimate art experience at this private collection and display of island antiques. The museum is located in a private home, but is open to the general public on a regular basis by appointment. Aruba Model Trains Museum, San Nicolas. Peruse this unique collection of model trains and memorabilia housed in a private home. Ask the hotel concierge to make an appointment. The Aruba Ostrich Farm, Masiduri, near the Natural Bridge area. 297-585- 9630. A 12-acre farm raises these large, prehistoric-looking birds. An incubator nurtures new eggs and provides an educational experience for everyone in the family. Have a post-tour snack at the open-air restaurant overlooking the northern coast. The Ayo and Ca sibari Rock Formations. These natural wonders are located in the island’s interior, close to the town of Paradera. Because they’re unlike any other geological formations on Aruba, the origins of these massive boulders remain a mystery. Balashi Gold Smelter, off L.G. Smith Boulevard between Oranjestad and San Nicolas. This massive concrete and limestone ruin stands as a reminder of the gold rush that gripped the island in the early 1800s. Blue Parrotfish Water Park, De Palm Island. 297-582-4400. A new stateof- the-art water park that features more than 70 fun-filled attractions, including net climbers, crawl tunnels, spinning trays, guns, bubble jets, several water slides and a shallow pool for toddlers. Bubali Bird Sanctuary, J.E. Irausquin Boulevard, Noord. Bird-watchers will love this wetlands area, which features two manmade lakes and more than 80 species of migratory birds, including herons, egrets, cormorants, terns and ducks. Butterfly Farm, J.E. Irausquin Boulevard, Palm Beach. 297-586-3656. Get the Gouda Nothing says “Back from Aruba” than taking home a wheel or chunk of cheese. Holland exports more than a quarter of a million tons of kaas (cheese) to over 100 countries each year, with Gouda being Aruba’s best seller. Several types of Gouda are each worth trying. Sample the young variety (4 weeks old), semi-major (8 weeks old), major (4 months old), ultra-major (7 months old), old (10 months old), and vintage (more than a year old). The flavor intensifies as it ages, making it saltier, more aromatic and tastier. When buying these cheeses, look for the control seal confirming the name, the country of origin, fat content, and official inspection sticker. Should you purchase Gouda early in your vacation, don’t worry about leaving it out. Since the cheese is covered in its famous red wax, it doesn’t require refrigeration. And for those wishing to take their newfound bounty home, remember that up to 10 pounds of hard cheese is allowed Step into a lush tropical garden teeming with butterflies from around the globe. Guided tours introduce visitors to hundreds of these brightly colored beauties. Go as many times as you like as your admission ticket gives you a free pass for your entire stay. California Lighthouse, On the coast, four miles north of Palm Beach. Built by the French in 1910, this picturesque lighthouse contrasts with a stark landscape of boulders and scrub-covered sand dunes. Churches and Shrines. Tranquil Alto Vista Chapel, on Route 2B near the town of Noord, is reached by a winding road lined with white crosses marking the Stations of the Cross. The chapel, built by the Indians and Spanish, is often referred to as the Pilgrim’s Church. For local Arubans, its dramatic setting above the sea makes it a special place for peace and contemplation, where the wind is always whistling through its open doors. Nearby, the Church of Noord is a fine example of neo-Gothic architecture, dating from 1870. The Santa Ana Church, a popular tourist attraction, features a 100-year-old, hand-carved oak altar. Lourdes Grotto in Seroe Pretoe, San Nicolas, is a unique Roman Catholic shrine that was built into the rocks in 1958. Each year on February 11 (the feast day of the Lady of Lourdes), a procession leaves from the St. Theresita church in San Nicolas and arrives at the Grotto, where a mass is held. The Commanders’ Graves, Seroe Patrishi. 297-583-5938. Visit the final resting place of the Dutch Commanders whose graves have been restored to their original state. De Oude Molen, L.G. Smith Boulevard 330, Noord. Built in 1804, this classic stone windmill has withstood several tropical storms. (Note: the museum is closed, but you can still take photos there). Donkey Sanctuary, Arikok National Park. The Save Our Donkeys Foundation rescues these friendly animals that enjoy carrots and sugar cubes from visitors. You can also “adopt” one for a small donation. Fort Zoutman, Oranjestad. 297-582- 6099. One of the oldest structures on the island, this colonial fort, built in 1796, played an important role in the battles Between the British and the Dutch in 1803. It now houses a history museum of Aruban artifacts. Natural Pool, On the windward coast. Also known as Cura di Tortuga, or “conchi,” this hidden pool surrounded by rocks is a great place to get away from it all. Diving from the rock cliffs into the protected pool of seawater is the main reason why so many venture here off the beaten path. To reach this destination you will need a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Make sure you bring refreshments and a camera because this area is as remote as it is a wonderful Kodak moment. Numismatic Museum, Weststraat, Oranjestad. 297-583-2039. This museum houses a vast collection of historic coins and currencies—from the Roman and Byzantine empires and Chinese dynasties— found on shipwrecks in the region. San Nicolas. Aruba’s second largest city was once the site of oil refineries that brought wealth to the island. Revitalization of the area has attracted interesting art galleries, shops and parks. Sand Dunes, at Boca Prins on the northeastern coast. Try your hand at dunesliding, or take an exciting Jeep tour past the California Dunes at Hudishibana on the northwestern tip of the island. Named for the California wreck offshore, the dunes offer spectacular scenery near an old stone lighthouse. Savaneta. The Dutch settled Aruba’s first capital here in the 1800s. Today it’s a busy fishing village and site of the oldest dwelling still standing on the island. The Tunnel of Love. Although temporarily closed, this labyrinth-like enclave is popular with honeymooners, who love its hidden location in the outer reaches of Arikok National Park. Named after its heart-shaped entrance, its 300-foot-long jagged corridors wind through eerie rock formations and narrow passages. Pack a flashlight to view the resident bats, which are harmless. SHOPPING Like many vacationers, you may prefer to spend each precious day enjoying Aruba’s golden sands and soaking up the sun instead of shopping. Luckily, onestop shopping exists just beyond your beach chair at the Hyatt. Every store is stocked with luxury goods guaranteed to impress the most discerning traveler and pickiest of tastes. Chic David Yurman watches, nostalgic Lladro figurines, sparkling Baccarat diamonds and fashionable Damiani and Brad Pitt-designed necklaces are sold at Gandelman Jewelers. Select delicate lingerie and high-end prêt-a-porter at the über-fashionable and tasteful Studio Italia. And just in case you’ve left anything behind at home, resort wear, swimsuits, sandals and a variety of accessories are sold at the resort’s own Red Sail Sports Shop. If you must go out, late afternoon when the sun is setting is the optimum time to step outside the hotel for an excursion. Several areas around the island feature shops selling curios, electronics, crystal, china, perfumes and designer fashions. It’s easy to get your Gouda and Gucci in one fell swoop, emeralds just because and Ponche crema to celebrate anything your heart desires. Don’t forget, nothing says “vacation” more than a kicky beach tote, colorful sarong or new pair of sunglasses. Of course, as a Dutch island, Aruba displays products from The Netherlands everywhere. A few islandmade goods can also be found. Make sure to save room in your suitcase to take home some of these treats. Aloe. After a few days in the hot sun, you’ll want to pick up some of the island’s natural products. Soothing sunburn creams, gels, facial masks and moisturizers are just the cooling agents guaranteed to make anyone say “aloe-ahhhh.” Because the green aloe plant is cultivated here, you’ll find more varieties to choose from than you would back home, including aloe vera juice. It is said that the plant also aids digestion and, when applied topically, serves as a rudimentary antibiotic. Art. Galleries are often tended to by the artists themselves, who are working on their next creations. They’ll eagerly explain the motivation behind unique Arawak style pottery, intricate wind chimes or handcrafted sculptures. In the heart of colorful Oranjestad, a small enclave of these galleries showcases attractive desert scenes depicted in watercolor, as well as stylish photographs of everyday island life. Some of the most unusual articles are boxes, masks and figurines made from the resin of the mopa mopa tree. These intriguing items look hand-painted, but actually it’s the tree’s buds that are boiled and reduced to a resin, then added to vegetable-based colors. This material is then stretched by mouth, like gum; the pieces are then dried and cut into shapes. Beer. Locally made Balashi is a Pilsnertype lager with 5% alcohol content. No trip to Aruba is complete without a taste or two (and some to go) of this refreshing brew. Find it at any liquor store, convenience store or supermarket. Cheese. Dutch cheeses are known the world over, and the varieties you’ll find for sale in Aruba are every bit as enticing as those sold in Europe. Edam and Gouda (the Dutch pronounce it how-da) cheeses come from towns of the same name in Holland. Both travel well and get harder, saltier and more flavorful as they age. There are six types of Gouda: young (at least 4 weeks old), semi-major (8 weeks old), major (4 months old), ultra-major (7 months old), old (10 months old), and vintage (more than a year old). Buy these varieties in grocery stores rather than souvenir shops for considerable savings. Look for the control seal that confirms the name of the cheese, the country of origin, fat content, and official inspection sticker. Visitors are allowed to take up to 10 pounds of hard cheese through U.S. customs. Cigars. A new locally produced “Aruhiba” cigar, now on the market, has been compared to a fine Dominican blend. Stogie shops are plentiful and filled with this and other top-brand varieties from Partagas, Cohibas and Romeo y Julieta, as well as humidors and other accessories. Feel free to purchase a few Cubans from the climatecontrolled rooms and enjoy them while on the island, but do remember, it is illegal to import Cuban cigars to the United States. Chocolate. A meal in Aruba wouldn’t be complete without a sumptuous dessert. After explorers brought chocolate to Europe from the New World, Holland developed techniques that vastly improved its consistency and flavor. Take a taste test; whether savoring a post-dinner dessert or simply munching on a cocoa-laden snack: the difference between the good and the extraordinary is monumental. Clothing. International, cutting-edge merchandise makes it worth scouring the many boutiques along the main street. Because many prices are on par with those back home, it helps to know your desired product’s original price tag and make a Mental note that Aruba’s best apparel sales are held in January, when stores clear out the previous year’s inventory. Delftware. The Dutch have loved this type of chinaware since it was imported into Holland from China in the 17th century. In The Netherlands, the blue and white variety of the delicate finery became quite popular and local factories began to duplicate it. And, just as in Europe, Delft pottery is everywhere in Aruba. Peruse the storefront windows of the downtown shops and you’ll find a panoply of coffee cups, dinnerware and even windmill-shaped salt and pepper shakers. Jewelry. The ancient Aruban miners are long gone, but they have been replaced with equally determined tourists searching for gold of the earring, necklace and bracelet variety. The bounty is easy to find in the islands’ many jewelry shops. Gems like rubies and sapphires can fulfill anyone’s wish list. Music. Pick up the latest CD by Aruba’s talented “steel pan man extraordinaire” Lee Connor, or some Latin tunes to practice your newfound love of merengue. Rum. Ponche Crema liqueur is an island classic. This sweet, yet potent, rum-laced eggnog is delicious either on the rocks or over ice cream and can be found in liquor stores as well as supermarkets. You can find Aruban made Palmera rum in the bottle, or taste it in the island-produced rum cake that makes a perfect gift for the folks back home. It’s available in two sizes and, thanks to vacuum-sealing, stays fresh for up to six months. Woden clogs. On an island with historical roots to Holland, picking up traditional Dutch clogs is a must. They make great presents for children and work well as doorstops. The shoes come in all shapes and sizes, painted in colors as bright and cheery as Dutch tulips, which are sometimes the subject painted on the ”wooden shoes.” The most popular shopping areas are located in easy-to-navigate downtown Oranjestad, where a wharf-side market and a half-mile of quality shops invite locals as well as a healthy number of tourists. Mingle among the open-air malls and boutiques searching for hand-embroidered linens, ornate jewelry and watches, porcelain or Ceramic miniatures of Aruba’s colorful, redroofed country houses and divi divi trees. When cruise ships are in port, the atmosphere in downtown is a little more frenetic, but exciting all the same. Most of the businesses listed here are located within a short walk of one another. The Alhambra Casino Shopping Arcade. This bazaar is open between 5 p. m. and midnight for late-night fast food and last-minute shopping. Caya G.F. (Betico) Croes. This is Oranjestad’s main street section. Shop for breezy duds in this department store-filled area. Get reasonable prices on Dior cosmetics, Bally shoes, Cartier watches, Dutch tablecloths and clothing, Spanish pottery and Lenox crystal. Flea Market, L.G. Smith Boulevard opposite Container Harbour. Boasting over 10,000 items, vendors display an assortment of Aruban crafts, popular souvenirs, leather goods and more. Paseo Herencia. This mega-plaza on Palm Beach is designed to duplicate an old village with Dutch-style gables, slanted tile roofs and Spanish decorative columns, and features a 90-foot-tall ornamental bell tower, complete with an eight-foot clock. The enormous complex is two stories of shopping and entertainment overlooking an eight-meter pool that features Las Vegas-style “waltzing water” and performances by a local synchronized swim team. Port of Call Marketplace. Located on L.G. Smith Boulevard, this mini-emporium sells jewelry, duty-free liquors, crystal and perfumes. You can also find Arawak-style pottery, clogs, silver and porcelain dolls. Ceramics aficionados will love the assortment of windmills, chimes and other tchotchkes. Royal Plaza Mall. One of the busiest grand malls, the Royal Plaza, across from the cruise ship terminal, faces the downtown waterfront with its very distinctive pink-and-white architecture. Step into one of the many stores and discover a cornucopia of delights from Lee Jeans, Tommy Hilfiger and Van Heusen. Visitors can also choose the perfect hand-carved pipe, Caribbean pewter frame or carefully crafted items from South America. There’s also a café and post office. The Renaisance Marketplace. An outdoor gallery lined with restaurants, bookstores and sidewalk cafés. Look for blue-and-white Dutch delftware vases and figurines in the many souvenir shops. It’s also the site of Aruba’s largest loose diamond center, where you can get a deal on custom-made jewelry. Renaisance Mall. Located across from the harbor, this mall is home to more than 120 stores and boutiques. You’ll find designer fashions from Ferragamo, Furla, Guess, Gucci, Versace, and Chopard, as well as an amazing assortment of Indonesian batik clothing. Wilhelminastraat. Behind the Renaissance Hotel is a bustling avenue with a supermarket selling local delicacies and Dutch favorites, as well as shops hawking knickknacks, clothing, shoes and more. The Village, Palm Beach. A welcoming, colorful structure representing Aruban culture, The Village depicts traditional Cunucu houses, not only in style, but in choice of color and architectural features. This lifestyle center is located at the beginning of the high-rise hotel area in Palm Beach. The complex includes an extensive variety of restaurants and exclusive souvenir shops, combined with A relaxing yet chic atmosphere. The inviting outdoor courtyard, decorated with terra cotta tiles, suggests you might want to stroll around The Village, where you can enjoy background music and friendly greetings from the “members of the Village family” as you browse. IMPORTANT SHOPPING TIPS: Stores on the main streets are open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, although some are closed for lunch between noon and 2 p. m. A smattering of shops will open on Sunday and holidays if there’s a cruise ship in port. Although the Aruba florin is the island’s currency, most businesses accept U. S. dollars as well as credit cards and traveler’s checks. Store prices are generally similar from store to store, so comparison shopping makes sense only for high-ticket items. Aruba isn’t actually a duty-free port, but the sales tax is pretty low at 3%. Some tiny shops and studios may also charge a small VAT tariff. Remember, Americans can claim an $800 duty-free tax exemption per family member, including accompanying children. Prices are on a par with other destinations, but good deals can be found if you’ve done research in advance. Don’t expect to bargain except with the outdoor street-market vendor, as haggling is not customary in Aruba and is often seen as rude behavior. Island merchants are generally honest and pleasant, but if you ever encounter unsatisfactory service, it’s good to know that calls to the Aruba Merchants Association are taken seriously. A representative of the association will speak with the merchant on your behalf, even if the store isn’t a member. aloe: so cool, it’s hot Aloe vera is a hearty plant that was first brought to Aruba by African sailors in 1840. Those early clippings were cultivated on 150 acres of land in an area now called the Cunuco di Hato, where they blossomed, thanks to the island’s strong sun and desert landscape, which also intensified the plant’s 75 active healing properties, including antioxidants, amino acids and enzymes. Over time, the aloe continued to grow and spread, and now over two-thirds of the land is covered with aloe plants, which earned Aruba the nickname “Island of Aloe.” In the height of its growth, Aruba became one of the world’s exporters of the product. Aloe vera, also called “burn plant”and “lily of the desert” by locals, has a long-held reputation of being beneficial for the skin. It’s been known to help repair damaged tissue by increasing the skin’s blood supply and oxygen. If you find yourself faced with a rare rainy day or want to spend a few hours away from the beach, head to the Aruba Aloe Museum and tour its factory. You’ll find farmers on the plantation, harvesting the gel from the plant with machetes and operating the machines that grind and filter the plant’s sap and skin. You’ll move indoors and witness the complete production process from leaf to lotion. Knowledgeable guides discuss the plant’s uses and the 50 varieties of products the factory makes—all available for purchase in the gift shop. DINING When it comes to culinary excellence, visitors to Aruba are in for a Dutch treat. With over 100 restaurants serving a range of international dishes, choosing a place to eat is a global adventure in itself. The dining scene in Aruba ranges from familiar standards available back home to cuttingedge eateries. Such a variety is impressive for such a small Caribbean island. What’s more, the island’s cultures are fusing, which is quite evident from the menus. The top-notch team behind Hyatt’s restaurants has created four Sunset Service packages so guests can enjoy Aruba’s spectacular sunset in style and comfort. You can pull up a teak Adirondack chair placed just steps from the water, while savoring gourmet hors d’oeuvres like crab salad profiteroles and coconut shrimp tempura along with superb wines and champagnes from California or France. Other romantic dinners for two include “Pampered in Paradise,” a beachside candle and tiki torch-lit four-course meal with a choice of lobster, sea bass and filet mignon. Reservations are limited to two couples each night and bookings require reservations 24 hours in advance. In the resort’s other restaurants, culinary masterpieces are created nightly by the chef. Feast on fresh sashimi, sushi, and sake at the renowned Café Japengo restaurant; savor gourmet brick-oven pizza, fresh bruschetta and other Northern Italian classics at Café Piccolo; homemade crabcakes at The Palms, a casual, beachside grill offering outdoor seating and Caribbean-style cuisine; and a lavish Sunday brunch featuring Belgian waffles and other breakfast classics, carving and dessert stations, and unlimited mimosas at the hotel’s signature restaurant Ruinas del Mar. Those wishing to take their gourmet meal experience on the road can sign up for the “Picnic in Paradise” basket Where Camembert cheese, fruit, a French baguette and other delicacies are packed to your specifications for a day excursion. Asian, Mexican, Cuban and Belgian cuisines have also been introduced to the island in the last few years by creative chefs who manage to keep up with the world‘s demand for international and fusion cuisine. This abundance of options wasn’t always the case in a land where agriculture, unfortunately, is not king. Rocky soil and a hot, arid climate prevent large-scale farming in Aruba. Centuries ago, the Indians who lived in Aruba survived by growing corn and potatoes. Now, both starchy vegetables are mostly imported, but they are still a staple in traditional cooking, especially in soups and casseroles. A few native ingredients are still found on the island, such as maripampoen (a vegetable used in stews), hierba di hole, a tangy herb used in fish dishes, shimarucu, a cherry-like fruit, and the fiery Madame Jeanette pepper. If you’re looking for some hot stuff in your meals, ask for a sauce that features this spice. Give it a taste and feel your taste buds zing. If this eruption is a little much for you, don’t try to tame the flames with a glass of water, as capsaicin, the part of the pepper that produces the heat, isn’t water soluble. Better remedies are dairy products, sweet fruits, rice and bread, at least one of which is probably served with your meal anyway. The key to survival in earlier times was frugality, since provisions had to last from The visit of one goods-toting sailing ship to the port call of another. Not much has changed with modern importing. The local diet is still mainly made up of small amounts of meat, fresh fruits and lots of fish, which is an important part of Aruba’s economy. Grouper, snapper and barracuda are brought in by local fishermen in their colorful skiffs called boto di piscado, or fishing boat, and are available daily from restaurants and markets. You’ll find the “catch of the day” presented in many dishes at tiny mom-and-pop joints and high-end eateries. Sampling homemade Aruban cuisine is an opportunity most visitors want to experience. First, start with a recommendation from the Hyatt’s concierge or ask the friendly staff about their favorites. Everyone has a cherished down-home countryside restaurant, and they’ll be happy to share their opinions, and, if necessary, provide directions. For truly casual fare like fried chicken and ribs, look for the frietjes (pushcarts). Meals of deep-rooted West Indian staples like curried goat are almost always on the soup or stew menu and fish dishes are often prepared Creole style— pan-fried and served with a garden-style tomato sauce. It would be almost criminal to leave the island without trying keshi yena, a mouthwatering dish of melted Gouda cheese and heavily spiced meat or seafood mixed with capers, raisins, olives, and brown sauce, all stuffed into the rind of an Edam cheese round. This rich dish is best appreciated when accompanied by a side of pan bati, a cornmeal pancake. Some other customary dishes you’ll find written on the chalkboard menus of many local restaurants are: • Biterballen: steamed, bite-size meatballs served with a mustard calledkroket. • Friet or Batata : fried potatoes served in paper cones or cups that can be topped with ketchup, mayonnaise, curry or hot sauce. Locals love it with a tangy peanut butter sauce. • Giambo: a thick gumbo flavored with salted beef, okra, seafood and fresh herbs. • Kesio: a crème brûlée-type custard with caramel sauce. • Paste chi: meat, cheese, potato or seafood filled turnovers that are deep fried and often served for breakfast or as a snack. • Pudin di coco: coconut pudding flavored with rum and served with a citrus sauce. • Roti: chicken, seafood, or vegetable curry housed in a tortilla-type wrap. • Stoba: a hearty stew made with either chicken, beef, goat, conch or fish. • Rijstafel: The Dutch colonists who settled in Aruba brought with them the sophisticated palates they’d developed by sampling unusual cuisines throughout their travels. One particular cuisine that is well loved is Indonesian fare. You’ll find Indonesian restaurants that feature a “rice table,” or rijstafel as it’s called in Dutch. This meal can take hours to finish and is a lesson in lavish repast and good company. A platter of steaming white rice is placed in the center of your table, then a server surrounds the platter with as many as 40 small bowls of meats, fish, vegetables, condiments and sauces. The bland rice is the anchor of the meal as a wide range of flavors, from savory to sweet, are sampled. The rice also acts as a buffer for the spicier selections. Dine Around Program. To help promote culinary endeavors, the Aruba Gastronomic Association (AGA) offers discounts and specials at some of the island’s restaurants as part of a dine-around program, making it possible for visitors to sample the island’s eclectic cuisine at a reasonable price. Membership is limited to those restaurants that exhibit outstanding quality and service. Currently, there are 25 restaurants in the program. For a set price, you receive meal coupons good at any AGA restaurant. Meals include appetizer, entrée, dessert, coffee or tea, and any service charges. Breakfast and lunch vouchers are also available for those looking for more options. Hospitality Training. With the industry currently growing at an exponential rate, it’s important to look past the present and into the future. The island has begun to do so by opening a restaurant that is operated and managed by graduating hospitality students. Under the strict oversight of their teachers, they serve the public three- andfour- course lunches that count toward their “classroom” training. In addition, frequent culinary competitions spur chefs to experiment and hone their skills. Both programs ensure that current and future chefs and waitstaff will maintain Aruba’s quality food and service standards for years to come. DINING TIPS: The finest restaurants may require a jacket for men and a sundress for women. Locals are almost always dressed to the nines, even for a simple dinner in a semi-casual eatery. Reservations are almost always needed during the high season. Also, carefully check your bill. Sometimes the gratuity is already included, or listed as a service charge. NIGHTLIFE If you think Aruba is busy at noon, wait until sundown, a prelude to more hours of sultry fun. The vibes are unmistakable, especially after midnight, when the night really comes alive. In the Latin tradition, Arubans like to get the party started later, rather than earlier, which some visitors may find challenging, given their penchant for action-packed days. But there are plenty of choices for the earlybird— beach barbecues and chilled-out cigar lounges, for example. For night owls, Oranjestad is bursting with bars and clubs to suit any taste. No matter your personal party level, you’ll find each option listed below is popular with locals and tourists alike. Art Galleries. Take in eclectic exhibitions in ink, oil or watercolors in galleries tucked into Oranjestad’s downtown main street, where internationally known artists, painters and interior designers gather to display (and sell) their craft to the public. Bon Bini Festival. There’s fun for the whole clan at the historic Fort Zoutman. Shop for arts and crafts, taste local cuisine and watch the folkloric dances every Tuesday night from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Bowling. Locals come to the 16-lane Eagle Bowling Palace in pursuit of the perfect 300 game. Aruban teams have competed in international tournaments, including those held on the island. Openbowling times for the public are plentiful, as are rental shoes, snacks and drinks. Casinos. At least 10 sparkling gaming spots on Aruba can test your skills at Caribbean stud poker, blackjack, bingo and other favorites. Of course, the everpopular slot machines are plentiful. Most casinos are open from noon until dawn, but a few operate 24/7. Dancing. Ready to salsa? Take in a show and then sign up for basic salsa lessons from Aruba’s world-champion dance stars, Janice and Oslin Boekhoudt, owners of Scoldi di Baile Pachanga. Dinner Show. Find yourself transported to the streets of Buenos Aires and be mesmerized as pros get lost in the tango, the “forbidden” dance, during a mouthwatering multi-course dinner. Las Vegas-Style Revues. Buy tickets to these sizzling shows, where dropdead gorgeous ladies and gents wow the audience with their risqué, Carnival-style outfits and tantalizing dances, as well as water ballet. Acrobats show off their skills and attempt death-defying tricks. Shows are usually held nightly, except Sunday. Get int o the spirit of rum Like most Caribbean islands, Aruba is no stranger to rum. It’s the ingredient that supplies the heat in popular island drinks like the Aruba Arriba, and its flavor laces cakes and desserts. The history of Aruba’s rum isn’t as long as in other islands because here, the raw materials needed to produce rum must be imported. One locally made rum, Palmera, was introduced in 1965 by partners Jan G. Eman and Yan Tai Wong. The factory, located on L.G. Smith Boulevard, turns out over 30 varieties of rum, from traditional to lemon and coconut flavored. Another brand gaining popularity is Ron Cartavio, founded by Cartavio Sugar Company in 1929. Originally produced in Latin America, Cartavio is now distilled in Aruba under the Destilerias Unidas label. The distillery has 15 rooms housing 40,000 casks of aging rum. Cartavio offers a selection of spirits—white rum, Blanco Superior, with its hints of vanilla, is used in many cocktails—and the spicy Old Rum of Solera is a 12-year aged liquor frequently sipped straight or on the rocks. If you prefer your rum in desserts, Bright Bakery has the answer to your cravings. The family business, founded in 1949 by Harry Bareño, is now owned by son Franklin, who carries on the tradition of supplying fresh bread and rum cakes to various stores, hotels and restaurants on the island. Fortunately, cakes can be taken back to the U.S. easily—if you can manage not to polish them off before returning home. Movie Theaters. You’ll find the sameas- home newly released films, and an occasional release from Europe or Latin America at the Seaport Cinemas, located in the Renaissance Marketplace in downtown Oranjestad. The six-screener at the new Paseo Herencia shopping mall in Palm Beach can accommodate up to 230 people in each theater, which feature comfortable reclining seats. Night Cruise. You’ll embark on a fantastic voyage on an authentic sailing ship with different areas for dining, relaxing and dancing. Some “pirate style” boats have water slides and rope swings to plunge into the briny blue during fun contests. If you don’t have mature sea legs, more gentle trips are available on catamarans. Party Bus. No worries about choosing the designated driver on this tour. An open-air, brightly painted bus picks you up and takes you on a circuit of Oranjestad’s watering holes. Revelers shake their maracas to the on-board music and cheer at people on the street as they pass. Dinner is provided at a local restaurant, as well as a champagne toast. Later, this bar-hopper on wheels makes stops at several of the island’s best hangouts. The energy is contagious and lasts well after you’ve returned to the resort. Sunset Sails. Red Sail Sports, the premier water-sports operator in the Caribbean, offers nightly fiestas-at-sea, with exotic cocktails like the “Coconana” and snacks on the 50-foot Balia or Goza, the 62-foot Fiesta and the 70-foot Rumba racing catamarans. SPORTS Whether your idea of heaven is being immersed in water or you prefer your feet on dry land, there’s a sports activity on Aruba that’s guaranteed to get your heart racing. From tramping across dusty desert trails to close-ups with tropical fish, variety is the spice of Aruban life. Join the action by land, sea and even air. The Hyatt’s activity desk can help you arrange any of these adventures. ATV. Drive your own all-terrain vehicle and visit Aruba’s most popular natural attractions, including the (former) Natural Bridge, Black Stone Beach and the Natural Pool. Eye protection, helmet and refreshments are included in the rate. Drivers must have a driving license. Not recommended for children. Boulde rin g. This sport has become very popular on Aruba. It is similar to mountain climbing and rappelling. Sergeants of the Royal Dutch Marines guide novices in an adventure up and down the Ayo rock formations. The more advanced climbers are sent to the island’s eastern cliffs, which are more porous and challenging. Go-karts. Get in touch with your inner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. At the island’s only racecar track. Golf. Golfers can choose from three courses on Aruba. Transportation to the 18-hole, par 71 Robert Trent Jones II-designed Tierra Del Sol course is available for all Hyatt guests. Tennis. Wimbledon wannabes can take advantage of Hyatt’s two all-weather, lighted tennis courts, where reservation priorities go to hotel guests. Sign up for a tennis clinic or a game. Also, a number of private racquet clubs throughout the island welcome visitors. Paintball. This sport has recently become a popular pastime for Arubans, and now visiTors can also enjoy a friendly, fun and competitive game. Equipment, protective clothing and some free paintballs are provided. Competitions usually last two hours and are supervised by a referee. Deep-sea Fishing. Beginners will love trips around the island’s coast, where red snapper and grouper become a restaurant’s catch-of-the-day. Serious anglers stand a chance of landing prized blue marlin, wahoo, sailfish, barracuda, kingfish, bonito, yellowfin tuna and even shark. For pros who want an even bigger challenge, the International White Marlin Competition is held in Aruba each October. Jet Skiing. Zip around Aruba’s coastline on these exhilarating water vehicles. Kayaking. See the island from a different perspective during a day of exploratory adventure on the tranquil waters of the south coast. The kayaking trip begins in Savaneta and passes through mangroves and the Spanish Lagoon. Take the whole family as this activity is suited for all ages with no experience necessary. Kite Surfing. This is a popular beach sport that involves standing on a footstrapped board and using the power of a large kite to propel you and the board across the water, combining old-school surfing with snowboard-type jumps. This activity is most successful on Hadikurari Beach in the late afternoon when the winds are at their best. Parasailing. Take in the Aruban landscape from 30 feet in the air. Parasailing allows you to enjoy picturesque views while harnessed under a colorful parachute that’s pulled along by a speedboat. Sailing. Charter a single-hulled boat during the daytime and tack around the island while enjoying the sun, or take a sunset sail complete with cocktails and dinner, if you wish, on a private catamaran or trimaran. Red Sail Sports will arrange these fun and romantic cruises. Scuba. Aruba’s waters are the site of some of the most visible and interesting shipwrecks in the Caribbean. Centuriesold wrecks, including torpedoed tankers And sunken airplanes, lie just offshore among coral formations. More than 20 sites, including the most popular dive, the German freighter Antilla, await close inspection. The Antilla gained notoriety (although some say it’s urban legend) as the ship that heard, yet ignored, the Titanic’s S.O.S. signals. Aruba’s offshore waters provide visibility of up to 100 feet and hold an impressive Technicolor variety of fish, including the elusive and rare green moray eel. Your rewards multiply the deeper you go. At two-mile-long Barcadera Reef, one of the Caribbean’s best dive sites, you can float through a forest of sea fans. Red Sail Sports offers PADI certification courses, with instruction taking as little as four days. Snuba. This unique combo of snorkeling and scuba gives non-divers a chance to see waters teeming with brain coral and sea fans at 20 feet. No experience or dive certification is necessary. A fun activity for the entire family. Windriders. These personal sailboats are fun and easy for everyone, from beginners to experienced sailors. The three hulls eliminate the need for propellers or gas, and the design gives the boats stability. The hands-free foot pedal makes for easy steering with only a gentle press needed to change directions. This is a safe and environmentally-friendly way to sightsee on the water. TOURS Whether you’re vacationing for a few days or several weeks, it’s impossible to take in all of Aruba’s highlights in just one visit. With the time you do have, take an unforgettable tour with Red Sail Sports. Ask the Hyatt concierge or activities desk how to take part in these half- and full-day Adventures. And remember, Aruba’s sun is notoriously hot and its winds are quite deceiving. It can’t be stressed enough to always apply—and reapply—sunscreen when on an outdoor excursion, or at the beach or pool. Aloe Factory. In the early 1900s, Aruba was the largest exporter of aloe vera in the world, producing over 90 percent of the world’s supply and earning the spiky plant a permanent place on the Aruban coat of arms. Take a guided tour of the modern Aruba Aloe Balm Factory and see the production process from start to finish. Bicycle Tours. Some resorts and bike shops rent mountain bicycles for around $15 per day. Before you embark on a pedal- pushing expedition, make sure you’re in good physical condition. Bring plenty of sunscreen and water. Balashi Brewery. This state-of-the-art facility conducts free, half-hour tours that describe the fermentation process, which is overseen by a German brewmaster. Visit the souvenir shop and restaurant, as well as a 10,000-square-foot beer garden where you can hoist a frothy one. Bus. See historic areas of interest via deluxe air-conditioned or open-air motor coach or mini-bus. Narrated by knowledgeable guides, these tours meander through the island and stop at places like Seroe Colorado, where you can walk the grounds and capture the breathtaking wildlife scene with your camera. Snorkeling trips to the beach are often included in excursions. Private and personalized trips can also be arranged. Hiking. Amble through Arikok National Park on a trek that’s easy enough to be fun and hard enough to justify dessert. A new excursion called the Aruba Nature Sensitive Hiker offers two guided tours via customized Jeeps, complete with refreshments. With more than 20 miles of trails in the park, visiTors are advised not to veer off unescorted. Sturdy shoes are a must for the occasionally steep hills. Signs in various colors indicate the trail’s degree of difficulty. Bring plenty of sunblock, water and a camera to capture the fabulous views. Horseback Riding. Equestrians and novices will enjoy riding through Aruba’s environs on the finest horses. It’s a pleasant trot through the countryside and along the coast with plenty of photo-op stops. Follow the rocky trail to the Natural Pool and ascend the white sand dunes near the California Lighthouse. Romantics can choose a stable that offers sunset rides along the beach. Jeep Safari. Off-road enthusiasts climb onto 4x4s like Suzuki Samurais or Land Rovers and navigate the island’s rough and rugged terrain. Whether you’re driving or being driven, you’ll explore fascinating ecological sites like Arikok National Park and the gold mill ruins of Bushiribana. Snorkeling. If you’d like to swim with the fish, Red Sail Sports offers “Extreme Snorkel.” After a 25-minute instructional lesson, you’re off on a 25-minute guided tour with professional PADI-certified dive instructors to see a whole underwater world up close without tanks or SCUBA equipment. Available only to those 10 years of age and older. Tours are available to lesser known spots like Baby Beach, where lobsters and squid frolic, Puerto Chiquita, a habitat for turtles, and Magel Halto Reef, which harbors sea horses. REAL ESTATE While some are satisfied with shopping in bustling markets, hardcore buyers may want something a bit more extravagant like... a house. Although timeshare owners initially set the ball in motion on home ownership, some visitors have simply decided to purchase their own homes and condos outright, seeing no reason to keep dreaming about the retirement years ahead. Others have become snowbirds, taking advantage of the law allowing U.S., Canadian and EU citizens a six-month island stay without becoming official residents. It’s an ideal solution for those interested in spending the cold winter months in the sun. North Americans, Dutch and wealthy Venezuelans have commissioned Floridastyle bungalows and Spanish red-tiled haciendas in semi-gated communities built partly because of the relative ease of purchasing land. According to Susan van Lier from Sunshine Real Estate, “Fortunately, there are no restrictions on foreigners purchasing property, unlike some other Caribbean islands. The procedure is exactly the same as it is for locals, only obtaining financing is naturally more difficult and more expensive.” Up-and-coming areas include the North- West quadrant, which is considered west of Paradera and north of Tanki Flip, with the Most desirable districts around the Noord areas of Palm Beach. There has been a recent surge in development along the northern areas of Malmok and Arashi. But non-millionaires needn’t fret. More affordable options exist on the island and the number of listings has increased in recent years. A 2,500-square-foot house complete with pool can cost $400,000. Smaller dwellings cost a bit more than half that. For those seeking a traditional Aruban cunucu (country) house, you may get lucky and find one for around $100,000. Because these old houses Can often date back to the early 19th century, renovations to bring them up to modern standards of living may be necessary, with care to prevent destroying the character, of course. Current owners of authentic cunucu houses have begun to realize, however, that their homes are valuable. Lisa Carvalhal, from BigDotrealestate.com, says, “Those that are left generally are on long-lease land and have often been inherited by many family members, usually children and grandchildren. It can be difficult to get 40 people to agree to sell or agree on a price. It is easier to build a replica (of the house you like).” Some fine replicas can be seen. But do understand that whichever type housing you decide on, financing in Aruba is very expensive (rates are normally around 9%) and local banks finance only up to 50% for non-residents. Using the equity in your own home is advisable. If you plan to live as a pensioner or retiree in Aruba, you could become eligible for the special admission ruling of DIMAS (Departamento di Integracion, Maneho y Admision di Stranhero). Both requests are the same except, that, to become eligible for admission as a pensioner, you must be at least 55 years old. Island real estate agents and bankers can provide you with information appropriate to your particular situation. Chanize Thorpe, a freelance travel writer, visits the Caribbean frequently. Aruba is one of her favorite islands.
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