Bet Your Bottom Sand Dollar on Aruba
April 04, 2003 - 16:34
By Adrien Glover, ARTHUR FROMMER'S BUDGET TRAVEL
Enjoy this sun-dappled, casino-filled Caribbean isle with roundtrip airfare and seven nights in Aruba for $569
Aruba is no Dutch treat. The Americanized facade of this pocket-sized island that was until recently under Netherlandish rule seems to become more apparent with each passing year—a detail that does not stop the steady flow of tourists to its shores. In fact, it’s helped, as American tourist dollars are in heavy rotation. (Actually, U.S. dollars are the currency of choice on Aruba.) Most sun-seeking travelers come in to this lower Caribbean isle search of good times, sublime sandy beaches, or to tempt lady luck at one of the many island casinos.
FOR THE PAST 15 YEARS Jodi Rosen, a schoolteacher in Boston, has been a devoted fan and repeat visitor to Aruba. “What I love about Aruba is that I feel safe there, the weather is guaranteed and everyone is so friendly,” says Rosen who even taught for a summer on the island. “Because my family and I have been going there for so many years, we’re at a point where we have good friends on the island and people actually say ‘welcome home’ when they greet us.” We can’t guarantee you’ll have the same experience as Ms. Rosen but we can tell you about various seven night air-hotel packages to Aruba, a couple of which start at $569 per person.
LIFE’S A BEACH ON ARUBA
At first glance, the strip of high-rise hotels along beautiful Palm Beach look like any chunk of coast in Florida. Look again and you’ll see different. Its seven miles of soft sand beaches and clear waters don’t resemble Florida’s coastal offerings one lick. Outside of the hurricane belt, Aruba enjoys a more arid climate and light trade winds, and boasts delicious daily temps that hover around 82°F. Its perfect weather is a constant, and a low-key atmosphere abounds, especially on its beaches where you’ll find swimming options for all ages and ability levels and where you won’t find peddlers hawking island tchtoches. Palm Beach, which has been superlatively named one of the best stretches of sand in the world, is, not surprisingly, extremely popular, while Baby Beach is great for kids who can wade out into its shallow gentle waters for hundreds of feet.
THE ISLAND’S FLIP SIDE
Miraculously exempt from the racial strife that often curses other Caribbean islands, Aruba enjoys a generally more inviting and relaxed atmosphere than many of its neighbors, which may be partly due to the island’s high literacy and low unemployment rates. The tourism biz is big on Aruba, but there are places where you can glimpse local life.
San Nicholas, which is decidedly less touristy, has good grocery stores where the locals shop. It’s also where you’ll find the charming daytime gallery-cum-nighttime eatery Que Pasa, a place where you’ll spend half as much for dinner and are likely to eat better food. Named after an island chili pepper, Madame Jennette’s is also an excellent place to sample fresh seafood and other assorted local specialties at bargain prices. (Be sure to douce your dinner with some Madame Jennette sauce—usually found in bottles on the table.) Perhaps it’s its proximity to South America, but Aruba also has one of the best Argentine steak houses in this swath of the world, but since El Gaucho’s is an island favorite, reservations are a must.
ARUBA, A GOOD BET
“At night, it’s all about the casinos,” says Rosen. “First you go for dinner, then drinks, and then go casino-hopping. Most have Latin or Caribbean bands and a place to sit and enjoy a cocktail, so your evening doesn’t have to always be about gambling. It’s definitely where the action is.” The bulk of the big hotels along Palm Beach have casinos and many will keep their lights on for as long as its patrons are placing bets. Most have plush gaming parlors featuring all the usual casino games—roulette, craps, blackjack, and slot machines galore.