It took 92 million years from the ‘birth’ of the volcanic island of Aruba until Walter J. Wiggins walked from the landing strip where his twin-engine plane had arrived from New York, to the bright white beach. He took off his shoes and felt how cool the coral sand was under the midday sun. He fell in love. The year was 1967.
There is something enticing about this island. Almost half a century later, visitors are still enamored by the cool white sand on those beautiful wide-open Caribbean beaches with turquoise waves gently lapping the shore. Who wouldn’t want to picnic under the island’s iconic fofoti trees on the beach when the neighbors back home are shoveling the snow out of their driveways?
That New York City lawyer, Wiggins, ended up becoming a hotelier and started the Divi-Divi Resort in 1968, a company that still exists today as the Divi Village Aruba, with several hotels and resorts across the Caribbean. Since then, Aruba has become one of the Caribbean’s most exclusive destinations.
Only 32 km from tip to tip, Aruba is one of the so-called ABC islands that are part of the kingdom of the Netherlands in the Lesser Antilles north of Venezuela (the two other islands are Bonaire and Curaçao).
Curaçao is bigger and more well-known as a holiday getaway, especially among Dutch people. Maybe they’re hesitant about going to Aruba, known for being a bit more upscale with higher prices (although its status as a tax-free shopping haven is great for electronics and luxury goods). The exquisite beaches, the extremely friendly people, the climate, the diving, snorkeling and windsurfing, the mouthwatering seafood and luxurious hotels – all of these are what draw people from both North America and from Europe. In fact, people from 96 different nations live and work on this multi-cultural island, where most people speak at least four languages: Dutch, Spanish, English and the local tongue, Papiamento.
If you speak the language of golf, there’s an extra treat for you. On the northwestern tip of the island you’ll find a magnificent Robert Trent Jones II course, Tierra del Sol, a course that mixes links-inspired golf with Caribbean and desert style. It’s in a gorgeous setting, with cliffs, rocky hills and even a known Aruban landmark, the California Lighthouse.
Tierra del Sol isn’t the only course. You’ve also got The Links at Divi Aruba, a very enjoyable 9-hole resort course. You can even get a very good golf package deal at Divi Village Aruba where you can play as often as you like in the afternoons (after 3 p.m., cart included).
Golf when you aren’t snorkeling
Golf will never be the main attraction of Aruba, but if you’re seeking an island paradise with a few rounds of golf now and again during the course of the week, it might just fit the bill. And some Europeans have discovered that if they keep an eye out for cheap return tickets from New York, they can buy two separate tickets, first to New York City, stay there for a few days for a long weekend, then fly on to Aruba for a week. Or it’s possible to do it the easy way and get an all-inclusive charter trip.
Once you arrive, you will forget about your menial everyday concerns and immerse yourself in the Caribbean lifestyle. Take the food. For such a small island, it has a great collection of excellent restaurants that serve American-style huge portions – and considering that more than half of the visitors are from North America, why not?
The local ‘secret’ restaurant is Zeerover, at a marina in Savaneta on the way to San Nicolas. You get fish fresh off the boat – and you eat with your fingers: all sorts of goodies like cornbread and pancakes, fried shrimp, catch of the day, from big baskets brought to your table. If you love fresh seafood, a down-to-earth simple style, and a gorgeous view this is your place. You might be looking at a 20 or 30 minute cab ride back and forth from your resort, but it’s worth it.
At the relaxed Zeerover restaurant you can always order the catch of the day.
Passions on the beach
On Eagle Beach you’ll be swept away by the Passions on the Beach experience of dining right on the beach, looking into the sunset. Try the catch of the day, or go for Caribbean shrimp with spiced mango chutney. As the sun goes down, the diners are lit by the flames of the tall torches among the tables. Romantic? You bet. Just ask the honeymooners at the neighboring tables who are sitting two and two, staring into each others’ eyes when they’re not riveted by the magnificent sunset.
Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa is the place to go for healthy ‘detox’ smoothies with spinach and lime – especially after a morning yoga session right on the beach, next to the Caribbean-Balinese spa.
Right behind the two famous fofoti trees on Eagle Beach you’ll find the tastefully decorated Amsterdam Manor resort. Neighboring that is the upscale (adults only) Bucuti & Tara resort. And if you’re in a party mood, stay near the livelier strip of highrise hotels, for example at the Westin Aruba.
The highrise hotels are just a 15-minute cab ride from downtown Oranjestad, where there’s more shopping, more restaurants, and some stunning Dutch Colonial architecture. If you buy a ticket and take the Renaissance Hotel’s boat shuttle out to their private island (a 15-minute journey) you can spend the day on the beach with some gorgeous and tame pink flamingos. Bring your camera. You’ll be posting stunning photos from Aruba every other minute to your jealous Facebook friends.
The Links at Divi Aruba
Designed by L.A. Links, Inc.
9 holes, par 36, 2952 yards from the back tees, and 2273 yards from the front tees.
Slope rating is 124 for ladies, 126 for men from the white tees and 133 for men from the gold tees.
The Links at Divi Aruba is a popular resort course, perfect for a late afternoon round after a day at the beach or snorkeling under the waves. It features water on six of the nine holes, and the 9th green is an island green. The wildlife is colorful – especially the harmless but slightly spooky-looking iguanas that hang out at the first and fifth tees. If you are on a charter trip with Scandinavia’s Ving, you will get late afternoon golf at Divi Aruba included in your package price if you stay at Divi Village Resorts.
Tierra del Sol
Designed by Robert Trent Jones II. Opened in 1995.
18 holes, par 71, 6811 yards from gold tees, 5002 yards from coral tees.