How Aruba adds rhythm to your holiday

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When a local says “Baila,” best you get dancing!

With its turquoise seas, colonial Dutch architecture and Latin vibe, Aruba is a delightful alternative Caribbean experience. Colourful culture has long been part of the tradition of this Dutch Caribbean island! And, for those who think it’s all about beach, think again. There is no shortage of things to do by day, or night during an Aruba holiday!

Plus, music is the heartbeat of Aruba! You will hear fresh blended influences from the Carribean, South America, Africa, and even Europe. Therefore, if you are looking to partner a destination that can offer rhythm to your holiday, you may want to consider it. 

Taking to the floor on this Dutch Caribbean island everyone seems to have natural timing. And just as the music starts, they grab a partner! It may not be a Viennese waltz, or the foxtrot, but the range of dances found on the island are fun, informal and an opportunity for everyone to step-out.

Here’s the other attractions making up the island’s soul:

  • Street art capital
  • Best you get dancing
  • Fast food is a feature
  • Hidden gems 

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STREET ART CAPITAL

Vibrant colours are an expected ingredient for any Caribbean holiday. But, Aruba has taken it a stage further and been named “Street Art Capital” of the island chain.

Its second city of San Nicolas is now a living breathing outdoor art gallery with more than 40 huge murals adorning the exteriors of various buildings. The murals continue San Nicolas’ renaissance. 

Aruban Tito Bolivar travelled to Bogota, Colombia, in 2015 and fell in love with the city’s street art and the way it transformed different neighbourhoods. He pictured adopting a similar strategy back home to breathe new life into San Nicolas’ dilapidated buildings.

But his goal to create an artistic hub in a place known for its beaches was a cultural shift. According to Bolivar, art’s popularity on the island waned in the ’90s. It won a boost when a movement called Korteweg brought together a modest gathering of people to buy arts and crafts in a market setting in 2015. 

The following year, he formed ArtisA (which stands for Art is Aruba), a group that organises local art projects, including the mural tours and the Aruba Art Fair. The launch of the three-day fair helped revitalise the art scene.

Bolivar says ‘It has revived a forgotten city and now people from all over the world are visiting San Nicolas.’

BEST YOU GET DANCING

Groove to five popular dances – salsa, merengue, kizomba, rueda and bachata – all of which can be learned at local dance schools. But, with salsa and merengue in particular, there are often free sessions and demonstrations for visitors in bars and at hotels. Whilst some of the dance schools also offer free introductory lessons.

Although salsa originated in Eastern Cuba, today’s dance is said to have been born in New York. And it is a mixture of Afro Cuban folk dances with jazz.

Merengue, meanwhile, is a style of Dominican music and dance. Partners hold each other in a closed position. The leader holds the follower’s waist with the right hand, while holding the follower’s right hand with the left at the follower’s eye level. It is said to be a lot of fun but can be repetitive if dancers only know the basic steps.

Kizomba originated in Angola following the influences of traditional Semba and merengue. Kizomba music is characterised by a slower and usually very romantic rhythm.

Rueda is an exciting dance from Cuba and officially called Rueda de Casino. Rueda means ‘wheel’ and one dances in a circle.

Dominica is also the home of the sexy and sensual bachata, featuring graceful moves and different kinds of footwork patterns.

FAST FOOD IS A FEATURE

Fast food takes on a whole new tasty tang in the holiday idyll of Aruba. Here mobile eateries are an established part of the island’s culture, and take the culinary concept to a new level.

Love it or hate it, fast food is a feature of everyday life! But in this sun-drenched Dutch Caribbean playground, woe betide you if you refer to it as ‘junk’. Food trucks, snack trucks or food stands – whatever your descriptive taste – have been feeding locals long before the concept became trendy.

Originally, largely an after-hours phenomena, food trucks became hugely popular with late-night revellers craving garlic chicken wraps, burgers or French fries with peanut sauce.

Now they have developed further and holiday-makers will find such mobile establishments located in strategic places.  In fact, they are such a big part of the island, that there is even an annual competition – The Battle of the Food Trucks!

Here’s a flavour of what’s on offer:

Candela Food Trailer: It is typically parked in the heart of downtown Oranjestad near Royal Plaza and the main bus station. And, it has been operating for more than two decades, with the menu including sate baskets, French fries with peanut sauce, and steak-and-cheese.

Piet’s Super Snack is located in the area of Boegoeroei – inland from the popular Palm Beach area – and has enjoyed a long run on the island. Its lomito (Argentinean tenderloin) wrap with garlic sauce is an island favourite.

Rikuras is in the middle of the Paradera neighbourhood in the centre of the northern part of the island. Owned and operated by an Aruban family and located next to their home, it is open most nights. The house sausage platters are popular, along with the true belly-buster, the Picado, which has a little of everything.

Mama’s (Truk Di Mama) is an Eagle Beach lunchtime institution, attracting locals (it’s a favourite stop of the beach police) looking for home-cooked food, and tourists looking to try something locally unique. Mama’s oxtail soup and beef stoba (stew) are not to be missed.

Ruiz Take Away: Get your fill of Aruban comfort food at this truck positioned in Tanki Leendert on the main road to Paradera. Menu highlights include oyster soup, sate platters and grilled meats. Most platters come with a heaped portion of rice and French fries, and with a side salad tossed in for good measure!

Tia Rosa Snack is also located in Paradera (on the way to Savaneta) and was the winner of 2012’s Battle of the Food Trucks. This family enterprise serves Dominican-inspired patacones, a sandwich made with twice-fried plantains, instead of bread, stuffed with fillings like cheese, ham, chicken, and with a variety of toppings.

The Hunger Cruncher is also in Oranjestad, on Emanstraat, from 8 pm to 1am, and renowned for its mega-portions. Funchi fries (similar to polenta) are smothered in Gouda cheese and can be topped with diced beef or chicken.

Chalo Burger is located on Palm Beach Road, within walking distance of popular resort hotels, and late night feasters can dig into a juicy burger here until 2 am. South American pinchos (skewered meat) and arepas are also served.

Poffertjes and Pofferdorie is a charming little truck perfect for those with a sweet tooth! It serves traditional Dutch poffertjes – miniature, fluffy pancake-like treats that are irresistible topped with your favourite choice such as powdered sugar, maple syrup and Nutella.

HIDDEN GEMS

Perhaps you simply want to curl up with a good book under a shady tree with a soundtrack of rustling palms and gentle waves lapping the shore?  Then check out these hidden gems and secluded spots if you are looking for time to disconnect, reflect, or recharge.

Dive, dive, Dive:

Snuba or scuba in more than 20 dive spots across the island! One of the most popular spots for snorkelers and divers alike is the Shipwreck of the Antilla; at 400 feet, it is the largest shipwreck dive in the Caribbean. Also, a well-kept-secret dive spot, is the SS Pedernales which was a World War II lake tanker that was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat en route to a refinery in Aruba. The centre portion of the vessel still remains submerged off the shore of Palm Beach, approximately 25 feet below sea level.

Or, take a trip on a submarine. Atlantis Submarines operates the largest civilian submarine in the Caribbean. With 48 seats, it dives to depths of 45 metres for a close-up view of shipwrecks, coral and exotic fish.

Sail away on a sunset cruise:

Take Aruba’s most idyllic aspects and set sail with them, as you watch the pristine beaches skim by. Under the rays of the setting sun, lounge below by the open bar, enjoying tasty tropical snacks and assorted cool cocktails, or stay on deck, taking in a refreshing breeze and the sights along the shoreline.

Sailing aboard the teak schooners of the Jolly Pirates is one of the most popular things to do in Aruba. Spend the day swimming and snorkeling Aruba’s best underwater sites, launch yourself off a rope swing, and admire a stunning sunset!

Explore Aruba’s untouched environs in Arikok National Park: Making up nearly 20 per cent of the island’s total landmass, Arikok National Park is home to a number of indigenous species of wildlife, flora and fauna, as well as historical caves, which feature ancient Indian paintings. For a truly unique experience, you can have a full-moon walking tour through the park once a month.

Off-road Jeep adventure: Discover Aruba’s desert-like landscape tearing across rocky tracks and through cacti forests. Explore the ruins of 18th Century Spanish gold mines, admire the beautiful natural bridges, take in magnificent views – and after the dusty journey, cool down with a swim in the crystal clear waters of the natural pool.

Go for a quiet horseback ride: Aruba’s topography offers a variety of exotic locations for adventurous visitors (and not only): from the challenging sand dunes to the desert-like plains that will make you feel like the star of your own western motion picture… Riding experience is not required, but suntan lotion is recommended!.

 Stroll along Eagle Beach, named one of the best beaches in the Caribbean on TripAdvisor. It’s the island’s longest stretch of pristine white sand and home to iconic fofoti trees. Many Arubans enjoy the popular public area just off the main road with ample parking, shaded picnic areas, and beach huts.

Enjoy an Ariba Aruba at the famous Charlie’s Bar: Head to San Nicolas, Aruba’s second largest town, for one of Aruba’s oldest institutions. Charlie’s Bar is encrusted with all kinds of memorabilia since 1941, when it first opened its doors. Here, try an Ariba Aruba, the island’s best-known cocktail made with Coecoei (a crimson liquor unique to Aruba) – or quench your thirst with an icy bottle of Balashi, Aruba’s very own beer.

Located along the limestone cliffs that anchor the northwest coast/Malmok area, Tres Trapi is just south of Boca Catalina, characterised by a set of steps carved into the rocks that lead to a small sandy cove.  It’s a favourite spot for sun lovers or for simply chilling on the limestone cliff in a beach chair with the mesmerising rhythm of the waves splashing along the rocky shore.  Take the steps down into the cove to cool off in the crystal-clear waters.  The snorkelling here is great as well!

The “new” natural pool near the ruins of a gold mill at Bushiribana on Aruba’s north coast was created probably hundreds of years ago by the tandem efforts of pounding surf and strong winds, so there’s clearly nothing “new” about it. It’s just that only more recently has its existence become common knowledge.

This hidden gem is entirely concealed from view, even when standing right at the edge of the limestone cliff that you have to descend to reach the pool. Of course, that makes finding the pool a bit tricky, so you can ask one of the vendors near the gold mill ruins to point you in the right direction. B you’re basically going to make your way over to the water’s edge, just a bit south of the ruins, and look for the top of the ladder that is poking above the edge of the cliff.

Once you’ve (carefully!) descended you’re going to make your way over the limestone…and what awaits is truly breath-taking: a gorgeous cove with turquoise water.  It’s very shallow and protected from pounding waves by a cluster of surrounding rocks.  When not enjoying a refreshing dip, there’s lots of smooth rocks to relax on and enjoy the unique atmosphere here.

Meanwhile, the cove and beach area at Wariruri is on the road/trail heading to the sea from Alto Vista Chapel.  The same forces of nature that created Wariruri also sculpted a natural bridge here. 

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Tracy Burrows118 Posts

    Tracy Burrows is the founder of the Out There Global platform featuring both cost effective and luxury best cultural vacation ideas & experiences from around the world. From Jan 2014 – Dec 2016 she managed the LatestSightings.com blog (a United Nations World Summit Award Winner: Culture & Tourism 2016 & National Geographic partner). She was also consulting editor at MOZambique Magazine, and a contributing writer at Sawubona Magazine (South African Airways inflight magazine), and Africa Geographic. Prior to her career she obtained a tourism research, and marketing degree, and also graduated from a 2 year ‘Management in Development Program’ in San Diego California. She also acquired a qualification in journalism and media and since it’s been all about culture, adventure and multi media! Her nourishment comes from all those who have impacted her, including: family; friends; and strangers alike. Thank you for joining our journey, and we hope you enjoy finding an immersive experience and the culture & adventure in the destination! Aside from Out There Global Magazine, Tracy has also run a Public Relations, and SEO business since 2010 for small business.

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