Breezy trade winds and an abundance of “Let the good times roll” opportunities, makes for one cool vacation spot just a few short hours from Atlanta, known as Aruba.
You can wake up and head to yoga on a paddleboard, tennis on the beach, or snorkeling over a shipwreck — and that’s just for starters. With weather averaging 82 degrees and without the threat of hurricanes, one can explore caves, go horseback riding, set out on an off-road safari, engage in something more daring such as fly boarding, and more, on an island that’s just 19 by 6 miles, located right off the coast of Venezuela.
The Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino on Palm Beach is a perfect home base whether one goes for full-tilt adventure or wants a more laid-back vacation. The property has 411 rooms (all with private balconies), two pools including an adults-only pool, seven restaurants and bars, a fully outfitted spa, and a 24-hour casino.
A short walk down the beach will land you at Moomba Beach Bar, where two professional beach tennis courts and instructors await to show the curious how to play an Aruban sport that’s a cross between tennis and beach volleyball. Next door to the Marriott on the beach is Vela Windsports where one can learn to do yoga on a paddleboard at sea.
If drinking and snorkeling is more your speed, De Palm Tours will pick you up from your hotel and deliver you to the dock for a three-hour catamaran excursion with two stops for snorkeling or scuba diving and an open bar.
All this activity may make you hungry. No problem — there are dining options abound! The Screaming Eagle on Eagle Beach has a South Beach vibe with French fusion cuisine. In addition to the usual tables inside and on the terrace, diners can opt to lounge in one of the canopy beds with white linens, plush pillows, soft lighting and chiffon floor-to-ceiling curtains. The setting seemed to enhance every course of my meal — crispy smelt and tuna sashimi with Japanese dressing appetizers followed by Iberico strip loin with mashed potatoes and asparagus with truffle sauce and lamb chop with ratatouille and crispy polenta. All served in bed on a tray.
At the Marriott, one restaurant has a split personality. Waves is a light snacks eatery by day and the romantic dine-on-the-beach-with-feet-in-sand restaurant Simply Fish at night. Stop by at lunchtime for the fish tacos and a surprising noon to 1 p.m. Happy Hour when drinks are two for one. I can personally recommend the mango piña colada with a rum floater.
Simply Fish offers five fish-of-the-day specials as well as its standards: swai, grouper, scallops and ahi tuna. Diners choose the preparation: poached, pan fried, grilled, sautéed, baked or blackened. Filet mignon and chicken breast are also on the menu. I chose the jumbo shrimp lemongrass kebabs appetizer and salmon with creamed spinach and plantains entrée and was happy with both.
And don’t neglect to sample what a driver said was Aruba’s national cocktail, the Aruba Ariba. It’s a potent mix of vodka, rum, crème de banana, orange juice, cranberry juice, and pineapple juice as well as Coecoei, an Aruban liquor. Refreshing and tasty, it also packs a wallop.
Combine all this with picturesque views at every glance and the warmth of Arubans, and it’s not surprising that so many vacationers return again and again. Aruba lives up to its slogan “One Happy Island.”