|I am always being asked "When is your next trip", so here are some of the highlights.||
"Went through customs and immigration
Still this feels like home" - Kenny Chesney
After my first trip, I was hooked. It started for me when I looked out the the window and we were flying past downtown Oranjestad, I knew I was in for a time of my life. The colorful buildings and teal colored water, I had to take a minute before we landed. I have been there 5 times since then and still get butterflies every time we are about to land.
I am such a travel junkie, that even standing in an long hot immigration line gives me a sense of AHHHH. After clearing customs and grabbing your bags off the carousal at the bottom of the escalator, next to duty free liquor. They have a pretty good selection and is almost always cheaper than the local grocery stores.
There are so many places to stay while on the island, but all my trips have landed me in the palm beach area. While it caters to mostly tourists, it is a beautiful jumping off point for the rest of the island, The entire stretch from eagle to palm beach and beyond have great places to lounge, eat, drink and soak up the abundant sun and constant trade winds.
Anywhere you decide to stay on Palm beach, all the High rise hotels have plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from. They range from high end to beach side bars to everything in between. If you have been or read the forums, you know people treat their Aruba dining like an Olympic sport. I will show you a few of my regular haunts. I like low key places that I can stroll up to in my flip flops while being near the water.
One of my favorite happy hour spots is on Druif Beach, nestled between the Tamarijn Aruba All Inclusive and the Divi Aruba All Inclusive. The best night is Thursday when you can get served by jimmy the bartender and then he sings covers. Its some of the best happy hour entertainment at sunset you can get on the island. Be sure to search "Jimmy the singing bartender" on YouTube,
A little further down on eagle beach is another great place, Matthew's Beach side Restaurant. It is a true beach side restaurant that is completely open to the beach and Aruba breezes. The last trip did include a great Sunday brunch with mimosas. Go early or plan on making it a morning because it fills up quickly. I usually like to go for an early dinner as their middle happy hour is from 4-6 pm everyday. It a beautiful spot for a cold cocktail, great grouper and breathtaking sunsets.
The next place I like to frequent can be reached from anywhere on palm beach. It is called BUGALOE BEACH BAR. It jets out into the water in front the the Rui Palace. There usually comes a time later in the afternoon when you need to stretch and change the scenery so why not meander over between 5-6pm for happy hour. The bar is usually packed with sunburned tourists escaping the frigid months up north. Its also where one of the waitress will get the crowd going with songs you can sing along to. It perfectly situated so you can watch boats in the water or people on the beach while sipping on a cold beverage of your choice. You can also go to the end of the bar/pier and watch the fish swim around in the clear turquoise water.
There is so much you can do on this island, sail on the tranquilo, snorkel on the jolly pirate, take a jeep to the north shore, ride up the the lighthouse, or just sit under your palapa until the sun sets.
Whatever you decide to do or not, it is truly a place that you can unwind in whatever way you like. But if you go, Bring a cooler bag, a bath suit and someone special and find your spot on
"ONE HAPPY ISLAND".
"Tired of my beeper, tired of my phone
Tired of this tired ol' tie I got on
Sick of this traffic jam that I'm in
We all get sick of it all now and then
When I've had it up to here
I go down there" -Kenny Chesney
St John is the smallest and least commercial of the 3 US virgin islands, and it shows as you reach the dock. It does not disappoint when it comes to solace and breathtaking beauty.
It is about a 40 minute ferry from St. Thomas and drops you off in Cruz bay. You suddenly feel as though you have been transformed to another time before fast food and stop lights. Cruz bay is perfect walking town. It has a few places that are fun to explore when not memorized by the ocean that surrounds you. One in particular is mongoose village. At first sight, you almost think you are entering into an old stone fortress from days gone by. While there we discovered a craft brewery/restaurant called the TAP ROOM. It is located on the 2nd floor of the shops of mongoose village. It is open air and overlooks the shops and courtyard below. This is great for people watching while you sample the local beers.
After you are done with your fresh catch of the day and sampled a few local brews, its back to stroll the shops by the water. Since it is under the US territory, you can stop by the local Post office and send your loved ones a postcard.
One place that is worth a visit is HIGH TIDE bar and Grill. It is located to the right of the ferry dock at Cruz bay. The bar is on the bay and boasts some of the most amazing panorama and some of the coldest beer on the island.
The one must on any trip to St John is to grab a cab and head to trunk bay. There isn't a whole lot that needs to be said that the pictures below cant convey for me.
Johns Pass Village and Boardwalk is just a few short miles over the bridge from Treasure Island.
It holds so many good restaurants, shops and bars and just a few place to meander between all the beach time. I will touch on some of the highlights I found during my trips to Johns Pass.
Johns Pass Village and Boardwalk is just a few short miles over the bridge from Treasure Island.
It holds so many good restaurants, shops and bars and just a few place to meander for an afternoon. I will touch on some of the highlights I found during my trips to Johns Pass.
The boardwalk itself is a great attraction unto itself. You can stroll along with the shops on one side and the harbor on the other. Its always a great idea to stop and recharge over a grouper sandwich and cold beer whenever you find a few seats available. The view of the harbor is full of activity. It has pirate and fishing charters, as well as jet skis all for rent. But the best entertainment is to watch the pelicans sitting on the pylons or even better is the dolphins that play in the bay as well.
The friendly fisherman is a great place to eat and people watch right on the boardwalk. It has the main restaurant on the boardwalk and then a lower section closer to the water. On my last trip it was a week before Christmas and we were able to sit at the lower section and watch the boat parade. It was about an hour of watching all types of sailing and motor boats cruise by with lights and sounds for the holiday. Be sure to get there early for dinner and you can keep your seats for drinks while you watch the parade.
Another great place to make sure you put on your list to visit is Spice and Tea exchange.
It is located off the boardwalk in the shops behind the boardwalk.
There is metered parking in the middle of the shopping area and on the streets so you can just go there or spend the day. Be sure to pick up the signature mix called Vic's Garlic Fix, it goes great on everything. They make everything in house and have the most amazing collection of rubs, marinades, salts and teas.
If you enjoy recreational fishing, the other side of the boardwalk has a jetty that doesn't require a fishing license. I was able to rent a fishing pole and tackle for the day from Johnny's Bait and Tackle on Treasure Island. It was great to stand along the rocks and in the water and fish in December.
How often have you just wanted to fly away to a remote island and disappear if only for a week. I was invited to such an escape to ambergris caye, Belize.
When you land in Belize city, it seems as though you have already been disconnected from reality but a short cab ride to a canal side restaurant bar, awaits your boat to the island. A little less than an hour of warm breezes and watching all the passing islands, you arrive at your very own Gilligans island, aptly named Captain Morgans Resort.
If you are on the bottom floors and out on your deck in the mornings, you will often be greeted on a gentlemen on a bike with a cooler strapped to the back. Please be sure to wave him over and have a few dollars available for a great hot breakfast burrito. After you have finished your belize take out breakfast and have gone for a walk or bike ride down the beach, look out for the local fisherman at the dock.
The local fisherman would come to the dock most everyday with fresh catch. One day we were fortunate to get a several pounds of grouper fillets and 3 lobster tails for about 15 US dollars. The resort has grills facing the ocean, so needless to say it was a great afternoon filled with great seafood and a several cold libations.
The best way to get around the island is by golf cart, and those who know me, its my favorite way to travel. About 3 miles down the dusty, sandy dirt road, you end up at the famous Palapa bar and grill. Its a thatched hut bar and grill that jets out over the ocean. It not only has amazing ocean breezes and view of the fish below, but you can float in inner tubes while having a cold beverage.
The sunset bar and grill is an iconic beach bar at the end of runway. The planes are close enough to see the captain wave to those below. The bar itself is off to the side and gives enough cover from the blowing sand from the planes that take off. There are always those who either get caught up in the moment or fueled by a few island libations, stand at the fence and are blown into the ocean as the plane taxis down the runway. The plane schedules are posted on the surf board shown below, so after you have seen one and cooled off with an amstel bright and checked out the gift shop, lets continue down the road.
About a mile down the road on the other side of the downtown area, I was introduced to a hidden gem named Mullet Bay. It was more of locals beach and a great little afternoon escape. You walk down the windy dusty road and it opens up to a little swath of beach in a cove. Right away you realize that you have left the tourist laden Sunset bar and grill, which was good for a check off the bucket list, and entered another world. It consisted of two shacks from which the most amazing smells of meats consumed your senses. You can rent chairs and an umbrella for your afternoon siesta. A short jaunt down the beach led me to another beach shack where you could use the porta pottie and get your beers for two dollars a piece.
So once you have eaten some great grilled chicken on the beach and consumed a few presidentes under your umbrella, you can dose in an out as you watch the planes about to land back at the sunset bar and grill.
So lets recap, quiet tucked away beach, grilled meats, cheap beers, beach rentals and beautiful views.