A Caribbean Island Worth a Repeat

With so many adventures, so many destinations, and even so many islands out there waiting to be explored, does it make sense to use your precious time off and limited vacation funds to revisit any destination a mere four months after the original visit? Well, I think it depends on the destination. In the case of Aruba, my answer is a solid YES!

Here’s a few reasons why: Aruba lies outside the hurricane belt, so worries about travel plans being blown away or needing to purchase trip insurance can be put to rest. For a small island, Aruba has a nice variety of things to do, whether your tastes run toward adrenaline-rush or naps in a hammock. Known as One Happy Island for good reason, Aruba is filled with relaxed, happy people, residents and visitors alike. It’s also a place with reliably beautiful weather, if your idea of beautiful is sunny and dry with constant, breezy trade winds. And, personally, I’m still working on trying all the good eats!

Shaking it up, island-style

Now, in the spirit of fierceness, and just plain zest for trying new things, I’d never elect to do the exact same trip all over again – ugh! (If that word can actually be used in association with travel/the Caribbean/vacation; I’m not entirely sure it can.) This doesn’t mean I’d forego repeating the good stuff, just need to shake things up a bit for round two.

So, last time, I traveled with my sister and we stayed in a townhouse in Eagle Beach… this time I went with friends and stayed in a home in Noord. Last time, we visited Renaissance Island… this time, we visited De Palm Island. Last time we rented a car, explored the coastline, and did a snorkel tour… this time we rented the car, explored the coastline, and did the snorkel tour. Hey, like I said, sometimes the good stuff is worth repeating. This time we also added a Jeep tour, a day to shop and relax, and unexpectedly helped out an island dog in need. It turned out to be a great mix of known goodness and unknown discovery!

Here’s how it went. After picking up the rental car and checking into our courtyard house with the beautiful gardens, we hit the Super Foods for some groceries, then found our way to Bugaloe on the beach for a welcome-to-vacay dinner and a little dancing, complete with coconut mojitos to commence the relaxation and introduce my friends to a favorite spot.

The next morning, we set out to look around. They loved Arashi Beach as much as I do (okay almost – but then I may as well have gills and fins so it’s not quite the same). One of us (ahem) didn’t really get in the water because of anxiety about leaving the keys unattended in a stack of beach towels, but that’s okay because it was early in the trip and all things here, even relaxation, move along on island time. A round of fruity Aruba Ariba cocktails helped to nudge it along.

Beginning to chill!

Mangel Halto beach was a little more successful, where all three sets of toes climbed down the cliff ladder and found their way to the sandy sea floor, at least briefly. After a visit to the Alto Vista Chapel and another beach stop, we cleaned up for dinner on the dock at Pincho’s, where a pitcher of sangria and front-row seats for the sunset put the finishing touch on a good first day.

The Stunning Alto Vista Chapel

The next morning, sinking further into a state of relaxation, we boarded the Palm Pleasure for a day of snorkeling. Although only two of us actually snorkeled, our key-watching friend was no slacker in the fun department. By the time we returned to the dock, she’d made buddies with every person on board including the crew, thrown bread chunks into the water below where I was suddenly and fantastically surrounded by what seemed like every fish within miles, and even danced around the deck a little (I’m not saying Aruba Aribas had anything to do with this… and I’m not saying they didn’t). One thing is certain: fun was had by all. After drinks back at Bugaloe, we enjoyed another tasty dinner and hit the sack early for the long day coming up.

Day three: Jeep tour. Now, this might sound like a nice, breezy ride around the island. It wasn’t. Thirteen of us spent 7+ hours having our brains jangled and our lungs assaulted by the dusty, rocky, brutally-rugged-yet-breathtaking beauty of Arikok National Park, which comprises 20% of the island. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience (at least for me and my spinal discs). Along the way, we saw the Bushiribana Gold Mine ruins, several deserted fishermen’s shacks, wild donkeys, the Natural Bridge spanning its thick rocky arm over the water, and my favorite, the Natural Pool or Conchi, where we got to swim with waves crashing over into the rocky pool and fishes swimming at our feet.

Other cool stops along the way included the California Lighthouse at the northern end of the island, DePalm Island where we saw not only Chilean Flamingos but crazy-beautiful purple-turquoise-yellow Parrotfish which will be my excuse for returning again some day with my snorkel mask, and a final swim at Baby Beach. This time, (finally!) all three of us thoroughly enjoyed the cool of the calm turquoise waters against our hot, dusty, sunkissed skin.

We’d reserved our last day for a little bit of souvenir-shopping, relaxing around the house, and a final evening visit to Bugaloe. But first, a breakfast at the Dutch Pancake House was a must. As we walked back to the car stuffed with pancakes, fruit, and bacon, we spotted a black and white doggie who’d obviously been a mama at some point, panting in the shade at the edge of the parking lot. Dog-lovers all of us, we uttered a collective “awwww” and went into action.

Tummy full of sandwich and clean water, rescuers called!

First, we gave her some water and found that she allowed us just close enough to pet her, rewarding us with a tail wag. Next, we talked with a worker who saw us and came out of the resort next door. He said he’d fed her before and she’d recently been hanging around the area with another dog. He wanted to help and gave us his phone number, so I got in touch with a local animal rescue I follow on social media (Sgt Peppers Friends – more info at the end), and sent them her location and a picture, along with the man’s phone number. The rescue said they’d been trying to catch her buddy but hadn’t been aware of her. Then, we went into one of the sandwich shops and bought her a sandwich and a bottle of water, and watched as she happily ate and drank, dainty for such a skinny thing. Hopeful that she was in good hands, we finally explored a few shops and then returned home to rest in the air conditioning, the sounds of palm fronds rustling in the afternoon breeze outside our windows.

Later, ready for one last hoorah, we walked up the dock to Bugaloe and lo and behold, I ran into not one, but two people I’d met four months earlier on the April trip. One Small Island! After chatting a bit, the three of us danced and enjoyed a few last coconut mojitos. It seemed too soon to be leaving. As my friend said, “I finally learned how to really relax on a vacation, and now I don’t want to leave!” Maybe we’ll have to put together a third trip to our One Happy Island…

Shameless Begging Section!!!

If you love dogs and cats, as you know I do, visiting a Caribbean island can be a bit of a shock, because you find more of both running freely. Sometimes it’s because the owners just allow this, but in many cases it’s because the animals have no home. The more I’ve learned about dogs and cats on the various islands, the more I’ve found that, although the problem may seem insurmountable, it’s being tackled head-on by caring and determined rescue groups. The rescues I’m talking about run on volunteers and donations, taking as many animals as possible off the streets and providing food, clean water, and medical care including spays/neuters for those who, for whatever reason, can’t currently be removed from a life in the wild. Involvement is growing, so there’s hope for improvement! Food/water stations, vaccinations, medical supplies, and even toys and collars cost money though, and every teeny little bit donated goes a long way. Sgt. Pepper’s Friends works day in and day out, and if you’re able to help, you have options: a few dollars, bowls, pet carriers, playpens, vitamins, leashes… all are needed!

Money can be donated via PayPal by logging into PayPal and typing in info@sgtpeppersfriends.com

…and supplies can be sent via their Amazon wishlist at http://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/10715SSSG8D0J

You can even order cute merchandise on their website to pitch in that way! The dogs, cats, and rescuers will appreciate your caring gesture, whichever you choose!