As expected, Aruba is gorgeous #NoFilter

Wed. August 10, 2016 12:00 AM
by Ross Forman

As expected, Aruba is gorgeous #NoFilter

Aruba is fittingly known as, One Happy Island – and the phrase is seen many places here in this sunny Caribbean escape. It's one of the phrases stitched into the carpet at Queen Beatrix International Airport as tourists make their way toward customs upon arriving from the U.S. And the saying also is emblazed on souvenirs at the airport when tourists leave this Dutch island of about 100,000 people.

The phrase fits.

It's also fitting that there are signs and photo-op areas with I (Heart) Aruba, with a red heart in the middle, not the word. This saying is ever-present, too, such as a monster sign outside three popular clubs: Senor Frog, Gusto Night Club and Upstairs Bar & Lounge. (I'd suggest Gusto for sure, based on one Friday night visit in mid-May – and my favorite local beer is, Chill. It did, though, feel like somewhat of a flashback of, oh, 10 years – because cigarette smoking is allowed inside, which was the lone negative I experienced on my visit.)

The thing is, I think Aruba needs to update its slogan. I'd suggest: #NoFilter.

The colors are brilliant, vibrant, and almost too real to be true. Selfies are commonplace in Aruba; sunset photos seem to get better every day. And the water is amazingly clear with a green hue, followed by a bright blue sky.

I'm sold on Aruba.

One visit in mid-May, my first-ever to Aruba, and I can't wait to go back.

My four-day trip included several planned tourist jaunts, along with beach/pool time ...but just not enough of the beach/pool time. But is there ever?!

The temperature hit 90 when I was there, but it never felt ridiculously hot. There's no humidity, and there was wind – if only from the palm trees.

I stayed at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, which is a gorgeous, convenient, on-the-beach property. I was greeted with some sweet drink upon arrival and will give the property full credit, everything was flawless and the staff is attentive and very customer-focused.

My check-in was on the eighth-floor, inside the Tradewinds Club, a lounge that has food and drinking offerings from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. And I'm not just talking about donuts and coffee. Rather, breakfast was everything from eggs, bacon and sausage to yogurt, fresh-cut fruit and pastries galore. There of course was coffee, juice, milk and more. The Tradewinds Club later served sandwiches, cookies and other sweet treats, chips and guacamole, a mini salad bar, and more.

And a photo from the Tradewinds Club balcony, overlooking the Caribbean, is a must.

My first dinner in Aruba might have been my favorite – if only for the setting. Atardi at the Aruba Marriott Resort is on the beach, literally. Tables and chairs are in the sand, literally steps away from the water – and that definitely meant sunset photos. Atardi encourages guests to relax, kick off their shoes, dine with your toes in the sand – and there is an area to store your shoes, too.

Atardi has great seafood offerings, and an Aruba Ariba – the signature drink on the Caribbean island – is a must. It is a fruity rum drink, served chilled, with a splash of a liquor called Coecoei, which can only be purchased in Aruba.

My first adventure in Aruba was a rocky one, literally. Went in an open-air Land Rover to Aruba's Natural Pool. Getting there is half the excitement, as the Natural Pool is located in a remote area that is difficult to access – and you do so over a long, bumpy road. Think, four-wheeling through a rock pile. The Natural Pool is a tucked away basin formed by rock and volcanic stone circles that fills with ocean water. The pool is also known locally as 'Conchi' or 'Cura di Tortuga,' because it is said that the pool was once used to hold sea turtles before they were sold. Visitors can swim and snorkel here – and I did both.

Lunch after the Natural Pool was at Zeerovers, a popular, local, on-the-water spot. The shrimp they served were anything but; they were huge, but were the whole shrimp, thus they were a challenge to peel and eat.

Another Aruban adventure I enjoyed was kayaking at Mangel Halto Barrier Reef, followed by snorkeling in the area. There's crystal clear water and I kayaked for about 30 or 40 minutes to the snorkeling area. I was the Captain of my kayak as my friend, Angela from Los Angeles, wasn't able to paddle due to a shoulder injury. It was nice having someone to talk to in the boat.

When we got to the snorkeling areas, the guides led us to a beautiful underwater world of coral, sponges and colorful fishes. There even was a sunken ship which was, oh, maybe 25-feet deep. Jesus, who was one of the guides and went by his nickname, Coco, zoomed down to the boat, tapped it, and then quickly came up for air.

I was fine just looking at the boat.

Dinner that night was at Screaming Eagle, which is one of Aruba's most original culinary experiences and located on Eagle Beach. The high-end meal had amazing meats and fish, but it was the setting that stood out: Dinner is served in bed. Yes, in bed. Visitors can kick off their shoes and dine on canopy beds, draped with white chiffon. Cool experience, but kind of painful (after a while) on the lower back.

Also in Aruba, I took a SUP Yoga class with Vela Aruba, located at the Aruba Marriott Resort. This was stand-up paddleboard yoga. Yep, we did (or tried to do) Warrior poses and more on a paddleboard in the water. I'll admit, it was fun, but challenging. The best part of this yoga expert-led, one-hour class was seeing and being in the turquoise water.

Once again, #NoFilter.

Am so glad my friend Kari from Miami has this unbreakable, waterproof case for her iPhone, hence, we got some unbelievable photos. We posed for photos and she snapped yoga pics, too ...and a few of my flopping into the water, too.

Two other memorable moments from my Aruba trip were: dancing with a Carnivale-dressed entourage at La Vista Restaurant; and also cooking keshi yena with the chefs from the Aruba Marriott, Teddy and Romeo. Google this gouda cheese-filled local delight, and good luck perfecting it. (I'm still waiting for Teddy and Romeo to test their pizza-cooking skills. Next time I go to Aruba, I want to see how they perfect Chicago pizza, and also want to sample Aruban-style pizza.)

Yes, I will be going back to Aruba ...and soon. After all, #NoFilter.


Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino

Go to the hotel's website: www.arubamarriott.com

De Palms Tours (Natural Pool Land Rover Adventure)

Go to the company's website: www.depalmtours.com/natural-pool-land-rover-adventure


Via Facebook: /zeerovers

Aruba Kayak Adventures (Kayaking and snorkeling at Mangel Halto Barrier Reef)

Go to the company's website: www.arubawavedancer.com/arubakayak

Screaming Eagle

Go to the restaurant's website: screaming-eagle.net

Stand-up Paddleboard Yoga with Vela

Go to the website: www.velaaruba.com