Friday, May 9, 2014

Aruba - Part 2

Jolly Pirate ship


Monday was our Sail, Snorkel, Swim and Swing tour with the Jolly Pirates. We met at Moomba Beach (about a 10 minute walk from our hotel) at 8:30 to check in. The tour included an open-bar but before we even got on the boat, some people had cups of beer with them. At 8:30! I thought, “This should be an interesting day.” :-)

We sailed north along the coast to our first snorkel spot, the Antilla shipwreck, a German freighter that sank during WWII. There was a strong current and choppy waves at the site so I decided not to snorkel. But Ron got in and said it would have made a better scuba dive.  He could just see the outline of the ship, sitting 60 feet below the surface.

I did snorkel at the next site, Boca Catalina. The water was much shallower and calmer there and there were lots of fish – grunts and parrotfish, angelfish, blue tang and even some squirrelfish.  Then we moved on to our third and final snorkel site, Malmok. I should have gotten off the boat there and swam to shore to take pictures because it was a beautiful beach, but I was still chilly and wanted to dry off. Actually, most of the group opted not to snorkel again and just swam around in the water while the crew handed down cups of “Pirates Poison”.

Finally, it was time for the part of the tour I’d been waiting for – the rope swing! I was afraid it would be scary but the only scary part was climbing up onto the wooden platform on the bow of the ship. The guide handed me the rope handle and said to step off the side. Wheeee! It was so much fun! I ended up swinging four times.
Once everyone had swung to their hearts’ content, the crew brought out lunch. I’d been trying to figure out how in the world they were going to serve lunch on the boat but they had it under control. One of the guides took the skiff and picked up the food from a catering truck waiting onshore. Then they passed out plates to everyone. I was pretty impressed with the lunch of BBQ ribs and chicken, potato salad and rice. On the way back to the pier, our pirate crew cranked up the music and got everyone dancing. Arrrrrr! What a great tour.

Jolly Pirate swing

Jolly Pirate swing


Jolly Pirate crew

Susan on boat

We spent the afternoon napping and then had dinner at Zen, the Japanese restaurant. It was the usual hibachi-style food but very tasty, and our chef, Dan, was fun. He even got some of the table to participate in tricks, like tossing an egg into the air and trying to catch it on the edge of the spatula. No one was very successful, but Ron got the closest. :-)  After dinner, we went down to the beach for the Aruban Carnival party. But after all the sun, snorkeling and swinging, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. We went back to the room and I was asleep by 9 o’clock.


Chef Dan

Ron at Zen
Why is that lady hiding behind her husband? :-)


In the morning, we took the bus to Oranjestad, the capital city, for some sightseeing and shopping. Unfortunately, I left my walking tour map at the hotel so we didn’t have a clue where we were going, but we managed to find our way around. After a quick stop in the Crystal Casino, we walked along the waterfront to Queen Wilhelmina Park, dedicated to the queen of the Netherlands and Aruba. Next we found Fort Zoutman, the oldest structure in Aruba, built in 1798. The fort houses the Historical Museum of Aruba, but we were getting hungry by then so we didn’t go inside.

Oranjestad waterfront

Queen Wilhelmina Park

Fort Zoutman

We had lunch at Iguana Joe’s on the second floor of the Royal Plaza shopping center, a perfect spot for people-watching. Refreshed and cooled off, we were ready to shop - PiraƱa Joe t-shirts for Ron and aloe for me. Being a dry island, Aruba doesn’t have a lot of agriculture. In fact, when the Spanish discovered Aruba, they considered it to be a “useless island” because of the desert conditions and poor soil. But aloe was introduced to the island in 1890 and it grew like crazy. Now aloe is an important part of the Aruban economy. The Aruba Aloe store smelled delicious and I ended up buying a couple of different lotions. Last year, the lotion I bought at the spa at Sandals reminded me of vacation whenever I put it on. This year, it will be the smell of aloe. :-)

Iguana Joe's Aruba
Iguana Joe's

Iguana Joe's sign

Iguana Kiss

Royal Plaza

Oranjestad architecture

Aruba Aloe

Back at the hotel, we relaxed at the pool until it was time to pick up our rental car. We had made reservations for a 24-hour rental so we could explore the island. Anky from Wheels2Go was great. She met us in the hotel lobby and went over the car with us, taking note of all the scratches and dents. The car, a mid-size Suzuki, was actually in pretty good condition. I’d read horror stories about Aruban rental cars so I was pleasantly surprised. We asked Anky if she had any driving advice and she told us to try to park facing into the wind so that other car doors wouldn’t blow open into our car. I never would have thought of that!

After we’d signed all the paperwork, we hopped into the car and drove to the California Lighthouse to watch the sunset. The lighthouse is on the northwest tip of the island and surrounded by sand dunes. We stopped along the winding road to see the dunes. The landscape was like nothing I’d seen before in the Caribbean – huge rolling dunes, red earth and low scruffy brush meeting the deep blue sea. It literally took my breath away. Gorgeous! Next it was on to the lighthouse, which was beautifully lit by the late afternoon sun. Fortunately, we got there a little early so I was able to take all my photos before the tour groups started showing up and taking pictures of themselves “holding up the lighthouse” like they do at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. :-)  Next to the lighthouse was the former lighthouse keepers’ house, now an Italian restaurant with the multi-lingual name of La Trattoria el Faro Blanco. (La Trattoria means “restaurant” in Italian and Faro Blanco means “white lighthouse” in Spanish). We had a glass of wine at the restaurant’s bar and took in the beauty of the location. Whenever I visit a lighthouse, I think of what it would have been like for the lighthouse keepers who lived there. It must have been very difficult to live in Aruba in those days – the thorny brush, the lack of water and the wind, the isolation. But wow, did they have a view!

California Lighthouse sand dunes

California Lighthouse

lighthouse tower

California Lighthouse tours

La Trattoria el Faro Blanco

steps to a view

Susan at restaurant
The windblown look

Arashi Beach

Ron was a little nervous about driving on the unfamiliar roads so we drove back to the hotel before it got dark. We didn’t have any dinner reservations that night so we ate at the buffet (which was held in the ballroom since the Palm Restaurant had been closed all week for renovations). Meh… None of the desserts looked interesting so we walked to the plaza across the street for some gelato. It was a full and satisfactory day.

continued on Part 3


  1. Great report, Susan! You always write so vividly that I feel like I'm tagging along with you! I like your Aruba sundress? Did you get it for the trip or did you get it there? As usual you got some great pictures of the light, scenery, lighthouse, interesting places!

    1. Thank you. Mary gave me that dress last year. It's from Athleta - very cool and comfortable.

      Seeing the lighthouse was one of the hightlights of the trip for me, of course. :-)

  2. La Trattoria really is a beautiful restaurant - the view and the look of the building. I like your windblown look! Cute dress :) You can really see the wind in almost all of your pictures too.
    Heehee. Ron looks like a baby bird leaving the nest in his rope swing picture.