How to do absolutely nothing & everything when on an island vacation
How many times have you pictured yourself floating in the tranquil blue waters of an ocean breathing in the salty fresh air wistfully musing “I could stay here forever”. The thought crossed my mind only every dayum day as I spent 12 days in the Dutch Caribbean islands of Aruba and Curacao.
Aruba, only 15 miles north of Venezuela is one of the “ABC” Dutch Caribbean islands known for its laid-back island life and friendly faces. Nicknamed ‘One Happy Island’ Aruba prides itself on its immaculate white beaches and turquoise waters so clear you may not even need a snorkel to see eye-to-eye with the colourful fish swimming by.
If Curacao bring to mind the legendary blue drink, it’s because the island of contrasts is in fact home to the legendary blue Curacao liqueur that’s guzzled all over the world. An island that seamlessly blends history and culture with gorgeous beaches and untainted waters, Curacao has something to offer to every kind of holiday-maker.
Below are some pointers on what and how to be the perfect island girl/boy/whatever you want to be:
Pro tip 1: AirBnB it #livelikealocal
Aruba and Curacao have a handful of 5 star resorts that look picture perfect but didn’t quite appeal to my inner wanderer. So I dove head first in to the alluring world of AirBnb—and I was suitably rewarded, because when your host welcomes you with tequila shots, you just know that some things were meant to be. Our hosts went beyond just hospitable and ensured we were taken care of adequately, in the form of helping with restaurant reservations to loaning us their car, to providing snorkelling gear, ice coolers and lounge chairs. Local experiences are everything when travelling and each host that opened their home to us shared bewitching island tales and information that enhanced our stay experience. Further, you don’t need to lock your doors here; no crime—it is one happy island, remember.
Pro tip 2: Rent a car
That’s the first thing you should do. The islands are small enough for you to drive around from one end to another, so renting a car and exploring is the best option. The drives are spectacular, usually along the ocean, so carry snacks as you stop to stare at the breathtaking views. With a car, you can also beach hop at your convenience and explore every nook and cranny of these islands.
Pro tip 3: Float about
I dream off doing this so often that when I get the chance, I do it all day erryday. The waters of Aruba and Curacao are calm and straight out of a James Bond movie. Buy a floatie and spend the day doing what should really be made a sport and all your troubles will be washed away. We promise.
Pro tip 4: Beach please
No relaxation is complete without a good laze on the beach and the islands don’t dissatisfy. With miles of clean shores, simple yet hospitable beach shacks and sparkling waters before you, Aruba and Curacao make the perfect island getaways for those in search of asylum.
Aruba being the more popular island among tourists felt like Curacao’s sophisticated cousin that reeked off more tourists and less charm. Palm Eagle beach is the most popular on the island and could almost pass off as Palm Beach in Florida so in order to escape the crowds head to the following:
- Arashi beach – For waves and fewer people Arashi is your flavour of the day.
- Baby beach – Baby beach is tucked away on the other side of the island, away from the high-rises and plethora of restaurants that plague the popular parts of the Aruban island. Baby beach has the calmest waters I had ever floated in and fewer tourists than the other beaches. This side of the island is rugged and left relatively undeveloped therefore retaining its raw, natural beauty.
- Mangel Halto beach – Mangel Halto is a perfect spot for snorkelling in its placid waters and napping under trees. It’s ideal for picnics and sunbathing—post that you can walk to the end of the reef to behold various tiny fish swimming between your legs.
Curacao on the other hand packed quite a little surprise. While all the accolades for best beaches went to Aruba, Curacao was somewhat left out for no real reason. NOT FOR ME. Favourite beaches include:
- Cas Abao – Less than 20 sunbathers, shacks small yet not small enough to make ham & cheese toasties and water so blue I had to blink to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
- Playa Porto Mari – With a few more people, Playa Porto Mari is no longer one of the hidden beaches of Curacao. The beach is family friendly with lots of tiny tots frolicking in the water.
- Playa Kenepa – Shaded by manchineel trees, it houses a snack bar with locals enjoying the music with their families. Perfect for relaxation and a local feel.
Pro tip 5: Eat like there’s no tomorrow
Island food is amazing either because it’s always fresh or because you’ve lazed in the sun or swum in the sea so much that you’re perpetually starving. Both islands share similar cuisines and have their share of fancy restaurants (Island food guide, incoming).
Pro tip 6: Let your hair down because rest time is over
There’s no harm checking out some party spots when on vacation and I’ll be honest it was difficult between all the lazing and eating.
- Moomba beach (Aruba) – Lucky for me island nightlife is just how I like it, laidback with a rum cocktail in hand. Moomba beach has carefully thrown in some chairs on the sand and cute tiki huts which fits right in to the Caribbean style.
- The Sopranos Piano Bar (Aruba) – Feeling a bit sophisticated? This trendy Piano bar located in the centre of Palm Beach is quite a crowd puller.
- Mambo Beach (Curacao) – Clearly the winner from them all! Mambo Beach on the island of Curacao comes alive on Sunday nights. It all starts early in the evening at Hemingway (bar & restaurant at Lions Dive & Beach Resort) with live music, relocating to the nearby Mambo Beach around 8 PM and continuing to Wet & Wild.
FYI – Lots of dancing happens here!
Pro tip 7: Flamingo bathing
You’ve probably seen several Instagram photos of people posing with flamingos on an immaculate beach or in azure waters. Yes, this really exists! For $100 dollars (I fell prey to these beautiful photos almost instantly, what can I say) you can head over by boat to the Renaissance Private Island in Aruba and spend the day on a lounger catching breaks to feed yourself and the flamingos that casually saunters by.
Pro tip 8: Eat, sleep and chase sunsets
Enjoy the solitude. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get away from it all and simply do nothing. While on the islands of Aruba and Curacao my dream turned in to a reality where days were spent with sand in my hair and sand in places I never imagined would find its way, to waking up to the sound of the ocean post my afternoon siesta. All of a sudden, life seemed beautiful and just how I always imagined it to be as a little girl. The air was invigorating, people genuinely lovely and food fresh, just how it’s supposed to be. Each evening I would watch the sky turn from a light blue to darker hues of orange, red and purples with each sunset unlike the last one. Days go by quickly but satisfyingly and the next morning you wake up renewed with a smile on your face oddly happy because after all look what you’re waking up to.
→ Palm Beach new studio “A” by host Serena (Aruba)
→ Baby Beach, Aruba Vacation by host Cherie (Aruba)
→ Caribbean Beach Resort 11 by host Joyce (Curacao)
Where: Aruba & Curacao
How to reach: By flight – Direct flights from the Netherlands and North America.
Best time to visit: All year round
Famous for: Clear blue skies, blue waters and smiling faces.