Aruba 5/14

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Just can't seem to stay away from "one happy island"...

Flamingo Beach kids in the early evening

Another opportunity arose to sidetrack myself for a quick "sanity vacation" following a client engagement in central New Jersey. This time, my sidetrack of choice was Aruba. I have been to Aruba three times before, spanning almost a decade - in 2004, 2009 and just last summer in 2013. Aruba has never disappointed and this trip was no exception. I changed things up a bit by staying in the town of Oranjestad instead of the more touristy, beachy Palm Beach. Aruba is located just 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela, far south of any Caribbean hurricane tracks. The weather throughout my stay was around 80F and dry with Aruba's usual east to west ocean breeze to keep the bugs away and make that 80 feel comfortable.

Monday May 26th - Wednesday May 28th - New Jersey & New York

 

Because of the Memorial Day holiday, I had a spare day before my client gig, so I took a little photo tour through north central Jersey. Armed with my DSLR and my favorite 16-35mm F4 lens, I snapped the first picture below along the road. After my client gig ended on Wednesday afternoon, I turned in my rental car at EWR and checked into the Hilton Newark Penn Station where I did a quick turnaround and grabbed the NJT train to New York's Penn Station ($10 r/t). I walked the 12 short blocks to the Times Square TKTS booth and got a half price, 6th row center seat for Rocky Broadway at the Winter Garden, which was remarkably good.

Northern Eagle Beach Divi Divi tree

Central Jersey photo trip

Oranjestad room with a view

Divi Divi along L. G. Smith Blvd

Layin around Renaissance Island

 

Thursday May 29th - Oranjestad hike & Renaissance Island

Armed with only 5 hours of sleep after my late night New York City / early morning Aruba flight, I arrived at Aruba's Queen Beatrix International Airport around 2pm AST. Although it varies greatly in my experience, thankfully the lines at immigration and customs were short when I arrived, so I was taxiing my way to the Renaissance Oranjestad by 2:30. They upgraded me to room 1557 with a 5th floor pool and ocean view (second picture above) which made a great backdrop throughout the rest of my trip for relaxing over an ice cold Balashi Beer, a glass of South American wine and a good book. After my ceremonial "put the watch and all sense of schedule into the safe" routine, I decided to take a 2 mile afternoon walk along L. G. Smith Blvd. on the western coast (third picture above) to Kong Hing grocery store to shake out the sleep cobwebs and stock up on supplies. Unknown to me at the time, it was Ascension Day and everything, including the grocery store, was closed. It was a nice walk anyway. Reinvigorated after the walk and a quick fast food snack, I donned my swimsuit and took the 15 minute ferry ride from the Renaissance's lobby to the hotel's private island, which was mostly deserted. I hung around there (literally - fourth picture above) and did some exploring on Flamingo Beach (first and second pictures below) before returning to dive into the first of several books and retiring for the night.

Flamingo Beach afternoon

Flamingo Beach evening

Aruba's Palm Beach

Renaissance ferry tunnel

 

Friday May 30th - Palm Beach & Renaissance Island

 

I woke Friday morning and headed two blocks north to the Arubus station. The Arubus is amazingly simple to use and comfortable, but their website misses a couple of simple explanations that would make tourists much more comfortable using it for the first time. So I'll fill in the gaps - you can use US dollars (or Aruban Florins of course), the price is $2.30US per ride and they give change for any bills less than $50, albeit usually in Florins. I took the Arubus northwest to Palm Beach, which is the area in Aruba that I usually stay at, took some shots (third picture above) and then ate at an old favorite tapas bar of mine, Salt and Pepper, before returning to Oranjestad. Then I took the ferry from the lobby, through the tunnel (fourth picture above) over to the private island. The private island is located close to the airport (first picture below taken at 61mm, which is roughly the same perspective as an unmagnified human eye). On the island, I read for a couple of hours, did some wildlife shots (second picture below taken at 300mm and large picture, top of page left at Flamingo Beach) and then topped the day off at Iguana Joe's in Oranjestad on the balcony at sunset.

How close to the airport?

Two island pelicans

Iguana Joe's at sunset

Eagle Beach Divi Divi tree

 

Saturday May 31st - Eagle Beach to Bushiri Beach walk

On my last full day in Aruba, I took the Arubus northwest to Eagle Beach and did about a 5 mile walk south past Bushiri Beach along the water's edge. It was one of the most enjoyable walks I've ever taken. Starting at the northern end of Eagle Beach, I was surprised to see the most famous postcard Divi Divi trees on the beach deserted (fourth picture above). Armed with my tripod using a time delay shutter, I snapped the large picture, top of page right and the first picture below with me in them. At that point, I took off my shoes and socks and did a leisurely stroll south wandering in and out of the waves. The lifeguard tower (second picture below) tells a laid back story. Aruba's beaches are not just wide and picturesque. With few exceptions they are also deserted, even on a Saturday afternoon (third picture below). I ended my beach trek at Kong Hing grocery store, just inland from Bushiri Beach to get a few supplies for the evening before catching the Arubus back to Oranjestad. I finished the day with more reading facing my balcony with the Caribbean in the background, taking a break at sunset to grab some shots from the Renaissance's pool (fourth picture below). Having accomplished my own brand of sanity, I returned to LA via Newark on Sunday.

Eagle Beach between the Divi Divis

Lifeguard tower

Manchebo Beach open spaces

Oranjestad sunset

 

In case you're curious, since this was a reading and relaxing trip, what did read? Here goes - "No place to hide" which is about Edward Snowden and the NSA, "Thinking fast and slow" which is about the way we humans use and don't use our intuitive and analytical minds, and "Driven" and "Fueled" which are over-the-top romances.

 

Some information and advice for first time visitors to Aruba - US$ are accepted without exception everywhere. Essentially everyone speaks English. The island is incredibly safe day and night - much safer than most of the US. Stay in Palm Beach - everything is there for first-timers. Sunsets from balconies on Palm Beach are often breathtaking. Aruba is windy all of the time, so brides-to-be please take note for your hairdo. Rent a car and drive all over the island - it's only 21 miles long and 8 miles wide and the roads are in perfect shape, but not well marked. To get past that, buy the detailed Aruba add-in for your GPS from GPStravelMaps.com. Buy a guide book - there is a lot to see and do beyond the beaches. Your cell phone will work here, albeit likely at a high foreign per minute charge. Both GSM and CDMA coverage are now ubiquitous. When you leave, skip those very long departure hall lines completely by having only carry-on luggage and your pre-printed boarding pass.

Home Up Aruba 5/14 Aruba 7/13 Aruba 4/09 Aruba 10/04 Cancun 5/07 Costa Rica 4/06 Costa Rica 7/04 Costa Rica 11/12 Curacao 2/05 Grand Cayman 12/00 Jamaica 7/07 Panama 12/13 Puerto Rico coasts 7 & 9/14 Puerto Rico & Vieques 12/08 Puerto Rico & Vieques 9/08 Puerto Rico 12/07 Saint Kitts 2/06 Virgin Islands 12/03

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