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There are so many Caribbean islands, one starts to wonder how different one sunny paradise could possible be from another. But not all islands are created equal. Take the island of Aruba, for example. There’s a lot more to the vivacious, little island than just surf and sand. This island is full of surprises, in fact, especially when it comes to food. I had the luck of being invited there to experience this year’s Carnival the last weekend in February. It was an explosion of color and music and pure joy.
Locals prepare for the event all year round and the entire island was buzzing as the big weekend, the culmination of a serious of smaller events, grew closer and closer. Carnival music was playing everywhere we went, and people excitedly shared details about their costumes and floats and parties and music and meet-up spots.
When I wasn’t busy taking in the Carnival parades and parties, swimming in Aruba’s famed Natural Pool, sailing across the clearest, bluest waters on an afternoon catamaran cruise; or soaking in the heavenly quiet at the Aruba Marriott’s adults only pool, I was eating my way across the island. I was blown away at the variety of dining this relatively small island has to offer. Here are some of my favorites.
For local fare:
Zeerover. Hands down. If you want local, you want Zeerover (which loosely translates to pirate). The menu is nothing more than a short list of what the fisherman have just reeled in. You walk up to the window, tell them which seafood you want and how you want it cooked, and then you pull up a seat and wait. The fishing boats were docked and the fish and shrimp were being unloaded just moments before they were being prepared and served. Nothing fancy about Zeerover. But I have to say, it doesn’t get any fresher or more local than this.
Whatever comes to mind when you think pancakes, forget about it. Linda’s Dutch Pancakes and Pizzas is a whole new pancake paradigm. The pancakes are super-thin and enormous with deliciously crisp edges. They’re offered with a plethora of toppings from sweet to savory – candy, cheese, fruit, bacon, you name it. You can’t go wrong with a custom creation. But they have lots of tried and true combos too if you want to play it safe. I’m a big fan of the fresh strawberries and chocolate chips, myself.
For Cuban food:
Cuba’s Cookin’ is as much about dining as it is about dancing. If you want to dance, that is. There is live music and, the night I was there, there was a lovely, older gentleman, a friend of the musicians playing there (in his late 70s for sure) who showed me the ropes. The menu is full of Cuban favorites, including ropa vieja (shredded beef in a tomato based sauce) and empanadas, and a jam-packed bar menu with all classics and a few fresh surprises too.
For Chinese food (Yes, Chinese food):
I wasn’t expecting good Chinese food in Aruba. I wasn’t really expecting any Chinese food in Aruba, really. But it was within walking distance of my hotel and it’s my favorite genre. So, I took a chance on Hung’s Paradise and I was so glad I did. I ordered simply — wonton soup, egg rolls, and their house fried rice — and I was impressed all around.
Aruba’s culinary offerings present a history lesson, highlighting the cultural influences of Holland, South America, and the rest of the Caribbean. Many of the following foods and drinks are enjoyed on special occasions, while others are imbibed much more frequently. Island guests are encouraged to partake in these typical Aruban treats for a genuine local experience.
According to an ancient Venezuelan Indian recipe, Playa Liquor & Bottling Company combines the sap of agave leaves, rum, and cane sugar to produce a dark-red liquor called coecoei, used to spike a variety of tropical cocktails, most notably the Aruba Ariba. The Aruba Ariba is the island’s famous tropical cocktail invented at the Aruba Caribbean Hotel’s Bali Bar in the early 1960s.
Aruba also produces its own signature version of ponche crema by combining egg yolks, cream, rum, and a variety of spices. This rich and smooth eggnog-like beverage is especially popular during the Christmas holiday.
“Balashi Cocktail” is the name affectionately given by locals to their delicious drinking water. One sip will verify the worldwide acclaim the beverage has earned for its quality and taste. Its name refers to Aruba’s Balashi region, where a state-of-the-art desalination plant desalts, purifies, and filters Caribbean seawater. The superior result flows directly from the tap and is also bottled by the Tropical Bottling Company as “AWA.”
Several types of cake are especially popular on the island, many of them served on special occasions such as birthdays, national holidays, religious holidays, and other celebrations. The most traditional cakes include bread pudding (pan di bolo), cashew cake (bolo di cashupete), chocolate torte (bolo di chateau), eggnog cake (bolo ponche di crema), prune cake (tert di pruim), and black cake (bolo preto). Traditionally given to guests at Aruban weddings, bolo preto is made with a signature mixture of prunes, currants, raisins, dates, and figs, steeped for a minimum of six weeks in a strong potion of cognac, port wine, and cherry cordial.
The ubiquity of coconut palms on Aruba provides locals and island guests the opportunity to enjoy fresh coconut water, one of Mother Nature’s most delicious and healthy beverages. Streetside vendors cut the tops off young coconuts right in front of their customers to ensure freshness, handing over the beverage to be sipped directly from the shell with a straw. Parties sometimes feature fresh coconut water, with the famous Coconut Charlie cracking coconuts at hotel parties for 40 years.
Arubans satisfy their persistent sweet tooth with a variety of homemade confections, collectively known as cos dushi. Cocada, a fudge-like candy made with sugar and coconut, is a popular treat alongside two other candies, tentalaria and panseicu, both made with sugar and nuts. Two favorite cookies are the koeki lerchi, a very simple sugar cookie baked to a crunch, and the mancaron, a coconut-infused cookie with a cake-like texture. Other sweet delights include quesillo, Aruba’s own take on caramel flan, and tamarind balls, which are small globes of tamarind pulp rolled in granulated sugar for that perfect balance of sweet and sour. All of these treats are ubiquitously found on the Island—at supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations, and even hardware stores.
Fish creole, locally known as pisca hasa crioyo, is a traditional Aruban dish still prepared in many a home and restaurant on the Island. The dish is deliciously simple: pan-fried slices of fresh fish fillet served in a basic gravy of onion, tomato, bell pepper, and garlic. The only thing that could make the meal more perfect is a side plate of pan bati or funchi.
Funchi—Aruba’s own version of polenta—is a thick, cornmeal porridge traditionally served as an accompaniment to rich stews and fish platters. Funchi porridge can also be cooled, cut into flat slices, and fried to a light golden brown as a crispy variation.
Like funchi, pan bati serves as the perfect accompaniment to stews, soups, and fish dishes. Made from cornflour and cooked in a casuela—a traditional clay baking dish originally from Spain—pan bati lies somewhere between a flatbread and a pancake. Compared to an American pancake, it is denser and less sweet.
An assortment of all-natural, made-in-Aruba hot sauces can be found in just about every restaurant and home, plus several grocery stores, on the Island. These hot sauces, known as pica among the locals, pack an intense punch, for they feature the exceptionally hot Madame Jeanette pepper, a variety of chili closely related to the habanero and Scotch-bonnet varieties. The Madame Jeanette’s fire is slightly tempered by green papaya in a particularly unique version of Aruban pica called pica di papaya.
Drier types of firm, white-flesh fish, such as barracuda or shark, are ideally suited for making one of Aruba’s popular seafood dishes, keri-keri. A fish fillet is boiled in salted water, removed and shredded, and then sauteed in butter with tomato, onion, celery, bell pepper, fresh basil, black pepper, and annato spice to create a tasty, satisfying meal.
Aruban families and friends gather together during the Christmas season to make ayacas, a traditional holiday treat adopted from South America. Although no two families use the exact same recipe, ayacas are generally made by smearing plantain or banana leaves with a cornmeal dough adding a mixture of chicken, pork, ham bits, and spices, plus a potpourri of prunes, raisins, olives, pickles, cashews, piccalilli, and pearl onions and folding the assemblages into neat little packets to be boiled for an hour.
This Aruban dish, which translates to “stuffed cheese,” is traditionally made by filling the left-over rind of an Edam or Gouda cheese wheel with spiced meat, onion, tomato, green pepper, olives, capers, raisins, and piccalilli covering the wheel with its original cap and then baking the stuffed wheel in the oven until hot and bubbly. Some cooks choose to conveniently line a casserole dish with slices of cheese instead of using the scooped cheese shell.
This irresistible half-moon pastry is the national snack of Aruba. The classic pastechi is made by stuffing a pocket of slightly sweet dough with cheese and then deep-frying it to tender perfection. Other savory fillings include ham, beef, chicken, and fish. Pastechis are sold islandwide at grocery stores, convenience stores, and snack bars.
Several soups are especially popular with the locals. Sopi yambo is Antillean gumbo made with pureed okra for a thick, smooth consistency. Sopi mondongo is a traditional combination of tripe, spices, a medley of vegetables, and West Indian pumpkin, or calabas. Sopi oester is the local oyster soup, with each restaurant and household claiming rights to the best recipe on the Island. Sopi cabrito is a bouillon-based soup made with goat meat, garlic, tomato, celery, bell pepper, and vermicelli.
Despite the warm weather, stews are popular on Aruba. The classic Aruban recipes for beef stew (carni stoba) and goat stew (cabrito stoba) each feature meat, potato, onion, garlic, and chili pepper in a tomato-based gravy. Conch stew (calco stoba) is made from the meat of conch shellfish, onion, bell pepper, and a white-wine vinegar stock. Two popular side dishes, funchi and pan bati, are usually served with these stews for a well-rounded meal.
Is it worth it to go to Flamingo Beach? Prior to my recent trip to Renaissance Island Aruba (also known as Flamingo Island Aruba), the last time I swam with a bird was in cottage country north of Toronto.
There, my experience was more battle than bucolic. A Canada Goose chased me out of the water, smashing me with its powerful wings and splattering me with 10 pounds of projectile goose poop.
My avian encounter on Flamingo Beach was much more elegant. During my day at Renaissance Aruba Private Island, a trio of hot pink flamingos tiptoed by, cocking their heads ever so gracefully, as though asking permission to ripple the calm waters circling my lounger.
But swimming alongside flamingos is just one of the unique experience guests enjoy on Renaissance Island. There are lots of reasons to spend a blissful day there.
The first thing you need to know is that Renaissance Island Aruba is a private island. There are no hotels on Renaissance Island itself.
And there’s no bridge to the island. Access is via an 8-minute water taxi ride by luxury yacht from Oranjestad, the capital of Aruba. It’s not possible to buy Renaissance Island tickets.
To get on the water taxi you need to have either a DAY Pass or be a hotel guest at the Renaissance Aruba All Inclusive Resort & Casino. It’s a luxury resort featuring 565 rooms in two settings, the family-friendly Renaissance Ocean Suites and adults-exclusive Renaissance Marina Hotel.
Once you arrive you’ll have two choices of where to spend the day. Comprised of two sections, there’s Iguana Island (for families) and the aptly-named Flamingo Beach (adult-only).
Check prices and availability at Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino on Booking.com.
I have been incredibly fortunate this Autumn to have been on two press trips to the Caribbean thanks to Aruba Tourism and Celebrity Cruises UK. I’m likely going to spend much of this cold, dark Shetland winter reliving the adventures I had there through a series of blog posts. I can still imagine the warmth of the sun on my skin and the feel of the warm sand between my toes while sifting through the hundreds of photographs I took.
Both press trips took me to Aruba, a tiny island just twenty miles north of Venezuela, one of the four countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands along with the Netherlands, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. That island will always hold a special place in my heart as it gave me my first taste of Paradise, and that’s where I learned about pan bati.
The words ‘pan bati’ literally translate as ‘smashed’ or ‘beaten’ bread because you beat the batter well. You then cook it like you do pancakes. The batter is prepared with plain flour and cornmeal with baking powder as the raising agent. It is seasoned with a little salt and some sugar, to taste. Unlike pancakes, there is no fat or egg added.
While on my first trip to Aruba we went on a historical walking tour of its capital, Oranjestad, where we watched a short cookery demonstration of pan bati being cooked at the Coco Plum Restaurant.
You’ll find many variations of the bread on the island, with each establishment (and home cook) giving it their own twist, but one thing’s for certain: it tastes fantastic. Think of it as a cornbread-like pancake which goes well with all manner of soups and stews (and a Balashi Chill beer!).
I made a batch of pan bati for my family recently, and my husband said it reminded him of a flatbread he’d tasted once in Abu Dhabi – it’s now his new favourite flatbread, so I expect I’ll be making it regularly from now on! The kids even requested the leftovers in their packed school lunchboxes!
Aruba boasts a wide range of restaurants and eateries, but one of my favourites is The West Deck, just a fifteen-minute walk from the cruise ship terminal. Take a right, browse through the shopping district and keep going straight until you cross over the bridge with the Anne Frank statue to your right. Make sure to watch out for the park filled with iguanas!
The West Deck, pictured below, features a wide range of authentic Aruban cuisine from coconut shrimp to conch fritters, to the stewed meat and cheese covered keeshi yena and the Aruban-brewed Balashi beers. It’s all very affordable too, and with its open-air deck plan with views over the Caribbean and its light cooling breeze off the sea, it’s a great venue for lunch where you can sip your beer and watch the pelicans dive for their dinner. You can also order a rather delicious Caribbean bread basket which features pan bati, among other breads.
You might also like my other blog posts about the area: Vist the Flamingo Beach at Renaissance Aruba and Frankie’s Abaco Avocado & Rum Cocktail. There are plenty more blog posts planned too – I’m going to be recreating the delicious keeshi yena using local lamb soon, and there will be a recipe post featuring the delicious deep-fried pastries popular with locals: pastechi. Oh, and I’m also compiling a Foodie’s Guide to Aruba. Watch this space!
Have you ever visited Aruba? Where did you eat when you were there? Do you have any special memories of the place? Let me know in the comments!
In appearance, Xtabentun’s golden colour reminds me of Galliano, the classic Italian herbal liqueur that was popular in the 1970s and a key ingredient in the retro Harvey Wallbanger cocktail (Galliano, fresh orange juice and vodka).
When it comes to taste, although similar to other anise liqueurs such as Sambuca and Pernod, Xtabentun has a much lighter intensity. It’s sweet but not syrupy and features a honey-anise flavour with subtle herbal undernotes.
Highlights of the 10 hand-crafted cocktails ( the menu is ever-evolving) during our tasting included a Mezcalito de Jamaica featuring the sweetness of Xtabentun, a dash of smoky mezcal and the tartness of jamaica (dried hibiscus flower) in refreshing perfection.
Scroll down for the recipe. Other ideas for xtabentun drinks include adding it your coffee to make a Mayan Coffee or enjoy a Xtabentun Margarita.
But after trying all the cocktails ( yes, a sip of all 10!), my favourite way to enjoy Xtabentun is with a splash of water. The simple presentation really allows the delicate flavours to shine.
Casibari Rock Formations
If you want to see some of the island's highlights, and you're short on time, the Aruba Half-Day Island Tour is a great option. Hop aboard an air-conditioned vehicle for this four-hour tour around Aruba, and you'll see some of the island's top landmarks, including California Lighthouse, Alto Vista Chapel, Ayo and Casibari Rock Formations, and the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins.
One of the favorite stops on this tour is the Aruba Aloe Factory. Here, you can learn about the wonders of this medicinal plant and its 160-year history of cultivation on the island. You'll also have a chance to shop for skin-soothing souvenirs to take home.
Get your chopstick skills and taste buds ready for a Japanese inspired treat in Aruba, SUSHI – but the One Happy Island way!
As a local, and self-proclaimed sushi lover, I wanted to share some insights on enjoying this Japanese dish with a list of 9 restaurants where you can enjoy tasty sushi in Aruba.
The following places have always welcomed my cravings with high-hopes of indulging in delicious sushi:
Photos by Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, @itsashleypaul & @ranivarde
Drool-worthy dishes: Caribbean roll, Tuna Volcano roll, Dragon roll and Spicy Tuna roll
🕒Opening Hours: Noon – 11.00PM, Daily
Bonus: This venue usually hosts diverse pop-up events highlighting a variety of cuisines
Photos by Dragonfly Aruba
Location: Arawak Gardens in Palm Beach
Drool-worthy dishes: I Love Aruba roll, Temptation roll, Dragonfly roll and Bum Bum roll
💚For the veggie-lovers: Tofu roll and Veggie roll
🕒Opening Hours: 4.00PM – 11.30PM, Daily
Bonus: There’s live music outside on the terrace from 7.00PM – 10.00PM every night
Location: Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa
Drool-worthy dishes: Sashimi Maki, Super Summer Fresh Maki, Manchebo Special Maki, and Skinny Jeans Maki
💚For the veggie-lovers: Garden Maki and Very Green Maki
🕒Opening Hours: Tuesdays – Saturday 5.30PM – 10.30PM
*Closed on Sunday and Monday
Bonus: This venue has a “Let the Chef Decide” option on their menu where diners are treated to innovative creations that may not be listed on Omakase’s printed menu.
*FEBRUARY 2020 UPDATE: Since E Sushi Shap has closed its doors for business, its feature on this blog has been replaced with another delicious sushi place: Omakase Sushi Bar.
Photos by Diana Uribe & YangMing Cuisine
Location: Coral Plaza in Oranjestad
Drool-worthy dishes: Flaming Squid roll, Firecracker roll, Special Spicy Tuna roll and Crazy roll
💚For the veggie-lovers: Veggie Mango roll and Vegetarian Fried Rice
🕒Opening Hours: 11.00AM – 11.00PM, Daily
Photos by Sushi-Ya Nextdoor Aruba
Location: Renaissance Marketplace in Oranjestad
Drool-worthy dishes: Dynamite Special roll, Fried roll, Mix Tartar roll and Arikok roll
💚For the veggie-lovers: Kabocha Umai roll, Shiitake roll and Asparagus roll
🕒Opening Hours: 12.00PM – Midnight, Daily
Photos by Tatami Sushi Bar
Location: Across from Domino’s Pizza Boulevard
Drool-worthy dishes: Explosion roll, Boca Catalina roll, Mega Crunchy roll and Malmok roll
💚For the veggie-lovers: Spicy Veggie Plantain roll, Tamarindo roll, Palmito roll and Yakimeshi Rice
🕒Opening Hours: Tuesdays – Fridays 11.30AM – 2.30PM & 5.30PM – 10.30PM (Fridays open till 11.00PM), Saturdays 4.00PM – 11.00PM and Sundays 5.30PM – 10.30PM *Closed Mondays
Photos by Sushi Factory
Location: Citgo Sasaki in Oranjestad
Drool-worthy dishes: Sensei roll, Tuna Tataki roll, Magu roll and Volcano roll
💚For the veggie-lovers: Veggie roll
🕒Opening Hours: Mondays – Fridays 11.30AM – 10.30PM and Saturdays & Sundays 5.30PM – 10.30PM
Diner’s Tip: This spot is particularly great for to-go orders. Need to fill your car up on gas? Due to its location it’s also ideal for a quick pit-stop for gas and a casual bite
Photos by Sensei Sushi Bar
Location: Across from Wema Santa Cruz
Drool-worthy dishes: Firecracker roll, Tremendo roll, Rasta roll and Coconut Rusty roll
💚For the veggie-lovers: Vegetarian roll, Veggie Tempura roll and Veggie Tempura appetizer
🕒Opening Hours: Mondays – Saturdays 5.00PM – 11.00PM *Closed Sundays
Photos by Blossoms Restaurant Aruba
Location: Next to Tandoor the Indian Grill House in Palm Beach
Drool-worthy dishes: Blossoms roll, Black Dragon roll, Rainbow roll and Super Crunchy roll
💚For the veggie-lovers: Vegetable roll and Cucumber roll
🕒Opening Hours: 6.00PM – 11.00PM, Daily
Photos by Aquarius
Location: Inside Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino
Drool-worthy dishes: Spicy Tuna roll, Fried Shrimp roll, Eel roll and made-to-order Pasta station
💚For the veggie-lovers: Vegetable roll, Wakame salad and Full Salad Bar
🕒Opening Hours: 7.00AM – 11.00PM, Daily
I don’t know about you, but my mouth is salivating just thinking about my next trip to one of these Aruba sushi spots. Wishing you the best time treating your taste buds to delicious sushi!
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A Dutch outpost in the Caribbean, sun-drenched Aruba provides a mix of modern seaside resorts and quiet coastal areas ideal for those wishing to escape the crowds. Vacations in Aruba, known affectionately as the "Happy Island," generally combine water-based activities with tours of the untamed backcountry, where you can discover unusual rock formations, historic churches, ostrich farms, and animal sanctuaries. Island capital Oranjestad offers some of the finest shopping and cultural sightseeing in Aruba, with an eco-friendly electric streetcar providing quick access to all of the city's major attractions, including numerous shops, restaurants, and hotels.
Oranjestad: Named after King William of the Netherlands, the capital offers classic Aruba sightseeing with its colorful colonial buildings, luxury shopping, plus island resorts and white-sand beaches.
Palm - Eagle Beach: Clean sand and turquoise water set the scene for relaxation or the thrill of water sports. Grab a bike or moped and explore this diving, swimming, and snorkeling paradise.
Noord: The center of Aruba tourism and the most populous town on the island, Noord offers cultural insight to the history of the nation, plus adventures to hidden coves and fascinating geological features.
San Nicolas: This "Sunrise City" boasts a thriving nightlife, various restaurants, and an art gallery its weekly Caribbean carnival adds even more colors to an already joyful town.
Savaneta: The former capital and now a village with a story to tell, Savaneta was the landing site of the first Dutch colonists. Have a drink in a bar right next to the oldest home in Aruba.
Eagle Beach: Grab a drink and watch several different breeds of turtle on Aruba's widest beach. Sunbathe, relax under an umbrella, or participate in numerous water activities.
Palm Beach: Walk the boardwalk along the white sand coast, or rent a kayak, paddleboard, or jet-ski. Boat rentals offer the chance to spot exotic marine animals living just offshore.
Natural Pool: Separated from the ocean and accessible on foot only, the Natural Pool lies encircled by rugged volcanic rocks, and makes a perfect secluded spot to add to your Aruba itinerary.
Baby Beach: Rustic huts and snack stands surround this calm lagoon, whose lengthy shallows suit kids and beginner swimmers perfectly.
California Lighthouse: Named after a crashed ship, this lighthouse provides scenic views over the island, glittering sand, and golf courses. Come in late afternoon for scenic sunsets, and some of the best views of your holiday in Aruba.
De Palm Island: Kids will thoroughly enjoy water slides, snorkeling, and ziplines in this water park, while the lagoon's schools of fish will delight all ages.
Arashi Beach: One of Aruba's snorkeling hubs, Arashi Beach gives you access to the marine life of the nearby waters, including numerous turtles and fish.
Butterfly Farm: Enter the world of flowers and butterflies at this farm, home to many exotic species. Wear bright colors when you visit this tropical, isolated environment, and the beautiful animals will approach you themselves.
Stellaris Casino: Test your luck at this large casino, featuring numerous games, friendly staff, and a playful ambience.
Alhambra Casino: With a great variety of slot machines and card tables, plus friendly, professional hosts, this casino offers daily promotions and complimentary drinks.
An Aruba vacation seems tailor-made for families with children, as the island prioritizes fun and safety wherever you go. Oranjestad borders on plenty of beaches suitable for children of all ages, plus inviting water parks where kids can have fun and spend their energy. The area of Noord is something of a big zoo, with numerous animal reserves and farms that spark curiosity, along with exploration trips into valleys with intriguing geological formations. Except for the casinos and extreme sports activities, nearly everywhere you go on a trip to Aruba will cater to your young ones, with age-appropriate activities and basic facilities within walking distance.
Aruba tourism really focuses on families, so you'll have plenty of things to do during your stay on the island. Go swimming along colorful fish at Boca Catalina, participate in beach sports such as volleyball, or look for exotic ocean life on a boat tour from Palm Beach. Let the kids work off some energy at Aruba's water parks, such as De Palm Island, which combines the natural surroundings with slides, rides, and banana boats. Introduce your children to the island's exotic flowers and butterflies, lovable donkeys, and the largest flightless bird in the world. If looking for a place to teach your children to swim, or gather more experience before tackling deeper waters, head to Baby Beach, a perfect place for young swimmers.
Health, security, and convenience are of primary concern for Aruba's tourism infrastructure. Most of the hotels and accommodation facilities take part in a program designed for visiting families, providing free lodging and a free meal for children under 13 who stay with an adult in a room. Apart from that, most of the hotels and resorts have programs and areas designated for children, with amusement rides, arcade games, and toy centers at their disposal. Those concerned about water safety will be happy to know that you don't need to buy bottled water in Aruba: the nation's tap water meets the highest quality standards in the world.
With numerous cultures under one nation, Aruba's cuisine borrows from South America, Europe, and other islands of the Caribbean. On your Aruba vacation, you'll encounter dishes heavily influenced by Dutch merchants, Spanish colonial powers, and American Indians. Have a taste of bami (noodles with meat) and nasi goreng rice (fried rice). Dutch pea soup and saté with peanut sauce (skewered grilled meat served with a dipping sauce) remain tourist favorites, and for sweet-lovers the Aruban thin pancakes are a must. Of course, fresh seafood features strongly in local cuisine, including barracuda, mahi-mahi, and red snapper. You'll find these dishes in restaurants across the island.
Aruba boasts lots of shopping options for a small island nation. Numerous malls and shopping centers attract visitors with luxury goods and brand names: Renaissance Mall in Oranjestad draws scores of tourists fresh off their cruise ships, while Palm Beach Plaza Mall in Eagle Beach impresses with its opulent design. Use your trip to Aruba to purchase Dutch porcelain, chocolate, and Gouda cheese, or splurge on French fragrances, German and Japanese electronics, and European crystals--all at attractive prices. No matter where you stay, almost every hotel and resort in Aruba has a gift and specialty shop of its own or within walking distance.
● Alonso de Ojeda was the first European to set foot on the island in 1499.
● Four countries, including Aruba, form the kingdom of The Netherlands the others are The Netherlands itself, Curacao, and Sint Maarten.
● Commissioned in 1798 to protect the island from pirates, Fort Zoutman is the oldest building in Aruba.
● Aruba is home to one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world, with more than 90 nationalities and ethnic groups.
● Aruba's sands are feet-friendly, even at high noon. The shell and coral composition of the fine, white beaches maintains the temperature of the sand, even under the most intense sun. Footwear optional!
Do not pay with local florins--locals generally prefer American dollars, which circulate more easily. When in line at fast-food eateries and other facilities, wait for a signal to approach the counter walking up yourself is considered rude. Expect to meet plenty of iguanas during your Aruba holiday: these friendly creatures don't fear humans, so return the favor and treat them with respect, instructing kids to do the same. When interacting with the locals, don't assume everybody knows English or Spanish. Try to learn some of the local language, Papiamento, which will endear you to the local population.
The festive people of Aruba have numerous holidays and generally like to celebrate. New Year's Eve falls at the peak of the tourist season, and involves lots pagara, or Chinese firecrackers, which keep away evil spirits, followed by midnight fireworks that continue well into the wee hours. Celebratory songs, yellow and red dresses, and traditional dances mark Dera Gai, or the "burying of the rooster" festival. Preparations for the Great Carnival begin in Aruba at 11:11 a.m. on November 11, which continues into the new year with costumed parades, extravagant displays, and plenty of dancing.
Throughout your Aruba vacation you may hear several languages spoken by the locals, including officially recognized Dutch, as well as English, Spanish, and French. Also, almost everybody here speaks the local language, Papiamento, as a native tongue. Several useful phrases in this language can go a long way, so try to learn at least the basics: "bon dia" or "halo" (hello) "ajo," "te aworo," or "te otro biaha" (goodbye) "por fabor" (please) and "(masha) danki" (thank you). You'll hear the ubiquitous "bon bini" (welcome) throughout your tour of Aruba, and you can wish someone a pleasant day with "pasa bon dia."
The people of Aruba have little use for weather forecasts, as the weather rarely seems to vary from its warm and sunny disposition. The average annual rainfall below 50 cm (20 in), location outside the hurricane region, and cooling trade winds make Aruba one of the most temperate islands in the whole Caribbean. As differences in temperature amount to just a couple of degrees above or below the average 28 C (82 F), you can take your holiday in Aruba any time of year. Note that sea temperature is at its warmest--29 C (84 F)--from September through November, while in February and March it dips to 26 C (79 F).
Unless you plan to spend your entire Aruba vacation in the confines of your resort, renting a car will help you get around during your stay. Several quality, reliable rent-a-car agencies operate at the airport. That said, you don't need a car to enjoy your Aruba sightseeing. The affordable and comfortable local bus system, Arubus, has stops right next to virtually every attraction. Beyond that, taxi services have government-fixed fares, and provide yet another safe means of getting to and fro on the island.
Known as the Garden of Ireland, County Wicklow captivates those who pass through with its rolling hills, granite mountains, valleys, and the lakes that lie amidst them, with a coastline of sheltered bays. Many people come here to hike through this stunning landscape, but the county is also one of Ireland’s great draws for gastronomes. By travelling to County Wicklow with Trafalgar, guests can have a taste of Ireland with the celebrated TV chef Catherine Fulvio.
With County Wicklow’s wild landscape and fertile farmland comes a bounty of fresh, natural produce, and local producers who champion the fruits of their land at farmers’ markets and within local restaurants. Wild Irish Game, Wicklow Farmhouse Cheese, and the chocolatier Johnny & the Bean are just a few of these artisans, with many more farmers, foragers and makers providing their own homemade preserves and baked goods, among many more mouth-watering specialties.
This abundance of fresh produce also makes County Wicklow one of the best places to try Ireland’s signature dishes. From Wicklow fishing port, fishermen bring in shellfish such as mussels, crab and lobster, and fish such as salmon, trout and plaice, providing the county with its exceptional seafood. Farmed meat and wild game are both used in one-pot stews with locally grown vegetables and potatoes. These dishes are often served with the freshly baked soda bread Ireland is so well known for.
Catherine Fulvio is one of Ireland’s most famous chefs, having hosted her own TV cookery shows, and with the publication of a number of cookbooks that bring together her Irish and Italian roots. Based in County Wicklow, the chef also runs Ballyknocken House and Cookery School, which is situated on a 350-acre working farm. Catherine is the third generation in the family to live within this farmhouse, which dates back to the 1850s and is filled with its own stories. The cookery school itself is now set up within the farm’s converted milking parlour.
Having won a Cookbook of the Year award, and having had her show aired around the world, Catherine is certainly an expert on the local cuisine. And while she incorporates influences from Italy and Asia into her recipes, she still returns to preparing traditional Irish dishes using locally sourced ingredients, while cooking at Ballyknocken.
Trafalgar guests who visit this farm in County Wicklow have the opportunity to meet Catherine, explore the farmhouse and its surrounds, and tuck into a hearty meal that promises to give them a taste of Ireland. Soup encompassing vegetables from the garden is served with the family’s signature soda bread, followed by a typically Irish dish of beef with stout sauce and vegetables, combining many of the best local ingredients. This is rounded off with one of Catherine’s desserts, such as slow-baked apple and carrot cake with caramel apple sauce and orange mascarpone cream, which is made according to the family recipe.
After dining on exemplary Irish fare within these idyllic surrounds, guests can be sure to come away with a truly unrivalled culinary experience in Ireland.
Experience a taste of Ireland with Catherine Fulvio by joining the Irish Highlights trip, and Amazing Ireland itinerary.
Image credits: Cover photo © iStock / byheaven. County Wicklow © iStock / Peter Zelei. Irish Soda Bread © iStock / lauraag. Irish Stew © iStock / igorr1. An orchard in Ireland © iStock / emmacowan.
Latest Update: Sadly, due to the pandemic, The Arubian Taste tasting shop has closed. This doesn't mean the party will have to stop! Marcia and Jerome will deliver your favorite flavored rums and other liquors right to you! Just give them a call!
Just give them a call! The Arubian Taste still has all of their wonderful flavors of Rum and flavors of Whiskey and Tequilla! Some of the most favorite flavored rums are Coco-Pine (coconut and pineapple), coconut, mango, watermellon, spiced, coffee, chocolate, Arubian Joy (coconut, chocolate and almond), white chocolate raspberry, aloe, spicy ginger, extra spicy ginger, pistachio, tamarind, banana, passion fruit, BBR (blueberry, blackberry and raspberry), guava, almond, maple and hazelnut, cactus, blueberry, cranberry, raspberry, vanilla, chocolate mint, cinnamon and many more.
The Arubian Taste also carries Arubian Ponche De Crema, Pistachio Cream Rum, Caramel Cream Rum, Coconut Cream Rum, Butterscotch Cream Rum and the Arubian Mudslide. Pre-mixed island drinks like Aruba Ariba, Arubian Sniper, Mai Tai, Hurricane, Arubian Sharpsooter and Sex on the Beach are also available (you just add juice)!
And of couse there's a selection of rums like 500 Years, Premium Gold, 2 Years Aged, and 151 Brown. Also, flavored whiskeys like cinnamon whiskey called papasito, and a stronger cinnamon whiskey (their version of Fireball).
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