When you rent a car on your vacation, do you think it’s a hassle or necessity? I guess it depends on the type of trip you are taking. On a recent trip from Napa, California to the cliff-side town of Jenner via Route1, the adventure was filled with winding roads and the infinite vistas of the Pacific Ocean, which were even more glorious as seen from a white convertible. On our latest trip to Aruba, my husband and I decided to go everywhere we could without a car and it was so liberating!
Here is what we learned…
We were in Aruba for a quick stay in September 2015 –just Wed-Sun for the Electric Festival. A 5-day annual EDM event, this past year was the biggest yet, with headliners Dutch DJs Afrojack and Nervo Twins. We knew we’d be staying in the Western part of the island and shuttling between the high rise hotel district and Oranjestad, the capital, for the festival and we were trying not to spend a fortune. Aruba is interesting in so many ways including geographically–the Southernmost/Western half is tropical and developed. The Northeastern portion is rugged, desert terrain loaded with hard-core adventure accessible on horseback, Jeep or ATV. The challenge of getting around the resort part of the island on foot, using the local infrastructure was what we wanted to put to the test. As an added benefit we LOVE the energy boost of grabbing a day pack and heading out on a walking adventure.
We were pretty sure this would work on Aruba and decided to go for it.
Staying at the Brickell Bay Beach Club in Palm Beach was perfect! The location was so convenient, as we were at the center of all the activity accessible on foot. After dropping off our bags, I wanted to show my husband around, and we started to walk down J.E Irausquin Boulevard—the main stretch in the high rise district in search of a beach bar. Just as we wandered along, an ATV motorcade came rumbling down the main drag in Palm Beach, like a gang of friendly bikers. A total no-no in NY– we couldn’t help but envy the joie de vive. I marveled–how with so much more extra personal freedom in Aruba does it manage to be so peaceful; I hoped it would never change. We found a number of beach-side bars in walking distance of our hotel and we swayed back to base after midnight.
While our hotel was no beachfront, which was fine with us, our walk to the beach was about a NY city block. It was so calming to stroll with my husband as we spoke and held hands feeling the Caribbean sun warm our achy NYC bones. A private area for the hotel was well-managed and we were quickly settling into our beach chairs. Our beach day ended and we were immediately offered a golf cart ride back to the hotel but declined. We were really enjoying the slow strolls and the trade-winds being the only sound whispering along with our quiet conversations.
That evening, we left our hotel and walked to restaurants and to nightlife all within 1-2 blocks from our hotel. That’s when we became certain–we were able to walk everywhere in the high-rise area hassle-free without a car.
So far, so good.
Night Time: J.E. Irausquin Boulevard, Palm Beach, Aruba
Love at first sight?! We had to take this pedal-powered baby out for a spin! Available on the boulevard, you can rent a 2-seater or 4-seater and cruise up and down the main drag for $10/hr. You’re not going fast, but that is the point–lots of laughs and a little horn to beep at the fellow pedestrians on foot. Everyone smiles when you glide by in one of these….shhh!
You’re getting a workout too, but don’t tell anyone that.
Rested and recharged, we were ready to make our way to the capital, Oranjestad—but how could we do it? We had lucked out finding the bus stop for the main Arubus bus system was right across from the Brickell Bay Hotel. The bus costs $2 and runs from sunrise until just before midnight. Buses run every 15 minutes, so it’s easy to grab a ride all day long. It’s your standard big city bus, well-lit, comfortable and clean and took about 15 minutes to arrive in the capital. It was fun to sight-see and ride with local residents as they went about their daily routines. We picked up our festival tickets at the Renaissance Hotel and just started walking the capital camera in hand.
Oranjestad is a beautiful Dutch-influenced city–we really enjoyed wandering through it on our walking trek. You should definitely visit the capital on foot, as there are so many beautiful buildings begging for photos.
We even found public art in the example of these beautiful blue-horse sculptures sprinkled around the island. Great photo op at these cool “I Heart Aruba” signs all over the island as well. The one in the photo is in Oranjestad just outside the capital building. I’m pretty sure we caught a glimpse of the Prime Minister too!—everything on the island is so low-key and chill.
If you get a bit tired, you can hop on the brand new, free, hydrogen-powered trolley to continue your visit in Oranjestad. Plan to spend a day in the capital when you visit Aruba. We think you’ll heart Aruba just as much as we do once you visit.
All the walking made us hungry and we craved an authentic meal and took a brisk walk to the Renaissance Mall. I introduced Hubby to Dutch pancakes, which are crepe-like topped with ham & Brie. We enjoyed them at The Plaza Café and had a great time. Please say hi to Lisbeth our, a lovely, friendly Aruban server.
At 3PM, we headed back to the bus station—the wait was about 10 minutes. It was pretty crowded now as students and workers were heading home but we easily got a seat. The bus accepts USD or Aruban florins and you pay on the bus. Easy peasy!
Night time: On the way to Electric Festival
At 7PM, we headed to the APA Arena for the main event. Instead of the city bus, a van pulled up with a cheerful lady at the wheel. We weren’t sure if she could get us to our destination, but she said she could so we jumped in anyway. The van was packed with locals on the way home from work but 15 minutes + $5 later, we were at the festival gates at dusk. The show was amazing and the crowd “lost it” when Afrojack came on and performed “Summer Thing”!
We ran into so many amazing people from all over the globe and even our friend Lisbeth again who was now working at the event.
We created a short YouTube Video about our experience:
Official cabs were waiting at the venue to take festival-goers back to their hotels after the show—so easy. There are many freelancers in Aruba that will take you to the capital for a mere $4-5, if you are comfortable with that–not sure if they were official, so be cautious. We traveled this way to the show each night and our experience doing this a number of times on our trip was flawless.
Our total cost for transportation in Aruba was about $30 for the 6 day trip. Had we rented a car for the week, our cost would have been closer to 10 times as much. I associate a car with work, chores, and other assorted hassles….and hassle equals stress to me, but in the same breath car-free should mean carefree. It seems reasonable to expect the city or destination of the future to be car-free, but it can only work if the locale’s infrastructure is developed and reliable. Can you get a bus on schedule and is the bus station safe—well-lit and clean? Are there trustworthy cab drivers with consistent rates readily available? If conditions pass that litmus test then it’s a go, go, go. You see so much more when on traveling on foot and we also loved feeling like Eco-friendly travelers using mass-transit and pedal power to get around. An unexpected benefit?–We each lost 5 pounds on the trip! We highly recommend it!
Aruba is approx. 20 miles off the coast of South America. Welcome to the very unique and beautiful island of Aruba–one of the Southernmost islands in the Caribbean. Aruba is a cutting-edge winner of the National Geographic Travel World Legacy Award in 2015 as the leader in Green Tourism and Sustainability. Aruba’s leaders & stewards are currently collaborating on a project with Richard Branson to become the first island in the Caribbean to go off grid by 2020.
Christina’s Motto: I’m not seeing the world in a sedan…..it’s on the back of a Harley, cockpit of a Cessna or I’m walking!
BIO: Christina Canzoneri, a native New Yorker, has always been a lover of travel since living in Bogota, Colombia during the summer of 1978. As her baby birds Alex & Anthony fly the nest, she has been having a great time as a frequent traveler with Sal, her pilot husband of 30 years. She is the web developer and social media tour deforce that is Aruba Trip Tips & Aruba Festivals with her business partner Bill and also the owner of CWG-Design a web development/SEO/SM company since 1999. In her spare time she is a visual artist, wordsmith, ski-bum and motorcycle enthusiast. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and visit her websites, www.arubatriptips.com & www.arubafestivals.com.