Aruba – One happy island
Aruba – the “A” of the ABC Islands is located 15 miles north of Venezuela. It is famous for its white-sand beaches and rather high temperatures (on average about 28°C all the year). It belongs to the Netherlands, but there is also significant American influence.
Now we are already almost a month on Aruba and to be honest: We are here mainly because we are still waiting for a few spare parts and not because of the pleasures of the island. Some people are joking that cruising means “repairing your boat on very exotic places”. I tend to think that there is some truth in this saying. Anyway we do enjoy the time here and spend many hours at the beautiful beaches and in the water. We have also meet many nice people here, cruising sailors as well as locals.
Still, Aruba is not one of the most exotic places we’ve been so far, nor is it our favourite. We feel that it is quite busy here and very touristic – in particular downtown and close to the cruising terminal. Furthermore, it seems to us that the island is almost like a dessert and even the nature reserve park looks a bit vacated and dry.
Nevertheless, you can find some green and colourful spot on this “cactus” island. The “Butterfly Farm on Aruba” is one of them. It’s a small but very beautiful place! Interesting fact: the butterflies that eat nectar have a significantly shorter lifespan (days or weeks) compared with those eating fruits, which contains more protein and nutrients (up to several month). So, eat less sugar! Fun fact: Butterflies taste with their feet! With your ticket you can visit the farm as often as you want during your stay on Aruba.
We also did a short trip to San Nicolas. It was once the most important town on Aruba. Since the best times of the nearby oil refinery are over it’s kind of difficult place. They try to redevelop the area and attract people with art. The art installations are quite impressive and colourful, but it is still not a place where we would like to spent several days.
Overall, Aruba is a place with good infrastructure (even though not necessarily for cruising yachts, if you want to fix something on the boat is Curaçao probably the better place). There are many bars and restaurants. The main focus is on tourism with cruise liners and also some pretty big hotels and resorts.
Practical things: The Renaissance Marina is really nice, the staff very helpful and the use the facilities of the Renaissance Hotel (Marriott), like swimming pool and the Renaissance private island, is complementary.
Aruba has also some good options to stay at anchor. I think the best anchorage is in front of the Surfside Beach. There is reasonably good protection, good holding ground (look for sand spots in the seagrass!) and it possible to go with the dinghy to the beach or use the dinghy dock at Renaissance Marina (beyond the fuel station). The only downside is that there are quite a few boats passing by and that is close to the airport.
Clearance is not very convenient in Aruba, because you have to go to Barcadera harbour before you are allowed to anchor or to enter the marina. There is a wooden pier for cruising yachts, but it can be tricky to get there because of shallow spots (and actually at the peer it is also not very deep). We have only 1,6m draft with our yacht Maya and we didn’t feel comfortable at this pier, because our echo sounder indicated very little water blow the keel. So be careful when approaching the customs dock.