Aruba Activities & the Rest of Our Vacation
Weather for the most part was not as perfect as Aruba in June usually is, but every bit as windy. Having said that, overall the weather this Aruba trip was far from anything to ruin a vacation. We had a few early morning showers with slow clearing. There was one particularly unsettled day during which we actually encountered, for the
first time in 20 trips to Aruba, a thunderstorm. The same day eventually brightened about 2 pm. Another day we had a very heavy squall come down
Palm beach mid-afternoon. It lasted about 15 minutes and behind it were the most
crystal clear blue skies we had seen the entire trip.
Out of 20 trips in 16 years, we have never ever seen the island as clean as it was this trip. There was a gentleman picking up trash outside the area surrounding
Mangel Halto beach and Arashi beach there were ladies working roadside picking up trash as well.
We went with the Pacsafe system for the first time this trip and loved it! Though it was not cheap, we will get many years use out of it and now that we have actually used it, knowing the security it provided, we feel that it was money very well spent. My dh traveled with a backpack for the very first time and loved it. He will never go back to his wheeled carry on and separate computer bag EVER again. His Pacsafe backpack had a separate padded compartment solely for the laptop.
Separately we purchased Pacsafe's retractable cable lock. The cable is simply threaded through the tamper proof zippers of the backpack attaching the entire backpack, with my DSLR camera inside as well 3 Kindles, dd’s iTouch and other assorted goodies such as suntan lotion and sunglasses, to the post of the palapa. There are other security devices out there for beachgoers, but they are too small for our needs. Overall the system was a great investment. We can now use it not only for air travel but each day on the beach in Aruba as well. We had peace of mind when hopping in the ocean to cool off or go off to lunch without having to worry about our belongings being snatched or lugging a beach bag and other assorted gadgets with us.
What We Did In Aruba
A few years back we took our dd on a Discover Scuba dive and she was immediately hooked. When we began our research to obtain her certification, we were looking for a similar type of experience with personalized service and one on one tutoring.
After doing a large amount of online research and communicating online with Aruba Watersports, we decided to reserve the Open Water Certification class with them.
They were very prompt and professional in their emails and I was confident
that it would be a good experience.
Upon certification with Aruba Watersports, dh and dd did two dives on the Antilla. They were both very pleased with Aruba Watersports. They are a small basic operation but you will have personalized service.
What follows, is my dd’s take on diving and Aruba Watersports…
“I had dove with Aruba Watersports (AWS) in the past for a Discover Scuba course, and decided to use them again for my Open Water certification. This was due to various reasons. We were staying at the Radisson so it was close by, a few hundred steps depending where you were. The cost was less than other operators, and being a small outfit, we knew chances were good I would have a lot of close supervision. Actually, I ended up being a class of one. This made my classes private, and they were personalized and centered on me. Certification is typically done in 3 or 4 days, but since I was staying at the Radisson for 12 nights, I had the leisure of doing half days and not being rushed. It also enabled us to pick days that fit my parents and my schedule best.
My dh and dd dove together twice on the Antilla after she was certified. Dh was very pleased with their outfit. They are not glamorous and only use inflatables but you will have a small group experience for a very modest price.
AWS lacks a pool and I had to do all the skills- hovering in place, flooding the mask, taking the mask off and swimming without it and then putting it back on, removing the regulator, etc.- in shallow open water. I did not feel it was an issue since the instructor was of course always right there with me and in the long run I felt it provided me with more confidence. I was even able to go on an actual dive after review of my first set of skills.
Nick, the instructor, was patient and covered all areas in depth and even made me re-do areas he found I struggled with. I had to work for the certification; I did not have the card just handed to me. We all feel that this was an excellent base for future diving education.
Once my certification was complete, I used AWS for a dive. I have to say that the service, due to small inflatable boats they use, get you to the dive sites quickly. Dive groups are no more than 4 people (including the instructor.) The dives are personalized and typically there are not set sites and the group is able to decide. The cost for one tank with your own equipment is $45 and $70 for 2 tanks, adding $25 if you needed the equipment.”
Strea only takes 8 people and this snorkel tour is an excellent value for the money for an intimate tour experience. Even if you do not snorkel, I would recommend this excursion for anyone looking for a leisurely boat ride along the mangroves of Aruba’s western coastline with turquoise waters all around.
Mangel Halto is one of the best spots on the island for snorkeling and there is much to see underwater. The shallow reef may make it a little daunting for the faint of heart, but if you are an experienced snorkeler you should have no trouble at all. The Captain John is your underwater guide. If you are not experienced, he will tell you what to do and not do to make your snorkel tour the best experience. We were the only group at the reef at the time.
Once out of the water, Captain John took our requests for sandwiches and we enjoyed time munching our lunch while reminiscing about what we saw.
Book this excursion early. Since they take small groups, it does tend to book up quickly.
Monday Driving Tour
Dh and I wanted to take a drive to drive around the island and take photos as we do nearly every trip. On another day we wanted a vehicle to do some snorkeling from shore in the morning and then use the same vehicle to drive to Savaneta to Marina Pirata for dinner that evening. Hertz had a desk at the Radisson so prior to arrival on the island; we had reserved an SUV through Hertz for two separate days.
When we arrived at the Radisson on Friday the Hertz desk was right there to adjacent to the front desk, so I thought to myself, while I am here, let me go over and just confirm our reservation. I confirmed the reservations; yes they did have a record of both dates.
Monday morning comes and dh walks up to the Hertz desk, shows the woman the copy of the email confirmation he had received and was told that it was not the “proper” email. The email confirmation we received from Hertz, was according to the woman at the desk, not the "correct” one. Did it have the proper date? Yes. Did they understand that we had a separate reservation later in the week? Yes. Was there confusion between the two reservations? No. Simply in their mind we did not have the “right” email.
Dh went back and forth with this woman at the Hertz desk and she just had a downright nasty attitude. She finally told dh that she did not have an SUV and she could call to see if one of the other locations had one. Fine, we had already wasted well over an hour of our day.
The Hertz location at the Westin (future Riu addition) had an SUV available. Rather than wait for them to be good and ready to deliver
it to the Radisson, we took it upon ourselves to just walk from the Radisson to the Westin (future Riu addition). The gentleman manning the Hertz desk at the Westin (future Riu addition) was the exact opposite of the woman at the Radisson rental desk and very accommodating. He did the paperwork for our Terios as quickly as possible to get us on our way.
Unfortunately, it was also our wedding anniversary that day and not exactly how we had planned on starting out. In turning the Terios in the following morning, dh told the person that the vehicle was having a bit of trouble turning over to start, and was probably going to be needing a battery.
Our tour took us southward from the Westin (future Riu addition) on past Eagle beach, through Oranjestad and down into Savaneta, Mangel Halto and beyond. From there we drove the main road to Rodgers beach and then onwards to Baby beach.
For the first time in 20 trips, dh and I experienced an Aruban thunderstorm. We were at Baby beach and just sightseeing. The flashes of cloud to water lightning were tremendous. Amazingly the tourists did not budge from the water. Luckily no one was struck, including the ones hiding under the palapas. Remember what your mother told you about standing under a tree during a thunderstorm? The same principle applies here, but no one seemed to mind. It rained off and on all morning to about 2 pm and then became partly sunny.
When the rain storm finally subsided we took the road up and around Baby beach towards the coastline and the Pet cemetery. From there we continued on towards, Boca Grande and the wind farm at Vader Piet. This was our first time at the wind farm, or any wind farm for that matter and the size in photos or video does not do these structures justice. They are a unique landmark on Aruba’s coast just before you approach Arikok National Park.
We paid our entrance fee to get into the park and continued on to Boca Prins where we stopped at the restaurant for a cold drink, potty stop and a bite to eat. From here we tackled the “dirt path” to Dos Playa and back. Dos Playa is still one of my favorite spots on the island.
Our last part of our driving tour we attempted to reach Andicuri beach and unfortunately had to turn around, the path was like trying to get to the Natural pool. Dh did not want to take a chance damaging the rental vehicle, especially in that it was on FWD and not 4 x 4. Someday I will get there!
Friday Driving & Snorkeling Tour
Our rental on Friday was ironically the exact same vehicle. There were no troubles picking up the Terios at the Radisson that day. We used the car that morning to snorkel at Boca Catalina and Mangel Halto. That night we used the Terios to drive to Savaneta for a delicious dinner at Marina Pirata.
Remember dh told the Hertz agent that the battery was going dead? Now you know where this part of the story is going? Luckily the car battery died at the gas station outside of Oranjestad as opposed to the two snorkel spots we were at that day or the restaurant which is off the beaten path. We could have gotten stuck at any number of places in the middle of no where on either of the two days that we had the vehicle. Getting stuck at a gas station is ideal.
Worst part was being screamed at by an Aruban because the car would not start back up after we had filled up and he was mad I would not move the car. Dh was inside with one of the clerks calling Hertz for a jump. I explained the situation to the gentleman and embarrassed, he apologized and waited on line for another pump. When dh came back out, he and I together pushed the Terios away from the pump to avoid any further angry gas station patrons. Hertz had someone there in 15 minutes and jump started it.
Moral of the story, is to please keep in mind that "cheapest" or "least expensive" is not always the best rental. My dh just learned this, the hard way, again, by renting from Hertz. We would never rent from them again after their claim that they did not have a reservation in their system and we had the paperwork in hand to present them.
We have used Amigo in the past with great success. In driving around the island in June we also noticed
that Aruba Royal, who we have also used in the past, had many new vehicles.
The rest of our trip was spent vegetating on the beach as well as spending time at our favorite pool on the island at the Radisson. For us that is what vacation is all about.