If the hustle of daily life is wearing on your relationship, I suggest a romantic vacation with your boo to Aruba. The desert island welcomes waves of couples annually; some have been coming consecutively for over 50 years. Aruba’s secret is the island’s relaxed resort culture (that also offers quaint timeshares through hotels like the Aruba Marriott). In fact, that’s where I had my first non-stop resort experience recently, and while I couldn’t bring my fiancé boo, I had plenty of good times by myself.
Aruba’s a great little island with grand views and kind people. The Dutch colony’s native language is Papiamento (a mixture of Spanish, English and Portugese), but most also speak Dutch and English, and 13 percent speak Spanish. I wasn’t sure what Arubians look like but through my personal survey of asking each chocolate person I saw where they were from, I discovered that most were from Curaçao.
Meanwhile, Arubians look a bit like Dominicans or Puerto Ricans with slightly more Native Indian roots. They even have a food called pastiche, which is basically an empanada with cheese. The capital is Oranjestad and the island’s population of 125,000 people is 75 percent Catholic, but pretty superstitious; so much so, my guide mentioned that when some locals go into their homes after 12 p.m., they enter backwards to keep the spirits out. But my three-day stay at the Aruba Marriott wasn’t nearly so ominous.
I don’t fancy myself an adventure traveler. I’ve never signed up for a silent retreat or flown to New Zealand just to climb some mountains. But I did take a paddle board yoga class during my trip. (Baby steps.) This activity might sound trite, but it’s not easy balancing on the ocean while doing a downward dog. I did well in the beginning. I stood up on my board and paddled my way to a rope near the shore where our instructor calmly and patiently walked us through the poses.
Funny thing is, everything was great until I fell off my board. Once I was wet, each position was more difficult because the board’s slippery, I was drenched, and I really had to engage my core muscles. But once I regained my bearings, the class was fantastic. The sun warmed my body as the class reached our arms and legs into wild positions. But the best part was our final moment, when the teacher asked us to thank our bodies for their work as we laid on our backs on the boards, looking up at the cloudless blue sky.
Aruba might be an island, but it’s one of the driest places I’ve ever visited. I was thirsty the entire trip, but this made sense once my group took a De Palma open-top jeep tour. All we saw were mountains covered in cactus, dirt and rocks, interspersed with traditional houses called cunucus. Tackling the island (which is 19 miles long and 6.4 miles across at its widest point), we bumped along fine seeing the sights until we crossed into the Arikak Natural Park. That’s when I had to hide.
I was seated at the front of the jeep as our driver careened down a steep mountain toward the Natural Pool, and I just couldn’t stop imagining myself flying off out of the vehicle and tumbling down the hill… so I bent down and closed my eyes. Once we finally reached the opening for the pool, which is a small circle in the ocean surrounded by large rocks and populated by clownfish that look like Nemo, I hopped into water without fear. I mean, I’d made it through the wilderness, right? Just make sure you bring water shoes for the trip or you’ll be hopping across the rocks like you’re crossing fire (like I did).
Ultimately, I’d return to Aruba in a heartbeat, but probably with a love interest. It’s not really an island for parties (like, perhaps, Jamaica), but the slow pace and easy atmosphere do make you want to cuddle up, so I can see why I was surrounded by couples at Queen Beatrix airport. “Get a timeshare!” one of my airplane seat-mates suggested. “We come every year and I love it.” I must say, I see her point.