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Desert Drivers

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Adventuring in Aruba

The drive from Aruba’s tidy Queen Beatrix International Airport, to the hotels (high rise and low rise districts), is as Caribbean as you’d hoped, with glimpses of turquoise bays, strains of steel drum music and rows of shops taunting tourists.  Much of the architecture, however, is pastel and proper, tipping toward colonial, influenced by Danish settlers giving Aruba a refined and welcoming face. What began as a fishing outpost for Amerindians has changed hands between the Spanish and Dutch throughout the centuries, and is now a diverse constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.  Aruba is a true melting pot, with over 90 nationalities represented in its population of more than 110,000 friendly residents. 

The pride runs deep, calling Arubans home. Daniel grew up in Aruba, starting at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino as a bar back and was recognized for his gregarious nature and work ethic. He says Marriott believed in him and provided extensive mixology training and now he is a featured bartender at the swank lobby bar and restaurant. The night we arrived, he was shaking a very sophisticated Old Fashioned, smoked in a tiny jewel box fired with cedar chips. That beats rum punch all day.

Aruba continued to surprise me, with 18 percent of the island designated a national park. Arikok National Park stretches across nearly 8,000 acres along Aruba’s rugged northeast coastline. The volcanic lava formations provide an exciting terrain for an adventurous drive in an open-air UTV (utility terrain vehicle). Getting behind the wheel, settling into the bumps and ruts, I forgot where I was until our guide signaled us to pull off, pointing to Conchi, The Natural Pool. We stopped for a swim in the warm water to rinse off the dust, listening to the wild waves crashing just the other side of the cliffs. 

To soothe our windburned faces, we stopped at the Aruba Aloe Factory, toured the farm founded in 1890 and slathered on their hypoallergenic face lotion fortified with pure aloe vera (leaves hand-cut within hours of harvest), vitamin E and jojoba oil. 

Heading back to the Marriott, we had a choice between the family pool and adult-only pool. The larger “family” pool offered up just the right amount of party with three generations hanging out by the pool bar,  a surprisingly talented frat boy grandson singing Motown hits, poolside, generously playing to the audience of late afternoon swimmers all sipping drinks. 

We watched the sunset over five courses at the Marriott’s “pop up” restaurant, Atardi, ON the beach. Tucking our shoes away on the patio, we could dig our toes into the sand and feel Aruba’s pull. 

Planning your visit

Aruba Aloe Factory

One of the world’s original aloe companies. Grown since 1890 for its healing and beauty properties.

Linda’s Dutch Pancake House

Think crepes, but larger and a touch fluffier, topped and served face up.

Pinchos Grill

Perched at the edge of a pier serving fresh seafood, of course!

Red Sail Aruba 

Snorkeling, punch and sunshine. Dive on a shipwreck.

DePalm Tours

Drive a side-by-side,  (utility terrain vehicle) through the rocky desert to a dreamy protected natural pool in the Caribbean Sea. Loud, bouncy and SO fun.

La Vista

Nicely curated buffet dinner and a show with Carnival dancers and audience participation at the Aruba Marriott.


The Aruba Marriott’s signature dining experience. ON the beach. No shoes required. Formal, beautiful food and of course, a sunset. Romantic!

  •  Always Aloe
  • Desert Drivers