The best-kept romantic-destination secret is about to be let out of the bag: savvy couples should head to Aruba for an unforgettable honeymoon
Most honeymoon destinations have the cliché white powder sand beaches and the gently swaying palm trees - but three days into your honeymoon, you may find that one or both of you is extremely bored, especially if you’re not the sort to lie on a beach all day. However, you don’t have to forsake the gorgeous beaches altogether. Just choose a place that has history, culture, a party vibe and glorious beaches - make like the Americans, and go to Aruba.
Aruba is perennially popular with Americans but its popularity with Britons is slowly increasing too, with more direct flights and a better understanding of the island. It is still within the Kingdom of Netherlands, so some flights from the UK go via Amsterdam, and the capital of Aruba, Oranjested, has very quaint Dutch colonial architecture.
From salsa to snorkel
Jas and Rab Singh were two Brits I met at a salsa night in one of Oranjested’s heaving clubs. They chose an all-inclusive honeymoon package at the Tamarijn Aruba resort. ‘We wanted to go somewhere different to all the usual suspects,’ explains Rab, ‘and Jas kept on at me to learn salsa dancing as she takes a class back home, so I went along with her a couple of evenings before we left. Here they play some great music for salsa. We’re having a great time.’ If you don’t know how to salsa – as Rab clearly still didn’t – book in a sunset class with Reggie and Sabine; they’re wonderfully friendly and will show you how to shake it and move it.
If you’re feeling a bit tired after your salsa club night, take a clipper boat ride from Mi Dushi pier and enjoy some sunbathing on the water. There’s nothing like hanging off the edge of a boat holding onto the ropes, feeling the wind in your hair and seeing the sparkling blue water twinkle below you. Lunch is on the boat and food in Aruba is generally healthy, tasty and plentiful. There is a free bar on the boat included in the price of your ticket and the local beer Balashi is to be recommended. You can either just chill out on board or have a leisurely snorkel; they stop at a number of excellent places including the very eerie shipwreck site of the Boca Catalina.
Choosing an all-inclusive package at one of the resorts is a great idea. We stayed at the Divi Aruba
, which has a wide choice of restaurants as well as a wood fire pizza snack bar. The drinks are delicious with a daily changing cocktail to provide liquid refreshment right on the beach.
Despite staying at an all-inclusive, you’ll want to check out at least a couple of the famous eateries on the island. Try the Waterfront Crabhouse restaurant for spectacular seafood and some interesting history from proprietor Roy Leitch. Or you could enjoy some traditional Aruban delicacies at the Pirate’s Nest restaurant at Bucuti Beach resort on the stunning Eagle beach. Deditos blancos, for example, are Aruban pastries filled with cheese; or there’s keshi yena, a traditional chicken casserole with cheese, peppers, onions, raisins and olives. However, the cuisine really comes into its own when dealing with fish or seafood, and a lovely, spicy Caribbean fish soup is to die for.
Make sure you also make your way over to Charlie’s Bar for lunch one day. It is located in the centre of Aruba’s other city, San Nicolaas. You must try their famous shrimp with a bit of buttered bread, some fries with mayonnaise and a cold Balashi beer. It’s seriously good stuff and the bar’s atmosphere has to be experienced to be believed. Every inch is covered in souvenirs and eclectic junk, treasure, art and stuff. The owners, like most Arubans, are friendly and boisterous and you’ll be sure to go back to your hotel with a full belly and a smile on your face.
While you’re in San Nicolaas, it may be worth checking out the donkey sanctuary if you’re animal lovers. Aruba has a large population of wild donkeys and the sanctuary caters for those that are injured by cars or can no longer be looked after by their owners. They never put a healthy donkey down and when we went they had the cutest baby donkey in a paddock - guaranteed to make one or both of you very clucky.
Other things to do include visiting the butterfly farm, where you actually get to be in the large enclosure with the butterflies flying free around you (if one lands on you, you get a wish!), and the aloe factory to pick up some lovely skin products with Aruban aloe in them or going horse riding at the Rancho La Ponderosa.
The best part of all is that on the days when you want to do absolutely nothing but enjoy each other’s company, you can. Have a wonderful buffet breakfast at your hotel (at Divi they have a pancake and an omelette station where they’ll make you your breakfast then and there), go lie on the beach or swim for a bit, have lunch at one of the excellent restaurants or just take a pizza up to your room and then go somewhere special for dinner (like Windows to Aruba, a restaurant on the resort that will take you two minutes to get to). If you’re not tired enough to sleep after your dinner, hang out at the beach bar, where there is live entertainment most nights and cocktails on tap.
In short, Aruba is the sort of place that will make your honeymoon memorable and will have you coming back again and again for your anniversaries. It’s one happy island.
Thomson has seven nights at the Divi Aruba
from around £870pp, or at the Riu Palace Aruba
from around £1,050pp, both all-inclusive.