How to refresh and renew on “One Happy Island”
Landing in Aruba, aptly known as One Happy Island, my shoulders drop, and stress effortlessly melts away, even before arriving at my hotel. The driver takes me for a view of the island on the way, pointing out landmarks such as shopping areas, nightlife hotspots, and the seemingly endless white sand beaches as we pass through roundabouts at each intersection. If my driver and his jovial attitude are an indication, it appears the island lives up to its “happy” name. After a short drive, we arrive at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino where I’ll be staying for three nights on a wellness getaway.
Located about 20 minutes from Venezuela, the island of Aruba consists of 70 square miles, the majority of it desert. Nearly 20 percent of the island is at Arikok National Park, with its variety of nature activities and historical sites. Temps average about 82 degrees year-round, but the constant breeze makes it feel cooler. The Caribbean desert island and its moderate temperatures offer outdoor enthusiasts anything from water activities, nightlife, and desert exploration.
As a wellness destination, Aruba serves up plenty of relaxing on the beach, nature and hiking, and renewing spa services, yoga, and time on the water. They have positioned the island and its subsequent ability to relax, renew, and lighten a mood as the “Aruba Effect.” Visit Aruba for a wellness getaway and take a dose of happiness home with you.
View from the balcony at the Aruba Marriott Resort. Photo by Jill Dutton.
Aruba Marriott Resort
While you’ll want to explore the island, it’s also comforting to know that the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino provides a wellness getaway without leaving the property. Step out the back entrance to walk along the Caribbean white sand beach – Palm Beach, take a dip in one of the swimming pools, indulge in a spa experience, take a cooking class from one of the resort’s chefs, or grab a smoothie from Gelato & Co and stroll along the waterfront Malmok Walkway. For an adult-only experience, check out their Tradewinds Club.
Senior Sous Chef Charles Wagner leads a Pastechi class at the Aruba Marriott Resort. Photo by Jill Dutton.
Take a cooking class
The culture of the island is a mix of Caribbean, Dutch, Spanish, and Portugese and is represented in its cuisine. What better way to introduce yourself to the local flavors than with a cooking class? The Marriott Resort’s chefs offer two classes where you can learn to make Pastechi or Keshi Yana.
The Dutch originated Pastechis, and the delicious savory meat- or vegetable-filled pastries are served throughout the island. In the cooking class, you’ll prep the dough, choose from a variety of fillings, and learn to form the crescent shape. They’ll fry the pastries for you to sample along with a variety of traditional sauces.
Or try your hand at making Keshi Yena, which originated in the ABC islands during the time of slave trading. The masters would eat the insides of gouda wheels. Once finished, the rind would be given to the slaves, along with other food scraps that were left over. The slaves would take the gouda rind and stuff it with the meat and vegetable scraps and bake or steam until the remaining cheese covered the dish. Today, the dish can be found in many variations.
Enjoy a spa treatment
Mandara Spa, located inside the Mariott offers spa treatments centered in Balinese traditions. Try one of their signature services such as the Massage De La Aruba, a traditional Aruban massage that balances body, mind, and spirit; a Fire & Ice Massage utilizing heated basalt stones and a chilly gel; or the Cellutox Aroma Spa Ocean Wrap.
Soak in the island vibes at the pool or beach
After a relaxing spa treatment, keep the wellness sensations flowing with an afternoon in a poolside cabana, or relaxing on the beach.
Jill enjoys a sunset cruise.
Set sail on a sunset cruise
For a relaxing and fun evening, take a sunset cruise on a catamaran with De Palm Tours. Sit outside and watch the city scape and wildlife, chat with friends, and wait for the grand finale, a colorful sunset over the Caribbean. The two-hour cruise includes cocktails (be sure and try the Aruba Ariba) at an open bar, and light snacks. It’s a perfect way to see Aruba from water.
A desert UTV tour. Photos by Jill Dutton.
Invigorate with an off-road UTV tour through the desert
The highlight on my visit was the heart-pumping off-road UTV tour with De Palm Tours. Groups can load into UTVs, two per vehicle, and take a guided off-road adventure through the Arikok National Park. You’ll bump through the desert, over a small mountain, and down to the ocean for spectacular photo-worthy views of bluffs and formations. There are stops at historical sites such as ruins and churches. At the last stop, vendors sell food and drinks that are a refreshing welcome after a dusty ride through the desert.
Take the island vibe back home with you
Even though all good things must end, the Aruba Effect will stay with you long after your visit. Once it starts to fade, the only cure is to start planning your next Aruba wellness getaway.
Jill Dutton is the publisher of Evolving Magazine, and a travel writer who seeks out locally celebrated foods, outdoor activities, and train travel. She’s passionate about telling the stories of those she meets on her travels and is working on a syndicated column and eventual cookbook, A Sense of Place: Food and culture through storytelling. Jill is a Kansas City expert as well as a train travel expert. Readers of her stories have come to expect an intimate look at authentic travel experiences. Read more at www.USAbyRail.blog.