With visions of white sands, turquoise waters and Caribbean adventures on our minds, my family and I boarded our flight from Charleston to Atlanta early one Sunday morning in May 2013.
By 3 p.m. we landed and were at the Marriott Surf Club on Palm Beach where we stayed in a wonderful suite with two bedrooms divided by a large living room, dining area, full kitchen, plus a washer and dryer. Maid service too!
We were on the eighth floor with a view of both the Caribbean Sea and the surrounding community. We enjoyed beautiful sunsets...
and for me, ever the early bird, brilliant sunrises.
The beaches around the Marriott are shared with other high rise resorts. The beach is clear for long walks and there are sidewalks that join and run through the resorts on the sea side.
The resort offered lots of fun activities in the pools...
on the grounds...
including an iguana feeding opportunity daily at 10 a.m.
Beach tennis is very popular on Aruba. The boys and I played one day. Lots of fun!
The Marriott has a lazy river which was very popular among many guests (though not us)
The calm, clean, comfortable Caribbean sea, though, is where we spent lots of time.
The boys had a blast being pulled around on "Super Mable" by a powerboat.
Holding on tight!
This style of beach hut is popular on Aruba. Very tropical!
The weather on Aruba is consistently sunny, warm and rain free.
It didn't take us long to get a little...pink, shall we say.
Aruba is so far south that it is out of the hurricane zone. Year-round temperatures are around 85/90. That's one reason for Aruba's popularity, no threats from severe weather like hurricanes as is the case in most other Caribbean islands.
It can get very windy at times. Aruba harnesses some of that energy at this windmill site at the Arikok National Park.
Aruba has an unusually dry, arid climate. It's not conducive to agriculture so Aruba did not have the slave economy with sugarcane and other crops that the Europeans introduced/forced elsewhere in the Caribbean. The only thing growing in abundance here are cacti.
The birds, like this Bare-eyed Pigeon, comfortably land and perch on the cacti. One of those multi-pronged thorns went completely through my tennis shoe!
(I did a separate Bird of Aruba posting. Check it out!)
The mix of sea and desert is an interesting feature of Aruba.
We rented a car and got around to see much of the island, which is 20 miles long and eight miles or so at its widest. This is in the capital, Oranjestad.
We've been to several of the Caribbean Islands and Aruba's roads are among the best. Driving is American-style with traffic flow and steering wheels. Aruba does have many roundabouts.
We drove to the northern tip of Aruba to see the California Lighthouse, which is still active.
It's named for the steamship California, which wrecked in 1891.
The lighthouse was activated in 1916.
It stands 98 feet tall and is visible for many miles out at sea as well as around the island, including the dock at the Marriott Surf Club.
Aruba's other still active beacon is the unusual looking Seroe Colorado Lighthouse at the southeastern tip near Baby Beach. This light, also named for a sunken ship, dates to 1881. The tower was first built of wood.
There were some majestic views from up there by the lighthouse.
A large oil refinery has long been in operation in the southern part of Aruba. It's operated by Valero but was founded by Standard Oil (today Exxon).
We brought our own snorkeling gear to Aruba and were given some good tips by our hotel's concierge about the best snorkeling spots. Three were mentioned and we hit all of them: Arashi and Malmok Beaches, which are in northeast Aruba and Baby Beach at the southeast tip.
Baby Beach is a very nice public beach. The water is gorgeously green and there's a small but really good snorkeling area where the tour groups go.
Jetties separate the Caribbean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean. The photo above shows the distinct differences in the two bodies of water.
The Valero Oil Refinery is seen in the background. The water at Baby Beach is shallow and very easy swimming. The best snorkeling spot there is in a marked 10 feet deep section.
Here are some photos of fish I took with my underwater camera at Baby Beach.
My underwater camera also shoots video. Click here to see video clips of our Aruba snorkeling.
Alesia and I at Baby Beach.
The vast Arikok National Park was another neat experience on Aruba.
The park covers much of Aruba's eastern region, which has rough desert terrain.
We saw quite a few goats at Arikok. This group easily climbed a rocky incline.
This goat is fashion-forward with his antler bling!
This is the scene today at what was Aruba's Natural Bridge. It collapsed in 2005, but is still very impressive.
Justin's ponders the abyss of what is left of the Natural Bridge.
Tours of a few Arikok caves are available. They are closed and a fee must be paid to go inside.
Back at the hotel, more views of the beautiful Caribbean Sea...
...and gorgeous sunsets
Aruba calls itself "The Happy Island"
We see why and agree with the sentiment below!
We really enjoyed Aruba and hope to be back!
Bon Dia Aruba!