Aruba is justifiably known for its white sand beaches and turquoise water. Directly across the road from our house is Savaneta beach. Sections of white sand beach are punctuated by small stands of mangrove. Snorkeling takes you into clouds of minnows and the occasional foursome of little squid. From here we skipped over the huge extent of the old refinery area. It may not be in use but it is thoroughly fenced off. Within sight of the tank field we snorkeled at Rodgers Beach, the next in our counterclockwise tour of the shore. The fish are tiny, but captivating, mini-angel fish, parrotfish, wrasses and the elegant spotted trunkfish. It looks like it should be carrying a Chanel bag.
At Baby Beach, a deep U-shaped stretch of calm water, we walked out to the far end and looked back to where the thatched beach shelters are almost invisible. The beach combing was very good among stubs of ancient coral as big as tree trunks. It’s easy to imagine they are the bones of whales or turtles that washed up and are now petrified.
We moved on to the Santana di Cacho, a beach of shelving rock that is bordered by a huge pet cemetery. When the oil refinery was working, this area was started by employees. The tradition continues. The pet cemetery beach is at the southern tip of Aruba. Our exploration headed up along the eastern Atlantic side of the island. When you look out over the ocean, the next land mass is either the island of Grenada or Guinea, Africa. The waves are larger, though broken by shelving rock. We walked from Bachelor’s Beach to Boca Grandi (in Papiamento, the local language) where kite surfers take lessons and practice. All day long ten or more kite surfers can be found zooming across the bay. We passed a deeply tanned young man sitting on the beach in conversation with a newcomer (pale skin) while his kite flew above him, tethered to his safety vest. From Boca Grandi we visited Grapefield Beach, another long rocky stretch. We had traded beach combing comments with a young man we met at the pet cemetery. He was collecting driftwood and dried coral fans for his mother in law. When we showed him our beach glass, he directed us to the northern end of Grapefield beach where there is an abandoned settlement and a newer settlement. He said the turnoff was marked by a boat on the roadside, and sure enough, it is. It felt a bit strange to beach comb among houses right on the shore. Most are empty during the day. The young man we spoke to said that it would be fine to collect things there. “The people live here and so they don’t need to collect things to take back to the US. To them it has no purpose.”
From Grapefield beach the route enters Arikok National Park. There is a visitor’s center in the center of the island that tells how the park was started and identified some of the many paths and sights. Our visit ended at a “boca,” an inlet eroded into the shore. This one, Boca Prinz, is not the smallest but it’s less than 100 yards across. We scouted for beach glass (none) and admired the pink sand.
We visited beaches on the south/west side of Aruba from our house northward to Mangel Halto. There is a fish supplier near the inlet to Spanish Lagoon where we bought red snapper that was delicious on the grill. Jonathan and I took a multi-visit detour to the bird refuge around Spanish Lagoon and enjoyed seeing new species. Across the inlet is the industrial part of the shore with the extensive desalination plant that supplies all the drinking water for the island, and adjacent to that, the landfill. (I’m pretty sure these two go to great lengths to avoid contact with one another.) We started along this road looking for the marina where visiting trawlers would moor. Since Aruba is valued as a harbor for private yachts during hurricane season, we know there’d be a big, big marina and we found it behind the airport at the edge of the industrial area. It’s an excellent location for yacht owners, you can fly into Aruba and be on your boat in under an hour.
A neighbor told us to see Eagle Beach, a long, long stretch of white sand the borders hotels. It is lovely, but there isn’t anything to do but swim or sit in the shade. The sandy shore has no driftwood or beach glass and the water was cloudy for snorkeling. After some floating around, I went inside a nearby resort and got my hair cut, a great treat. Then we moved back toward Oranjestad to Divi Beach, smaller but similar. The beaches at the far north/west end of the island are still on our radar. A group of “old-timers” having lunch on Savaneta Beach told us not to miss Boca Catalina in the northern zone. It’s now on our list.
The story of Aruba: So many beaches, so little time.