The wide white sands of Druif Beach in Aruba beckon visitors. (Photo Moira McCarthy)
As has become our tradition, my husband and I headed to someplace warm the day after Labor Day, this year choosing Aruba via a direct JetBlue flight.
Many visitors, including myself, opt for the high-rise district. It’s fun there. The beaches are busy and bustling; the hotel names are familiar and trusted. The main beach in that area, Palm Beach, is sandy, wide and beautiful. But this time around I decided to go low.
Aruba is a relatively small island; you can e-bike pretty easily from end to end. And the low-rise district, as locals call it, hit the spot. It’s quieter; the lesser known Druif Beach is wide enough to give you room all day, not to mention that gorgeous ocean. The hotels there don’t rise higher than three floors and seem to almost blend in with the flora.
It’s pristine, peaceful but never boring. Low-rise was the way to go.
We arrived at the Divi & Tamarijn resort (https://www.diviandtamarijnaruba.com/) and checked into our spacious room on the Divi side, where we could meander a few easy steps onto the beach at any time. The Tamarijn side – a quick walk along a waterside boardwalk or shaded sidewalk, does have a sandy beach area, but rocks stop you from swimming there. A shuttle zips anyone who doesn’t want to walk back and forth.
We found bars galore, all with bartenders who liked to try to outshine one another. You never have to walk too far for a cocktail, but we found our favorites: the kicked back Sandpiper and the cool Bunker Bar, built over a real WWII bunker. You can peer down into it via the glass floor or go down and walk through to learn the history. It’s at the very tip of the resort and tends to draw in fewer folks. Watching the sun set over the Caribbean there is a forever memory, and not just because the Mudslide was so good.
As for food, I’m one to be wary of all-inclusives when it comes to food. But the Divi has found a way to make elevate all-inclusive fare.
At breakfast, you can serve yourself from a buffet or – and this is the way to go – order eggs and other breakfast food made to order. The eggs Benny is sublime; the woman who cooked mine made sure it was perfect. No rubbery buffet eggs here; she poached them before my eyes.
Our favorite lunch, and it was a worthy contest, was found at the Sandpiper where a local woman makes the most amazing and surprising carbonara from her hut with a bar. Her burger, made with gouda and all kind of toppings, and incredible hot dog were worth a visit as well.
For dinner we dined around both resorts, choosing Italian one night and Asian another. It never tastes “all inclusive,” if you know what I mean.
While we spent most of our time – by choice– lounging on the beach or floating in the waves, there’s plenty to do. We played 18 holes at their golf course and one day, rode e-bikes with a guide past the high rises to a perfect snorkeling spot.
“You want fish or turtles today?” our guide Danny asked us. We chose turtles and he led us to just the right spot at the right time. We played, almost alone, with a bale of turtles. I floated with two swimming just below me, mimicking their graceful dives. Once satisfied, we headed back to our bikes. I noticed a charter boat pulling in with countless folks heading to see those turtles. Too crowded! I thought. “That’s why I got you here when I did,” Danny said.
At night there was entertainment; DJ’s, live music, even water ballet exhibitions. But the best show of all came each evening when the sun put on its own show, setting majestically into the sea. We sat waterside and toasted our luck.
Sometimes, going low is the best choice.