Several years ago we decided to try a warm, tropical location for our Christmas celebration, and we really enjoyed it. This Christmas our island of choice was Aruba, and our home for the week was a very nice vacation home on the beach in Malmok. North of Oranjestad and the high rise hotel district, Malmok is a great, quieter section of the island.
Be advised that we learned that flights arriving on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday have to endure the long and inefficient customs process at Queen Beatrix International Airport. However, once you move beyond that unpleasantry, you soon forget all about it as you are warmed by the sun and constant Caribbean breeze.
Each morning we started the day with a really lovely walk/run along the beach and water. And each evening we were treated to a beautiful sunset right out our front door. We miss that as we blog from Canada.
The trail along the Northwestern end of the island in Malmok is not just a great running trail, but it is also used for horseback riding, segway tours and sunset strolls. While we were visiting there was a mobile I Love Aruba sign parked along the trail – ideal for a photo op.
Also in this area are several kite boarding and and windsurfing companies for the adventurous – away from high rises in shallow waters with epic wind.
Heading North toward the lighthouse there are several great beaches and snorkel spots. This is where the catamaran snorkel tours go, so just head there yourself and save the fee (and the crowded boat, unless that’s your thing). The snorkeling was good but the water quality was a bit below average when we were there due to large swells from offshore storms. We took in the sun and sand on Arashi beach a couple of days – it was completely relaxing.
Near the low-rise resort area is Eagle beach – our favorite soft sand beach which stretches for miles. Rent a cabana – or better yet get there before 10 am and find a shady tree. Here you can find all sorts of water and wind sports and activities, but the beach is large enough that you can also get away from all that if you so choose.
We highly recommend exploring Arikok National Park. A highlight of the park is a naturally formed pool – called Conchi – amidst the rock outcropping and the crashing surf. The pool used to be used by native fishermen to store captured turtles. Today, it’s a great bathing pool when the surf and the tide is just right. Not so, when we arrived. Crashing waves shooting huge volumes of water more than 30 feet in the air meant bathing was out of the question. But, the scene is fantastic and well worth the trip even without the opportunity to bathe in the Conchi.
There are several ways to explore the Conchi in Arikok – hiking, jeep tours, etc. We decided to hike to the Conchi, a relatively easy 45-minute hike from Daimari Ranch. Be sure to bring water (and lunch) as it is hot and there are no amenities. The breathtaking hike along the East coast of the island is best described as rustic beauty with volcanic hills and plateaus, sand dunes and endless, crashing surf and endless ocean vistas.
Another recommended hike is in and around the beautiful beach in the dunes area near the California lighthouse. There, you can hike as long or as short as you want along the Northern coast. The area is vast and also a haven for jeeps and other 4×4 vehicles. The wind never stops, and the scenery here is just as beautiful but even starker with cactus groves, sand dunes, sharp volcanic rock and interesting rock formations carved by the surf.
For a different type of Christmas, we took a morning fishing boat tour with Driftwood Fishing Charters. The water was a bit rough the day of our excursion but it was a successful trip as Mark and our son landed five fish – three wahoo and two mahi mahi. Driftwood also owns a seafood restaurant in Oranjestad so the captain and the mate are motivated to not only provide their guests with a great experience, but also provide the restaurant with the catch of the day.
Our dinner recommendations:
Papiamento – a terrific restaurant. Dining outside in the tree-covered courtyard of an old mansion. Great food, wine and service. A must dine. 4 1/2*
Atardi (formerly Simply Fish) – located at the Marriott, this was a really nice place to dine our last night on the island. Dining under the stars and with your feet in the sand as the sun sets. Very nice and great fish. 4 1/2*
Barefoot – Another dining experience with your feet in the sand. Near the airport – you can watch flights arriving as you dine al fresco. The food and service were very good. 4*
We do not recommend Las Ramblas restaurant. The food was average and the service was poor.
On our last day we heeded the advice of many and headed to the airport very early for our flight. To our surprise, check in at the airport was uneventful, contrary to the arrival and warnings to allow 3+ hours.
We hope you get to enjoy Aruba – one happy island.
… Mark & Dana …