The sand is soft and white. The sea is as clear as the water in a pool, yet warmer. Island breezes are soft and caressing. Visiting Aruba, which natives refer to as the Happy Island, offers a lot more than most other Caribbean islands as in addition to the amazing weather and beauty there is a fascinating melting pot of different cultures.
That cultural diversity is most clearly expressed by the cuisine you can find and enjoy when you are on Aruba. There is the original Dutch cuisine, along with newcomers from India, Italy, China, Indonesia, Cuba, Japan, Peru and Argentina to explore.
There is also a vast seafood cuisine, one that simply involves all cultures using the bounty from the surrounding sea. Many of the big hotels serve fish specialities and some restaurants even have their own fishing boats to ensure their diners the freshest fish caught that day. Always order the Fish of the Day if you like fish, and especially if it is done Aruban style.
Now, where to go for some great dining and what should you order?
The Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino has a superb restaurant on their beach called Simply Fish, where you can dine at a table under the stars just steps from the water. Try the charcoal grilled shrimp, the tropical bouillabaisse soup, or the swordfish. To top it off, you can’t go wrong with their signature coconut and banana ice cream cake (many call it dream cake). As the sky darkens and the stars begin to come out you’ll be glad you have a front row seat!
Drive or take a cab to the little town of Savaneta in the southern part of Aruba one day for lunch. Nothing on the island is that far from anything else, so it should only take you about 10 minutes from wherever you are staying. You want to find the restaurant on the fish pier called Zeerover Savaneta.
Fishing boats continually motor up to this dock to drop off their just caught trophies. Find a table and order whatever has been brought in that day. You can pretty much choose any fish they have and ask for their way to make it that day. Trust them. You won’t have a lot of choice but you will have divine fresh delicious seafood made especially for you as you sit by the Caribbean blue water. The added bonus is watching the local fishermen arriving and dropping off their exotic looking fish.
Imagine a pier jutting out into the water with lounge sofas, soft lighting from lamps, and music playing at the very end of the pier. Walk out and enjoy it. You are at the Old Man and the Sea, where you can dine under the stars in one of the most romantic settings on the island. Actually, it is hard not to find everything about dining at night on Aruba romantic, but let’s just say this restaurant setting is very special. Go with almost anything on their mouthwatering menu. It is all fresh, local, and cooked to perfection. If the setting looks familiar, it should. It has been the location of many recent movie scenes.
Frekedel. Grandmothers in Aruba all have their special recipe for this dish. It is made with poached red snapper, milk soaked bread, red pepper, green pepper, onion, tomato, garlic and basil. It is pureed together and formed into cakes and fried. A good Frekedel will be worth looking for!! Ask the front desk of your hotel where they think you can find the best one!
The Dutch influence on the island is everywhere, especially in its lively nightlife. One of the best loved neighborhood Dutch style bars is Cafe 080. Find a seat outside on one of the sofas and tell them to bring you some appetizers with your drinks. The appetizers will be on a chalkboard menu, but in Dutch. Meanwhile, say hi to Yappi, the happy owner. He will make sure you have a great time. This is a tiny, unassuming and very Aruban place to find a great crowd enjoying life under the stars.
The Gostoso Restaurant is that unique blend that happens when cultures come together in one place. Portugese and Aruban and Caribbean cuisines blend here in such a lovely and surprising way. Start with the deep fried sushi wrapped in plantain and filled with crab and cream cheese. For an entree, order the grouper fish with banana and passion fruit sauce. Kiss the chef on the way out. Wave good-bye and plan on visiting again. They have a long and interesting menu!
Tip: Before arriving in Aruba, secure your Dine-Around-Pass from the Aruba Gastronomic Association (AGA), which you can find online. They’ll deliver coupons to your hotel so when you arrive you can pick them up at the front desk and use them at any of the restaurants on their program, with no reservations. It helps visitors get to restaurants that are good value and that are varied enough that you get to taste all the different ethnic cuisines on the island. It also allows children between 4-12 to dine for half price.
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