Two Weeks at Playa Linda
This was our 12th trip to Aruba; we really love it there. We have had a time share at the Playa Linda since 1989 and never had a desire to "trade" for any other destination. This is the first time we have spent two weeks there.
Flew out of Newark on Air Aruba on 8/27. Plane was only 20 minutes late leaving. Many people knock Air Aruba but I still like it. The food is pretty good and the drinks are free. Arrived in Aruba at 1:45. We had to wait a bit for our luggage and then we had a much needed cigarette and got into a taxi and headed for the Playa Linda. We haven't been to Aruba in two years and were surprised at how much growth there has been. We checked in the hotel without a problem. We were not in our usual suite the first week and the appliances there were new (there is a kitchen and living room). The hotel wisely covered the furniture in vinyl since so many guests used to sit on the furniture in wet bathing suits. This particular wing of the hotel is 12 years old. They will be refurbishing all the suites within the next 2 years. Playa Linda recently re-did and added more chickies and there was no problem finding one for your day on the beach although I can see there would be a problem in high season. I like the Playa Linda beach best because it isn't deep and you can run to your room quickly if needed. Their swimming pool is too small--it was loaded with kids most of the time (don't they like the Caribbean?) and taking a dip in the pool was mostly annoying.
So, besides vegging on the beach, here's some of the things we did:
Supplies: First priority was to get beer and some food stuff. There is a store at the Playa Linda but prices are a bit higher (although they had some decent Chilean wines for $5 and $10). Since we never rent a car but for one day, my husband and his brother hopped on the bus for $2 (round trip) to go to Certified Grocer's. The bus comes every 20 minutes. A case of Balashi beer (8 oz.), the local brew and my new favorite, was a best buy. You can get American beer there, but they are pricier and come in 10 oz. containers. We always bring a soft cooler so we can pack beer for the beach. After all, two 8 oz. beers at happy hour (Grolsch and Polar) are a hopping $5.75.
Kukoo Kunuku: I reserved this over the internet for a savings of $11.00 per couple ($49.99 per person). They picked us up at our hotel (6:00 pm), music blaring, people cheering. It was infectious and we joined in immediately (save my sister-in-law who first gave me dirty looks but then relaxed). Stopped at a few more places to pick up other folks (this was a lengthy process so bring a drink with you, if you care) and headed for the lighthouse for a champagne toast (bad sunset that night). We then went to the Minister of Protocol's house for dinner and drinks. This was a beautiful house and we were given a tour of it by the owner's son, R.J. Lee. We then had dinner of salad, chicken, beef and rice on their huge patio. Tried Rubano beer, another local brew, and it was pretty good. Why someone would open their house to a potential bunch of rowdies 5 nights a week is beyond me. But everyone was well behaved. It was most impressive. Afterwards we headed to 3 different bars, 2 that were buried inside small neighborhoods (the neighbors must love when this noisy bus pulls up!) and the last one (more of a disco) in town. First drink is free at all stops. This was so much fun I recommend it to anyone who likes to party. Bus departs at midnight for return trip.
Pelican Adventures Deep Sea Fishing: My husband and his brother went on this for about $60 each. There were five people on board. They drove out of Oranjestad about 6-7 miles. It was a 4 hour trip. They caught Bonita (not edible), Wahoo, Tuna, and Mahi Mahi. The mate cleaned the fish and the captain kept half. We put it in our fridge and later brought it out to the Pelican pier (between Playa Linda and Holiday Inn) where they grill it for you and include 2 sides for $10 per person. They did a great job with the fish--it was delicious and you personally knew how fresh it was.
Island tour: We met some great people at this point so now there were 8 of us. We packed up our coolers and headed out in 2 cars for Baby Beach for snorkeling. We had seen the lighthouse, natural bridge, natural pool (which by the way is very crowded these days with the jeep and horse tours), etc., many times and decided to bypass it all this time. Besides we only had a Toyota Tercel ($42/day) with very bad brakes. I recommend to anyone touring the island to take a jeep, preferably one with A/C, because the roads (paths?) are in rough shape. We stopped at Charlie’s Bar (a must do) for lunch of their famous shrimp-with-their-heads-still-on scampi and the spicy honeymoon sauce. Charlie’s is fun because it has wall-to-ceiling junk hanging all over it. We then went to Baby Beach; also a spot everyone should see. I understand they’re building a hotel by this beach. Hmmm, I remember the days when it was totally empty. Now they have a snack stand and are putting in changing rooms.
Pelican Adventures Sunset Cruise: We always go on this and we always have a blast. We set sail at 5:00 and end at 7:00 pm For $30 each, you are provided all the rot gut vodka or rum you want (no beer) and pretty terrible finger sandwiches. If you’re going to drink a lot on this I suggest eating beforehand.
Butterfly Farm: What can I say—if you love nature you have to see this. It was wonderful. Dress light because the humidity level in there is killer. I was wearing a light blue tank and the butterflies were landing on me—it was great. This was $10 each and you can revisit for free as many times as you want.
A weird scene: One day while sitting on the beach, out in the sea was a rusty old freighter. Two tug boats came up to it, sprayed water into it (to flood the compartments) and sunk it. We didn’t know about the event and were awed at seeing this thing list and then disappear. It will be another dive sight.
Places we ate:
Pelican Pier (between Playa Linda and Holiday Inn). Casual, open air, good food, good prices. We ate here four times. On our last night I ordered a 10 oz. lobster tail (market price). It was very good but when I got the bill it said $40 for the tail alone! My mistake for not asking up front. This was seriously over priced. Skip the filet mignon. Try the fish sticks and fried calamari. Average dinner for two with one drink each is $60.
Hadicurari (between Holiday Inn and Marriott). Got there late. They were out of conch, shrimp, filet mignon, chicken. We got the last two fish dinners (king fish) and it was okay. This was certainly the cheapest dinner place on the island. Dinner for two with one drink each $30.
Boonoonoonoos. We eat here every year and really like it. My husband and his brother always gets the jerk ribs which are incredibly hot. Their menu is larger than ever and they have an extensive exotic drink menu. Average dinner with apps and one drink each $65. Afterwards we waited well over half an hour for a taxi. This happens to us every time at this place. If you have a car get directions because to this day I don’t know were in Oranjestad it is.
La Petit Café (in front of Playa Linda). All food is cooked on a rock and is so delicious. We also hit this place every year. I had lobster (market price of $25—now that’s more like it) and husband had filet mignon. We both had shrimp cocktails and one drink each. Bill was $86.00.
Paparazzi (across street from Hyatt). I don’t know if this was a bad night, or what. There were 8 of us. It took almost three hours to eat. We ordered desert and waited 45 minutes before we cancelled it. My food was just ok. I understand this is a U.S. restaurant chain and I normally stay away from such places. If I can eat there at home why would I eat there in Aruba with so many other great restaurants.
Hostaria da' Vittorio (across street from Hyatt). This was very good Italian. Everyone was pleased with their meal. You can eat inside or out. Salad, veal, ravioli in cream sauce, cappuccino, two drinks - $76.00.
Sunset Grille (at the
Radisson): Wow! We sat outside next to the waterfalls. You can eat inside and watch the "theater" of chefs performing their miracles. We had shrimp cocktail, sushi, a giant pork chop, grilled portabello, two drinks, and cheesecake. I tasted our friends filet mignon (12 ozs!) and it was the best I ever had. Also tasted king crab legs which they served already split—wonderful. A glass of wine was $9.75 (be warned). Our bill was $115 each couple. The lighting was dim and the next day I really looked the bill over and saw they charged me $9.75 for something no one at our table had. This is real competition for Ruinas del Mar (at the Hyatt) because the food is so much better.
Madame Janette: At everyone’s urging we went there. A really pretty place (all outdoor), food is great and plenty of it. I had 2 glasses of wine, potato leek soup, pork tenderloin, husband had hot shrimps appetizer, grilled grouper with huge salad, cheesecake, coffee with Bailey’s, two drinks. Total bill was $68! Service charge is not included here. Getting a taxi from here is absolutely no problem. Will definitely go again.
Linda Vista Restaurant (at Playa Linda) Had many breakfasts here. Average $6.00 each. Very good in a pinch.
A Note: Aruba is building up fast. In a way it’s a good thing because we only needed a taxi for 2 restaurants when we used to need one for nearly every. Also, food and liquor prices are down due to competition (3 large supermarkets in a row!). But overbuilding can also be a bad thing. But we still love it and will continue to go.
Bad Stuff: Friends from Venezuela were in town at Penha Perfumes in
Oranjestad. They couldn’t start their car because the battery had been stolen. Then they were accosted by two junkies (one carrying a stick). Our friend blocked the guy, thus knocking over his junkie girlfriend. They took off. Then someone offered to sell them a battery, hmmm. Took police 1-1/2 hours to respond. Optima car rentals demanded they pay for the battery! The situation was resolved where they didn’t have to pay for it.
Serious Advice: I have seen too many people on their first day lying in the sun for too long (half hour?) and burning to a crisp. You usually don’t see them again, they are so sunburned or have sun poisoning. Even if you are already tan, you will burn again. Don’t ruin a too short vacation with stupidity. Wear your 30 sun block till you get a good coat!
A special note: We met great people and have known great people at the Playa Linda. A special hello to: Mike, Cary, Steve, Theresa, Lisa, Jamie, John and Marella, and especially Stan and Kim! Ayo. Marianne & Mike