Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao
Awesome Excursions on the ABC’s
by Susan Campbell
The Dutch Caribbean triumvirate of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao (ABC) offer cruise visitors some unique island adventures
“Shake and Bake” Scenic Snorkel Tour
There’s lot of great upscale shopping and a new free eco-trolley for cruise visitors in downtown Oranjestad, and the beaches are within easy reach of the cruise terminal and some of the best in the Caribbean. But if you really want do something different and get a feel of Aruba’s arid and rugged interior then a jeep safari to the scenic natural pool called “conchi” for a surreal snorkel is a must. Some call it the “ shake and bake tour” because it’s hot, dusty and bumpy, and the drivers love to make you bounce -even driving straight up rock cliffs sometimes! But it’s a ton of fun and also covers some of Aruba’s other signature landmarks like the Alto Vista Church and the fallen natural bridge. And no doubt, you’ll be surprised at how arid and cacti-studded the interior of the little island is- no wonder they nicknamed it “The Rock”! It is certainly no lush tropical paradise, but it does have a stark and haunting beauty all of its own. And the wild restless sea cresting the natural pool where you snorkel is constantly storming the perimeter causing cold sprays of sea to cascade upon you without warning. It’s an awesome experience and the scenery is stellar. But be forewarned that there is a long steep staircase down to the pool and it’s not handicapped accessible. The rocks can also became very slippery around the pool so take extra caution when entering the water.
DePalm Tours is best outfit to do this tour with-cruise terminal pick-up and drop- off included.
Cactus Cocktail Anyone?
Long known as a “Diver’s Paradise” (it’s even on their license plates) Bonaire also offers some fabulous snorkeling right offshore and is also one of the best places on the planet to learn to windsurf at Lac Bai. But if you are seeking something completely different then head to the interior village of Rincon to try the only liqueur in the world made with cactus! Cadushy of Bonaire is a unique distillery founded by Eric and Jolande Gietman offering not only the world’s only cactus spirits but also many other artisanal liqueurs, rums and whisky using ingredients specifically from the Dutch Caribbean islands. You can sample them all in their tasting gardens, try some signature cocktails like their famous Green Bonaire, see how they are made, and purchase some for souvenirs. The small village of Rincon where it’s located was the first established colony on Bonaire. The Spanish settled inland to avoid detection from passing ships. It’s worth a walk about as well to see some interesting historical sites and local culture while you’re there. You can purchase self-guiding booklets at the distillery produced by the Bonaire Heritage Foundation.
Cruise visitors can visit The Cadushy Distillery through booking a local tour operator- there are many in town right off the dock, ask for a North Tour which includes a stop in Rincon and the tasting gardens.
Explore the Depths Without Diving
Though the city of Willemstad is definitely worth a stroll through for excellent history and culture, after all it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, you might also want to do something very out of the ordinary to explore the island’s underwater beauty. You need not even know how to snorkel (though you must be able to swim,) in order to ride the unique Aquafari vehicle under the waves up to 30 ft. below, You need only breath normally as the air is supplied by a tank to a giant bell helmet. The vehicle moves slowly, and the group is guided and overseen by a diver. These underwater scooters are an incredible way to get up close and personal with marine life without any certification. The adventure is safe, fun and absolutely surreal. You can have a lunch and a beach break at the surfside emporium Pirate’s Bay next next door.