Aruba shows off it’s many (beautiful) sides

The more one cruises in the islands, the more apparent it becomes that each individual island—like individual people—has its own distinct personality. Some are quiet, fiercely independent and guard their shores with menacing appearances, while others are easily approached and carefree, with a warm, welcoming and happy nature. I found Aruba’s tourism tagline of “One happy island” to be true, but I discovered the island has many other personas as well, which makes getting to know it all the more beguiling.

Scarcely 15 miles off the northern coast of Venezuela, the 19.6-mile-long, 6-mile-wide island of Aruba is the western-most of the Lesser Antilles’ ABC islands—Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. For the casual or infrequent cruiser, its remote off-the-beaten-path location disqualifies it as a cruising destination. However, for cruisers comfortable with venturing farther—as well as for avid sportfishermen and yachts heading to or from the Panama Canal or even Colombia, which is actively promoting itself as a cruising destination—Aruba is a convenient and worthwhile stopover out of the hurricane belt.

Warm Weather, Warmer People

Its climate alone—the average temperature is 82 degrees year-round—entices a longer or repeat visit, but it also has the largest desalination system in the Caribbean for pure, clean water right from the tap that’s low on minerals and chlorination ensuring a spotless finish on yachts.

Clearing customs in Aruba is different from what cruisers may be used to on other islands. Upon arrival, all vessels must proceed immediately to the official port of entry at Barcadera Harbor located three miles south of Port Oranjestad (Aruba’s capital city). According to Renaissance Marina Manager Sander Vellinga, Aruba’s clearance process is well-organized and efficient, and the procedures are explained and documents are available at  Renaissance Marina.

Renaissance Marina is in the heart of downtown Oranjestad and has 50 slips with Med-style mooring up to 200′ LOA. The average size of visiting yachts is 90-140′ in the marina, which has an entrance depth of 12.5′ with a 1.5-foot tide change. Since the marina is in the middle of downtown away from the beaches further north, the resort owns two private beaches accessed by a free courtesy shuttle (no personal tenders are allowed on their private beaches). Marina guests have full access to all hotel facilities as well, which comes in handy when relatives invite themselves for a visit. Renaissance Marina is an in-water marina only, but haul-out and marine services are available at Varadero Marina located close to the airport.

Cruising Paradise?

Conveniently for cruisers, the six-month cruising permit is put on hold once their boat is hauled-out and moved past a specific gate at Varadero Marina. “Aruba has a good infrastructure and does not charge duty on parts, so it’s fairly cost-effective to have work done here,” says Vellinga, who has also published an Aruba cruising guide. For those who prefer being on the hook as opposed to marinas, the bay known as Surfside is a popular and calm anchorage with little to no coral and has a nice beach area directly in front of the Aruba Tourism Authority office.