Aruba Trip Reports

La Cabana

December 19 - December 26, 2002 by The Bennetts


Our family, consisting of Dwight and Debbie (50-ish), children, Patrick (24), attending Concord College in Elementary Education (for his second degree), and Sarah (21) attending Harvard Law School, and Nina, Debbie's mother, left the frozen hills of West Virginia at midnight to drive to the Greensboro, NC airport to leave at 6:00am for the first flight of our 3-leg trip to Aruba. (Never again! We will take a more direct route next time. We paid $850/person and after we bought tickets, rates dropped to $441 nonstop from Charlotte.)

The family arrived safely in Aruba at 2:45pm to a typical sunny Aruba day, hot and breezy. It was wonderful to be there. We walked over to Optima car rental and picked up our Toyota Corolla station wagon. This took about five minutes. We were on our way to La Cabana. One thing I noticed right away was that the island seemed much cleaner than last year. I had read that the island was having regular litter clean-ups, and it shows.

Snorkeling, Coast and Cave

In a weak moment last year we decided to purchase two side-by-side timeshares for week 51. I had worried ever since, especially after reading some entries on the Aruba Internet Bulletin Boards, that La Cabana might not be to our liking, as we prefer peace and quiet. In fact, we were more than pleased with our accommodations. Our 1-bedroom suites are located in the right wing toward Paradise Beach Villas, garden view. These are the "cheapies", but after being there a couple of days, we decided that we had the best location. We could see the ocean fairly well, the grounds were very attractive with flowers, grass and waving palms, and we could sit on our quiet balcony or near windows without feeling like we were on display to everyone in the pool area. Our car was parked just a few steps from the stairway. La Cabana was well-maintained and service was prompt.

Friday we did some exploring around the California Lighthouse/Natural Bridge area. We explored mostly by car this vacation because my husband, Dwight, is suffering from a severe back injury and cannot walk well, and my mom has feet problems. Both are able to ride in a car reasonably well. Thankfully many sites are visible from a car window. We enjoyed delicious smoothies at the store beside Natural Bridge.

The little Alto Vista chapel, built in the 1700s, drew us in for some medication and prayer. It was deserted, but candles were glowing and a decorated Christmas tree stood in one corner. The chapel stands alone in a field of cacti with the sea in the distance. We worked our way around the north point of the island to Arashi Beach where some of us snorkeled for a while. We didn't see many big fish that day, but saw rivers of silver minnows flowing over the bottom. There must have been millions, streaming over and around rocks and in multiple levels.

The coast lines - See our Resort La Cabana

In the evenings, the young people explored on their own, away from us old fogies. Our children get along well together. They said several people asked if they were in Aruba on honeymoon! We may be from West Virginia, but our family trees branch! Patrick especially enjoyed some kind of tire squealing competition at the Black Hog Saloon.

Saturday we explored some of Arikok National Park, winding around cacti and divi divi trees, and finally found our way to Andicuri Beach. I had always wanted to try swimming there since I saw it on a jeep tour last year because it looked like it had nice frisky waves, but we couldn't make it there from Natural Bridge without a 4WD. We made it over a barely passable road from Santa Cruz, and what a beautiful sight it was as we topped the mountain. Sure enough, the waves were there. Beyond a scary backwash, the current wasn't so bad. The waves were large and clear, and were lots of fun. Every once in a while a giant wave would appear out of nowhere and scare the daylights out of us, but all was well and no one got washed away! That afternoon, we snorkeled at Catalina. The minnows were gone and the colorful tropical fish were back.
That evening we ate at E Piscada, a seafood restaurant within La Cabana grounds. We all tried something different and had fun sampling each other's meals.

Sunday morning Sarah and I took a three-hour horseback ride with Rancho Notorious. Our guide, Tessa, was from the Netherlands, and the three of us had a fun morning. Our trail took us through the hills, by the north shore, among the white dunes, below the California Lighthouse and along Arashi and Malmok beaches. We rode cute little Paso Fino horses with their peculiar gaits. Galloping against the Aruba wind made us feel like we were flying.

That afternoon we all went to Baby Beach. Sarah and I snorkeled out past the inlet, where I managed to let my underwater disposable camera float away.

We later climbed around the rugged Seroe Colorado cliffs. That whole area looks like rusty iron. There are "bottomless" holes a car could fall into and fault lines everywhere, making us tread gently. Monstrous waves crashed into the cliffs. I once experienced a hurricane at Cape Hatteras, but I have never seen such waves as were exploding on the east side of Aruba that day. Spray shot up over 100' (I have pictures to prove it). There was one area at the very end of the cliff that was a square natural pool that the waves would fill, then the water would flow out in a waterfall.

Alto Vista Chapel and more

We drove northward, passing windsurfers and kite surfers at Boca Grandi, saw the colorful huts and goats at Grapefield and made our way to Dos Playa, a beach similar to Andicuri. It was getting dark, so we headed back to town, pretty well worn out.

Monday morning the three generations of girls shopped (till I dropped). It was just supposed to be a short shopping trip until my Mom got interested in a diamond from Shivas. We did not get back until 3:00pm-my Mom flashing her new rock. Sarah and I collected Patrick and we played in one of La Cabana's pools, the one with the large water slide. I am not too old to go down backwards.

Tuesday we took the Tranquilo six-hour snorkeling trip. It was just as nice as everyone said it would be. My favorite part was the drift snorkeling at Spanish Lagoon. Captain Anthony took the "advanced snorkelers" on this trip. (Hey, how "advanced" can snorkeling get? Sarah and I figured we could manage it…) We crossed huge waves in the rubber-sided dinghy out to the sea side of a little island. The water was about 25' deep and the corals were huge. Some fans looked as big as cars, waving back and forth with the current. One of our more "advanced" companions told us to pinch our noses and blow to equalize pressure in our ears when we swam deeply to better visualize the corals. That really helped.

The homemade pea soup made by Captain Anthony's mother was delicious and filling (looked like it had salami, onions, celery and other vegetables in it). They also provided salmon or ham sandwiches, cheese and watermelon. Plenty of fruit punch, with or without rum, sodas or juice. Most of the folks fell asleep lying on the deck for the return trip. Not me, I didn't want to miss anything.

That evening La Cabana had a candlelight Christmas Eve church service that we attended. The carol accompaniment was by acoustic guitar. It helped us remember that it really was Christmas.

Christmas Day, Wednesday, we three older folks went to Arikok and drove around the Cunucu some more while Pat and Sarah hung around the La Cabana pool and Eagle Beach. The white dunes near Boca Prins were lovely, and we walked through the Fontein Caves. The caves were more impressive that I anticipated. You are not allowed to go all the way to the back as there are endangered species of bats there that the park is trying to protect. A park service ranger told us the caves go back another 1500 ft past where the public is allowed. Still, we saw stalactites, stalagmites, columns, a small spring and the Indian drawings.

That afternoon Rick and I went snorkeling at Catalina Beach. He didn't last long with his bad back, so he left me to snorkel alone for a couple of hours. I loved every minute of it. We had snorkeled this reef last year, and I was surprised how much more live coral is present this year. Aruba must be doing a lot to improve its ocean water quality there. We saw fish of all descriptions, squid and an octopus. I found myself in a school of angelfish that followed me around. A pointer for underwater picture taking: dive under and get close for better, more colorful pictures. Coral that appears greenish brown from the top of the water is a brilliant yellow up close. The same goes for the blues, greens and pinks.

We had Christmas dinner that night at La Petite Café. We were served wonderfully seasoned steak, seafood and lightly cooked vegetables on very hot stones, supposedly Caribbean style. Cold Pina Coladas and Nutty Monkeys were delicious and complemented the hot food.

After dinner the three generations spent some bonding time lying in lounge chairs beside the main pool watching the stars and wishing we didn't have to leave the next day.


Thursday morning Sarah and I got up very early and went back to Catalina to snorkel one last time before we flew home. We were tempted by the Antilla wreck, sticking out of the water about 500 yards offshore. We swam out to it, not a trip I would recommend for the faint of heart. It was worth it though. We got a good look at the upper parts of the wreck and watched scuba divers below (who did stir up the sand some and produced a world of bubbles). The swim back was even worse that the swim out, as we were going against the waves. Eventually we made it to calmer water and floated around the reef to rest. I saw my first spotted moray eel slithering around the bottom in and out of rocks. Kind of reminded me of an Indiana Jones movie (Raiders of the Lost Ark) where the snakes came out of holes.

At 11:00 we decided we better get back to La Cabana for our noon check-out. Believe it or not we made it and even had a quick dip in the pool before heading for the airport. Returning the car was easy as pie and we were on our way home to 6 inches of snow. Merry Christmas and welcome to reality!