When I was a Wall Street lawyer, the idea of vacationing with coworkers was about as fantastical as it got—given that most vacations consisted of weeping uncontrollably behind the frozen yogurt machine. Hence, when Presidents’ Day weekend and my former coworker Aline’s departure from Wachtell aligned, there was only one thing to do: third-wheel Aline and Jason to Aruba.
Bita ta dushi (“Life is Good.”)
One Happy [Fried] Island
Given that I’d be heading back to the Caribbean within a week for Carnival, I was glad to get the forewarning that kale and fat-free turkey would be in short supply on Aruba. I think our first night’s stop at Zeerover’s summed it up right away. We picked some gorgeous fish and shrimp straight from the cooler, and everything went immediately into the fryer before we could scream “can’t you just ceviche that?” The closest we got to American fast food was gawking at the ever-larger succession of McDonald’s and Pizza Huts (one was the size of a warehouse!) from the car, but otherwise I highly recommend the new Salt+Water Diet. Basically, you only inhale air directly from the ocean, and drink delicious desalinized water. It’s phe.no.men.al.
Life’s A Beach
Beaches are why most go to Aruba, and we were no exception. First stop was sunset at Eagle Beach: glorious. Unmarred white sand, a clear horizon except for oil tankers dotting the edges and, given the low season, barely a tourist in sight. Arashi Beach the next day was even better. $40 American got us umbrellas, beach chairs and an uncluttered view of absolutely crystalline waters with more white sand. I was reminded of Culebra in Puerto Rico, perhaps my favorite beach in the world. I was also reminded of the futility of the salaryman’s rigid routines against such awe-inspiring natural beauty, all the while making my friends spend up to 45 minutes positioning the sunlight just right so my abs would pop.
Aruba’s beaches aren’t known for seashells or particularly exciting sea life, but there were a lot of glistening clams that looked like they’d been etched out of translucent ivory and I chased a few fish in a free swim out at the seaweed beds. You’ll get Finding Nemo jokes later. Our midday trek to the California lighthouse was quickly terminated when a half-dozen tour buses encircled us, but we were left alone when we headed out to the gold mine ruins and the (collapsed; don’t pump up your kids before you go) natural bridge in the north.
The real win, however, was our swing down the southwest end of Aruba, where we found this.
Mangel Halto is the closest thing I’ve seen to the Maldives in the Americas.* Mangroves and shallow reefs curving around impossibly turquoise water, with the incongruous cacti and aloe ringing the cliffs above. More importantly, some kind of mysterious wooden structure (man-made? Or left by birds?) allowed us to spend hours posing and checking our iPhone filters as the sun beamed overhead. #enjoyparadise
*I haven’t actually been to the Maldives, but I’ve seen lots of screensavers.