Best Things to Do in Aruba Begins with a Choose Your Own Adventure

Best Things to do in Aruba

When Marissa and I first started dating, I always wanted to go out for exotic meals. Marissa liked her Rodeo Bar burgers or Cinema Restaurant salads. She was not the most adventurous eater. I liked Marissa, so I was worried. A girl’s interest in food had been a deal-breaker before. I had once gone on a date with a vegetarian to my favorite restaurant and after realizing that I couldn’t order my go-to dishes, there was no second date. I couldn’t allow Marissa’s diet of burgers and salad to stand in our way. So I devised a game.


“Here’s how it works,” I began. “We write down the names of a cuisine on little pieces of paper. Whenever we go out for dinner, we pick a slip of paper, and whatever we select has to be the cuisine that we eat.”


“That sounds fun,” she said.


I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Instead of suggesting foods that she would nix, now we were leaving our gastronomical fate to a ceramic bowl and scraps of paper. (I think religions start this way, too.) For the first few bowl-decided dates, all went swimmingly. First came Italian. The next was Vietnamese. For about six or seven dates, there were never any objections. But then we got Indian and she asked for a redo.


I tell this story because it reminded me of my recent trip to Aruba, where our hotel, the Boardwalk Small Hotel, presented Marissa and I (and our infant daughter Harper) with a similar experience. Each room at the Boardwalk had something called a “Treasure Box”. Inside each box were laminated cards that the hotel staff had pre-selected, featuring island adventures, cultural experiences, and local dining suggestions. Essentially, the best things to do in Aruba.


Each day guests are meant to pick a card from the box and do the prescribed activity. Now, while it’s not exactly the same as our you-are-forced-to-eat-this-cuisine-game, as guests can select the adventure that appeals to them, it had the appeal of forcing fun on travelers who often opt for the cliche Caribbean experience. “Honey, which of the hotel’s restaurants do you want to dine at for breakfast? How about lunch? Dinner? Oh and be sure to rent two lounge chairs on our busy beach no more than seven meters from the aforementioned hotel that we won’t leave until our flight home.”


While I selected some great experiences, from paddleboarding the Spanish Lagoon to kitesurfing Aruba’s famed winds, there were some options that I nixed immediately.


“Why would I want to barbecue on my patio?” I asked my wife, thinking about all of the work involved in making dinner. I love to cook, it’s just that traveling makes me want to eat all of the amazing things other people cook.


On my first morning in Aruba, I paddleboarded the Spanish Lagoon and asked my guide for his favorite restaurants.


He gave me his top five, (which I later cross-checked with a few other locals). On small island nations, you can never be too sure, whose cousin owns what establishment.


But my guide threw in a disturbing fact: “How is it that every restaurant always has a sign that reads Fresh Fish of the Day: Grouper? Sometimes there cannot be fresh grouper because the seas are too rough for days and the boats don’t go out. I see them at the docks. You have to go fifteen miles off shore to fish grouper.”


He estimated that a disturbingly large number of restaurants might be disguising vacuum-packed, imported fish as the local catch of the day.


After we paddleboarded the Spanish Lagoon, we removed our boards from the water at a dock. There, an old fisherman, instead of offering the trite tales of his former life on the seas, gave me the gossip of the docks. “Those guys are good fisherman. That guy has never caught a fish in his life. That guy uses drugs. One of these days I’m going to tie him up so he don’t come down here no more.”


Suddenly, word from the sea came in and everyone gathered. Two brothers had been out since 4:30 pm the day before–it was twenty hours later–and they were coming back with a bounty.


The boat came in. The brothers looked like beastly cage fighters–in fact, one was a cage fighter. But when they moved to unload their large white coolers, their struggled expressions and deep grunts read like a scale. They had brought back hundreds of pounds of fish.


When they displayed their catch to the local men, the ones with money quickly bid on twelve-pound groupers and pink-skinned red snappers. There were dozens of fresh fish to be had.


On the drive back to the Boardwalk my instructor asked me, “Did you decide where you will eat tonight?”


I had, but I was disappointed. I should have selected the barbecue option.




Posted on by Noah Lederman in Canada & The Caribbean, Somewhere

2 Responses to Best Things to Do in Aruba Begins with a Choose Your Own Adventure

  1. Craig

    I really like this “pick a slip from the bowl” idea, I don’t know why I never thought of it before. I always have trouble with my spouse figuring out where to go to eat, this solves it pretty easily and is fun. Great idea!
    Craig recently posted…How to Spend One Day in New OrleansMy Profile

    • Noah Lederman

      Thanks Craig. It’s a fun idea, but you have to have a solution for the inevitable protests if you’re partnered up with a picky eater.

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