Back to Aruba    8-30-2004

The "Back to Aruba" Trip. Yes you read correctly, it was back to Aruba. A little bit of explanation might be in order for this trip. As it happened that the search for a new job was going slow, and the current job almost dead for lack of work, it seemed a good time to take a vacation.

With Louise having just started a new job and no time off, and with the guys in the gang, currently lacking funds, I decided to go alone. Never having gone on a vacation by myself I thought it might prove interesting.

I also thought it would be a good idea to try out some new travel accessories, to see what worked and what didn't. The plan was to rent a bike and ride from the hotel area to the NW tip of the island where they have a lighthouse. They also had a Party Bus and a Party Boat trip that looked interesting.

What Worked and What didn't:
Vacuum Packing Bags - No. Kinda like large Zip lock Bags that you put your cloths in, then you roll them up to remove the air and seal the bag. The idea is to use less space, but the reality is that the packing material takes up more space than you save. Combined with the problem that it's harder to pack a few Big items than a lot of little items.

Solumbra Sun Clothing - Mixed Review. Vented long sleave shirt and pants to keep the sun off you, but stay cool at the same time. Yes, the clothing works and it works well. Strange but the long sleaves and pants were cooler than shorts because it kept the direct sun off of you. I give it a Mixed rated, cause it just plain looked goofey. I got the feeling that I was more of a tourist attraction than the attractions after a while.

Coolmax Shirt - An Absolute Must Have. A Mesh shirt made from 100% polyester. The shirt is semi-transparent under extreme back lighting, so women may want to wear a sports bra, but it otherwise looks like a regular shirt. Incredibly cool, and drys in minutes. Best of all, the shirt can be washed in the sink at night and will be bone dry and ready to wear the next morning. About $15 dollars at JcPenny's.

REI Columbia Shorts - Excellent. Very thin polyester shorts from REI. The difference in comfort between these and my normal shorts was very significant. Costly for shorts, about $33, they were worth the cost.

Mp3 Walkman - Excellent. A cheap ($30) walkman that plays Mp3 Cd's. Given the price I didn't have to worry about it getting stolen, or worry about it getting ruined from sand on the beach. Add to the fact that I was able to make mp3 copies of the my cd's, I didn't even have to worry about my cd's getting lost or broken and you have a definite winner.

Inflatable Neck Pillow - Very nice. A small inflatable c-shaped pillow to keep your head from flopping around while you try to get some sleep on the plane or car. I've never been much for sleeping on planes, but this may change my mind.($14)

Noise Canceling Headphones - Good. Almost Science Fiction, but they do work (although maybe not as good as advertised. In short the headphones listen to the outside ambient noise and then generate a canceling sound wave to quiet things up. Works well enough that I will bring them the next time I travel by plane. The pair I got was the entry level for about $40. I've heard very good things about the high end model from Bose, but for $300 it's a little steep for the occasional traveler.

As far as the trip report overall, I do have some suggestions and recommendations.

I would NOT recommend the Manchebo Resort. I am very confused by all of the positive reviews on expedia and other travel sites re-guarding this resort. Yes the resort looks nice, the people are nice and the rooms quite satisfactory. But if I'm going to a beach resort in the Caribbean, the most important thing to me is the VIEW. What genius put the bar and the restaurant in a place that you can barely see the water I don't know. I do know that having a drink while watching the ocean, is one of the major reasons for going to a place like this.

The second problem with the resort was the bar and restaurant hours of operation. I wouldn't have even thought to ask how late the bar was open because who would have thought the bar closed at 8pm?. And for the final nail in the coffin, the beach was to far from the water. As you can see from the pictures, it looks very nice, but it's quite a hike out to the water which detracts from the experience.

I took a walk up and down the beach to see what some of the other resorts had to offer, and was very surprised by the difference in quality. One resort would have wonderful views from the bar and restaurant while the resort next door would be poorly laid out. If I go again I'll stay at the Divi Aruba. Wonderful views, excellent extras, and it's an all inclusive. When it was all said and done, I did not save that much money but no going the all inclusive route. Even a small breakfast was $13-$16 dollars after tip and the frozen drinks were $9. With these kind of prices $75 a day per person for meals and booze doesn't sound like as bad a deal.

On the positive side, I would recommend the KUKOO KUNUKU party bus. They pick you up at your hotel, drag you and 30 others around to 3-4 bars, give you some free drinks, then take you back. Quite fun. And if you want to take a trip to the seedier side of the island, Charlie's Bar is an interesting place to grab a drink.

As far as taking a vacation by yourself goes, it's a mixed bag.(It would have been more fun with my wife but don't tell her.) I think that the best combination would be to go with someone else, but have a single day that you each just 'do your own thing'. I'll give it a shot next time and tell you all how it goes.

And of course, now for some picures.

The Manchebo Resort

1-2. View from the Hotel Room
3. They do have an incredible beach
4. Spa Area





The Island

5. Lizards are numerous as squirrels are in NC
6. Public Park and Beach Near the High rise Area.
7. Arashi Beach
8. Aruban Wheelchair Ramp?





The North Island Dunes Area

On the north tip of the island is a natural area with sand dunes and a true feel of what a "Desert Island" is like without man made water. It is not listed as a natural park on the maps but it looks like you are allowed to walk around anywhere and there is a dirt/sand road. The lighthouse is also in this area. The last pictures is from the lighthouse, but I didn't have enough overlap in the photos to make a true panorma.





Just Cool

On the flight back there was a cool lightning storm in the distance. It took about 20 pictures to get a single picture with a lightning bolt but I managed one.