Disclosure: This is a collaborative post with the Aruba Tourism Authority UK, but the words and opinions below are my own.
Where will you be heading this summer? If you are anything like me, you have already made up your mind. If you are still struggling to pick a destination, you might want to consider adding Aruba to your list of dream destinations. You could even win a trip there. Best be quick!
The Caribbean is a popular destination among travellers across the globe and the islands are now becoming increasingly more accessible. I have been to the Caribbean Islands myself on two occasions, once to visit the Dominican Republic and again when we went to Jamaica. But I had never heard of the little Dutch island known as Aruba.
So when the Aruba Tourism Authority asked me to help promote Aruba and its cuisine, I have to admit that I got rather excited. Visions of blue skies and white sands danced before my eyes… That is until I realised I wasn’t going to be flying off to the Caribbean. Instead I was lucky enough to receive a hamper with a selection of Caribbean foods and drinks to give me a taste of Aruba.
Aruba will have to wait for another year. For now, I shall dream of beaches on a remote Caribbean Islands and sample the various Caribbean Goodies packed into my hamper.
Perhaps you are planning a trip to Aruba or maybe you are simply surfing the net for some travel inspiration. Either way, I’ve got you covered! Here is an introduction to Aruba for those of you who aren’t familiar with the Island and 10 Foodie Spots not to miss on your next trip!
Aruba is a tiny Dutch Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela. The island is just 19 miles long and 6 miles across and lies around 15 miles north of Venezuela. The island is home to glorious white beaches and a ruggedly beautiful landscape. The European influence is clearly noticeable. Dutch gables mingle with tropical pastels and palm trees.
The island has nearly perfect weather all year-round with temperatures that don’t fluctuate far from the 28C mark. There is barely a rainy day and constant trade winds keep things cool.
Aruba certainly sounds like a heavenly beach holiday location to me!
There are countless treasures located all over Aruba, so renting a car is one of the best ways to explore the island while you work up an appetite.
Caribbean food in general is a melting pot of different cuisines and Aruba’s cuisine has been influenced by more than 90 nationalities!
For such a small island, Aruba has quite a diverse population. French, African, Indian, Chinese, and dozens of other ethnic groups have all left their mark on the country’s food culture.
First settled by the Spanish in the 15th century, Aruba became a Dutch colony a few hundred years later. Aruban cuisine thus has strong influences from both Holland and Spain. South America is less than a few hundred miles away, and it too has shaped Aruban food.
Essentially, Aruban cuisine is a little bit of everything and that’s exactly what makes it so interesting.
Although the island is not huge, there are definitely a lot of choices when it comes to dining. Hopefully, this list will help you out if you are planning your own trip to paradise!
5 FOODIE SPOTS NOT TO MISS IN ARUBA
PANCAKES FOR BREAKFAST AT LINDAS
Being a Dutch colony, one thing Aruba is very well known for is their pancakes. With more than one restaurant on the island serving these famous pancakes, choosing one might be hard Linda’s is a family restaurant that has been serving authentic Dutch Pancakes for over 13 years.
There’s no better place to enjoy savoury Dutch favourites like Bacon and Gouda cheese or the succulent Apple and Bacon. You can also create your own masterpiece with a choice of 40+ toppings! If for some (bizarre) reason you’re not in the mood for crepes, Linda’s also serves pizza, soups, sandwiches, tenderloin, and stays open until 10 PM Mondays through Saturdays.
DINNER IN BED AT SCREAMING EAGLE
This French fusion restaurant situated at the beautiful Eagle Beach features a trendy Miami style décor with both indoor and open-air terrace sitting options.
At Screaming Eagle you can combine gourmet dining with dinner in bed. Cuddle up in one of their chic but comfortable lounge beds and enjoy a three course dinner that will knock your socks off.
The menu items include mouth-watering Peruvian ceviche, creme brûlée and Hungarian duck liver, escargots de Bourgogne, lobster bisque, and a fresh catch of the day. While paying tribute to the French classics Screaming eagle likes to play with unusual food combinations and experiment with never done before pairings. It’s Aruba a la Francaise!
MAKE YOUR OWN KESHI YENA FROM SCRATCH
One of the most traditional foods you can try in Aruba is Keshi Yena. Served fresh out of the oven, this cheesy, melty, wholesome dish is one of the island’s comfort food. Keshi Yena is a reflection of Aruba’s melting pot of culture.
Starting with the shell of a traditional Edam or Dutch gouda cheese, you then add just about every ingredient in the kitchen- from spiced meat, to olives to raisins to capers to ketchup! Sounds somewhat strange but is actually seriously delicious.
You can try some Keshi Yena at the West Deck Island Grill. The restaurant itself is right on the beach, in the open air, and perfectly charming. Alternatively, you could try and make your own from scratch at Aruba Marriott Resort.
ARUBIAN HERITAGE AT PAPIAMENTO
Tucked away in the quiet town of Noord, Papiamento occupies a 126-year-old heritage home. The historic Aruban manor house was built in 1886 and recently fully restored and transformed into an intimate fine-dining restaurant. Look out for century-old antiques speckled around the property and pick a wine from their historic wine cellar, featuring 1800 bottles of international vintages.
Owned by the Ellis family, this antique restaurant serves authentic high-end local cuisine year round. Food is crafted using local spices and herbs, and the extensive menu caters to diners of all tastes. Papiamento is another great place to try the famous Keshi Yena.
DON’T MISS THE CATCH OF THE DAY AT ZEEROVERS
All the locals rave about the catch-of-the-day at Zeerovers. Meaning “pirate” in Dutch, Zeerovers serves up fresh seafood straight from the sea. Make sure to arrive early enough to see local fishermen bringing in their “catch of the day”.
Expect to find shrimp and deep-fried reef fish served in a casual, low-key atmosphere.
Grab a seat on the back patio, Vhoose from five basic items (fish, shrimp, french fries, plantain and corn bread) and grab a seat on the back patio. You can watch your food being prepared or enjoy the view of the Sea.
A TASTE OF ARUBA IN A HAMPER
So while the winner of the competition jets off to Aruba, I will be sitting at home, tucking into my Caribbean food hamper, which included some store cupboard essentials well as a great Caribbean cookery book.
My selection included a couple of naughty treats such as caramel filled Stroopwaffels, Shirley biscuits and plantain chips. They were the first to go.
I also found a Caribbean jerk spice mix in the hamper. I have been a huge fan of jerk Chicken, ever since I had my first taste of it on the Street Side in Jamaica. So you can be sure that the spice mix will come to good use.
To add a little more heat to the mix, Aruba Tourism Authority sent me a delicious sweet/spicy papaya hot sauce. I can clearly taste the papaya for a few seconds, before the sauce takes off the roof of my mouth. Caution will be necessary when adding this to dishes.
I was pleased to see two bottles of Banks beer, a lager that is popular across the region of Aruba. It’s that light, slightly dry kind of lager that is so easy to drink on holiday, or even just at your next barbecue!
Also in my hamper of goodies was a little sachet of Speculaas spice mix and a Speculaas biscuit mould. My grandparents live on the Dutch border and I have many Dutch friends, so I have loved Speculaas biscuits since I was a little girl. The question remains, though, will I be able to bake my own?
Finally I was also sent a copy Caribbean Modern, a Caribbean cookbook filled with recipes from the rum Islands written by Shivi Ramoutar. It’s a very vivid, evocative book and I cannot wait to give the recipes a try.
So has all this talk of perfect white beaches and delicious food given you an appetite for Aruba as well? Do you want to experience the magic of Aruba yourself?
Well, to celebrate Aruba’s Eat Local – Restaurant Week this October, Aruba Tourism Authority UK is currently hosting a fantastic competition. If you participate you could win a luxury holiday to Aruba! And who wouldn’t want that!
All you need to do to enter is visit their Facebook Page and choose the Aruban restaurant you’d most like to dine in for a chance to win this awesome holiday.