How to Enjoy Aruba Sustainably
Visitors can join the island’s push toward 100 percent renewable energy sources by embracing the island’s beauty au naturel.
Aruba is redefining the concept of island life: Yes, there are still desultory days lazing on sugar-sand beaches, but increasingly, it also refers to a sustainable way of life. A Caribbean island with a population just over 100,000, Aruba is showing the way forward to sustainability at a time when modestly sized island nations are acutely exposed to the threats of climate change. Definitive actions, such as banning single-use plastics, have inspired the residents to respect the island’s assets while working toward a fully sustainable Aruba. Visitors looking to embrace the island’s eco-consciousness have myriad ways to do so while enjoying every bit of their heavenly beach vacation.
Exploring the Outback and Beyond
Though famous for its extraordinary white sands and crystal blue waters, Aruba is primarily a desert island with fascinating rock formations and dramatic fields of huge candlestick cactus. Visitors can take in the island’s sprawling natural wonders on bike or horseback tours by Rancho Notorious (Boroncana Noord, ranchonotorious.com), which has routes for all degree of expertise, led by an award-winning Dutch cycling champion.
For those who want to see the outback without roughing it, there is a more comfortable, though gas-powered, option. With Aruba Private Tours (Pos Abou 2N, Oranjestad, privatetoursaruba.com), a congenial guide chauffeurs participants in an SUV through an itinerary customized to their preferences, be they hard-to-reach beaches or the stunning natural pool.
Even if you’re not interested in the desert, biking is still the healthy way to see Aruba — for you and the environment. Green Bike Aruba (Ponton 69.2, Oranjestad, greenbikearuba.com) allows you to tool around town and the major resort areas with rentals ranging from an hour to a week. Cycle stations are situated at eight convenient locations, so you can go shopping in Oranjestad with no worries about parking.
Hikes and Horseback in Arikok National Park
Much of the outback area can be found in Arikok National Park, Aruba’s prime nature preserve comprising 18 percent of the island, which also contains green forest canopies, breathtaking coast lines and the island’s famous caves. There are groomed trails for hiking as well as horseback or specialized mountain bike tours, all of which leave no carbon footprint. Complimentary maps lay out the most interesting hiking trails and detail the difficulty, distance and approximate time for completion. There are over a dozen paths leading to gorgeous beaches or unique sights found only within the park.
The Cunucu Arikok trail is an easy, two-hour hike to and from the park’s visitor center. It takes you through level, groomed paths to a 200-year-old country home, for an authentic peek into colonial times. The pinnacle of Jamanota, Aruba’s highest peak, can be reached by either a gently sloping paved road, or a strenuous trail carved straight up through the surrounding forest.
An ideal afternoon is exploring the park and northern coast on horseback with Rancho Loco (Sombre, Santa Cruz, rancholocoaruba.com). Tour routes include galloping on north coast beach or stopping to swim at the natural pool.
Snorkeling and Diving
The best way to learn to respect the marine environment is to experience it in all its glory, whether you choose to stay at the surface with snorkel gear or delve the depths while scuba diving. After all, the diver’s motto is, “Take only pictures and leave only bubbles.”
Red Sail Sports (Opal 58, redsailaruba.com) offers a complete diving and snorkeling menu, taking in shallow reefs along the western shore, drop-off reefs extending the length of the south side, and a variety of wrecks. The Caribbean’s second largest intact wreck, the Antilla, a scuttled German cargo ship from World War II, is a remarkable experience.
Yoga by Land and Sea
Yoga exemplifies the concept of sustainability for the body and spirit. SUP (stand-up paddleboard) yoga, performed on the water while focusing your chi, is a recent addition to Aruba’s meditative offerings. If keeping your balance doesn’t quite work for you, beach yoga sessions are certain to feed your soul, as is the craft beer included in the sunset session conducted by Vela Sports Aruba (L.G. Smith Blvd. 101, velaaruba.com).
Sustainability on Aruba also means preserving and supporting the island’s artistic and cultural heritage. Many fine local artists specialize in handicrafts that deploy driftwood and other found materials. Find their unique creations, all earning the official “Made in Aruba” certification, at Cosecha Cultural Center (Zoutmanstraat 1, arubacosecha.com), housed in a landmark building in Oranjestad. From jewelry made with rare seed pods or handmade glass beads to handcrafted skateboards, the offerings reflect Aruba’s culture of craftsmanship.