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Aruba v. Maui comparison

Discussion in 'Caribbean Timesharing' started by LisaRex, Dec 7, 2018.

  1. LisaRex

    LisaRex TUG Member

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    In another thread, we were asked about how Aruba compared to Maui. Below are my thoughts:

    Well, I'm back from Aruba and promised to report back on my impressions of Aruba as ann alternative to Maui. Here it is! Sorry for the novel!

    Topography

    My first impression of Aruba was that it was really, really flat and really, really dry. There are only a few hills and no mountains at all on the entire island. This is very different from the Hawaiian islands, whose mountains are named characters with personalities in their mythology. While Aruba is a volcanic island, it was covered in coral before it emerged from the ocean, so it's a white island, not lava black and green like the Hawaiian islands. You really need your sunglasses on Aruba because the sun coming off that bleached coral is really intense. And it looks more like a whitewashed Phoenix than Florida.

    Both islands have a resort side (west and south) and a windy side. But Maui is much bigger and has many micro-climates, including a 10,000 foot high mountain, deserts, and rain forests. Aruba's climates are: dry and windy, and dryer and windier.

    Aruba is small, too -- only 20 miles long and 6 miles wide. Much of the island is a national park, so no structure around save perhaps a wind farm or water tower. The entire east side of the island is barren and the sea is very rough there. Almost the entire populations lives on the west side, which is where the resorts are. They have a small downtown area as well, and traffic through there is predictably tough during certain times of the day.

    Weather

    Aruba is known for its predictable weather and its wind. It did not disappoint on this front. There were only a few times when the wind wasn't blowing either gently or fiercely, and it was noteworthy when it stopped. The wind also helped with the flies and mosquitoes. When we traveled at the end of November, the temperature was 78 low and 83 high every day, with cooling breezes making it almost the perfect temperature.

    Hawaii, of course, is known for its gorgeous weather. It's also known for its dreamy ambience, with tiki torches lining foliage-lined walkways and koi ponds. Ahhhh! While it CAN be rainy and/or humid in the tourist areas, it's consistently wonderful weather cannot be dismissed.

    While there's something to be said about Aruba's predictable 83 and sunny forecast, there's also something incredibly special about Hawaii's weather.

    Activities

    Snorkeling
    We love to snorkel. While Aruba had much better snorkeling than, say, St. Maarten, it's not as good as St. John. But I've yet to encounter anything that comes close to snorkeling Molokini on a calm day. The clear water, the diverse aquatic life...it's heaven on earth.

    Of course, to get to Molokini, you have to get on a boat. While snorkeling from the shore is possible in Hawaii, it's also much more difficult to get in and out of the water from shore thanks to the lava. On Aruba, because it's so flat, getting in and out of the water was very easy. Of course, that constant wind might blow you out to sea, but the good news is that you're not instantly in over your head like in Hawaii.
    Other Water Activities

    In terms of other water activities, there were definitely more touristy water activities on Aruba, from parasailing to jet skiing, to swimming to snorkeling to kite surfing than you'll see on a typical Hawaiian beach. And they're usually affordable. The Caribbean, because of its calmer seas, just has more to offer for water lovers than Hawaii.

    While Hawaii is an oceanic community, without a doubt, it's just not as emphasized as in the Caribbean. But it's not missed too much because there's so much more to do in Hawaii that doesn't involve the ocean because it's so much bigger. If you're into hiking or biking or running or stargazing or horseback riding...well, Maui has it all.

    And, it's also worth stating that even though I've been to Maui a half a dozen times, I've never run out of things to do. In Aruba, there might still be one or two activities on my wish list, I'd cover them all in one or two trips.


    Reputation

    One of the main reasons I chose Aruba, outside of the fact that it was below the hurricane belt, is that many people (often strangers) spoke so positively of it. Like Hawaiiphiles, there are definitely Arubaphiles. As the saying goes, 50,000 fans can't be wrong.

    Logistics

    Getting to Hawaii from Ohio is an all-day affair on the way there and all-night affair on the way back. Add in a 5 to 6 hour time difference, and I'm zombified by the time I arrive and for a few days after I return. For this reason, I plan to stay at least 10 days in Hawaii, if not longer. Aruba is just one hour difference, so adjusting to the time change is much, much easier. A week's stay is quite doable.

    Flight times from most of the East/Midwest to Aruba are very good, with many cities enjoying direct flights. In theory, even with a layover, we could depart at 7am and arrive by 2:30pm Aruba time (3:30pm our time). That's not bad. On the way back, it's not so great (we left at 3:50 and arrived at 11:30pm (10:30pm Aruba time)). But it was mitigated because we were still arising/sleeping on the same schedule. Even though we didn't hit the sheets til 1am, I was able to get up the next day and play tennis at noon. I could never do that following a Hawaiian red eye.

    However. Aruba is still a foreign country and with that comes hassle. Getting through Customs and making sure you have a current passport, blah blah blah. It adds time and hassle that I'd rather do without. On the way home, we were advised to arrive at noon for a 3:50pm flight. No matter how you slice it, that's a looong day. The only positive is that you can clear US customs in Aruba, and can book tighter flights because you don't have to worry about clearing customs when you land.

    Hawaii isn't a cakewalk, as they still force you to go through agricultural screening and TSA, but it's awesome to be spared the whole Customs process and having to get a passport.

    Affordability

    Air
    For ME, both lodging and airfare were more affordable to Aruba (from Ohio). I easily booked flights with points, which I've done in the past to Hawaii but usually by adjusting my itinerary to arrive and/or depart on a day when Saver flights were available. I didn't have to do this for Aruba. Out of pocket airfares from Ohio to Aruba are ~$700. Hawaii usually averages ~$1000+, so a significant savings if traveling with kids. West Coasters, of course, have a real advantage with cheaper flights and air fare sales to Hawaii.

    Lodging
    For lodging, I booked directly from a Redweek week. I targeted a 2 bdrm/2 bath condo at a highly rated resort, and was able to get an ocean front 2-story 2B/3BA penthouse for $2750 at Divi Phoenix Aruba. While it was not as nice as WKORV, it was on par with the WSJ IMO, both of which would be at least $1000 more, if not $2000.

    Activities
    Activities were very reasonable on Aruba vs. Hawaii, thanks in part to the strong USD. Half day snorkeling trip cost ~$60 in Aruba, compared to $100+ on Hawaii. Sunset Booze cruise cost about $40pp, an all-day PinkJeep-like activity was $115pp, and a 6 hour Made in Aruba tour that included lunch was ~$40pp. Once again, this all helps when you're traveling with kids.

    Groceries
    Grocery prices were approximately 30% higher on Aruba than the mainland for most items. Beer and bagged chips are very expensive, even the locally brewed beer ($20 for 12-pack), Balashi. Most activities that included drinks didn't include beer.

    Hawaii prices are about the same, except beer and chips aren't as bad.

    I found the quality of food on both islands to be first-world nation good.

    Car Rental
    I'd say car rental prices are about the same, though I've gotten some pretty good bargains on Maui. However, I'd definitely recommend renting from a local car company on Aruba because the international companies have older, beat up cars. Our Alamo small SUV was embarrassing. I'm talking dents and scratches everywhere, and no electronic locks.

    While renting a car is pretty much a must on any of the major Hawaiian islands, except possibly Oahu, I can safely say that had I not gotten the rental car on points, we could have easily made do with taxis/bus given that we stayed on Palm Beach in Aruba. Most activities offered resort pick-up, and the island is so small that a taxi ride isn't even that bad. Being at the end of resort row, most nights we strolled along the oceanfront path to the restaurants along Palm Beach. Even though you can technically drink and drive, we hailed a few taxis if we didn't feel like walking. They also offer a bus service, but I think that they could improve on this because the buses aren't clearly marked like ours are.

    Culture

    Strangely, Aruba feels more like the US than Hawaii does. There is very little evidence of Dutch or South American or Caribbean culture. The food is the same as the States, the drinks are the same, they drive on the same side we do, they accept USD, you can use Verizon phones, catch an American football game. Every Aruban citizen speaks 4 languages, including English.... It was very surprising to sit down the first night at our resort and see them offering a low-country BBQ, complete with cole slaw.

    Ironically, Hawaii, though it's a US state, feels more like a foreign country than Aruba. Hawaiians are fiercely proud of their indigenous culture...but that also translates as a bit of xenophobia as well. You do get the feeling if you were to move to Hawaii, you'll always be a haole because your grandfather's father's father wasn't native born. While there's something to be said about preserving your culture, it definitely isn't an inclusive culture.

    Safety

    I've never traveled anywhere in the world, including my own country, where I've felt safer than in Aruba. We never drove anywhere that felt as sketchy as places I've driven to in the Caribbean and the States. We routinely walked the ocean front path at night, and never felt afraid. The people are known to be nice and they WERE nice, from the tour guides to the housekeepers to the manager. I routinely left my wallet and iPhone out (not realizing that I'd get daily housekeeping) and nothing was ever touched.

    While Maui is safe, they do suffer from petty theft against tourists. It's advised to never leave belongings in your car or they'll smash out the windows. Homeless people are taking over many Oahu and Maui beaches. And, of course, Hawaiians are notorious for not liking tourism, especially Maui Council, who's made it abundantly clear that timeshare owners especially are not welcomed.

    I think there are many reasons why Aruba is so much better at welcoming tourists, including the acceptance that Tourism is their #1 industry. But it goes deeper than that. They pride themselves on paying a living wage to most people, unemployment is low, Dutch citizens are well educated (college in the Netherlands costs them $3000/year), and there are so many nationalities and religions represented that they've all learned to get along.

    It really is one happy island. Albeit a little island.

    Would I return? Absolutely. If I had to choose between a condo on Maui or Aruba, all things being equal, I'd choose Maui. But all things AREN'T equal, and I could actually afford an ocean front condo on Aruba. There's something to be said for that!
     
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  2. Free2Roam

    Free2Roam TUG Member

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    Excellent!

    I've not yet been to Hawaii. We're on the US East coast and never really had a good reason to justify the cost vs. visiting one of the Caribbean islands. But I've been to Aruba the past 3 years and will be going back next year.

    Family trip to Hawaii is on the list for Dec 2020... my daughter's 30th bday and my sister's 50th bday.

    Thanks for sharing!
     
  3. Tacoma

    Tacoma TUG Member

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    Lisa

    I'm sure I'm not the only one that appreciates your in-depth look at both islands. I have been to Hawaii but not Aruba. The dry and flat is not what I want. I want lush tropical foliage preferably with mountains.

    Joan
     
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  4. LannyPC

    LannyPC TUG Member

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    I thought Aruba was on Atlantic time one hour ahead of OH and the rest of the Eastern time zone when it's not Daylight Saving Time.
     
  5. Luanne

    Luanne TUG Review Crew: Veteran TUG Member

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    My only experience with Aruba was on a cruise, so I was only there for a few hours. I do remember the flat and dry, which didn't impress me. I also remember the beach was absolutely gorgeous, with warm water (this was in December). However, Maui will always be my favorite.
     
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  6. Theiggy

    Theiggy TUG Member

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    Great review! Just like Free2roam I’ve never been to Hawaii. I dread the flight and it’s pricey to fly a family of 4 from NY. I will get there in the next few years though. I love Aruba, we own at Surf Club. I can’t wait to go back! Thanks again for the comparison.
     
  7. LisaH

    LisaH TUG Lifetime Member

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    Like Luanne, I have only been to Aruba on a cruise. Beach was beautiful but we seem to have difficulty finding a good place for snorkeling. Would love to hear where you like to snorkel in Aruba.
     
  8. rboesl

    rboesl TUG Member

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    Appreciate the comparison. I've only been to Aruba but my wife has also been to Maui. She prefers Aruba. But, there's quite a bit of variety in the Caribbean so visits to other islands can get you that variety that Hawaii offers. A trip the US VI can get you those mountains, lush forests, excellent snorkeling, etc. and no customs.
     
  9. LisaRex

    LisaRex TUG Member

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    You are probably right. Time zones mystify my brain for some reason.
     
  10. mpumilia

    mpumilia TUG Review Crew: Veteran TUG Member

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    Never been to Aruba but I assume Hawaii (not just Maui) (where I have been to twice) is much more interesting overall. I never had a desire to go to Aruba for some reason but everyone (except my brother and his wife) seems to love it.

    I also do not like flat or desert.
     
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  11. iowateach

    iowateach TUG Member

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    Great report! I’ve been to both Aruba and several Hawaiian islands, Maui being my favorite. Yes, they are both beautiful yet very different. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve decided I no longer want to spend 12 hours on a plane getting to Hawaii when the Caribbean is so much closer to Iowa. Every time I look at available bonus weeks on II, I always check Aruba. I’ve already walked on Waikiki Beach, biked down Haleakala, and driven the road to Hana, the things I most wanted to do in Hawaii, so now I probably will stick with Aruba for beautiful beach weeks.
     
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  12. Egret1986

    Egret1986 TUG Review Crew: Expert TUG Member

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    Lisa, thank you for your indepth review and taking the time to share.

    The only experience I have with Aruba is my Mom telling me that she just didn't like it. Like others, it was one of the stops on a Caribbean cruise. Flat and windy, and an unimpressive landscape she said. I don't believe a short cruise stop can show you all a location has to offer, but there is definitely that first impression thing going on. But I must admit, I've still been curious about Aruba since there are so many on TUG that absolutely love it there. I've been on a couple of cruises that stopped at the various islands and a Tradewinds cruise around the BVIs. The only Caribbean island that we've stayed on for a full week was on Grand Cayman. We enjoyed Grand Cayman, but don't really feel a need to return since we wish to explore new places.

    We've been to Kauai and the Big Island once in 2015. We're headed to Maui for a first trip there in February. Yes, it's definitely a long, long and expensive flight from the East Coast. All the tours that we are signing up for on Maui are very expensive. Restaurant menus for most restaurants are very high. But as we prepare for our upcoming trip to Maui, we fondly reminisce about our previous trip to the Hawaiian Islands. It was definitely one of our top vacations. We're so looking forward to this upcoming trip and are hopeful that it compares to our 2015 trip.

    I'm still not sure about Aruba. But this may be our last trip to Hawaii.

    So many places to see and experience.......so little time.
     
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  13. geist1223

    geist1223 Guest

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    There have been some changes on Maui involving Haleakala. If you want to be there for Sunrise and drive yourself you need to make a Reservation (only needed if you enter between 4am and 7am).This is done Online and costs $1 or $1.50. This can only be done within 60 days of the day you want to go. Also if you do not have one of those Lifetime Passes for National Parks, etc it is $25 per car. If you do not want to drive yourself there are tours. I believe all these costs are covered when using a tour. We always go on our first morning when you have not adjusted to Hawaiian Time. When we are in the Lahaina area we get up at 2am and we are on the Road by 2:30am. When we are in Kihei we get up at 3am and are on the road by 3:30am. However remember you lose about 3.5° per 1000 feet of up elevation. So at the top of Haleakala you are 35° cooler than the beach. Then add in the frequent winds. We always take knit hats, sweaters, gloves, and light jackets. A thermos of coffee helps. They no longer Bike Ride from the top of Haleakala. The company will take you to the top for Sunrise and then you get back in the Van and ride part way down the Mountain to just outside the Park and Bike Ride to the ocean. If you are adventuresome there is Zip lining. We go to Piiholo Ranch. They have several different lines. We prefer the 5 line that goes back and forth across the Canyon. The last line is over 1/2 mile. They also have a milder zip course through the trees. More zips but much shorter zips. If you just have to eat at Mama's try going for lunch and order a couple of beginners. The view to the beach is absolutely gorgeous. There are snorkel trips to Molokini, Lanai, etc.

    Have a great time. Hope you are there for at least 2 weeks.
     
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  14. TravelTime

    TravelTime TUG Member

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    I have only been to Aruba on a cruise ship stop too. But I spent a week diving on its sister ABC island, Bonaire. Bonaire was fabulous for diving since it has long been protected. I saw many turtles and all kinds of tropical fish and some nice coral. I did all boat diving but many people only do shore diving in Bonaire. I think Aruba probably has nicer beaches and beautiful clear ocean, but a lot less to see underwater compared to Bonaire.

    To me, when I go to the Caribbean, I do not go for the island. I go for the clearest, calmest and most turquoise water I can find. Some places in the Caribbean are fabulous for this. I would say on this criteria, the Caribbean almost always beats Hawaii.

    We live on the West Coast so a Caribbean trip for us is more expensive than Hawaii and can take 10-20 hours (just for flight and layover time) and depending on how smoothly things go, where we are going and how many connections are involved. Caribbean island time is a lot less reliable than Hawaii time. All in, flying to the Caribbean from California eats 2 days of our vacation.
     
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  15. kckaren21

    kckaren21 TUG Member

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    We have been to both and Maui wins for us! There is more to do, it is more beautiful, and the ambiance is definitely better. Its also much closer to us in Calif, and the travel hassle is a definite factor! While in Aruba, we met people who come every year from the East Coast, and they loved escaping the cold in winter.

    I will say the scuba diving was better in Aruba, where we did 3 great wreck dives. However, the snorkeling was better in Maui.
     
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  16. MizzouBJ72

    MizzouBJ72 TUG Member

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    My wife and I spent a timeshare week on Aruba and then a few years later had a cruise stop there and did a tour. We've been to Maui twice. We are from St. Louis. IMO, there is hardly any comparison--Maui is the best of those two by far, but for a Midwesterner, due to distance to Hawaii, we prefer Cancun and the Riviera Maya just south of there.

    Candidly, there is not much to do on Aruba except lay in the sun on the beach. We did about all the tours we could find in our week there and candidly they were pretty bland. We did a little shopping, saw their limited night-life, famous light house, some other things...but you exhaust the total list pretty quick. On the beach, we had nice sun and warm temps, but the wind was too high most of the time to feel pleasant. We are not scuba divers, so I can't compare that activity specifically. We do like to snorkel on occasion, though.

    Maui--there is plenty to see and do in addition to sand, sun, beach. Awesome place! But as I note, a better Midwestern option by far IMO is Mexico....very short, non-stop flights, small airport with small (by comparison), quick lines to get through (especially so if you have done the one-time Global Entry process), incredible local culture to experience like Tulum, Chichenitza and more, fun eco-parks like Xcaret, neat activities like swimming the underground Rio Secreto and superb beaches and resorts. We have gone to the east coast of Mexico probably a dozen times, a week each time, and have another week there already planned for 2019. From our experiences, Aruba would be substantially down the list of warm-weather destinations in the western hemisphere.
     
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  17. youppi

    youppi TUG Member

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  18. Theiggy

    Theiggy TUG Member

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    I’m chuckling reading your post bc when we went to St. Thomas this summer, my 11 yo son (who loves our Long Island beaches at home) was not impressed with the beautiful, warm, calm, clear blue waters and the snorkeling. His comment, “there’s no waves!” I told him I have to take him to Hawaii to surf.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  19. Theiggy

    Theiggy TUG Member

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    Where do you stay in Curaçao? We have gone twice and both times stayed at the Marriott hotel and casino that has since closed. We did a presentation at the Royal sea aquarium but at that time we were saving for a house, and there were no direct flights from NY. Although we liked Curaçao enough to go twice, and it definitely had more European feel and was less Americanized, we feel much safer in Aruba.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  20. youppi

    youppi TUG Member

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    Royal Sea Aquarium and I would returned there anytime but I don't know if they still give unlimited free access to the Aquarium next door.
    We were thinking going to Kura Hulanda Lodge & Beach Club the next time we will go to Curaçao but I read some 2018 reviews that say the resort is rundown. So, RSA would be our choice again.
     
  21. csodjd

    csodjd TUG Member

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    I've not been to Aruba, but Maui has something going for it that Aruba can't have... a bunch of other islands to choose from to make even more out of the trip. Adding a few days in Waikiki, or the volcano on the Big Island, or the gorgeous forests on Kauai, at the front or back end of a week in Maui is easy and inexpensive. Hawaiian Air flies all over, all day, mostly under $100 a person. And, Maui itself, has two or three very distinct regions, with Lahina in between to shop, etc. Hard to beat.
     
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  22. youppi

    youppi TUG Member

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    FYI, Aruba is part of the ABC islands: Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao and they are close to Venezuela. In the past there was Dutch Antilles Express (DAE) that was hopping the three islands all day long very cheap but they ceased operation in 2013 and I don't know if there is another airline that do it now.
    upload_2018-12-8_18-24-21.png

    If I put both area at the same scale to show the size and the distance between ABC islands vs Hawaiian islands, you will see that ABC islands are close together but very small.
    upload_2018-12-8_18-42-2.png
    upload_2018-12-8_18-40-49.png
     
  23. TerryA

    TerryA TUG Member

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    LisaRex has got it right.
    I've spent lots of time on each island. But my time on Aruba was a long time ago, before it became a tourist destination.
    I was fortunate to have an uncle working for Standard Oil at its Aruba refinery. As a beginning teenager, before entering high school, I spent a summer on Aruba. The travel was an adventure, although at the time I was just a kid not knowing what an extravagant thing I was doing. Not many of us as parents would let our 13 years olds now take such a trip alone. But that was a different time.
    As this was before cross-country jets, after leaving Portland, OR, there were stops in Denver, Chicago, New York, Miami and Jamaica before finally getting to Aruba. The New York stop involved a week with another aunt and uncle. A feature of the Jamaica stop was the offer to all passengers a taste of local rum. I'm sure my parents did not expect their young teenager to get that offer.
    The Aruba refinery staff were mostly Americans, Dutch and other Europeans, all living in company housing. There were plenty of kids my age and plenty of fun activities. As kids now would say, It was a blast.
    The return trip was supposed to be shorter, stopping in New Orleans instead of Miami and New York. But it turned out to take a lot longer because
    of a United strike. I was stuck in Chicago for a week. Luckily my parents knew a couple there who were willing to take me in. Again, to the young teenager: No big deal. But on returning home 1 week late was a big deal. I was making the transition from a small grade school to the very big
    high school, and doing it a week late was stressful.
    There were 3 other trips to Aruba for Christmas break while in college.
    LisaRex definitely has the geography and weather of Aruba. It is and was a desert island. Divi-divi trees and aloe plants do not look tropical.
    The trade winds definitely make the weather pleasant and shape what trees there are. I never experienced unpleasant weather, but my aunt and uncle recounted 2 or 3 weeks a year when those winds died down, and it was time to get off the island. And, yes, Aruba is still south of the hurricane zone.
    The beaches were and I assume still are terrific. On the south side are the calm waters and lagoons. On the north side one gets surf.
    The long white beech on the southwest is, I understand, where the resorts are. The beech, before development, was pure, simple and open. One could walk, and walk before seeing another person.
    My trips to Maui have been as an adult usually with kids. And LisaRex got it right. Lots to do and see. Except for college years in New England, I've been a west coast resident, and the travel is easy; and with the Alaska companion fairs, affordable.
     
  24. TravelTime

    TravelTime TUG Member

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    LOL, the flatter and more glassy the ocean, the better IMO. I do love the Virgin Islands for exactly the reason your son does not. It is good there is diversity in tastes and preferences so there is something for everyone.
     
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  25. TravelTime

    TravelTime TUG Member

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    Here’s the good news, unless you are only taking one vacation again in your lifetime, you can visit Maui and Aruba in the future. No need to decide which is better. You can go see for yourself and then decide if you want to return to either island.
     
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