At the end of the day, whatever tickles your fancy is the best place to sink your toes into. But rest assured, that both Jamaica and Aruba will ultimately satisfy your cries for fun tropical days under the Caribbean sun.
Step unto the shores of Jamaica and nod your head in affirmation at the immortal description of Christopher Columbus — “the fairest isle that eyes have beheld.” Such a statement is a powerful proclamation of the attempt to put into words the flood of feelings and emotions that drowns your senses in bliss at the mere sight of the place.
Jamaica has captured the consciousness of the world stage, not only through its natural and stupendous sights plastered on postcards and adverts but also through its popular celebrities that graced humanity with their feats that pushed the boundaries of human potential.
Now, all that should inspire you to see what the fuss is all about, right?
What Makes Jamaica Unique?
The Birthplace of Reggae
Reggae embeds societal criticism and aspects of religion into its lyrics. It is loaded with Jamaican thinking and perspectives, and political and cultural references — from pan-Africanism to Rastafari. You can be part of the Reggae rage through the prominent Bob Marley Home Tour.
Robert Nesta Marley, aka Bob Marley, is a pioneer, singer, songwriter, and musician who needs no introduction, especially to those who have had a listen to his masterpieces. You can reason that he is one of the illustrious poster children of Reggae. The gravity of his contributions to the music and culture circle cannot be understated.
Pictures do not do justice to the magical encounter with floating fairies. It sounds uncanny, for sure, but reality can be stranger than fiction in the Luminous Lagoon Glistening Waters tour at Falmouth. This place is one of a handful in the world with a consistent presence of intense bioluminescent phenomenon that is readily reachable.
Prepare your swimsuit as you head towards a prime spot in the lagoon for a fantastical interaction. As you tread water on an ideally moonless night, be amazed at the apparitions that bloom from your actions. And if you are feeling a bit squeamish with the stuff getting on you, you can watch from the safety of your tour boat as the fish swim about, covered in a mystical glow.
You could even ask your tour guide to secure you some “souvenirs” you can take with you. The wisps only maintain their sparkle for a few hours outside of their home, though.
Sunseekers all over the world flock to Jamaica to praise its top-of-the-line beaches, places where the Caribbean Sea billows sapphire water towards the sandy shores … but you probably already knew that.
But what you maybe do not know is that Jamaica has over 50 public beaches you can enjoy for free. And then there are several other beaches gated by sea-front hotels and resorts, some of which provide access for a fee.
Seven miles straight of stimulating sands, sunbathers, sports enthusiasts (of the water kind), swimmers, and sensational sunsets are what put Negril Beach on the top of the famous beaches in Jamaica. Best of all, it’s in the public domain.
Negril Beach is more than just its glimmering white sands, it has its own set of spectacular cliffs atop emerald-green waters for those seeking a resoundingly satisfactory splash.
James Bond Beach
Originally known as the “Laughing Waters Beach” and “Roaring River Beach,” this beach was christened James Bond Beach as a result of having one of the scenes of the 1st-ever Double O Seven flick. Unbelievable, isn’t it.
The association with the Bond film is merely the tip of the iceberg. It has the island of Santa Maria as its backdrop, which tapers into the blue horizon. This provides a unique setting that gives a deeper definition to the landscape already teeming with crystal clear waters and sunstruck sands.
Beyond all of its natural glory, the island also has amenities to boot. A bar, restaurant, water sports hub, and its very own manicured lawn for concerts and events.
The Home of Jerk
Jerk is deeply ingrained into the tradition of Jamaica. You could even go as far as saying it is a Jamaican national treasure. Historically, it was a way for a group of escaped slaves called “Maroons” to marinate and cook their meat, perhaps even preserve the precious meat without the modern convenience of refrigeration.
Jamaican Jerk is primarily pork seasoned in a locally sourced and intricate blend of herbs and spices plus the firepower of scotch bonnets. This creates an intensely aromatic, savory and sweet flavor with a lingering heat that ties it all together.
Modern iterations of Jerk have extended to cover other meats like chicken, beef, and seafood. So, if you’re not into pork, there are appropriate alternatives available.
In order to get the best possible traditional taste, head to Boston Beach where they smoke the meat in open-air huts to bewitch you with fragrances that will make your mouth water.
A peculiar paradox of environments, Aruba’s panoramas can be perplexing as they are pleasant. You can feel the tropical and humid seaside contrasting the dry and arid desert found inland. This gives you the opportunity to come into contact with a wide selection of outdoor activities that likely cannot be experienced anywhere else on the planet at the same level.
Both regions of Aruba advertise exceptional top-notch experiences as portrayed on postcards or other promotional media. The most common configuration contains settings graced by the presence of the iconic fofoti tree curtsying or divi-divi tree bowing to some unseen divinity.
Natural beauty aside, Aruba is no slacker in the cultural department. Its capital, Oranjestad, has a vibrant personality with its pastel facades, accommodating and multilingual locals, and the sporadic tune of calypso music vibrating in the air. If you want to experience the full intensity of Aruban culture and cuisine, aim for participating in the Bon Bini Festival every Tuesday at the historical Fort Zoutman.
What Makes Aruba Unique?
Beautiful Unspoiled Beaches
Despite the island being known for its well-developed tourist scene bedecked with casinos, beachfront lounges, all-inclusive resorts, and the like, its beaches still maintain their pristine quality. And even some of them can be enjoyed in complete solitude, away from the cramped mainstream destinations.
This beach is a favored camping spot if you want to soak up the outdoors for longer in a more chill fashion. Set up camp on the prime real estate under the shade of the fofoti tree if you can. You can get some expert tips from the locals who have established their Easter-week camping tradition on the beach.
The key to avoiding dealing with throngs of tourists is to go to places that have some sort of specialization. Sometimes you need to trade off swimming for serenity, and Andicuri beach is one of those with its strong surf suited for the wave-riding public.
If you’re not the surfing type, what’s impressive in the area are the formations of coral-rock cliffs partially boxing in the shore. It’s a place more suitable for quiet meditation, or maybe playing with your thoughts, while enjoying the interplay of the waves and coral cliffs.
Arikok, Aruba’s national park, packs practically all the novelty of the island in, believe it or not, roughly 20% of the island’s area. That said, it is a showcase of Aruba’s wild side, the unsullied surface of the lovely land encapsulated in their national anthem, Aruba Dushi Tera, or Aruba Lovely Country.
And what stands out is the desert-esque terrain, a veritable shadow of the front-paging beaches, but nevertheless, bears the secret promise of a wonderful time of exploration and adventure while connecting with nature.
Rich and Infused Cuisine
When multiple cultures go hand in hand, the end result is nothing short of sensational, especially for the taste buds. A melting pot is what best describes its culinary culture. Several ages of recipes mixing, matching, and masterful refinement to come up with mouth-watering dishes and tantalizing thirst-quenchers to convert you into an epicure of epic proportions.
Arubans have got it down to the smallest detail, applied from the simplest to the most intricate of fare.
Take for example Pan Bati, a seemingly mundane pancake. However, it is a mesh of cookery from the Spanish, native Indians, and Creole. It requires no eggs, for starters, and has cornmeal which is the authentic kicker that’ll make you surprised and ponder about its origins.
And then there’s the influence of the Dutch with their cheese centricity. Sign up for the arguably top dish to try in Aruba, the Keshi Yena. In essence, it’s a casserole baked to bubbly cheesy perfection. It may contain anything from superb seafood to juicy slow-cooked meats. Best enjoyed with a swig of the local Balashi beer.
Aruban Gold Rush
Golden beach sands are a nice have to any vacation destination, but the real deal is even better. The history of Aruba was graced with the discovery of gold in 1824 by Willem Rasmijn, which sparked the Gold Rush of the 19th century.
Of course, all “good” things must come to an end, and thus, the gold ran dry … but that shouldn’t stop you from panning gold for yourself. You can recapture the feeling in the air of those lost glory days in the ruins of gold mines at Miralamar and the gold mills, Bushiribana and Balashi.
The journey to the sites is worthwhile in itself. You can get there on horseback or Utility Terrain Vehicle while soaking in the scenery or take quick detours to caves, coves, and curiously shaped boulders for that picture-perfect backdrop you can show off.
Is Jamaica or Aruba Better?
Aruba is a rich balance of cosmopolitan chic, and a tropical island getaway flavor. This tiny Dutch Caribbean Island is one of the most well-rounded travel destinations because of the diverse set of entertainment you can find. You can have the beach while having the casino and crazy nightlife. You can have the cities’ cosmopolitan pleasure, while having the peculiar desert interior terrain as well – which is something that isn’t common in the Caribbean islands, by the way. Aruba is perfect for those looking to have more things to enjoy other than just the beach and the things you can do around them.
Jamaica is best reserved for the adventurous. The entire island itself, from its world-famous culture, beautiful beaches, and natural interiors, down to its many other quirks, the island spells adventure. Filled with vibrance, you can enjoy its natural charms, cultural and historical quirks during the day, and a wild set of parties and festivities at night – especially as Jamaica is the birthplace of Reggae and Dancehall.
Both destinations are exquisite places to vacation to, with all their might draws and quirky highlights, however, their not-so-subtle differences will always take the reins as to which is potentially better. But of course, the answers also rest on whatever a traveler wants out of a destination.
Is Aruba Close to Jamaica?
Aruba lies far southeast of Jamaica, with the expansive stretch of the Caribbean Sea in between them. Jamaica is approximately 1,001 km or 622 miles northwest of Aruba, directly. The best and probably the only way to get in between them is to fly. You can fly in between these islands with airlines such as American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines, Surinam Airways, Avianca, and many more.