- Health, Wellness & Sports
- Equality Directory
The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association welcomed its first hotel member from the Island of Aruba, the Aruba Marriott and Sellaris Casino located on Palm Beach. Didn't think of Aruba as a gay friendly destination? Yeah, I didn't either, until I got there.
First of all, the Aruba Marriott is a luxury loving and adventure seeking gay man's paradise with eight floors of hotel rooms featuring oversized bathrooms with dual vanities, private 100-square-foot balconies with ocean views, and plush robes for your use.
Wanting to leave your room might be the only problem you encounter on your vacation. Not to mention the hotel features several in-house amenities and restaurants including a Ruth's Chris Steak House along with a full-service spa and an array of activities at your disposal.
Now, usually, I'm not a beach person. However, I decided to take this trip to treat myself and break out of my homebody jeans-and-sweatshirt shell. Not to mention the scenery and atmosphere of the resort and beach were so inspiring to get outdoors and dive right into everything the island had to offer.
Well, diving in is exactly what I did, numerous times. Right outside of the hotel's pool area rests a tiki hut, which offers paddle board rentals. Paddle boarding looks a lot easier than it really is, at least in my experience. The goal, in case you're unfamiliar, to is stand up and balance yourself on top of a surfboard and row your way across the ocean. My tip: Set sights on an attractive guy on the opposite side of the beach and never take your eyes off of him. Once you look down, you're more than likely to throw off your balance ... and your game.
To get yourself going, it also seems easier to kneel in the center of the board until you're established enough away from the shore to attempt standing up. This way, you'll have plenty of crystal blue water to break your fall. I'll be honest, this city boy could not get the hang of it. I think the longest I was able to balance myself and paddle was about 45 seconds.
Like in a relationship when you realize that staying above water is a constant struggle, I moved on and jumped in to explore the different fish in the sea. Snorkeling has been and will always be my favorite ocean activity. Inside the Marriott's lobby is a room with a few of their activity partners who offer various types of tours and excursions around the Island.
Red Sail Sports offers a snorkeling package which includes equipment rental and an open bar on board their ship. That was enough for me. We headed out to sea, slid down the onboard water slide after a vodka (or two) into the ocean and swam around looking at the tropical sea-life off of Aruba's shores. After thirty minutes we re-boarded the boat and sailed to an area in which we were able to snorkel around the Antilla ship wreck.
By midafternoon I was ready to return to land and explore more about Aruban culture. I quickly found that one of the fastest growing and most popular sports on the island is beach tennis. After a quick tutorial on the sport (you can find out more HERE), a tournament was started and I found myself being served various men's balls from one side of the court to the other.
Beach tennis is a combination of beach volleyball and tennis. Instead of a volleyball, players use tennis rackets to hit a slightly deflated tennis ball from one side of the net to the other and scoring is much the same as tennis. Finally, I've located a sport in which I have some skill, apparently, I have quite an effective serve.
After much exercise I ate at Ketsu Sushi Bar, one of the hotel's many restaurants before heading out to Jimmy's, the only gay bar on the island.
The next day started off slowly with an in-room breakfast and a spa treatment, followed by some beach time to recover from the previous nights antics before dining out at Soenchi's for dinner. The restaurant serves traditional Aruban cuisine allowing me to enjoy a smoked Mahi Mahi appetizer and lamb cucumber stoba which was served alongside banana chili relish, which was amazing!
For my last night in Aruba, following dinner I was treated to an amazing show at the Westin Hotel: The Miss Aruba 2011 Pageant. Now, this description can't come close to doing the event justice. The ballroom at the hotel was packed with what looked like 200 to 300 guests spanning various ages, races and sexual orientations. The support the Aruban people showed at this event was remarkable. A ticket to the event ran about $60 and included a buffet style food selection. But man did we get our money's worth. The four-hour show had everything from talent performances, to Q&A, and even a swimsuit and “gala” gown fashion review.
At the conclusion of my weekend, I left the island with a rejuvenated mind, a sore body, insights into the Aruban culture and most of all memories of an amazing Aruban adventure.