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The Beaten Path:
Running the Beaches of Aruba
warm-weather runs await those up for the challenge
By Terrell Johnson
For this runner, jogging on the beach has always been a fun change of
pace -- but also a challenge. Shifting and blowing sand, as well as
widening and narrowing lanes for running along the shoreline, can make
for an "interesting" day at the beach to say the least. And the heat
tends to make me shorten any run I make at the beach, mainly because I
want to get back to lounging, enjoying some fruity drinks and reading
my favorite novel.
So when I took a trip to Aruba recently for vacation, a run along the
beach sounded like a great way to soak up some of the local atmosphere
and get some good exercise in, while doing some people-watching at the
same time. I have to say that this tiny country, set just 30 miles off
the coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean, didn't disappoint.
First off, there's no getting around the fact that the weather in Aruba
for much of the year is hot. Even though I visited in April,
temperatures were in the 90s (Fahrenheit) with radiant sunshine, so
sunscreen was a must. With my fair skin, that meant 50+ sunblock and
baseball cap, which protected me well from getting burned. And while it
did rain for a couple of hours on one of our days there, rainfall in
Aruba tends to be a rare event -- the island records an average of only
20 inches a year. It benefits also from the cooling winds of the
Caribbean, so there are usually no wide swings in weather from the
summer to the winter.
sometimes narrow beaches
We stayed on the western side of the island, where most of Aruba's
tourist population stays, and tourists from all over the U.S. were
constant sights on the beach, in the hotel and in the restaurants and
nightspots around the area. That meant that during the day, the beaches
were quite crowded and a little difficult to navigate as a jogger. I
was hardly alone on my run, however, as I saw several dozen people out
for some exercise just like me.
The sand was soft and gave way quite a bit on my run -- unlike the
beaches of say, South Carolina, where hard-packed sand can make running
more akin to running on paved roads -- so that slowed me down somewhat.
But the beaches there go on for miles, which also gave me plenty of
space for running. I had to time myself so I wasn't sure of my distance
(of course, there are no mile markers around), but I figured that 30
minutes roughly equated to two and a half miles, which was enough for a
vacation meant mostly for relaxation.
As you might expect, the more populated areas tended to be around the
high-rise resorts; Aruba also features beach areas with only low-rise
resorts (like the Bucuti Beach Resort), which make for much freer
running thanks to far fewer people
out on the beach.
The beaches are hardly the only spots to run in Aruba, however. If
you're up for a seriously challenging trail run, the island's Arikok
National Park offers a rugged, difficult test of your mettle. Set on
the central and eastern part of the island, Arikok covers about 20
percent of Aruba's land and a large chunk of its interior
and northern coastline. The views are spectacular of the Caribbean Sea
once you get into the park, with clear blue water crashing against the
rocky coastline. The terrain is almost desert-like throughout the park
(and in much of Aruba itself), with plentiful cactus growing
everywhere, the native divi-divi trees and colorful flowers.
The national park also features a donkey preserve (yes, you read that
right), and we saw a few wild donkeys in their natural habitat on our
visit through the park. There's also a small restaurant right on the
sea on the northern side of the park (the only one inside the park, as
a matter of fact), so it's a great stop for refreshments and some
respite from the sun.
If you're up for more urban running, Aruba's main cities of Oranjestad
and San Nicolas offer city-street running, though Oranjestad is the
more tourist-friendly of the two to be sure. Filled with restaurants,
shops and malls, its winding city streets and narrow alleyways are
great for exploring, though probably best during the daytime for
Whether you're up for a leisurely run along the beach, a challenging
trail run through the park or a jog through the city, Aruba has a
wealth of options available for vacationers who don't want to get out
of the exercise habit.
Ever run at an island like Aruba, or know of a great
place to run in your local area? Share your opinions -- and your