Jamie Ndah experiences the sand, sea and sounds at the 10th Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival
Aruba is well known for its dry, sunny weather, pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, fabulous cuisine, colourful art and vibrant culture. However, if you explore beyond the obvious, Aruba has so much more to offer including the momentous 10th Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival with special guests Kool & the Gang. Jamie went back to the island to find out more.
I recently returned to Aruba which is a small but perfectly formed gorgeous island just off the coast of Venezuela to be acquainted with its annual Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival, now in its 10th year. This exciting trip also gave me the opportunity to explore further luxury elements of this amazing destination.
I was staying at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino which is an impressive building and consists of eight floors, 411 rooms and 23 oceanfront suites. With a prime location on Palm Beach, this is one of Aruba’s most luxurious and popular coastal areas. This magnificent strip stretches for three kilometres and has breathtaking views of the tropical coastline, populated with a number of chic restaurants and luxury shops.
I was staying in a premium view Queen room on the 6th floor which afforded me dramatic views from the spacious private balcony. This air conditioned and quiet room offered a generous and comfortable Queen sized bed along with Marriott’s trademark “Revive” bedding. There was also a bright, contemporary bathroom, 37-inch LCD flat-panel TV, fridge freezer and coffee and tea making facilities. The complimentary Wi-Fi worked well across this expansive resort and completed the excellent facilities on offer within the room.
When I wasn’t relaxing in the comfort of my room, I explored the resort further and found a number of facilities such as the adult-exclusive pool, and the private Tradewinds Club located on the 8th floor which operates a club lounge member concept for those guests searching for that little extra taste of luxury and select service from the Tradewinds Concierge team.
There are also a number of first-rate dining options to choose from within the resort, such as the renowned Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Atardi, which offers supreme seafood, right through to the relaxed surroundings of La Vista which serves a mixture of international cuisine and Italian à la carte. For those guests who like to keep it casual, there is a selection of swimming pools for families, a sterling spa facility for all your massage needs and a great gymnasium too.
I ventured out to Arashi beach which is a serene and narrow strip of the seafront in Aruba, populated with little huts and located just north of Malmok beach. It is a firm favourite with locals because of its calm waters which make it a great place to indulge in a variety of watersports, snorkelling and observing the underwater marine life too.
Whilst strolling on Arashi beach, there was a fantastic mural of a giant Pelican on display upon a shipwreck in the middle of the ocean. This was an installation that was part of the Aruba Art Fair that takes place in San Nicolas, also known as “Sunrise City”, which is approximately 19 kilometres, south-east of Oranjestad, and is Aruba’s second largest city. This stunning piece of artwork was created by the Portuguese artist Artur Bordalo, also known as Bordalo II.
My next stop was to visit the California Lighthouse based in the area known as “Hudishibana” which is near the north-west tip of Aruba and offers amazing sand dunes. Originally built as a warning system to ships from the coastline of Aruba, this immense structure is now a majestic landmark and grants visitors some of the most spectacular views of the island.
There are so many great things to do in Aruba from visiting other brilliant beaches such as Druif Beach, Eagle Beach, Baby Beach, to exploring nature at Arikok National Park, visiting the pink flamingos via Renaissance Private Island, right through to piloting your own boat and exploring the island across dazzling waters via this personal exciting excursion.
However, after much exploration around the island, I was now looking forward to discovering White Modern Cuisine, the second restaurant from the talented Aruban Chef, Urvin Croes.
It offers diners a wonderful and relaxed atmosphere amongst glittering interiors. This well-appointed eatery combines a slick, modern, all-white air-conditioned dining space, an alluring outdoor terrace area, exemplary cooking craftsmanship from its dedicated team who use fresh organic locally sourced products, a plush bar serving outstanding cocktails and a delightful private dining room complete this thrilling diner’s paradise.
The menu featured a variety of elegantly well-presented international dishes with an Aruban twist and I was looking forward to sampling what was on offer. For my starters, I went for the Peking beef buns which were heavenly. The tasty braised beef was served in hoisin and plum sauce and came with savoury pickled vegetables, plum mayonnaise and onion chips.
For my main course, I opted for the Lamb Saco which was a real winner. Succulent jerked and grilled lamb chops were served with lamb croquettes, Johnny cakes, Aruban macaroni salad, coleslaw, plantain crème, Aruban string beans, garlic crème and homemade barbeque sauce.
By now, I was absolutely full, but I had to try the outstanding dessert that is Death by Chocolate and it was evident to see why this dessert continues to impress. It is designed to seduce your taste buds, and that is exactly what happened when my palate collided with this exquisite creation. This was a molten chocolate lava cake, served with chocolate ganache, chocolate custard, white chocolate pannacotta, chocolate powder, chocolate crumble and Ferrero Rocher ice cream. A thoroughly enjoyable sweet experience that I absolutely recommend.
White Modern Cuisine under the meticulous guidance of Aruban Chef Urvin Croes produces a luxurious food masterclass that without a doubt will certainly have guests returning for more, time and time again.
I was now looking forward to the much anticipated 10th Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival taking place in Aruba, and this incredible music festival has certainly grown from its humble beginnings at the Cas di Cultura. Since its first steps, the Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival has had great artists and bands in the past that have graced its stages such as, Earth, Wind & Fire, George Benson, Chaka Khan, Angie Stone and Maite Hontele to name but a few.
This marvellous music carnival continues to attract international artists and music enthusiasts from all over the globe, and is combined with a healthy mixture of local talent from the region. The Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival took place across three stages. The backdrop for the festivities was the remarkable Renaissance Festival Plaza in Oranjestad and was transformed into a musical haven.
The event certainly got pulses racing as twenty performing acts over two days took to the stage playing a wide variety of music genres to satisfy the diverse crowd in attendance. Apart from the phenomenal line-up of outstanding musical talent, there was also a great art gallery, spellbinding dance performances, arts and crafts market showcasing visual arts and local artisans. An extensive food court was also attached to the festival where people could go and sample wonderful Aruban cuisine and refreshments whilst enjoying the party atmosphere.
I certainly enjoyed seeing the fabulous Izaline Calister perform a fine set which charmed the crowd. Unity: Tony Succar, featuring Jon Secada gave a sterling performance with a high-energy percussion set that fused a number of Michael Jackson vintage tracks. Levi Silvanie and Randal Corsen’s performance was powerful, and I am sure will be delighting music lovers for years to come. Serghio Jansen’s set was superb, intimate and well received. His guitar solos were truly incredible and showcased his outstanding talent for all to see.
However, it was Kool & the Gang, the headline act for the 10th Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival that stole the show. This distinguished multi-platinum R&B group gave a legendary performance to the sell out crowd who had waited to see them perform in Aruba for one night only during the festival and they didn’t let anyone down.
Kool & the Gang has sold over 70 million albums worldwide and has influenced the music of three generations. Their performance on the night was masterful, energetic, playful and had the entire crowd singing and dancing along to their extensive catalogue of classic songs such as Ladies Night, Get Down On It, Too Hot, Fresh and Let’s Go Dancing. The next part of their top-drawer set was of a slower nature which allowed the crowd to catch their breath, as we were treated to mellow masterpieces such as Cherish, Joanna and Summer Madness. The Grammy Award-winning band turned things up again and raised the roof with their finale which was the global smash hit song “Celebration”, of which the entire festival crowd sang along to perfectly and was a fitting way to end the 10th Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival.
In short, Aruba really is a standout destination that is full of life, love, laughter and so much more. I thoroughly recommend a visit to this special slice of Dutch Caribbean paradise, also known as, one happy island.
Aruba and the Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival – Where and How?
Expedia (www.expedia.com) offers 7 nights at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino from £1,644 per person. The rate is inclusive of return flights with KLM from London Heathrow.
- Aruba Tourism Authority – https://www.aruba.com/
- Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino – https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/auaar-aruba-marriott-resort-and-stellaris-casino
- Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival –
- White Modern Cuisine – https://www.facebook.com/login/?next=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FWhiteModernCuisine%2F
Photography courtesy of Aruba Tourism Authority, Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, White Modern Cuisine and Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival.