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Holiday fun on Aruba: A Swiss Chalet in the Caribbean

Aruba, dream destination for sun-worshippers, romantic haven for the newly-wed, Caribbean culture for the knowledge thirsty... Aruba has more to offer than an exclusive beach holiday with American flair.

Caribbean beach at the Aruba Bucuti Beach Hotel
Picture by T. Micke

Oh my God! This must be a hallucination! It can´t be true! At the beach boulevard, just a stone´s throw outside Oranjetown between palm trees and cactuses there is a bungalow that looks like it was beamed here straight from the Alps! A cottage with the 80's flair of a Hotel Post or similar just what you expect to see in the skyline of Ischgl or Saalbach.

We just can´t resist to take a quick glance inside and are totally baffled. If it weren´t for the stertorousness of the airco we would have no reason to believe that we are still on Aruba but somewhere in the mountains. Even the manager is called Rudolf Ratzenböck and greets us with an Austrian slang: "Welcome to the Swiss Chalet. (Then he continues in German) Ah, you are from home! Come in!"

License plate of Aruba
Picture by T. Micke

Rudi Ratzenböck is from Linz and he is happy about the visit. He even offers us vine from Burgenland that he imported from New York and jokes: "When the Americans see the big bell above the bar, they always ask me why the Austrian cows have got them around their necks. You wanna know what I answer? So that they won't fall asleep while eating!"

Why it is a "Swiss Chalet" and not a "House Tyrol" that he has been working in for almost 20 years, he admits without beating around the bush: "The Americans love clichés and on top of that, back then there was this whole business with Waldheim and the watchlist. So my German partner preferred opening a "Swiss Chalet" because he thought it would be better for business"

Jeep-Safari on Aruba
Picture by T. Micke

Business is going well on the holiday island. Especially Americans who don't have a long journey and Dutchman having a direct flight from Amsterdam to the protectorate Aruba are populating the countless luxury hotels at the white sandy beaches of the South and West coast. One of them, the "Bucuti Beach Resort", has made it with its sandy front garden into the exclusive illustrated book of the 100 "dream beaches" of the world. The sand on Aruba is beautifully white and trickles well through the fingers. On top of that one can really feel part of this spectacular nature created masterpiece while walking to the water. The sunbathing area is located a good 50 meters away from the ocean. Consequently one doesn't trip over deck chairs and parasols every second meter

Mean green Iguana hunting in the restaurant, Aruba
Picture by T. Micke

For the rest, the touristy Aruba resembles a stretched American amusement park. It is shrill and reduced to the essential: steak houses and fast food joints next to restaurants with good international kitchen, artificially watered gardens, shopping and party quarters in a colorful Caribbean style, catamaran and even submarine tours to the preliminary coral reeves. A lot of water sports as well as buggy and jeep safaris to the inhospitable savage North, where Aruba shows its other face: an impenetrable jungle of cactuses in the hinterland, canyon-like cliff lines where you can find sharp-edged coral chunks amongst pointed igneous rocks and waves that look like a menace as they break into foam while hitting the cliff. The attraction of this part of the island is a ruin of an old gold depot dating back to pirating days. At the East side of the island, the industrial town San Nicolas with its mighty oil refinery is located. Tourists only end up there because Charlie Brouns, a local celebrity, runs his famous "Charlies Bar" there which is equipped with quaint flotsam and has delicious seafood specials to offer.

Conclusion: Whoever doesn't mind skipping the cultural program during his Carribean beach holiday but prefers getting pampered in one of the exclusive American-style hotels hit the nail on the head with this holiday destination.

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© A report by Tobias Micke (14-09-03) – Contact