Savaneta Secrets

Aruba’s Oldest Village Holds Some Surprising Stays and Activities!

I remember writing about the little village of Savaneta over a decade ago for Aruba Nights magazine, and to be honest, there was very little there beyond the Flying Fishbone restaurant to lure visitors to make the trek out there. (It’s still worth the trip for awesome, unique toes-in-the-sand dining!) But quietly and consistently this little slice of off-radar heaven has been coming into its own as a warm and welcoming community that’s well worth spending not simply time in, but also for staying in as well. And one of Savaneta’s best kept secrets is that they now have overwater bungalows!

Where the South Pacific meets Aruba

I was surprised to learn last year that the owner of  beachfront property that used to house The Old Man & The Sea Restaurant had been quietly building Tahitian style overwater bungalows there. And on later inspection, I was blown away by their beauty! There are six bungalows in all now—three on the beach and three on the water—with more to come. They are called Aruba Ocean Villas and each one is uniquely curated with creative touches, crystal chandeliers, seashell showers, incredible artwork, outdoor hot tubs and hammocks, all depending on the owner’s, Osyth Henriquez, creative vision at the time. An artist in her own right, she loves to decorate them as an ode to barefoot luxury at its finest. The latest incarnation called Dushi Sue Villa (dushi means sweet) is the pièce de résistance crowned with a unique crystal chandelier made from a divi-divi tree branch to signify Aruba’s unique natural heritage. Guests staying there can enjoy VIP packages that include meals from their private chef and VIP service to and from the airport. Nonguests can also book private dining on their beach or in their overwater palapa, but reservations are a must as space is very limited and availability depends on resort occupancy. Henriquez also offers a massive partial overwater villa nearby (a few doors down) called Casa Alistaire that sleeps up to eight people. In between the two, there is a cute, new little B&B under construction that should open this year as well. 

Zeerovers is another reason Savaneta is coming into its own. The name means “pirates” in Dutch (they used to hang out there apparently), and this famed fisherman’s pier now has a massive waterside dining terrace that boasts arguably the best fresh fish on the island. This is where the fishermen bring in their catch of the day, and it’s as popular with locals as it is with visitors, so expect long lines on weekends. It’s a no-frills menu of fried fish and shrimp and sides, and be forewarned, they don’t take plastic.

Secret Spots

Though Savaneta’s surf front can be rocky, which always means there will be a LOT of fish, there are secret little strips of white sand beach if you know where to go. (Just ask a local!)  But Mangel Halto is the preferred spot for locals to swim and snorkel from a manmade dock and stairs. It’s also where JADS Dive Center takes their students for an inaugural dive when they take the introduction to scuba course. It’s an easy shore dive with a cool sunken boat that hosts scads of colorful marine life. You can also snorkel above the boat when you take the new Full Throttle Tours from Oranjestad. They are the only outfit with an inflatable speed boat and the only ones who take you there to snorkel as well. 

The area is also awash with mangrove forests that house baby marine life; their roots protect them from bigger predators until they grow large enough to fend for themselves. A wonderful eco way to explore the bountiful nature and the secret passageways throughout the mangroves is via the new outfit Clear Kayak Aruba whose vessels have clear panel bottoms. It’s very cool to see the underwater life as you silently glide through the mangroves without even getting wet! They also do cool night tours that begin at Arashi and then follow the sunset to Mangel Halto using LED lights as it becomes darker, which actually attracts even more fish to the boats! 

The community in Savaneta is warm and welcoming and the area is easily walkable. You will come upon quaint little bakeries and take-out eateries, and the “main town” is really not much more than a large intersection where you’ll find a gas station, small grocery markets, a Domino’s Pizza, and an Op=Op Dutch-style bargain surplus store. Also, don’t miss Mauchi Smoothies when exploring near there; they make insanely good, organic, healthy, and delicious drinks.

On the way into “town” you can’t help but notice a very modern looking building called Antesala Cafe. Caffeine fiends will love that this outpost can serve barista-style coffee and some very interesting, healthy, and forward-thinking fare in air-conditioned comfort. (Free Wi-Fi too!) It’s run by a lovely local husband and wife team who figured that even Savaneta needed a real “café.”

Though only 15 minutes from bustling Oranjestad, life is still slow and easy in Savaneta, and it’s so worth a visit or a stay to discover its special secrets. It also boasts some of the most spectacular sunsets over the sea, almost every night.