Raising A Glass To Aruba’s Rum Shops
For a real taste of local life in the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba, there’s no better choice than one of its traditional watering holes.
Rum shops are scattered around Aruba. They started life in the early 1900s as places where local and immigrant workers would catch their breath after a day’s work or meet with friends or neighbours and even a place to laba man - a phrase in the local Papiamento language literally meaning ‘to wash hands’ and figuratively referring to washing hands at the nearest rum shop after burying a loved one in the cemetery. To this day, rum shops are still frequented by all social and economic demographics of society—from blue-collar workers and hospitality personnel to businessmen, bankers, and politicians.
Today, while beer has knocked rum off the top of the drinks menu, rum shops have also developed, with newer establishments offering hot meals or local barbecue, while some even have live-music and discos from time to time.
For those thinking of putting Aruba’s rum shops to the taste, there’s another Papiamento word worth remembering:
A good starting points is Rudsen, located in Santa Cruz, just off the main road and named after the original owners, Rudy and Senny. Now, a fascinating collection of hats, donated by patrons from all over the world decorates the ceiling. This rum shop is also known for its pastechis, a popular Aruban savoury-stuffed pastry.
Heading towards the southern end of the island to San Nicolas, the Aruba Rum Shop is an ideal second stop. Serving since 1937, it has an adjoining domino room to service another of Aruba’s absorbing pastimes – and visitors are welcome to pull up a chair and join in.
Another popular attraction near San Nicolas is Baby Beach, for a quick stop on the sands and where snorkelling gear can be hired.
If hunger strikes, there are several nearby options and after lunch, one’s paranda could head north on the main road to the Pos Chiquito Rum Shop, located just past Savaneta. A 1960 relic, this rum shop was originally opened by a local fisherman, who collected start-up cash to open the place by selling bait to fellow fishermen.
The rum shop is under new management, with an injection of youthful energy and style, but tradition and authenticity still ooze from this bar.
Continuing down the boulevard, just before the airport is Young Fellow. This spot melds the traditions of a 75-year-old rum shop with newer traditions of weekend island barbecue and live music (and a favourite oddity of the place—a disco ball!).
Heading back to the island’s main hotel area, a final stop might be Local Store on Palm Beach Road. Although today it stretches the boundaries to really be called a rum shop, it once was the busiest in the area. Owned by two sisters, for decades this was the place to call in after work, loosen the ties, and knock back a couple of cold beers. The sisters retired in 2014, making way for the next generation.
Today it retains the charm of yesteryear but brought up to date with contemporary features such as imported craft beers. Food is also available – a popular dish is wings with a special sauce, burgers, and panini washed down nicely with the cold beer!
For more information about Aruba, go to www.aruba.com