We’re staying at a beachfront resort in Aruba. That’s a good thing, because one of my favorite things to do on a beach vacation is to walk the beach. But not just any beach is a good walking beach. There are certain crucial elements that must be satisfied to make a stretch of oceanfront sand into a beachwalker’s dream, and fortunately our beach in Aruba has them all.
The first key element of a good walking beach is a visible destination in the far distance. It helps to have a goal as you stride along, so you can see that you are making progress. Our resort in Aruba is at about the halfway point of a long arc of beach. If you walk out to the oceanfront, to the right you can see some buildings in the far distance, and to the left the beach bends around a point. That’s a perfect combination: to the right is a goal, and to the left is . . . mystery. I chose the goal to start and headed right, toward the buildings.
The second important characteristic of a great walking beach is good sand conditions. It helps if the beach is wide, so there is plenty of room to steer around other groups of walkers and kids playing in the sand, and you also want a sizeable strip of sand that has been packed down by the surfline, to provide a firmer walking surface. And I don’t mind shells, but it also helps if there aren’t areas where lots of crushed shells have washed up, making for a tough slog through mounds of shell fragments. The Aruba beach is almost totally shell-free and has a broad area of compacted sand, which is pretty much ideal.
Another nice element of a good walking beach is some interesting geography and other scenic features. The Aruba beach walk, heading to the right, ends in a ridge of hard, spiny, coral-like rock, just past the buildings. The surf smashes into the rocks with a mighty roar, sending cascades of white spray into the air. there also are some channels within the rockline that have been created by the pounding of the water, so the surf hisses through the rock and sends up jets of spray when it hits the end of the channels.
I also pay attention to the length of the beach itself. In my view, it’s preferable if the length is manageable. Our beachfront in Aruba is probably about 4 miles in length, from one end to the other, and the photo above shows the arc of the beachfront from the top of the rock formation at the right end of the beach. The length is long enough to make you feel like you’re getting some good exercise and fresh sea air, but not so long to be dispiriting.
And the last important element of a good beach walk is a few surprises along the way. When I headed to the left from our resort and rounded the bend, I found a much more commercialized stretch of beach, with lots of oceanfront bars and restaurants. I resisted the temptation to stop and toss back a few Balashis, and headed onward, threading through some rock formations on the beach along the way. The journey to the left end of the beach ended at another rock formation, where there was an abandoned jetty and some sea birds taking a break by perching on the old pilings of the pier. The sun was high in the sky, the sunshine on the water was dazzling, and it was time to turn around and start back again.