It’s been a while since I’ve had a vacation. It’s been about four years to be exact. I’m a single mom, so getting free time alone isn’t always easy. While searching online for festivals, I ran across the Soul Beach Music Festival in Aruba. After doing a little research, I found out it’s been going on for the last 17 years! Why didn’t I know about this event? The festival happens yearly for Memorial Day Weekend. The festival combines comedy shows, concerts, beach parties, and more. The best part of all…it was in Aruba.
One of the things I realized once I came back into the single world was the fact that I would have to travel alone. I wasn’t quite ready to do this yet, so I blasted out an email to a few friends, who share my love of travel and waited to see who wanted to come along. After months of planning, the person I was originally staying with backed out on me at the last minute, so I was able to stay with a college friend and her sister. Surprisingly, this allowed me to save some money and purchase cheaper airfare, but I don’t advise this when planning a Caribbean vacation.
If you’re trying to travel on a budget, I recommend flying Southwest or checking out Jet Blue’s flights depending on your city of origin. If you plan at least 8 months in advance, you can cut your airfare rates down tremendously. Also, going in with someone on a room will cut your costs and leave money for you to spend on excursions or other activities once you get to the island.
We stayed at the Renaissance Casino Resort and Spa. This hotel served as one of the primary hosts for the festival. From the airport, it takes about 10 minutes to get to the hotel. We paid about $7 per person for a shared cab with four people. The hotel is in Oranjestad, Aruba, which means Orange Town and is the capital of Aruba. It’s also the largest city in Aruba. The hotel features a full service spa, private beach, fitness center, and about six restaurants, a bar and my favorite, Starbucks! It’s crucial that I drink coffee every morning, so I was concerned that the coffee wouldn’t be strong, so Starbucks was my back up plan.
Soul Beach Music Festival Events
Once we checked into the hotel on Thursday, a happy hour hosted by the pool with Rudy Rush, a local Houston, Texas DJ airing a live remote took place. It gave us a chance to unwind and plan out our weekend activities while we enjoyed the music, people and a few cocktails.
We had a full agenda for the weekend. Thursday night kicked off the weekend with a Welcome to Aruba All White Party. This was one of many after parties. Most after parties were on Palm Beach. Palm Beach is known for it’s vibrant night life. It was about 10 minutes away from our hotel in a cab. Most of the high-rise hotels, casinos, clubs, and hotels are on Palm Beach. The festival had four other host hotels on Palm Beach. These are popular because many of those hotels allow you to walk right out of your hotel and go directly to the beach.
For Friday, we visited our hotel’s private beach. It was awesome. The hotel staff took us over on a boat. Once we arrived, we had the option of relaxing on the adult only or family friendly side of the beach. Right off the boat, we were shocked to see pink flamingos, iguanas and lizards. They had little stations where you could buy food to feed the flamingos.
The private beach offered guests Wi-Fi in the bar/restaurant, beach chairs, beach equipment and towels. It gave us an opportunity to step away from all the activities and just unwind.
After the left the beach, we attended a comedy show hosted by Cedric the Entertainer and an after party immediately following close by. Cedric the Entertainer also stayed at our hotel, so he enjoyed all the activities as well, and was very friendly.
The comedy show had two opening acts. None of which I was really fond of and I’ve already been putting in my feedback and bid for a local Houston comedian to attend for 2018 and entertain the audience with his comedy.
Saturday’s first concert kicked off with locals from Aruba dancing each night in beautiful, colorful costumes to their local music.
Saturday the concert featured Faith Evans, Usher and the Roots. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the concerts because unless you purchased a VIP pass, the shows were standing room early. However, I made sure I wore some comfortable flats. We arrived early. I stood as close to the stage that I could and waited for the shows to start. I loved the fact that all the events started on time. I’m not big on large crowds, but everyone that I met during the festival was friendly, grown and there to have a great time.
Faith Evans did most of her classic songs. She definitely represented New York.
Usher and the Roots performed together for the first time in history. The collaboration was awesome.
For a snap shot of the performances, you can head over to my Houston Food Fetish Facebook page.
On Sunday, we decided to go out to the last day party since we were leaving Monday. The day party was located on Baby Beach. Initially, we didn’t think it was that far, but were in for a rude awakening when we had three taxi drivers who turned us down and didn’t want to take us to the island. The drive took about 20 minutes from our hotel. Most of the taxi drivers were afraid they would miss the quick money they could receive by making quick trips closer to the hotel, but after more and more people started to catch rides to Baby Beach, they quickly changed their minds. All of the events gave me a chance to check out different parts of the island.
Baby Beach is on the southeast side of the island. The locals told us it was the prettiest beach on the entire island. The water is calm and it’s tourist friendly.
On the way to Baby Beach, the taxi driver told us we could find the best jerk chicken, rice, and beans there. I love Caribbean food, but to be honest I had been waiting to eat some jerk chicken since I got off the plane, so that was my first stop once we hit the beach, got our cabanas and settled.
Sunday’s night, Mary J Blige rocked the stage. I got a chance to watch the concert in the pit. Despite the loud music that comes from the speakers when you’re in the pit, it was the best view I’ve ever had at a concert. It makes you feel like you are on stage with the performer.
What I ate:
The food here is not like what you might get in Jamaica. You’re going to get a taste of foods from South America, Netherlands, Europe, and the Caribbean all in one place. Fish and potatoes were on the menu at most of the restaurants. The Dutch Pancakehouse had a line outside the door every morning for breakfast. They don’t serve the traditional pancake. Instead it’s a large crepe that you can add any toppings similar to a pizza. I had chicken and waffles at the Plaza Cafe. The portion sizes are much smaller than in the US. The chicken was lightly seasoned and fried. The waffle was dense. They told us it was a popular dish, but I wondered if it was on the menu for the festival weekend or if it was a traditional dish they usually offer.
Overall, the food was good. But, the jerk ribs and chicken are something I will make it a point to find the next time I get to the island. I was a bit disappointed that I found Mama’s Bar and Grill the last day of my trip. They also offered Oxtails, Fried Fish, and Goat.
I’m certain the Soul Beach Festival drives a lot of business for the small island every year. The festival kept us busy with the best entertainers and event line up. The organizers put a lot of work in this event, and the entire time I was there I kept thinking about coming back again in 2018. The people attending the festival came from all over the US and there some people I even met from the Philippines.
The next Soul Beach Music Festival takes place May 23-May 28, 2018. If you’re interested in learning more about Soul Beach Music Festival, visit www.soulbeach.net to learn more. It’s a great festival to get a group of friends together and make memories. I’ll be there, so let me know if you plan to go!
Until next time, love, peace and food.