Before the tourism boom, the beach- and shorefronts were vast and the population was small. Easygoing islanders rarely gave much thought to cordoning off swim areas. But as the number of resorts grew, each resort started taking on the responsibility of marking off a protected area of the sea for the safety of its guests.

Underwater view of an array of tropical fish on a reef.

Colorful fish inhabit the reefs off the shores of Aruba. Photo © vilainecrevette/123rf.

Swimmers should avoid sitting on or clinging to swim barrier ropes at all times.

Currently, the swim area markers are maintained by a dedicated enterprise contracting with the hotels. Swimmers should avoid sitting on or clinging to swim barrier ropes at all times. Although the ropes are cleaned regularly, soft corals also regularly begin to grow on the underwater ropes. These can sting and cause a very irritating rash. If you do accidentally run into them, try a topical steroid to relieve the pain and itching.

The Coast Guard has placed a line of buoys beyond the swim areas in Palm Beach to designate a “no wake” zone where fast boat traffic is prohibited. Those crossing the zone while ferrying passengers to larger boats are required to maintain slower speeds to avoid creating a large wake. Swimmers and snorkelers should avoid the areas beyond the swim zone because of the frequent boat traffic.

All commercial boat operators are now required to take courses and obtain at least a “small boat license” showing they have learned safety procedures and the “rules of the road.” The government has also initiated a program to station trained lifeguards in the towers along the beach which had stood unoccupied for decades.

Aruba’s offshore breezes are delightfully cooling. This wind is one of the reasons the waters fronting Palm Beach are so quiet. The drawback is that they tend to blow objects out to sea—including beach balls, lightweight floats, and other fun water toys. The gentle wave motion generated on the water’s surface by these breezes is often not noticeable but still steadily moving away from the shore. Keep a close eye on youngsters in swim rings and lightweight floats.

Also take care not to fall asleep on a float; it is not unheard of for people to wake up far from land. Most float and small craft operators keep a small rescue boat handy for just such events. But even if you don’t float away, falling asleep in the middle of the giant sun reflector that is the Caribbean Sea may prove very distressing. It is no fun being stuck in a hotel room with a sunburn.

Scuba divers are trained to never dive alone. This commonsense rule is wise for almost anyone indulging in water activities on the sea. Don’t go off by yourself to snorkel in areas you are unfamiliar with. Take a buddy and inform friends or family where you are going and a reasonable range of when you expect to be back. Dive operators and snorkel charters can provide buddies and will keep an eye on patrons. They are experienced in handling distressing situations on the sea. If you are trying a water activity for the first time, having supervision is always a good idea.

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Aruba.