#Onehappyisland (Welcome to Aruba)

I took this trip July 2017 with my sister and I hope you enjoy every detail of information on this post as much as I enjoyed my time on the island.

Before Trip:

~ Flights & Accommodation–  Booked through Expedia

~ Planning

  • Duration on island 6 days and 5 nights (Friday to Wednesday)
  • Things not to forget: Passport/Sunscreen/Sun glasses/Straw hat/ Cash 💰
  • All activities to be done on the island were also booked through Expedia

~ Budget – This was for my sister’s birthday trip. I spent roughly $1100 for my flight, hotel stay and car pickup from airport to hotel then hotel to airport upon departure. This price also included all my activities (details below) besides food, spa and shopping. My plan was to spend nothing more than $600 in Aruba. (Read till the end to see how well this worked). 

During Trip

Night 1 ~ Arrival at Oranjestad (Capital of Aruba)

Like any other tourist country/island, the people here are so welcoming! As soon as we picked up our bags and headed towards the exit, our ride was waiting for us right out the door with a sign of our names. The weather was PERFECT; it was sunny and beautiful! As we rode to our hotel, our chauffeur was giving tips on what to do and what not to do on the island. He recommended that no matter how much melanin you have, USE SUNSCREEN! We found this to be helpful because another “Ajiun Traveler” who didn’t have hers ended up having sunburns which weren’t pretty. He also recommended to try out local restaurants rather than what we normally see at home. Surprisingly to me, there were a lot of fast food restaurants like Wendy’s, Burger King, KFC and the likes literally everywhere.

We stayed at the Renaissance hotel (Ocean Suites).
There are 2 Renaissance hotels which are close to each other on the island. One is the Renaissance ocean suites and the other is the Renaissance marina hotel (adults only).  So when booking, make sure to pick which you prefer. The ocean suites hotel only had room as suites which is why we chose this for bigger room space. 

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The view from my room

After we unpacked, showered and rested we embarked on our MISSION of the night which was to PARTY! We did research on a lot of night clubs but GUSTO appealed to us the most. It’s in a very busy area but you should feel relatively safe as there are many people walking, shopping, trading and the likes everywhere. This was where I first noticed that the island was densely diverse!! Loved it!snapseed-1

 

 

It was a wonderful evening with variety of music from hip-pop, to pop, to reggae to oldies to Spanish and even African songs! It was pure FUN!

Day 1 ( Eating, Shopping and Comedy Show)

After resting the previous day away, this was our “relax and take it easy day”. First we had brunch at a local restaurant called The Dutch Pancakehouse which was so conveniently located right across from our hotel! We found out that everything is imported on the island, because their soil isn’t great for growing most foods. Despite that, the food was delicious! Their pancakes are not what you think… look below; do you see that sugar powdered crepe covered in strawberries and ice cream?! img_1835

YEAH! That’s one of their pancakes. They had savory options as well but a sweet-tooth can’t deny that yummy goodness!!

There are a lot of shopping centers on the island that attract a variety of tourists. I went shopping at Kate Spade, Zara and some local stores, I got a new pair of sunglasses at a local grocery store because I unfortunately lost the one I had; you’ll see me rocking it in later pictures! The clothing items are pretty much the same price back home as they are on the island, but imported materials like food and brand name waters are ridiculous! Peep the price of this gallon of Crystal water! 

 

The weather was beautiful, but all the walking takes some strength out of you. We took a nap right away when we got back to our hotel and got ready for our comedy show. 

Our comedy show was at the Marriott resort and Stellaris casino. This was a chance to have a night out without too much activity going on. You just check in, get a drink (or a couple of them) and laugh! This Marriot hotel is BEAUTIFUL! However, it was pretty busy on the first floor. There are a variety of restaurants, open bars, ice cream shops and gift shops on this first floor so if you are not one for too much going on in a hotel, this might not be your first choice. It was very lively, with live music playing in the lobby; so if you are all in for a lively night every night, this is it for you!

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My Sister met Tony V

Day 2 ~ Getting to know the Island

The excursion lasted about 2 hours and we got to see major landmarks of the island. On our way, I found it incredible that they had a well-built medical center for such a small island. 

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Our first stop was at the country’s spot for the national tree called the divi-divi tree which only grows in the direction of the wind! It’s classic look is shown in the picture below. img_1936

Our next stop was at the Casibari Rock Formation, which are natural rocks formed from the soil of the ground. It was so much fun to climb the rocks, not too hectic really but they won’t let you climb if you have knee or back problems; which is basically safety for you first! There is a lot of bending involved. We spent about 45 minutes exploring areas of the rocks, taking pictures, reaching the top and getting an AMAZING VIEW of the island from a high point. snapseed-2snapseed-3img_1941

Next, we visited the Bushiribana Gold mill Ruins. What caught my interest was the way the structure was built. Our guide stated this was done on purpose to discourage pirates from attacking. About a mile from here, we went to visit the Aruba Natural Bridge. Unfortunately, in 2005 the bridge collapsed due to strong weather issues. Nonetheless, the area was so beautiful and serene and these pictures don’t do justice! img_2011-1img_2406-1snapseed-10penultimatefullsizerendersnapseed-7snapseed-12snapseed-11

NOTE–> There are snack spots at sites of excursions stops so when you get hungry don’t be afraid to snag a bite! Water was also given to us by our guide; this came included with our excursion package. 

The next stop was the Alto Vista Chapel, which was the first catholic church built on the island. Peace and Tranquility are the words that describe my experience of visiting this chapel. Lastly, we visited the California Lighthouse and went snorkeling at the Arashi Beach!

 

Imagine, soft white sand under your feet and in between your toes, as you lay under a cabana, sipping on a delicious Mojito from a coconut cup! 

After Mojito sipping and cleaning off our sandy toes, we headed back to our hotel for some rest time from our adventurous day. We later went to dinner at The West Deck restaurant (the pan-fried pargito below is highly recommended) which has an amazing view in the daytime, then we went on to party at Moomba Beach. This beach was heavily crowded especially around the bar so I recommend you either pregame before you go or take a flask along with you! This was another enjoyable experience! It was too dark to see the water (there isn’t much lighting on this beach at nighttime) so we mainly stayed by the bar and danced the night away. 

 

Day 3 ~ Private Island, Fancy dinning and Celebration

One of the perks of staying at the Renaissance hotel was that you have access to their private island which has a bar, swimming and snorkeling equipment to rent and most importantly FLAMINGOS!!! We boarded the speed boat from the Renaissance marina hotel with other guests and jetted off to our private island. It was nice to have a beach with not so many people but personally, I wasn’t a big fan of the private island. There were too many rocks on the beach as well as on the bank of the water. You would have to be really careful trying to get into the water especially if you have kids. Regardless, it was nice seeing the flamingos! snapseed-16snapseed-20snapseed-17snapseed-19snapseed-21snapseed-18

Hours and hours later…

We decided to have a very nice dinner at the highly recommended restaurant called Quinta Del Carmen. My impression of this restaurant as we walked it was a beautiful house turned restaurant which was very much so the case! You had the option of seating inside or outside; we sat outside because the weather was perfect. Besides the stunning rooms and “yard” of this restaurant, the food was amazing. They have a wide selection of food, from seafood to Italian to delicious items for my fellow steak lovers. The price of this restaurant is similar to the price of a Perry’s Steakhouse or any high-end steakhouse where you may be. The food was fantastic so I say give it a go. 

 

Day 4 ~ Shopping, Spa, Boat Cruise and Dinner by the Seaside

Sadly, this was our last day on the island but we most definitely enjoyed it to the fullest just as the previous days!

First we had brunch at one of the restaurants in the Renaissance Marina hotel; (recall, you have access to the amenities of the marina hotel even if you stay at ocean suites hotel…see Day 1). Aquarius was the name of the restaurant and lunch here is served buffet style with one fixed price. I wish we knew about the this option earlier because the food was delicious with a decent price tag! Afterwards, we spent more of the big bucks at the Spa. Now, this I have to say was a little bit on the $pricey$ side but it was a wonderful one hour massage. I took a serious nap while on the massage bed. #NOSHAME. Afterwards, the ladies of the spa celebrated my sister’s birthday by giving us a bottle of champagne with chocolate covered strawberries! This was not a part of our package, but the front desk lady was so happy about the birthday that she did this for us! People on this island are AMAZING!!!

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The only pic I could snag before our session

The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to souvenir shopping!  I’m a lover of gifts from other countries and so I love to give people something, no matter how small it may be. We went straight to the flea markets for this and bought items like handmade bracelets, customized shot glasses, handbags, baseball caps, key chains and many more. 

Later on, we went back to our hotel to get ready for our boat cruise. The line we took was Sunset Sailing Cruise with the company Pelican Adventures. This was about a 1 hour 30 minutes sail which included bottomless drinks and hors d’oeurves on the boat as well as dinner when back on land all for one price! We danced, took a lot of pictures and watched the sun set. It was breathtaking! Dinner was good, you get a 3-coruse meal included in the price. While on the boat, we met a couple that was celebrating their 20 year anniversary and we surprised them with an extra dessert at dinner. It was so nice to see their faces light up for the exciting unexpected. 

 

Day 5 ~ Early morning Departure off the island. 

Sadly, like many other trips to a land of the unknown, this trip came to an end…

After trip

My overall reflection was an overwhelming amazing experience! This is one place where I DEFINITELY will be going back! As for the $600 budget I was to use on the island, I went over  by $150 because of the Spa and some floating equipment I got for myself on the private island day. 

Overall, I spent $1850 on this trip. This included my flight, hotel for 4 nights, pick-up and drop-off from airport to hotel and vice versa, food and drinks, activities, taxi rides and shopping. 

Recommendations

  • Take cash with you to be able to manage your spending. Things are not so cheap on the island.
  • American dollars are accepted and are cheaper than the Florin ( Aruba’s currency). It’s roughly 55 cents to 1 Florin.
  • Book all your activities in ADVANCE! Don’t wait until the last-minute as they tend to sell out fast. 
  • Drinking the local bottled water was WAY BETTER than the imported nestle water or others available. For some reason, we found that the imported water had a certain taste to them. We stuck to the local bottled water because it is filtered water straight from the ocean.
  • Rental cars not necessary but beneficial if you have been to the island before and want to get yourself wherever you want to go.
  • The local cabs are pretty cheap (they have a fixed price) and they are called for you as soon as you need them from the hotel front desk. No operating Uber as of July 2017.
  •  Do not only shop at the malls. There are great and local souvenirs to be found at the flea market! Just ask your hotel concierge to direct you to the nearest one. 
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