Weekend Getaways: One Happy Island [Aruba]
Come along on our most recent weekend getaway to Aruba! As an accountant, Michael has quite the busy season and we like to take a few days to relax once it ends. For four days, three nights Michael and I decided to take a short flight down to the beautiful island of Aruba, just off the coast of Venezuela. This blog follows us throughout the highlights of our trip and gives an insider perspective of many of the places we traveled.
Our itinerary was packed full with snorkeling, beach visits, and lots of eating and drinking! We managed to pack quite a bit into the four days, so bear with me as I walk you through everything---or just enjoy all the pictures! We have snorkeling footage and some vlogging that will be up in a few days.
We arrived mid-day and picked up our rental car from the airport. Aruba is a small island (approximately 20 miles long) and we wanted to be able to see as much as we could. I am so glad we decided to rent a car---we were able to do so much in a few short days without having to get taxis or shuttle around. You can travel using public transport and taxis, however we wanted some independence and highly recommend a rental car or jeep. The northern part of the island has lots of high-rise hotels and is more commercialized, the southern end is less developed and has more of a residential feel.
We booked a room using AirBnB at Hotel Modern World Aruba in Noord. We stayed in the Penthouse Suite which looks out onto the pool and garden area. We also had a view of the more popular resort area at Palm Beach. If you are a couple or small group, I cannot recommend this place enough. Our host, Erna, was lovely. She provided beach towels, extra sunscreen, and offered to make reservations for us.
We really loved our room. The personal deck overlooking the property was gorgeous and made it feel extra relaxing. Our room was very spacious with tall ceilings. We were the only ones visiting during the time (people checked out before we arrived and were checking in when we left). So we had the place to ourselves!
After we got settled, we threw on our swimsuits and headed across the street to Palm Beach. We walked to Bugaloe for beachy drinks and some lunch. The deck of the restaurant is built out over the gorgeous blue Caribbean waters---so lovely! This ended up being one of my favorite spots---casual, beachy, and a lovely view.
On the way back we swam a bit and spent some time on the beach.
That evening we got back to our room and got ready to go out. We stopped at a local grocery store for some water, fruit, and snacks to have for the trip. Something about Aruba you may not know is that they have some of the best water in the world. In fact, they bottle their own water. They use a state-of-the-art desalination process that was fascinating to read about. And as a picky water-drinker I can say I drank the water any where we went. There was no risk of being sick unlike many places in the Caribbean.
We went to watch the sunset near the California lighthouse a short drive from where we stayed. Afterwards we came back and walked to dinner at a local spot called Smokey Joe's.
The next morning we woke up and went to get Dutch Pancakes (a local specialty) at Diana's Pancakes. So delicious! Michael got a 'french' pancake with brie, walnuts, and syrup---ugh it was so good.
We went to Malmok for some snorkeling, and then to Baby Beach for even more snorkeling and time on the beach. On our way to Baby Beach we stopped at a small local stand for fresh coconut water---so delicious. We were greeted by a pack of wild donkeys while enjoying our coconut treat.
After a day in the sun we went to Zeerover's for a late lunch. This local spot is on the water and they bring in fish and shrimp daily. You absolutely have to go here if you visit. We then went to Mangel Halto for more snorkeling. Our evening was spent watching the sunset on Palm Beach.
The following morning we went for Dutch pancakes at another local spot, Linda's Dutch Pancakes. Then off to Eagle Beach and Baby Beach for snorkeling and some time in the sun. We stopped on the way back at a little local food stand called Happy Aruba Cafe. The food was amazing! This place is not on any maps. While driving through Savaneta we noticed it and decided to stop.
Afterwards we drove back to our end of the island for drinks at Bugaloe again---I told you we really loved it there! We then headed back and drank some wine by the pool. We decided to go to dinner on the beach at Barefoot. We had a lovely fresh and local dinner. Their motto 'Elegant dining in flip-flops' really speaks to the experience.
Waking up on our last day in Aruba was bittersweet. We woke up early to venture to new snorkeling spots. We found a spot with beautiful fish and some starfish which are always amazing to see. Snorkeling in the clear blue waters was really magical. We spent the morning snorkeling and then went back to pack up our things. We attempted to get lunch at the West Deck (which we were so excited for), but they were closed over lunch for a private event. We ended up at a Cuban place and had a lunch before heading to the airport. We dropped off our rental car and then ventured back to good old Virginia.
We had a lovely few days in Aruba. The beautiful water, breezy weather, and amazing food combined to make a magical experience. I recommend this to anyone looking for a short beach getaway. Two places we really wanted to try but couldn't due to timing were the West Deck, and the Flying Fishbone. Another thing that a lot of people do is rent ATVs or off-roading vehicles to do some exploring on the northern side of the island. This is definitely something we will do on our next visit!
If you didn't feel like reading all of my ramblings (or if you've stuck with me this long) I've listed a few recommendations/tips for traveling to Aruba below:
- You can drink the water in Aruba. In fact, it tastes amazing. They use a state-of-the-art desalination process. Bring it will you in water bottles wherever you go. Aruba can be very warm and humid---don't get dehydrated especially while snorkeling!
- Eat at local spots. Yes, parts of Aruba are quite commercialized with fast food options and places like TGI Friday's and Ruth's Chris. But come on, you are in Aruba with fresh seafood and amazing local dishes. Explore the local restaurants, ask around where the best spots are, be a little adventurous.
- Don't be confused---the local language is not Spanish, it is Papiamento. Aruba is country with a lot of Dutch influence as well. There is a beautiful fusion of cultures in this country. If you venture out of the high-rise hotel area you are more apt to get a better feel for this.
- Phrases you might here:
- 'Bon bini' (Welcome)
- 'Bon dia' 'Halo' (Hello)
- 'Masha danki' (Thank you very much)
- 'Dushi'/'Mi dushi' (Sweet/My darling)
- Phrases you might here:
- Most places accept the US dollar and credit cards. This makes for easy transactions. We ended up getting a few florins (local currency) for parking, but that was it.
- Aruba is very safe. We walked a lot during the day and at night. We always made sure to keep valuables out of the car or out of sight. We had no issues whatsoever. As always take safety precautions (don't walk alone at night, don't leave valuables in the car, etc).