Aruba… One Happy Island

Palm Beach

There is nothing more relaxing than a beach vacation. My family an I have been on cruises and wanted to actually hit an island in the Caribbean for longer than 6 hours. After speaking with a few avid Caribbean travelers, and doing our research we picked Aruba due to the following:

  • Quick to get to. We live in Fort Lauderdale and Jet Blue has daily flights with an approximate flight time of 2.5 hours
  • Predictable weather. The island has a year round average temperature of 86 degrees. The island as well has a constant breeze due to the trade winds
  • Native Arubians all speak English
  • American cash is accepted at all places
  • Pictures of Aruba boast beautiful white sandy beaches and excellent grounds for snorkeling (a family favorite)
  • You are not required to get a Visa prior to your trip. Just bring your passport and you are welcome for up to 30 days and cannot exceed 180 days per year.

For lodging we had 3 choices from the Marriott Brand (not including any of their vacation rental properties), as per prior blogs Marriott is our go to. You will see why shortly…. Our choices were the Ritz Carlton, Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, and the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino. We opted for the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino. The reasons we selected this resort were due to:

  • Location, nestled towards the end of Palm Beach. Directly located on the beach I must add.
  • 2 pools (one adult only, major plus)
  • Several restaurants
  • Starbucks located in the lobby
  • Beach Palapas
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY… recently upgraded.

We selected the month of June as we paired this trip with our son’s 12th birthday. June is also a historically light month for hurricanes. Again we live in Florida and we have already had one trip extended once due to airport closures. Not fun.

The flight in was super quick. Getting through customs took approximately 30 minutes. Grabbing a cab was very easy as well, nice organized line and then you are off to your destination. The cab driver was super friendly. In route to our hotel he pointed out 2 markets, one that contained more American products and one that was more European. I immediately made it my mission to visit the European market as I had to get my hands on a TRUE Kinder Egg…. Our cab driver also informed us that all Arubans speak 4 languages Dutch, Papiamento, Spanish and English. He also let us know that only native Arubans can be obtain a cab license, hence why there is no Uber. It took about 40 minutes to get from the airport to the resort. This is a bit longer than usual due to road improvements going on. From what we were told this is an island infrastructure project that is anticipated to be ongoing for several years. We pulled into the hotel and unloaded.

When we checked in, unfortunately our rooms were not yet available. We were however able to upgraded to a higher floor with an ocean view, wrap around balcony. Fantastic! Doesn’t beat being a Gold Elite Marriott Member. The front desk staff was extremely welcoming and conversational. We briefly noted that it was our son’s birthday. We checked our bags with the bellhop and headed to the beach side restaurant. Of course, after 2.5 hours flying, getting thru customs, obtaining bags and a long construction zoned taxi ride WE WERE STARVING. The food was your typical pool/beachside fair. Nothing spectacular hence why I have no pics!

After about 2 hours we checked in with the front desk to see if the rooms were ready. Side note we did not purchase an international cellphone plan as it was super outrageously expensive. Our social media cravings would be met via the complimentary WiFi 🙂 .

The room was super clean with modern furnishings. We had a king bed corner room with a pull out sofa sleeper. The wrap around balcony had 2 loungers along with 2 chairs and a small table. The views of the beach and pool were phenomenal. We immediately unloaded our stuff, lathered on the sunblock, dawned our bathing suites and headed for the beach. Since it was nearly 4pm we did not rent a Palapa. We did however arrange for one for the following day along with arranging one for our last full day on the island. I do wish they gave the option to prepay and secure in advance of your stay, sadly both days our Palapa was in the third or fourth row back from unobstructed ocean views. The fee for the Palapa included unlimited bottled waters, I do wish that they had more servers for the beach. The ones working clearly appeared in the weeds, we just walked to the bar and grabbed our drinks ourselves both days.

Palm Beach was the picturesque beach scene you imagine when the island Aruba comes to mind. The water was calm, clear and perfect temperature. There were starfish nestled in the sands everywhere. Coming from Florida I knew better than to disturb sea creatures, however most were picking them up and taking pictures with them. One thing to mention about Aruba. There is a CONSTANT breeze. It’s refreshing and if you are not careful not dangerous. Why? With a breeze the heat is less severe and you will fry if you do not keep up on sunblock application. Make sure you hold onto anything and everything that can potentially get swept up in the breeze. The breeze as well will make you forget that you are not to far from the equator. Please be sure to LATHER the sunscreen on, and reapply often. It’s hot, however going in and out of the water, add the breeze, and you will not realize you are baking like a chocolate chip cookie. On Palm Beach as well there are plenty of vendors where you can rent jet skis, be pulled by a fast boat on a big inter tube, paddle board, and there is a big inflated floating obstacle course that has a floating trampoline. I felt like a kid again jumping on that .. lol.

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Our family loves to snorkel. Prior to the trip I researched the best snorkeling day excursions. We selected Jolly Pirates Cruises.  img_0628The pier was within walking distance of our hotel. The fair includes equipment, lunch and 3 snorkeling stops. One of the stops you get to snorkel above a wrecked WWII ship Antilla. My son and I are not as strong of a swimmer as my husband so we opted to watch from the ship. The water was very rough. My husband thoroughly enjoyed this snorkel as he had never seen a ship wreck before. Lots of sea life could be seen. The second stop was Boca Catalina. The water was much calmer and crystal clear. You could see coral along with several types of fish. The final and BEST stop was Malmok. Just gorgeous. I’ve never seen water so blue and clear in my life. After the last allotted snorkel time passed, one of the “Pirates” took a small dingy to shore to gather our lunch. Lunch consisted of BBQ chicken, a rib, potato salad and steamed veggies. Nothing spectacular but after a few hours snorkeling you img_0626will eat anything. Another fabulous post snorkel treat…. HAPPY HOUR! The bar was open. Typical Caribbean rum and fruit drink mixture along with soda and water for the non partakers. Probably the coolest thing about this ship was the rope swing. Not for me but boy did my son and husband have a blast. Enjoy the video and watch till the end. I would definitely recommend this excursion to any one visiting the island.

Time to get to the food…. Every morning we would head to Dushi Bagels for breakfast. Some mornings we would walk, others we would opt for the brief cab ride. Dushi Bagels is located just in front of the Playa Linda resort. 4 resorts to the left of where we were staying. They served your standard American breakfast fare, eggs, bacon, bagels and French toasts. The service was excellent, coffee always filed. They accept visa, Amex and American cash as well. For lunch one day we ate at Pelican Pier. Their fish special was good and you could not beat this view. You could see schools of fish swim buy as you ate. Two of the nights we ate at our resort. I mean after all we did have a Ruth Chris, absolutely delicious. Just like back in the states. Several locals had recommended that we head to Smokey Joes for dinner one night. We were very happy we took them up on the recommendation. I had the BBQ chicken chopped salad, my son the chicken finger platter, and the husband had the BBQ sampler platter. It definitely did not disappoint. They also sell some excellent hot sauce, my son LOVES hot sauce. The bottle we brought home is nearing it’s final days.

For our son’s 12th birthday meal I did some research to find the best fine dinning, with amazing views in Aruba. Several restaurants fit what we were looking for, we opted for Flying Fishbone. One thing I must note, Flying Fishbone is located on the OTHER SIDE of the island approximately a 45 minute drive. If you do not have a rental car the cab fare is approx $40.00 each way. It was our sons birthday so we did not mind this extra fee. Our cab driver was amazing, as they all were very friendly. This cab driver stuck out to us because he was actually a radio DJ on the island as well. We had briefly mentioned it was our son’s birthday. Oddly as we were about halfway on our trip to Flying Fishbone the driver rolled up the windows and put the AC on. I say oddly because most in Aruba ride windows down due to the delicious breeze. He then turned the radio up and my son received an ON AIR birthday shout out! How cool was that! Something he definitely will never forget. The Flying Fishbone was beautiful. It was a converted home turned upscale restaurant. Most of the seating was outside which was designed perfect as well. img_1795There were several levels so that there was little obstruction to the ocean side view. The floor is sand bottom so I do not recommend you wear heals. You should be in flip flops and then remove them when you get to the table. Some tables on the lowest level dined with their feet in the water as the tide was up. The restaurant has cute iron rods where you can hang your shoes so that they do not float away. I strategically timed our reservation so that we could watch the sun set as we dined. The food was amazing. We had shrimp cocktail, and oysters as our appetizer.img_1794 I had the scallop Florentine, husband the fish special and the birthday boy had salmon with fries. When it was time to leave we washed up at the cute outdoor foot wash. I then became a little panicked… I did not think about how we were to get home, remember I did not purchase a phone plan. To our surprise the cab drivers and restaurants work in tandem… Once we came in apparently our cab driver did too, our waiter notified the hostess when we were almost done and she called our cab driver! I thought that was awesome and thoughtful.

On our last day on the island we were pretty beached out and done with the sun. We decided to check out that European market. Ten minute cab ride and we were there. The place was FULL of French pastries, danish meats, danish cheese, European chocolates and…. KINDER EGGS. We grabbed some meats, cheeses, crusty loaf of bread, pack of Balashi beer, along with a box of Kinders and headed back to the hotel. Pretty much spent the rest of the day on the balcony munching and enjoying the ocean breeze out of the sun and steps away from air conditioning.

Aruba was wonderful. We definitely plan to make it back again. The thing that captured me most about this island, aside from the beach itself, was the people. There is a reason this is called one happy island. The locals are great and are all very hard workers. Tourism is their bread and butter and they truly appreciate it. The island is super welcoming.

On our next trip our trip here I definitely want to do an excursion out to Arikok National Park. I’ve read and heard a ton about it.

Have you been to Aruba? What did you enjoy most about this island? I’d love to hear about it.

Xoxo,

Liz

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