Let me start off by saying – if you don’t feel safe traveling during the pandemic, then please stay home, but don’t talk down on those who are traveling safely.
I was lucky enough back in September to take a trip to Aruba and let me tell you – I am ready to book my next flight back. My boyfriend and I flew JetBlue from JFK to Aruba and you can read about our experience here. We rented a car literally the morning we were leaving, and it was a piece of cake. Driving in Aruba is an experience as there aren’t any lights, everything is just a circle. I left the driving to my boyfriend 🙂 And from one end of the island to the other is just about an hour drive.
The first night we were in Aruba was spent food shopping, having some dinner and planning out what to do for the week. The supermarkets in Aruba are actually safer than the ones in New Jersey! They only let a certain amount of people in, you had to get your temperature taken before going in and sanitize your hands, and of course masks are mandatory.
Day 1: Beach Hop & First Island Dinner
I will say, neither my boyfriend nor I are big beach people (probably because the water in NJ is FREEZING all the time). We spent so much time at the beach this trip, I didn’t even know who we were! We spent our morning enjoying the beauty of Eagle Beach. It is near the low-rise hotels and the water is the most beautiful blue I have ever seen. As we always do, we rented a jet ski to explore a little more. This is a little embarrassing, but we somehow managed to fall off TWICE! Never in all the times have I ever fallen off once, let alone twice! I was so sad that my GoPro had died at this point because I wish I got that on video. We then drove to Mangel Halto Beach as I had seen amazing photos from here. You may have seen the wooden steps down to the water – that is Mangel Halto. It is one of the top places for snorkeling in Aruba, and there are also mangrove trees that you can just sit in between and enjoy the shade. I wish we had gotten to spend more time here, but we were tapped out on our beach quota for the day. We headed back to our Airbnb, swam in the pool for a bit and went out to enjoy our first dinner on the island. We went to Ricardo’s which is right on the beach through Aruba’s Beach Club Resort. Since we had to walk through the hotel lobby, we had to keep our masks on. Once we got to the restaurant, our temperatures were taken, we had to sanitize our hands, and our name and phone number were taken for contract tracing purposes.
Day 2: UTV Tour Around the Island
This was an early morning for us, as we had booked our first excursion of the trip. Since we were staying at an Airbnb, we had to walk over to one of the hotels to be picked up for this. I LOVE taking ATV/UTV rides when on vacation – I always say it is a good way to see more if the island. Luckily for us, there was only one other couple on the tour (so four of us all together). After driving the UTVs through the streets of Aruba (which was crazy on its own) we made it to Arikok Natural Park. While cruising through the park, we did see people who were out on their own and not on a tour. Trust me when I say, I would have been worried to go through the park on my own. It was insanely rocky and dusty and even on our UTVs we had trouble sometimes (was still very much worth it!). Our first stop was the Natural Pool, and WOW. Once again, the most beautiful water I have ever seen. We had gotten there early enough – before 9AM – and for a while it was just the four of us enjoying the natural pool. After a nice swim around, we hopped back on our UTVs and went to the Bushiribana Gold Mine Ruins. This former mill in the northern part of Aruba gives some insight into island’s relatively unknown gold rush. Here you will see windswept stone ruins in the middle of a wide area of untouched land. Sadly, we didn’t find any gold, but here’s hoping to next time! After trying and failing to find gold, we rode over to the Alto Vista Chapel. Funny story, my parents went to Aruba for their honeymoon and rented ATVs on their own and found the church. 30+ years later, and it is still standing. The Alto Vista Chapel was completed in 1952 and stands in the same exact location as the original chapel, which was built by a Venezuelan missionary in 1750, and to this day there are still weekly masses held here! You are able to explore both the outside and inside of the church and I would recommend checking it out whether you take a tour or try and find it on your own! The last stop on out tour was the California Lighthouse. It was named for a steamship ‘California’, which was wrecked nearby in September 1891. They recently renovated it in 2016, and now you can walk up the teeny steps to the top (it’s 117 steps, by the way!). After our very exciting day, we grabbed a few beers at The Paddok, and had a relaxing night cooking dinner at our Airbnb.
Day 3: Flamingo Beach
Another early day brought us to Renaissance Island’s Flamingo Beach. When you google Aruba beaches, you may see a beach with Flamingos and if you’re like me, then you know you need to go! There are two ways to get to visit Flamingo Island: either stay at the Renaissance Hotel, or book tickets ahead of time online. If you stay at the Renaissance Hotel, your admission to the island is included. If you are staying elsewhere, you can go online here and get tickets ahead of time. There are only a few tickets available for non-hotel guests, they cost $125 each, including a meal and drink at the island, and you can only get them a day or two in advance. I honestly had a lot of fun here; we spent over 6 hours floating, hanging out with flamingos and iguanas, drinking, eating, enjoying our time. There are two sides to the island – one side with flamingos and the other with iguanas. We set up our stuff on the iguana side, and boy were those suckers huge! If you are a big spender, there are overwater cabanas to take some amazing pictures in. After a tiring day in the water, we took our 10-minute boat ride back to the main island, cooked some dinner and called it an early night.
Day 4: Baby Beach, San Nicolas + Yemanja
First breakfast on the island was at Bugaloe, and I suggest everyone go there! They have deals every day, karaoke at night, and a delicious breakfast. We then hopped in our car and headed down to the southern part of Aruba to Baby Beach. Yet again, a stunning beach with crystal clear water. Baby Beach is a shallow, man-altered lagoon with water so calm it is safe for small children (hence the “baby” part of the name). There is a restaurant down at the beach, but we just brought our chairs, some Balashi – the beer of Aruba – and enjoyed our day! After spending a few hours here, I dragged my boyfriend to Sint Nicolaas to see the street art. There are countless murals painted throughout this area of Aruba and I needed to see it. After getting my art fix for the day, we swam at our Airbnb and got ready for dinner. We went to Yemanja and if I can recommend one thing in Aruba, it would be to go here for dinner. As with every other restaurant, you get your temperature checked, hands sanitized and give them your name and number for contract tracing. The food was the best that I may have ever had. Both my boyfriend and I enjoyed every bite of our meal (and the sangria). Just take my advice and go to Yemanja when you go to Aruba!
Day 5: Lazy Day + Sunset Cruise
You always need to throw a lazy day into your vacation! We had breakfast at Diana’s Pancake Place, which is more crepes than pancakes. Would 100% advise checking this place out for breakfast! Spent the rest of the afternoon doing some souvenir shopping, exploring the area near the hotels, swimming in the pool at our Airbnb, and having lunch there. Decided to take a sunset cruise via Octopus Tours, and it was a beautiful evening. Nothing really beats cruising the crystal blue waters of Aruba while the sun sets. The open bar and snacks didn’t hurt either! We had dinner that night at Chicken & Lobster, which I would also recommend! We thought it was going to be a little touristy since it was on the “strip” of hotels, but we were wrong. Steak and chicken, with sides and sangria? Sign us up!
Day 6: Activity Day
Since this was our last full day in Aruba (boo!) we wanted to finish up any food we had at the Airbnb. Afterwards we headed over to Palm Beach for a day of activities. We decided since it was our last day we were going to go all out. Started with jet skis again (always a favorite of ours) then relaxed on the beach while waiting for our next activity: a 3-hour snorkeling boat ride. During this time, we snorkeled near a shipwreck, went down the slide on the boat and also did some jumping off the rope swing! These excursions are always one of my favorites to do because spending the time out sailing on a boat is a perfect way to end your vacation. Even after all that, my boyfriend still didn’t have enough, and we went parasailing over the beautiful ocean. Everything feels a little different when you’re flying so far over the ocean. Dinner that night was also 5/5 at El Gaucho. We are huge steak fans, so this place was right up our alley!
Day 7: Last Day
This day was spent being sad, enjoying one last dip in the pool while flying the drone, lunch at Ricardo’s and one last souvenir shop.
If you couldn’t tell, I would recommend Aruba to everyone and anyone. When I came here with my family years ago, we did all-inclusive and I would never do that again in Aruba. There are too many delicious restaurants to try out that you’d be mad at yourself for sitting on a resort all week. If you’re on the fence about going to Aruba, I hope this post pushes you right into that crystal blue water.