AHHHHHhhhh Aruba. This trip couldn’t have come at a better time. I had just returned home from Africa a few days prior, only to make the life-altering discovery upon landing that I had been adopted as a baby. It was on overwhelming few days, and the chance to head to Aruba and clear my mind for a long weekend was just what I needed.
Warm air, warm water, warm people, and some space to breath. I mean, look at Palm Beach! Your worries melt away.
I could get used to this. And I did.
So much to see:
So much to do:
Let me tell you more about my jaunt to Aruba and encourage you to take one happy trip to one happy island after the jump…
After the long flight from LA I checked into the Westin Aruba. I can’t say it’s the finest hotel I’ve ever stayed at, but the view was lovely.
I spent some time getting settled and walking along the beach before our first excursion that evening to the Carrubian Festival. What a way to jump right into the Aruba way of life.
The Carubbian festival celebrates Carnivale year round, with a hilarious interactive show outside in the warm air featuring dancers in full carnivale regalia and stands with delicious homemade local food and drink, all in a fun, wild party atmosphere.
To start day two off right we set off on a horseback ride. If you read my post about Cape Town, South Africa, you know I love to clear my mind on a horse. We headed over to Rancho La Ponderosa Aruba to saddle up, but first my buddy Samantha (from Fitness Magazine) and I had to get our stretch on.
Then we saddled up,
and headed into the Aruban wilderness.
The Aruban wilderness is small. We rode from one side of the island to the other, and on the way I realized that Aruba is not the tropical paradise I had imagined, but more of a desert paradise. Aruba has no hurricane season and in fact no rainy season, so it stays around 80 degrees ALL YEAR ROUND. This is ideal for those of you on the east coast, in midwinter you can always be sure that a short 4 hour flight to Aruba will land you in a warm oasis.
The landscape is marked by cactus and their signature fofoti trees,
and of course, beautiful coastline.
I had so much fun with these ladies.
My friend Hilary from Blackbook Magazine was horseback riding for the first time, yet, as all bloggers do, she managed to text-and-ride, ha.
Who wouldn’t feel better about life after an excursion like this?
We rode to the North side of the island. All the hotels are on the South side where the water is calm, while the water on the North side is quite dangerous.
Unless you are an experienced surfer/adrenaline junkie, you are advised to stay out. But it’s a beautiful place to ride.
We tied the horses up for a bit and explored.
Aruba has gold! During their gold rush, gold was transported here for melting and processing, because it was a safe place far from the cities and people.
The landscape is quite beautiful.
I loved horseback riding, but if it’s not your thing, you can also explore this part of Aruba in a jeep,
or on an ATV.
We ended our horseback adventure morning with a delicious lunch (and maybe a few Aruba Arriba cocktails – hey, you’re on vacation) at Hadicurari,
then followed it up with a spa treatment at the Larimar Spa. The chief export of Aruba is aloe, so I had a moisturizing aloe massage that was just lovely after a day in the equatorial sun.
After an afternoon of relaxing and thinking and generally enjoying be alone, we gussied ourselves up “island casual” – which included my new Aruban flip flops (hello, so cute, right?)
for a truly amazing dining experience at The Old Man and the Sea. The food was sublime, lobster and seafood with Caribbean and Dutch influences. The setting was just lovely, toes in the sand, with beds to rest on and piers to sit upon.
This is “fish food” – Aruban food was my favorite part of the trip. It’s just such a flavorful mishmash of so many different influences, all with seafood at it’s core. However, one of my favorite dishes was a spiced (but not spicy) chicken mixture, covered in a shell of gouda cheese and baked. It was divine.
There are so many ocean activities to choose from on Aruba,
but I decided on Snuba. I once had my SCUBA certification but it has long since expired. I hadn’t been in years, but you can Snuba without dive certification and also WITHOUT FEAR. We went with De Palm Tours to three locations, including the Antilla ship wreck, on a big catamaran (I get sea sick despite a lifetime on the Pacific, but the catamaran cuts it off at the pass, ideal).
I snorkeled at two of them and did Snuba at one. We also drank lots of cocktails. It was so fun, and no, I’m not pregnant, ha. I have no shame THIS IS MY BODY AND I LOVE IT SO THERE.
Snuba has you attached to a hose that leads to a buoy on the surface with air. You don’t go down too deep and don’t have to worry about decompressing. So I put on my mask
gathered my buddies (including the lovely Leslie from Bucket List Publications)
and got to SNUBA-ing!
That’s me and one of my new favorite people, Carol from GirlGoneTravel.com:
I’m a fish in the warm Caribbean sea!!
After our morning at sea, we relaxed by the beach before enjoying a lovely dinner at The Queen’s Caribbean restaurant, followed by a night of rest.
For our last full day in Aruba, we were treated to beach tennis lessons at Beach Tennis Aruba. I am (did you know this?) actually a pretty good tennis player (or I used to be), so I was excited to show off my skillz. Turns out, they do not apply to beach tennis. What is beach tennis? Well, it’s a relatively new sport that is catching on all over the world, though not as much in the US yet. I think we should get on it, because it’s so fun! It’s played on the sand with a net, combining beach volleyball and regular tennis with a hint of badminton and ping pong tossed in for good measure. What’s so great about it is that anyone can play after a three minute lesson, it doesn’t require much instruction or practice to have fun at, and it really is super fun.
Even women wearing ridiculously inappropriate sundresses as sporting gear (ahem, me).
Look at these cuties off the court.
My only reco would be to do beach tennis early in the morning or in the evening, it’s just too hot during the day in Aruba and even my LA-sun-experienced skin could not handle it.
Also, Aruba has iguanas. They like beach tennis.
After an amazing family-style lunch at Moomba Beach, we headed out to learn windsurfing and paddleboarding with Aruba Active Vacations. They also offer kitesurfing, but I was not prepared to actually fly on this day.
We started with a quick windsurfing lesson,
then made our own attempts to get up. I did manage to get up and surf a bit, but not turn.
I also tried paddle boarding, which some might see as boring, but I found rather meditative.
Our instructors were Aruba natives, and so much fun.
We had a blast.
Who wouldn’t in a place like this?
After a long day of excursions we met up for an amazing, relaxing meal at a restaurant where you are served IN BED – the Screaming Eagle, followed by gambling at some local casinos. Yes, gambling in Aruba is legal and is a big draw. I’m not much of a gambler, but thanks to my dad I do know how to play craps, which is the one game I really recommend learning, because you can spend a few hours playing without losing your pants. Best odds in the casino, and super fun because you end up bonding with all the other players at the table. Why? Because in craps, when one person does well, everyone does well. You aren’t trying to beat anyone, so you end up cheering for the table and making new friends. Which is really what Aruba is all about: meeting fun, warm, welcoming people and having a good time together.
And with that, one more night of sleep, and one more beautiful view; I headed home to my family feeling refreshed and renewed.