5.23.2019 Aruba

Okay, Let's Go to Aruba!


Sometimes all you need is a little break from reality.

It has been over two weeks since my sister Mel and I got back from our trip, yet I still find myself daydreaming about it. New York has finally switched to warmer weather, which has only reminded me even more of how great it would be to be on a beach right now.

I thought I’d share my first out of the country trip this year and relive moments of the sun, sea and island breeze while post-celebrating my sister, Mel’s, new year also. This is the second time I’ve joined her annual birthday trip. Whereas last year we hiked Angel’s Landing (which I have yet to share), this time we did the exact opposite and just relaxed, which at the time she told me seemed unlike her; yet looking back on the trip, turned out to be the vacation we both needed.

Mistaken as Twins, Always

There were a couple of places she debated on, from Amsterdam to Tulum (Mexico). Being the island girls that we are, I remember telling her to pick a place that will (in Marie Kondo’s words) *spark* joy. I don’t really know how she decided, but we ended up with Aruba (a small Dutch Caribbean Island located at the tippy top of South America) and I think it’s because of the flamingos. Because really, why not?

Known as “One Happy Island”, this oasis is filled with a bunch of amazing things to do. Even if my sister did just want to relax, I convinced her to go on some adventures because what’s a trip without it especially when it’s with her? We laid by the beach, had some daiquiris and piƱa coladas under the sun, swam in the clear blue Caribbean waters and rode a double ATV. A mix of relaxation and fun, this trip turned out to be the right kind of balance. If this *sparks* your interest, read on to find out more of the details and see if this kind of trip’s for you:

THE PLAN 
Here’s a snapshot of our itinerary:

Day 1 – Early flight to Aruba. Visit Renaissance Private Beach (where the flamingos are located)
Day 2 – Visit Moomba and Palm Beach, take the Jolly Pirates Tour and enjoy the sunset by Eagle Beach
Day 3 – Relax on Renaissance Private Beach, go off-road in an ATV with Kini Kini Tours and explore Arikok National Park
Day 4 – (Birthday) Massage at Okeanos Spa located in the private island. Flight back to New York.

Landing at Queen Beatrix International Airport

HOW WE GOT THERE
One of the considerations for a long weekend trip is how far the place is from home. Aruba being ~5 hours on a non-direct flight from New York seemed very doable, especially since we were looking at places outside of the USA. We didn’t have a problem booking our flights online as there were several flights in and out almost daily. We ended up booking them with Jetblue.

On most of our trips, we usually rent a car but because the plan was to relax this time around, we didn’t get one.

Had we wanted to explore the island and take multiple trips back and forth from the downtown area where our hotel was (Renaissance Hotel) to the Hi-Rise / Low-Rise part of Aruba (where Palm Beach / Eagle Beach are found), then renting a car would have been a more convenient option, so keep that in mind. But also note that it’s easy to hail a taxi at the different hotels if you want to go from one place to another too. Taxis in Aruba have fixed fares depending on the distance, for example our hotel to Moomba beach costs $18 one-way.

After some research, we booked our Jolly Pirates Tour and Kini Kini Tours online as well.

View from our Hotel Room 

WHERE WE STAYED
Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino- L.G. Smith Blvd 82, Oranjestad, Aruba

Ten minutes away from the airport, we took a taxi to the hotel where we stayed for the entire trip. My sister booked us a breathtaking ocean view room with unlimited breakfast buffets every morning. It would get a bit loud at night since we were above the outdoor pool and bar area, but it didn’t really keep us awake. Breakfast from their restaurant called Aquarius made up for it.

Advantages:
1. Close to the airport
2. Unlimited visits to the private island where the flamingos were
3. Close to a space called the “Marketplace’ filled with so many restaurants, boutiques and even a cinema

Disadvantages:
15 minute drive to Eagle Beach or Palm Beach (the primary tourist areas in Aruba).

Overall, we really enjoyed our stay and would recommend this place to family and friends if you’re looking for a place that’s away from the hustle and bustle. Plus - FLAMINGOS - need we say more?

Meeting the Flamingos at Renaissance Private Island 

WHAT WE DID
Every activity is special in its own way so we’re living a ♥️ for those we highly recommend

To get to this beach, everyone was required to ride a speedboat from the Renaissance Marina Hotel that came every 15 minutes. Because we were already hotel guests, we didn’t have to pay any extra fees and the biggest perk was that we could visit the island any time as it was open from 7am to 7pm. Because it was so convenient, we got to maximize our time and visit the island the full 3 days we were there. However, take note that kids can only come here from 9-10am as the flamingos are found on the adult only side of the island.

We had such a fun and relaxing time here. We enjoyed mango daiquiris and pina coladas (which were easy to charge to your card or room) and got to sunbathe and swim with the flamingos around. This was a definite highlight of our trip. It was in this moment we knew we were in Aruba.

And, did you know? Flamingos grow up to 50 years old in captivity but 25-30 in the wild? They eat bird pellets aside from fish and the island housed 1 male flamingo (the tallest) and the rest females. Wouldn’t have known this if it weren’t for the ranger who looked after them the whole day there. 
  • Aruba Cinema- The Renaissance Marketplace, Lloyd G. Smith Blvd 9
We didn’t really have many plans on our first day so we decided to catch the last Avengers Movie. Three minutes away from the hotel, the small cinema probably fit less than a hundred people and had spanish subtitles, which was such a delight! Movie tickets were ~$8 per person which is relatively cheaper than a movie theater in New York.

Jolly Pirates, 9am
  • Jolly Pirates- Moomba Beach, Berea di Piscado Hadicurari ♥️
A week before the trip, my sister decided we do a morning tour so we can maximize the rest of the day exploring the island. For four hours, we got to ride a pirate ship and explore the SS Antila (an actual World War II shipwreck underwater), Malmok Beach and Boca Catalina (where some turtles lie). I never thought I would actually be saying that. We cruised around, enjoyed unli-booze, danced to crazy music and watched as people walked off the plank (haha, I’m kidding). What I meant to say is that the ship had its own rope swing we enjoyed!

Palm Beach, 1:00 pm
  • Palm Beach - J.E. Irausquin Blvd., Palm - Eagle Beach, Aruba
Five minutes away from Moomba Beach is Palm Beach. Home to Aruba's glamorous high-rise hotels, this beach is dotted by palm trees, hotels, casinos, water sports concessions, piers, beach bars, restaurants and shops. It was pretty busy with the amount of people but the water in the area was so clear and calm you couldn’t help but swim. Getting a hut to sunbathe and keep our stuff dry was a bit difficult considering we weren’t guests of any hotel but we found little ones being rented for $5 near Pelican Pier.

Eagle Beach, 7:00pm
  • Eagle Beach- J.E. Irausquin Blvd., Palm - Eagle Beach, Aruba ♥️
Fifteen minutes away from the hotel, we caught the most beautiful sunset and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. White sand, clear blue waters and the ocean breeze with the best company- nothing could have been more perfect than this. We sat on the sand and spent the whole time enjoying the view. It wasn’t as noisy and crowded as Palm Beach. Too bad we weren’t able to stay too long here cause we didn’t have time, but it’s definitely more reason for us to come back!

ATV Tour, 4pm 
I’m glad I convinced my sister to do this tour since we both never experienced riding an ATV before. I didn’t really know what to expect but the off-road scene definitely made it more memorable. Look at me, I’m still not over it after weeks.

We got to visit five places specifically Arikok National Park, Alto Vista Chapel, Baby Natural Bridge, Bushiribana Ruins, and the Natural Pool (which sadly we couldn’t swim because tides were too strong) A valid driver’s license was required for the entire journey so my sister was the only one who could drive. We decided to do the afternoon tour to avoid the harsh sun. It was just beautiful to see more of Aruba - a mix of desert and ocean.

Okeanos Spa, 12 noon
As my birthday gift to Mel, we enjoyed a 60 minute swedish massage by the beach. We’ve always wanted to experience something like it, so we finally got to do so. Hearing the waves and feeling the island breeze while getting a relaxing massage was the perfect way to cap off an amazing beach trip.
Left: Aquarius Buffet, Right: Eduardo's Beach Shack

WHERE WE ATE 
An adventure with Mel and Rach is never complete without good food, so we’re leaving a ♥️ for restaurants we loved.
  • Dutch Pancake House- LG Smith Blvd 9, Renaissance Marketplace ♥️
This is where we had our first meal and it definitely did not disappoint . Located 3 minutes away from our hotel, we enjoyed super yummy crepe like pancakes which was big in size, thin in dimension and tasted so food. We had a sweet (nutella + fruits) and savory (hawaiian) one.
  • West Deck- L.G. Smith Blvd, Governors Bay Linear Park ♥️
Five minutes away from the hotel and also by the beachfront, we got to enjoy Caribbean flavors. We got to try three famous local dishes specifically conch fritters, mahi-mahi and Keshi Yena (a large round ball of cheese stuffed with meat) while trying their version of hot sauce (one with peppers and papaya and another with onions) on the side. Ambiance was great and we got to listen to their local music also.
  • Aquarius - Renaissance Marina Hotel ♥️
For the three full days we stayed in Aruba, we had the best breakfast buffet. It wasn’t just the delicious food stations but also the servers who were just so happy to greet us each morning and make sure we had everything we needed. They served us coffee and a juice shot but we made the most out of the fluffy scrambled eggs (omelette for Mel), potatoes (the best ever), fruits, toast, pancakes and every staple breakfast food like bacon and sausage. My sister definitely made the right decision to get breakfast during our stay.
  • Eduardo’s Beach Shack- J.E. Irausquin Boulevard 87 ♥️
I stumbled upon this place while researching for places to try in Aruba and it was definitely worth it! It’s close to Palm Beach. We got to enjoy the best acai bowl I’ve ever tasted and a “Rachel smoothie” (which was definitely a sign that it’ll be so good).
  • Driftwood Restaurant- Driftwood Building, Klipstraat 12, Oranjestad, Aruba
Five minutes away from the hotel, we decided to visit a classic restaurant in Aruba. Since 1986, they’ve offered really good Caribbean food and it was a perfect mix of casual and elegant to celebrate Mel’s Birthday. I tried the Wahoo (a local fish that was meaty like tuna) while my sister tried their seafood pasta. It was delicious and I was glad I got the waiters to sing a surprise birthday song for my sister (and free cake!).
Left: Driftwood Restaurant, Right: West Deck

OTHER HELPFUL TIPS
  • Bring Cash
 Since we took taxis to most places. we made sure to carry cash with us. An interesting note to keep in mind is that you don’t necessarily have to change your US dollars to Florin. They accept USD and credit cards at most restaurants/hotels.
  • Pack Sunglasses
Although it’s a must for any beach trip, Aruba is breezy 24/7. You’ll never want to leave without it.
  • Expect the Unexpected - Like a Blackout
On our third night, the entire island lost power. Although our hotel had a backup generator, it could only power the main lobby, so we didn’t have power for at least 6 hours (from like 7pm to 1am). We didn’t exactly get a good night’s rest but we are grateful that the hotel staff is really friendly and kept a smile on their face in spite of the situation.

OUR ADVENTURE
To catch a glimpse of our trip, you can subscribe to our channel or click the image below.


***
This was our trip to Aruba and we definitely know we're coming back! 

--In collaboration with Melissa Yupangco (@melyupangco) --

1 comment

  1. Ah I love how you wrote it, Rach! I'm so glad I visited your site again. I love its new look btw! I also love all the photos (as usual)!!! I pray you get to enjoy more trips so I get to read more stories. <3 Love you!

    ReplyDelete