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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Aruba: Where to stay, What to do, and What to eat!

 Hi Friends! 

It has been a while since my last blog post but I wanted to share all of the details of our recent trip to Aruba. After visiting, I can certainly see why they call Aruba "One Happy Island!" This trip was truly a blast. Not only was it relaxing but we also had a nice balance of exploration as well. There is so much to do in Aruba and although we did quite a bit, we definitely want to visit again so that we can see even more of this beautiful island. Between the water sports, beaches, restaurants, and shopping, you definitely won't grow bored while you are here! Keep reading to get all of the details on where we stayed, what we did, and where we ate! I will also wrap it up with some tips for traveling to and from Aruba as well as things we would do next time. This is a very information/picture heavy post! 

Where We Stayed 

One of the best parts of Aruba is how safe it is as well as how easy it is to get around. You could easily stay in a small boutique hotel or even a condo without having to worry! When looking for a hotel, I wanted something that was clean, beautiful, affordable, and if not on the beach-a very short walk to the beach. Boardwalk Hotel checked all of those boxes for us and then some. Boardwalk Hotel is a small boutique hotel in Palm Beach that features 46 private casitas that have all of the amenities you could need! They all have a kitchenette with a mini fridge/fridge, microwave, stove, as well as an outdoor grill. You could easily cook your own meals if you are looking to save a bit on food costs. If cooking is not for you, there are food opinions for breakfast and lunch as Boardwalk partners with Eduardos Beach Shack for those meals. You can order breakfast each morning right to your casita should you wish! What I really liked was that Boardwalk has their own web app where you can pre-order your breakfast the night before as well as reserve your beach palapa (more on this later)! I highly recommend getting breakfast at the hotel as the food was so fresh and delicious. You are welcome to order directly at the Eduardos window on the property if you forget to order to your room the night before. You can even order a Mimosa or Bellini to go with your meal! 

What really blew me away about Boardwalk Hotel was their gorgeous landscape. The property is overflowing with beautiful palms, flowers, and tropical decor. It really was an absolute oasis! There are two pools on the property as well, one larger main pool and one smaller more intimate pool. The large pool has this gorgeous hammock to relax in which I have to admit we fell asleep in after the beach one afternoon. They also host happy hour from 3-5 at the main pool each day. I will note, we did not spend much time at the pool at all (only one late afternoon actually) as we spent majority of our days at the beach or exploring the island. The beach is a short 2-3 minute walk directly across the street from the hotel. 

Shop the Look: Pink Dress

Shop the Look: Dress // Hat

If privacy is what you are seeking, then you will absolutely love it here. The casitas are very private, feature their own entrance, and are extremely spacious. The lush landscape really makes you feel like you are the only ones staying on the property! We opted for the Coco Casita which had a spacious living room/kitchenette, bedroom, and bathroom. We also had a small balcony with a table and chair set for two. Downstairs we had our grill and hammock. The first floor units we saw also had either a hammock or egg chair and deck. We would love to stay in one of their plunge pool casitas one day! 

Some other things to note about Boardwalk Hotel:

 As mentioned earlier, the beach is a 2-3 walk and is located across the street. You have access to the beach right in between the Marriott and the Ritz Carlton. Boardwalk Hotel has their own beach area where you can sit under the Palapa's and enjoy the beautiful views of the Caribbean. You can reserve one the night before each day and they will hold one for you until 11AM that day. No need to fret if you forget to reserve one, we didn't have any issues getting one on days we went to the beach a bit later! The Ritz Carlton provides food and beverage service on the beach for Boardwalk guests and you get a discount as well! The staff from the Ritz come around on segways to take your order and deliver your food. I do have to note that the service from the Ritz was VERY slow our last few days. It took us hours to get our card back from the woman serving us and we had a hard time tracking her down to order in the first place so if you are pressed for time, consider getting lunch and drinks elsewhere. We personally liked bringing our own! Be sure to grab towels from the lobby before heading over to the beach and don't forget to borrow snorkeling gear as we got to see a starfish and some small fish right at the beach! You can also borrow beach chairs if you are headed to a different local beach such as Mangel Halto, Baby Beach, ect. 

Overall I highly recommend staying at Boardwalk Hotel on your next visit to Aruba! It was the perfect place to enjoy all of what Aruba has to offer while feeling right at home. The staff was incredibly friendly and always there to help arrange any reservations, taxis,  car rentals, or excursions you are interested in. We will definitely stay here again on our next trip to Aruba! 

What We Did

There is so much to do and see while in Aruba so definitely take the time to explore! The palm beach area where we stayed has beautiful beaches but there are so many other gorgeous beaches to explore. Tres Trapi, Mangel Halto, Boca Catalina, Baby Beach, and Rodgers Beach were a few on our list however we did end up just visiting Tres Trapi and Mangel Halto. If we had more time we likely would have visited them all as they each have their own unique landscapes. We also booked an excursion to De Palm Island which I will go into more detail about as well. We opted to rent a car which I would recommend if you want to come and go as you please. Although you can easily take taxis or public transportation around the island, we really liked the freedom of having our own car. Keep reading to get the scoop on our must see spots! 

Shop the Look: Bikini Top // Bikini bottom

Tres Trapi

Tres Trapi was an easy 6 minute drive from the hotel with beautiful views along the way. I would recommend going early if you want the area to yourself. We went around 9:30-10 and although not super busy it was harder to get the pictures we wanted due to the amount of people. Tres Trapi has a really unique landscape with stone stairs that lead down to a small cove/beach where you can head into the water for snorkeling. We were even lucky enough to see a sea turtle! This is not your typical beach with soft white sand where you can park your beach chair. It is rocky and everyone had their chairs set up on the rocks above the cove, but it is certainly worth the visit for the views and snorkeling! Just be careful going down the stone steps as they are a bit jagged and slippery. 

Mangel Halto 

Mangel Halto is a little further from the palm beach area. It took about 25 minutes to get there but it was so worth the visit! Talk about views! This is a more locally visited beach and it was pretty empty when we arrived. The landscape here was very unique and is surrounded by mangroves. Where we had parked there was a unique strip of beach with extremely shallow water. If you keep walking you will see a bunch of mangrove trees with small little entrances to the open water. It was so quiet and serene here! If you keep walking you will see an area with a wooden deck to relax on as well as wooden stairs.  Mangel Halto is known to be a great snorkeling spot although we did not spend a lot of time exploring the water. The views here are absolutely incredible and you really get to admire the all of the beautiful colors of the Caribbean! If you swim further or you can dive here as well! 

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De Palm Island (See Flamingos Here!)

De Palm Island was one of the highlights of our trip! Prior to getting to Aruba, I had my heart set on going to Renaissance Island in order to see the infamous flamingos, little did I know how difficult this would be! I had been doing some research and saw that if you are not staying at the Renaissance Hotel, you can buy a day pass to the island but they only release a limited amount each day if they are not at capacity. Unfortunately due to the time of year we visited, the hotel was fully booked and we could not get a day pass. Another way to visit the island is to book a spa treatment on the island, but those were fully booked for a month as well. Needless to say, I was disappointed! Luckily, the woman at the activities desk recommended De Palm Island as they have their own flamingos as well as a bunch of other fun amenities. I was hesitant at first but I am so glad we went! 

Besides flamingos, De Palm Island offers several fun activities including snorkeling, salsa dancing lessons, banana boat rides, body drop water slides, and a small water park for the kids. Your ticket also includes an open bar and food buffet throughout the day! The bus picked us up right outside of the Marriott Solaris Hotel (which is located right across from our hotel) at 9AM which was also included in the ticket price. The bus ride was about 30-45 minutes as they stop at several hotels on the way to the boating dock. From the dock it is just a short 5-10 minute boat ride to the island. The day ends at 4, so a little before then we hopped on the boat back to the bus. The price for the day is 125$ per person which may sound steep but the open bar and activities make the price worth it. The woman who booked the excursion for us also recommended the premium seating upgrade as this section is gated in with the Flamingos meaning you have access to them all day long (more about this below)!

The premium seating upgrade cost us about 30-40$ extra a person I believe. In my opinion, the upgrade was worth every penny! The premium seating area was much quieter, we had our own waiter available to take drink orders, and after 2PM they do not allow anyone with a general admission ticket in the flamingo area so you end up having them all to yourself! After 2PM it is much quieter and the flamingos start to move around the beach more so you will have a much better chance of getting nice pictures with them. Please note, unlike Renaissance Island you cannot feed the flamingos, however we were able to get plenty close (within a respectable distance of course). I know it sounds silly but just being able to spend time with the flamingos made the entire excursion worth it, well.... the Pina Coladas were definitely a plus too! 

Shop the Look: Bikini Top // Bikini Bottom

Overall, I would check out De Palm Island when you are in Aruba. Even if you aren't interested in the flamingos, there are plenty of activities to enjoy all day long! The snorkeling was amazing, and it was nice being able to enjoy delicious cocktails all day long without having to worry about paying extra (I will say, cocktails in Aruba are pricey at the resorts!). De Palm Island is perfect if you are traveling with your children as it is very family friendly! 

Paddle Boarding

Aruba has a large variety of water sports to choose from right on Palm Beach! From parasailing to banana boat rides, and flyboarding you will never be bored! We opted for the most tame option of paddle boarding and it was such a blast (we actually did it twice while we were there). Right next to Boardwalk Hotel's section on the Beach is Vela Water Sports. Here you can rent paddle boards for a very reasonable price as well as they offer a variety of other water sports. I know it seems silly to share something as small as paddle boarding but my husband and I had such a great time doing it. It was hilarious watching us both try to balance and not get knocked over by the wind blowing our boards. We laughed the entire time and got to soak in the beautiful views of the Caribbean as well. I know for some the thought of falling off the board into the open water freaks them out, the beauty of paddle boarding here is the water is shallow and clear making it completely stress free! 

Where We Ate 

Let me start by saying, restaurants in Aruba are expensive. We knew this coming in but I wanted to share this so you know what to expect. The food at every place we ate was excellent, but next time we go we would likely get groceries and cook a few meals at the hotel. This vacation we just wanted to relax and not worry about cooking so we went out each night. Be sure you make reservations in advance as restaurants book up quick, especially during peak times. 

Gianni's Ristorante Italiano 

Gianni's was the best place we ate on the trip! I may be a little bias considering I am Italian and love Italian food, however the food was excellent and the service was great too although they were very busy and fully booked! The restaurant is quite large and very nice. It is the perfect place to celebrate special occasions! Gianni's is famous for their Al Formaggio Parmigiano where they prepare the dish table side in a giant cheese wheel! We did not order this, but we wish we did and probably will next time! One of their specials of the night was an Antipasto with Burrata and it was excellent. It was huge and very filling so hubby and I did opt to share an entree as we filled up a little too much on the appetizer, we decided split the tortellini vodka. I did want the Gnocchi Al Tartufo however they were out of it the night we went. The tortellini vodka was delicious but I do want to note the entree was quite small so if you do not fill up on the appetizer or are super hungry, definitely order your own entree. Overall I would recommend Gianni's and will definitely go back when we visit Aruba next.  

Azia Restaurant and Lounge

Azia offers delicious Asian food including sushi! They have a nice bar inside, outdoor table seating, as well as lounge seating inside and outside. The vibe was really swanky and upscale. The food here was excellent and our cocktails were equally as good! My husband and I ordered a few things and shared them including orange chicken, teriyaki chicken, and Chinese fried rice. For dessert I highly recommend ordering the banana tempura, it was incredible! 

MooMba Beach 

MooMba is a beach bar as well as an international cuisine restaurant. They also offer live music and dancing late into the night. We stopped by the first night of our trip to grab a drink at the bar and ended up eating there a few days into the trip. Their cocktails are delicious and the vibe is really fun and lively! We went after the sun had gone down, but since it is right on the beach it would be a great place to eat and enjoy the beautiful sunset over the water. 

Smokey Joes

Although more of a "chain" type restaurant, we loved Smokey Joes! Smokey Joes is a BBQ restaurant right in the lively area of town. It was an easy place for us to get into without reservations and the food was great! The pulled pork was so good and my husband loved the ribs. Our favorite thing we ate there though was the Macaroni and Cheese Balls! If you are looking for a quiet dinner, this restaurant is not for you. Since it is in town, a lot of tour/party buses went by blasting music so it was very lively. We didn't mind this, but if you are looking for something a little more low key you may want to look at some other options. 

Final Thoughts & Things You Should Know

Before wrapping up, I did want to share some general tips about traveling to Aruba. Unlike most international destinations, you clear customs before you board your plane and leave the island. Although the airport assigns times to arrive based on your flight time, it was very packed. It was a bit chaotic and many people were asking to cut the line as they were about to miss their flight due to arriving late/the very long lines. Definitely arrive at the beginning of your time slot in order to ensure you will make it through on time. We had about 30 minutes to spare before boarding. When you first arrive to the airport you check your bags and head to the customs line. The first line is just to check your ID's, there is another line after this point so do not get caught up in the shopping and food that you will see after clearing this line. Before jumping in the second line you will retrieve your luggage for that to be checked, and you will do the usual quick interview with the TSA agent. 

As I mentioned earlier, I recommend getting a car. There is so much to do and see on the island and getting around was super easy. If you want to explore all the different beaches and have the freedom to come and go as you please, I definitely recommend it! I wanted to mention this again because we were very back and forth on this leading up to our trip. We almost did not rent a car and I am so glad we did!

Of course things are changing very frequently with regards to COVID protocols so I wont discuss too much about this. My advice is to check the Aruba website (you can find it here) before your trip to ensure you have the most recent guidelines. At the time of our trip we were required to fill out the health forms online and purchase their travel insurance (it was very reasonable and only about 15-20$ a person). We also had to have a negative test no more than 24 hours before our departure to come home. 

Overall, we loved Aruba and it has become one of our favorite places that we have traveled. The water here literally took my breathe away and I just remember saying to my husband every day "I can't get over how blue the water is, can you believe it?". We always have fun when we are on vacation together but Aruba was probably our most fun one yet. It was the perfect mix of relaxation, adventure, and fun! We are already planning our next visit back with friends for next year! If you have any questions please feel free to reach out on Instagram, I am always here to help! 


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Aruba: Where to stay, What to do, and What to eat!

 Hi Friends!  It has been a while since my last blog post but I wanted to share all of the details of our recent trip to Aruba. After visiti...