It’s Aries season!! I turned my favorite number, 26. Since 2020 robbed me of doing my birthday big, you know I had to go all out this year. Cue tickets to Aruba!! I originally planned to go to Costa Rica, but with Aruba being named the safest destination to visit in the Caribbean in 2021, having to take a covid test before entering, being surrounded by water, regular 80-degree temperatures, and their cleanliness protocols it felt like a great place to go instead.
Getting to Aruba:
Planning for Aruba was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. Their tourism site had detailed information about the country’s requirements and it is easy to understand. The biggest thing you need to step foot on the island is an ED Online Card. This “card” has your personal information, a health questionnaire, your negative covid test (takes less than 72 hours from your last flight), and the purchase of the MANDATORY health insurance (priced at $30).
Be sure to take the correct type of COVID-19 test. They do not take antigen tests. You can find an approved list here.
Once you filled out your ED card you can download a pdf (you will also get it by email) that has your flight number, your ED card number, and your flight date. It will also have a green checkmark that says qualified to board.
Lastly, they recommend downloading the Aruba Health App. This app gives you information on COVID-19 guidelines on the island, help if you become ill with covid, travelers information, all establishments that follow the COVID-19 health codes, and this app will also be the spot where they will upload your test results when you take a COVID-19 test to return to the U.S.
My favorite place to eat was Lola. Lola’s is an authentic Mexican Taqueria in the heart of Aruba's Palm Beach. We ordered their lobster, octopus, shrimp, brussel sprout tacos along with their fries and chips and guacamole and it was all soooo delicious. I had to go back to order some more guacamole to eat on the beach and I don't even like guacamole! The service was great. They were very attentive and were always checking in on us or filling up our waters. A must go to.
After that came the famous Zeerovers. It’s a catch of the day restaurant that is located right next to the water located in Savaneta. The process can be confusing if you’ve never been. You go up to the counter and order your seafood by the pound and pay upfront at the window. You can then go to another window to order drinks. After you have ordered they will bring out the cooked fish to your table.
The fish was sooo fresh and the seasoning was on point! We had Mahi Mahi fish which was the catch of the day and shrimp. I’m talking about the shrimp with the eyeballs still on it. We also ordered plantains and fries. My friend was raving about the plantains. Some of the best plantains I’ve ever had. The servers were nice and it felt like a very authentic Aruban restaurant.
On our last night, we went to dinner at Screaming Eagle. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all that great. Food was so so and didn’t justify how expensive it was. Servers were also not attentive. We sat around waiting to get our order taken and waiting to get our check for a very long time.
We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott Aruba Resort. The hotel is located in Palm Beach. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel and there is a restaurant, Allegra Bistro, that provides breakfast, dinner, and happy hour. They also have a swim-up pool bar! The hospitality at this hotel was amazing. The front desk hosts and concierge were very helpful and friendly.
We ended up talking with the concierge multiple times throughout the trip. He always said hi to us when he saw us even when he was off-duty. The hotel brought champagne and a lovely note to wish me a happy birthday and we even met the chef when we had dinner at the hotel one night. The hotel is nothing fancy but we had a great sized room and bathroom. We never felt like we were on top of each other. The hotel offers a shuttle to the beach and if you decide to walk you’re about a 20-minute walk from everything. I would stay here again!
The two biggest things we experienced were ATVing and a catamaran tour.
We booked the Aqua Champagne Brunch Cruise through Pelican Adventures (tip: if you book directly on their website they have a 20 percent off code). The tour is a 4-hour long tour that leaves in the morning. It provides breakfast, lunch, unlimited drinks (open bar) and you guessed it, champagne. They offered breakfast which was an assortment of pastries. They tasted pretty good in my opinion. Mainly croissants, coffee cake, cinnamon rolls, etc. For lunch, they gave us pretty dry paella. I ended up not eating much of it.
The second experience we did was on my birthday! We booked the Sunrise City ATV Tour with Dirt Lovers. ATV has been on my bucket list for a long time. I reached out to the company and they were nice enough to give me money off for my first tour with them as well as it being my birthday (this is not a sponsored review). I loved this tour because it allows us to explore the other side of the island and visit San Nicolas known as Sunrise City.
They only allow four people on the tour and a couple had moved their date so we ended up having a private tour. We stopped at Mangel Halto Beach, Rodgers Beach, Baby Beach, the Natural Bride, a natural pool, and other smaller stops. If you’re looking to sightsee this was a great tour but it wasn’t a history tour. There are some facts sprinkled here and there but nothing too deep.
The best spot was the natural pool but be very careful at this location as you have to climb on very sharp rocks and if you slip, the Atlantic ocean is right beside you crashing against the rocks. We also got a chance to spend a few minutes at baby beach and see the natural bridge. The drive to the pools was about 45 minutes and we, unfortunately, got pelted by rain for most of the drive!
It’s a very chill ATV company. Mayron and Nelson were super nice and we just went with the flow. I wouldn’t do it again but it’s worth joining them one time.
Our favorite beach was Arashi Beach located in the northern part of the island. There’s an area for people to sunbathe and also an area to windsurf. The beach has a bar and a beach attendant that will rent out chairs ($30 for two chairs). The water there was so blue and calm. There are a few rocks but mostly smooth sand. The bar has a good selection of drinks, frozen cocktails, and food. I’d rate it an 8 out of 10.
Baby Beach is a much larger and less crowded beach. It’s at the far end of the island so you would need a car to get you there. Taxis can take you but it’d probably run you about $50 each way. The sunset at the beach was gorgeous and the pictures do not do it justice. Softest sand of any of the beaches we went to. I’d rate it a 9 out of 10.
Mangel Halto Beach was a lot different than I expected. There is no “beach” that leads to the water. Instead, there are little openings that lead to the water from an area that is surrounded by trees. It’s known for snorkeling and diving which we didn’t do. There is sand but it’s mostly rocks and there were a lot of ants running around. If I went back it’d mainly be for the water and I would bring a chair. I’d rate it a 5 out of 10.
Palm Beach is where all the tourists are. It’s located right where all the major hotels are located. You have to pay for the beach chairs and multiple stands rent-out tubes, floats, jet skis, etc. You can find several tour companies where you can buy tickets and food stands to order food or drinks to sit on the beach. I’d rate it a 7 out of 10.
Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this read! Have fun on the "One Happy Island!"