My boyfriend (and amazing photographer, Ryan Sebastyan) surprised me with a weekend birthday getaway to Aruba this year! I didn't know what to expect of Aruba because I never looked into going there before. I knew that it was an island known for it's beautiful beaches, but that was about it. I usually research every little detail of the location before I go on any trip, but it was kind of nice not knowing anything and discovering new things little by little.
We started off our trip on Friday and headed to the Orlando airport. If you live near Orlando, Florida, Southwest Airlines has a direct flight to Aruba, which was really nice. It was a short 3-hour flight and right when we landed, there were a couple of companies handing out recycle bags. Go ahead and grab those because they will come in handy when you're going to the beach!
We grabbed a taxi to our hotel, which was only 10-minutes away at Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino. The taxi driver was very nice and told us a little about the island since I was very curious. Some interesting facts I learned: 1) Arubans speak several languages. Their official language is Dutch, but almost all Arubans speak the local language known as Papiamento. They are also required to learn English and Spanish in school, 2) There are over 100,000 people living on the island, 3) the island is only 20 miles long and 6 miles wide, so you can drive around the island in about 5-6 hours, 4) the US dollar is accepted everywhere.
When we entered the lobby of our hotel, everything was so beautiful! I was surprised that it was an open-air lobby because I thought it would get uncomfortably hot for the employees and customers, but learned later that Aruba has a constant breeze everyday coming from the trade winds, so it never feels too hot.
Our hotel had two sections: The Marina Hotel and the Ocean Suites. Ryan did an awesome job by choosing to stay at the Ocean Suites, which was across the street from where we checked in. There is a shuttle that takes you back and forth the hotels, but if you don't have any luggage, it's any easy 3-5 minute walk.
The room was very spacious with a smart layout. The king bed was in a room of it's own with a closet and TV. There were two entrances into the bathroom from the bedroom and the main entrance. In the little hallway is a kitchenette and then you walk in to the living room with a cute dining table for two, a couch and another TV. I love that they separated the bedroom and living room because I always wake up a lot earlier than Ryan, so I was able to do my own thing in the morning in the living room while Ryan got to sleep in peace and quiet in the closed-off bedroom.
As soon as we checked-in, Ryan announced another surprise: we were going to get a couple's massage in an hour! He booked the most incredible massage I have ever had at Spa del Sol right on the beach (about a 10-minute car ride from our hotel). As soon as we walked in, they greeted us by our names and escorted us to a locker and private showers. Once we showered, we put on the robe and slippers they provided and proceeded to the beach huts on the beach where we would have our massages. I have always dreamed of getting a massage on the beach and it was everything I had imagined and more!
That night, we walked around the hotel grounds, which had a lot of stores and restaurants. On the Oceans Suites side, there are many restaurants to choose from including American, Dutch, Cuban, Italian, and Japanese. On the Marina side, there is a little mall with stores like Michael Kors, Zara, and Guess. We chose to eat at a restaurant right near our hotel called Sidebar and had a lovely dinner outside with some cocktails and hamburgers. The service was superb and the vibe was perfect.
The next day, we started off the day with breakfast at Dutch Pancake House. One of the visitors we talked to the day before raved about it and I love any restaurant that has the word 'pancake' in it, so we were excited to try their food. The reviews didn't disappoint. Everything was uber delicious! We ordered a million things and it was way too much for only the two of us, but I just wanted to try everything because it all sounded so good. The best entree we had was the Hawaii Dutch Pancake. So many awesome flavors going on in this dish. The poffertjes were my ultimate favorite because they're basically mini pancakes with powdered sugar or cinnamon.
After our delicious breakfast, we took the hotel boat to their private island. There were two sides: Iguana Beach, which was family friendly and the Flamingo Beach, which was the adult beach. We went over to the Flamingo Beach side first and took some pictures with some flamingos just hanging around the beach. I have never been so close to one, so I was a bit scared at first, but quickly learned that they are extremely friendly and harmless. I thought it was so awesome to have flamingos on this private island! The Iguana Beach was nice and relaxing as well. Ryan laid on the hammock for awhile and I enjoyed my frozen strawberry daiquiri underneath a cute little tiki hut.
After we spent a few hours at the private island, we took the boat back to the hotel and relaxed by the pool. The hotel pool was very nice and had plenty of seating. I was pretty surprised at how easy it was to find seating and later found out that September was their low season, so it wasn't as crowded. The pool had a swim-up bar, which is always a bonus for me at hotels. I just love them! We ordered some food at the bar and then laid out in the sun again watching the sunset. It was such a beautiful day.
On our final day in Aruba, we explored a little more of the city, Oranjestad. There are many colorful shops, restaurants, museums, monuments and statues. It was fun to learn a little more history on Aruba and it's Dutch culture. Oranjestad recently re-designed it's Main Street and now has a trolley circling between the downtown area and the cruise terminal.
Absolutely loved everything about Aruba and it felt like a true tropical paradise like I've never experienced before. I can't wait to come back and explore the rest of the island.