5 Best Things to Do in Aruba

What to Pack, See, Do in Aruba

When traveling to the One Happy Island there are a few things you need to know.

  1. On your Departing Flight you will want to arrive at the airport 3-4 hours early. You will go through local AND U.S. customs in Aruba before boarding your flight home.
  2. While Aruba is very developed and you can use your credit/debit card in lots of places, dealing in cash is quicker and much more convenient. Yes, they take U.S dollars.
  3. Aruba is actually one of the safest Caribbean islands in more than one way. It is rated as a Level 1 on the Travel Advisory. This just means to use normal precautions while traveling. Also, it is located south of the hurricane belt which means, no hurricanes! Well, very rarely anyways. The last one was a Level 2 in 2007 that caused minor damage.

Just like every travel destination, there are several MUST DO experiences in Aruba! We have set out to give you a guide to help you plan your own trip to the Happy Island!

5 Things You MUST See and Do in Aruba

1. Hit Up the Beaches!

              The beaches in Aruba are bar none better than any beach we have ever been to. In our last post we talked a little about Eagle Beach and Baby Beach, but we really wanted to make a special note that you should definitely carve out time during your stay to lie on any beach and soak in the sun.

  We recommend Eagle Beach for soft sifted sand and beautifully clear water. Some days, the waves were pretty exciting. There were only very strong swimmers out at these times when the waves began to pick up. This is the beach where our room was located. If it hadn’t been for our exploring minds, we could have easily lounged on this beach the entire week not seeking for anything else. It has everything a perfect beach day could offer. While the beach is hot, of course, Aruba’s wind makes being outside all day very comfortable.

  Baby Beach, located on the southern end of the island in San Nicolas, AKA Chocolate City, is a beautiful lagoon for shallow snorkeling and easy swimming.This is a perfect place for children, hence the name Baby Beach. Big Mama Grill is located on the end where you can purchase food or rent chairs and snorkel equipment. We decided to simply lay out towels under a mangrove of trees and spend most of our time in the water. There is a spot farther out away from the lagoon that has a warning sign for strong swimmers only. Of course, Hilary had to check it out with her snorkel gear. There were tons of tropical fish so close she could reach out and touch them.

2. Take an ATV Tour Through the Desert

               We booked an ATV tour with KiniKini Tours that allowed us to see several signature spots in Aruba. We loaded up on the ATV’s, which you can ride single rider or double, and we recommend that you ride single. We started riding through the town on paved roads admiring the homes and everyday life. However, once you get into the desert, the ride is rough and dusty. This only added to the thrill for us, but with two riders it can become uncomfortable after a while. You will also want a bandana or a cloth face shield of some sort to keep the dust out of all your lovely orifices. We purchased ours for 15 bucks a piece! Save yourself some money and bring one from home! Also, make sure you wear something you don’t mind getting dirty.

 On our tour we got to visit a Catholic chapel on the hill still in use, an old Gold Mill ruin, a natural land bridge, and a natural pool! All of the spots were interesting and beautiful in their own way. Unexpectedly, the views between the rides were just as pleasing. To the right, desert landscape full of cacti. To the left, cliffs with waves crashing. It was simply stunning. The highlight of the tour was absolutely the Natural Pool. After walking down what seemed like 300 steps, you come to a clearing. Just behind slippery rocks that you have to climb over and slide yourself into the pool. The current was strong here, as well. The pool is surrounded by huge bouldering rocks that are blocking huge crashing waves. This was worth the work to get here.

 We decide to swim over to the very distant edge to get an Insta worthy pic. About that time, the biggest wave of the day crashes over the rocks and onto our heads submerging us underwater. Off we go! The current takes us on a wild ride, when the second biggest wave of the day hits us. It certainly gave us quite the thrill and certainly no Instagram worthy picture for us. Back up the 300 steps we go!

3. Tour Oranjestad

Oranjestad is this lovely island’s capital city, and it is where you will fly in and out of Aruba. We spent one morning walking around the city. We found it to be unique because of the mix of cultures which include the indigenous people of the island, Spanish, Africans, and Dutch, just to name a few. The architecture is all different, as well, with touches of Dutch flavor since they are a country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. There are tons of places to stop and eat. We saw food trucks, restaurants on the water,  and elegant fine dining. We could do an entire post about food. As a matter of fact, we will. Also, a variety of shopping is everywhere. We stopped at the local markets and browsed the high end retailers. Our favorite store: the local grocery store.

Transportation to explore consist of rental cars, cabs, and the trolley. We decided to walk, but the trolley would have been a nice option. It is free, after all, and begins at the cruise ship terminal at 10:00 AM. It runs downtown, and the doubledecker offers great views.

4. Explore Chocolate City

 As we have mentioned above, San Nicolas is on the southeastern portion of the island. The locals of the city have nicknamed it Chocolate City because they are proud of who they are and where they come from, and rightfully so. This city will fill your artistic and eclectic soul with culture and appreciation of the roots in Aruba. This is where our friend, Jermaine, is from. Had it not been for him, we would have had no idea what San Nicolas is all about. With that said, if you visit here, we ask to please be respectful and courteous as this is not a very touristy location. This is where people live and celebrate their everyday life. It’s a colorful, vibrant place with restaurants and art galleries to wander into.

Strolling around downtown, the first thing that stood out to us were the murals. OH MY GOODNESS, THE MURALS! The buildings are covered with the most beautiful realistic paintings. They are all spray painted by the locals. Truly, jaw dropping skills here.

We can’t forget to mention San Nicolas is also home to one of the best Carnival celebrations in the world! This takes place around the time of Ash Wednesday usually in February or March. But, if you can’t make it at that time, they also have festivals every Thursday night in the months June through December. This consist of everything from food to crafts to performers to just plain culture.

We would like to state, we headed home before dark, ‘nuff said. That was just our judgement call.

5. Nightlife

After spending the day on the beach, or exploring nature, or wandering through an artsy city you might want to get cleaned up and go out on the town. We try to try out the night life everywhere we go, like we have mentioned before, we have exploring minds and just had to find out what was out there! There is a section called the High Rise area. There are restaurants, places to hang out, and laid back bars located here. We began walking the J.E. Irausquin Boulevard in Palm Beach where we found this lovely food boutique named, Picnic. This place was gorgeous. We quickly became friends with the bartenders there. They were so friendly and answered any questions we had about their life in Aruba and then some. After some time there, we were ready for some dancing. Our new friends sent us over to Gusto Night Club Aruba.

We passed a lot of interesting places you could dip into if you wanted, but our dancing shoes were on. We pushed forward to Gusto’s. This was our place. They had an inside bar with air conditioning that played Caribbean Dance music mixed with American rap. The room opened to the front area that was covered but felt like you were more outside. We danced, we laughed, we experienced.

Aruba was a place of fun and friends for us two cousins. It hit all of our travel senses: relaxation, adventure, culture, art, excitement, and food. Stay tuned for our next post: The Tastes of Aruba!

No Wet, No Fun

The Carry On Cousins go INTERNATIONAL! Just when we thought the world was not ready for us… the world quickly showed us we were not ready for it! This was a life changing experience for us in so many ways. We learned so much in just a short week. We learned about another culture, different food, different landscape, different people, and even about ourselves. As we embarked on this journey through Jamaica we were thinking about you guys, our readers, and how we could capture our beautiful moments in order to allow you to see what you could expect if you ever visited there.

So, we are prefacing our next few post with this statement: Our writing and pictures will never even almost live up to what we experienced. We will not be able to deliver to you the taste, the sounds, the sights, or the emotions we experienced. We ask you to read our post with one purpose, and that purpose is to help you book your next trip. It does not have to be to Jamaica, but you have to travel. You have to go and experience something new in your life.

Now, let us begin with the fact that an international flight is an experience all of its own. TSA can be scary, but we promise if our Momma’s can do it, you can too! 🙂 Hilary and Becky flew to Jamaica and got the party started on Saturday. Rachel and Susie followed closely behind arriving on Sunday. Our meeting in the lobby looked as if we had not seen each other in years. When it had only been the weekend before that we were sitting on the front porch laughing that the next time we saw each other would be in another country. Needless to say, it was the longest week of our lives!

After everyone was accounted for in Jamaica, we got a slow relaxing start. We got situated in our rooms and then quickly made sure we got our money’s worth from the all inclusive package! However, we must admit, day one we were not in the best head space. It is almost shameful to admit that we were in a new country on a trip we had been looking so forward to, yet we were still feeling a bit down and out. Honestly, there were Itty bitty bikinis and abs walking around everywhere it seemed, and by the end of the night we found ourselves throwing a pity party on the beach by ourselves. The beach was empty and we were just sitting there talking over our own insecurities. We were talking about fears and how our life may not turn out the way we thought it would. We think it is important to note that while in the pictures we are all smiles, there were definitely tears on this trip. We want you all to know that we often experience this on night one of our travels. It is almost like we experience a little bit of culture shock in a way. This is the residual effect of pushing oneself out of the comfort zone. It was not that we were sad and depressed but rather, a little uncomfortable in our new place. However, whether it is tears or the ocean, the salt water is the key to healing.

And with that notion, we did some self validation and began to say how thankful we were to have this opportunity. We began to talk about how we were going to try and make this the best trip EVER and….. just about that time, there was a loud POP of a champagne bottle behind us in the distance. This beautiful couple was having a private catered dinner behind us. We two single ladies rolled our eyes so far back into our heads and just laughed until we cried. The irony of the situation was undeniable. Our life is a comedy movie and yall are just getting to watch it unfold! We decided to let the couple have their privacy and headed to our room for the night.

We felt better the next morning by visiting the place where all the drinks (coke, sprite, and water, of course) were served all day free of charge! It got our spirits lifted and our inhibitions lowered! We had not been together for more than twenty four hours before we already needed a nap to calm us down from all those Cokes and Sprites we drank! The guys behind the counter really know how to work those fountain drinks, let us tell you!

It was on day two that we booked all of our excursions and the good times of exploring and learning really began to roll now that our “spirits” were taken care of! We spent the rest of the day sleeping and soaking in the sun.

Tuesday morning came early with an all day excursion! We were off to hike the infamous Dunns River Falls, spend some time on a private beach with food and drinks for lunch, then tubing down the White River. You can check out more details on booking your own tour here.

Keep in mind, cruise ships dock on Wednesdays causing a rush of crowds.

We hopped on a 25 passenger bus with our driver, Randy, and our tour guide, Yanice. They provided safe travels and stories and tales of the country and the excursions we would be doing that day. They gave us interesting facts and information about local way of life, food, and government there on the island. For example Ochos Rios stands for eight rivers. The river we floated down there is called White River because of all the limestone rocks. When the water washes over the limestone the water turns a milky white! Limestone is also a big export for Jamaica, as well! We played a little Jamaican trivia long our ride to Ochos Rios, and admittedly, Rachel loved every minute of it! (And yes, of course, Rachel knew the answers to every question, just like the studious teacher she is.) Randy and Yanice made our ride very enjoyable with their charismatic and warm nature. We do want to inform you that when you book these tours you will be making a few stops at other hotels to pick up passengers along the way. So, understand that while it may only take thirty minutes to drive straight to your destination, your ride may be a little (or a lot) longer depending on where your hotel is located and how many people will be traveling on the bus with you. However, with the “more the merrier” attitude you will enjoy getting to converse with the passengers and the guides, as well.

When we arrived to Dunns River Falls, we were not exactly sure what was in store for us. We had seen pictures and watched videos but nothing quite prepared us for the journey ahead! We were under the impression we’d be hiking more alongside the falls, but no. You go right up the middle of a 950 foot tiered aqua blue waterfall! This was a beautiful and challenging experience! There were kids and grannies alike attempting to climb up the wet rocks and flowing water but we warn… this is not for the faint of heart or for the weak ankles! Speaking of ankles, your footwear is very important. Online and at the Dunn’s River Falls they will recommend water shoes, however, we saw many people losing their footwear because of the rushing water. We both had on waterproof sandals that had straps we could tighten to our comfort. The ability to tighten our shoes made us feel as if our footing was more secure and we didn’t lose our footing or our shoes like some of the other hikers. Rachel had on Teva’s and Hilary had on Chacos.

Now our mommas set this one out, and let’s be honest, we were all glad they did! We had an amazing time, however, you hike the falls with a group of twenty or so while holding hands to work your way up the falls. Since you have to hold hands to help push and pull the group along the rocks, it is advised to get between some folks of the same ability as you or else you’ll find yourself feeling more like Stretch Armstrong!

After the exhilarating hike, we traveled a short ways to the private beach. Here we splurged for an upgrade, and it was well worth it! We had long layout chairs on the beach instead of the regular chairs like the others. We also had unlimited drinks and much more succulent food! We had an appetizer, a festival ( a corn fritter like roll that is AMAZING), a main course that consisted of jerk chicken AND lobster tail. We were also treated to a little strawberry puff dessert. There was a small place to purchase Jamaican goodies, as well. However, we knew we would be going on a shopping tour the next day, so we opted to save our money here. The beach was very scenic and had great photo ops!

After filling up on the food and drinks, we headed to another gift shop for a prompt tasting of the famous Blue Mountain Coffee. Here we got to see all the school kids walking home from  their day at school. Since Jamaica was a British colony until 1962, the schools adopted some of their traditions. For example, they are required to wear uniforms, and it was quite a site to see all the youngins!

We then headed to the river for tubing! It was absolutely so much fun just rolling on the river! Our water guide was very energetic and personable! It was adrenaline filled on the little rapids with lots of laughs and absolutely relaxing at the same time! Even though this was considered a “touristy” activity, there were locals swimming in the river that interacted with us and made us feel like we belonged. We floated about two miles down the river before taking a boat pulled raft out into the ocean where the sun was setting. Our bus was waiting on us on the beach.

By the time we arrived back to our resort we were definitely in need of some R&R! We had a morning shopping tour the next day. We had dinner at the buffet at our resort and turned in for the night.

It was only three days into our trip and we had all experienced once in a lifetime thrills! We learned so much about the country! Randy and Yanice made us feel as if we had become a local by the end of the day by teaching us a little Patwah (the Jamaican dialect) and sayings like “Ya Mon”. We found out that in Jamaica there is no such thing as a problem but only “situations”. We decided to adopt that notion for the rest of our lives! Everyone has situations in life that that are hard. We think of them as problems that cannot be overcome, but the truth is that when you really pick them apart they are just situations that have solutions and answers. When we saw how far we would have to climb up the falls, we thought we had a problem! While scanning the waterfalls for quick and easy exits, we pushed through, and standing at the top looking down at the lush greenery and falling water we knew that we had just accomplished a great feat! It was a rewarding day filled with lots of water which means a whole lot of fun because in Jamaica they say, “No wet, no fun!”

We still have four more days to conquer in Jamaica, so stay tuned! We are only getting started! Next week’s post you will get to see what shopping in Jamaica is like! Also, we will show you all what it’s like on the inside of a local Jerk restaurant!