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!

One Happy Island

Some would say that the happiest place in the world would be Walt Disney World, but Aruba may argue it’s actually their 69 square mile island! Known as “One Happy Island”, the desert like landscape makes for a great playground! We were granted the opportunity to travel with some friends on this trip. We have traveled just us two, with all of our immediate family, and now we are extending our traveling posse to some friends. The more the merrier! Come one, Come all, to the Hilary and Rachel travelling extravaganza! A condo with Hilary and Rachel and Caitlyn and Matthew and Shelby and Zach is bound to look like a circus moved to town.

We want to start this post by saying that no matter where you are in the world, surrounding yourself with good people is the key. We had a blast spending a week with these folks. Some old friends met some new friends, and we all enjoyed spending our days and nights on the island together. While we think everyone should travel by themselves on occasion, getting to share the experiences and creating memories together builds a lifetime bond! Obviously, traveling with a larger group makes things like going potty or getting all showered up for dinner a little more tricky (que Mr. RUN MC here), but it was nothing a little poo pourri and paper rock scissors couldn’t handle.

We started the week on the Happy Island by checking out the condo! We were perfectly located on the edge of Eagle Beach. Check out our view from the image above. We were proudly told by locals, Eagle Beach just so happens to be ranked in the top 3 best beaches in the world! RIGHTFULLY SO!  The beach was sifted soft sand. Where the waves washed and crashed, the sand felt almost like memory foam as your feet sank into the wet sand. Then, once you submerge yourself into the blue water, it’s almost like a looking glass. Standing in chest deep water you could easily count all ten toes! Pristinely clear, it allowed for an easy going mind knowing that you could visualize the sea monsters if they decided to swim anywhere close by. However, the whole week we never saw any underwater animals here on Eagle Beach. It made floating and frailing and swimming very relaxing!

We also made our way to a local beach on the other side of the island called Baby Beach. Baby beach has all the snorkeling! The water is much calmer here, and the fruity colored fish love all the corals and reefs! The beach has beautiful mangroves that provide the perfect shade. You can also rent tents, chairs, and snorkeling gear during the day. It is about a forty dollar taxi ride from where we were on the opposite side of the island in Oranjestad, but lucky for us we got to make more than one trip there because we were graced with the presence of a friend from home who had all the connections. Our friend Jermaine, whom we have hung out with a ton in the states, actually grew up in Aruba. He took the time to fly on down, visit with his family, and made it his mission to ensure we got the insight to all Aruba had to offer! We really appreciated his expertise and hospitality! Because of him, we got to try some local fruit, we ate at two local restaurants that are not easily found on the web, we learned about what it meant to be above the bridge and below the bridge, how the oil refinery was bombed in WWII, what it was like going to school there, their healthcare system, and SO MUCH MORE! It was nice to hear how Aruba takes care of their people, providing healthcare and education to their citizens was impressive to the healthcare professional and the educator!

This trip was unique in many ways to us. The most notable difference being that we traveled with friends instead of family this time around. The world of Rachel’s friends got to collide with the world of Hilary’s friends when we all went out together one night. The night began as a sophisticated and classy night…keep reading to find out if it ended the same way!

We began our night with a wonderfully magical dinner on the beach at sunset! Located just down from Eagle beach was Passions. An elegant beach side restaurant serving 5 star meals. Matthew, Caitlyn, and ourselves splurged here for dinner because who doesn’t love dinner with such a wonderful view? We all shared a bottle of wine, inappropriately loud laughs and comments, a few slow dances, a succulent meal, and of course dessert with a huge sparkler! You should know we made it through this dinner relatively unscathed. With only a few side glances, we managed to all act like adults…for the most part! We started a myriad of picture taking on the beach. We were the first to get out there to capture the beauty of the sunset and our friendships here! It was not long before the rest of the Passions going folks were taking their glamour shots, as well! What can we way? We were trendsetters that night. After our meal and photo shoot, we headed out for the night!

Matthew, and Caitlyn, and now Jermaine all loaded up with the Carryon Cousins for a night out on the town! We had ventured off to an area just north of where we were staying in the “Low Rise” area. This section was full of smaller condos and bungalow type villas where people rented. The area we traveled to was called the “High Rise” . This is where the larger and some of the all inclusive hotels and condos were located. There were several streets here lined with shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs. Our lovely Matthew was the life of the party this night! We found this adorable food boutique called “Picnic” located in the turn of the street. With pretty lights, and a perfectly boutique color scheme we stopped in for their $5 Cocktail Happy Hour!

It was a smaller venue, and we all filled the place up! Not only did we take most of the seats at the bar, but we filled the place with our laughs and our outrageous personalities! The bartenders there shared with us some local history, some tips and tricks, and our bloodstreams with all the happy hour deals! As the night drifted on, we found our way to another place where the vibes where bumping with bass and a little bump and grind!!! The bar GUSTO hadn’t known what had hit them…and neither did Matthew 😉 The bar was recommended to us by the bartenders at picnic. We told them we had on our dancing shoes (JK, all the girls had on high heels! What were we thinking?) They happily obliged us with this recommendation, and they did not disappoint! We spent our time and money here for sure! We danced the night away, but we knew when Matthew was trying to dance in the streets, our night was coming to an end! Rachel’s shoes had made their way off, Hilary had mysteriously lost a toenail, Caitlyn held it together, and together they held Matthew out the window on the ride home. All the while, Jermaine had ensured all of our well beings……Tuesday night in Aruba had treated us well!

Our friend from Picnic who gave us lots of good places to visit. Pro tip: Listen! Never stop listening to the locals. You can always learn so much from them.

This night was one of our favorites on the island, not because of the drinks or the dancing, but because there were five of us, out in another country spending time together and having a ball! We all come from entirely different walks of life. None of us where in the same career paths, none of us live in the same city back home, yet none of our differences mattered that night. At the beginning of this trip a few of us had only met once or twice, some of us had never met at all, and some of us have known each other our whole lives. It was so unique to get to meet and greet with new and old friends. Seeing how we all meshed and vibed was going to be an adventure in itself, and it was an adventure all its own! I think everyone was cautious the first couple of days, learning everyone’s habits and what not, but by the end of the trip we felt like a small little family. Like we had spent a summer with them pretending to be on The Real World or The Jersey Shore! We are so thankful to our friends for making this trip so special to us! They were perfect roomies because everyone was not afraid to venture out and do their own thing! We all went on different excursions and we all did one together, as well! We ate and cooked and cleaned all at different times throughout the week. We didn’t feel like we had to be hip to hip throughout the entire week. We felt we found the perfect balance between being together and being independent enough not to drive each other batty by the end of the trip!

It was the perfect harmony, or maybe it was just the air in Aruba that made us all happy! It was hard to be angry with the crystal clear water and the larger than life ocean breeze that kept you cool being so close to the sun. As Hilary said “It is AMAZING how hot it is here!” We all learned this one way or the other. Whether at the beginning of the week or at the end everyone of us wound up a little toasted and roasted at some point throughout the trip, but Cailtyn was the lifesaver who bought the burn aid and aloe! We would like to add that one of Aruba’s exports is aloe! There is a big difference in their sun AND their aloe vera! The burn aid and lotion combo they sold locally really made a big difference! We 10 out of 10 recommend you get some while you’re there! Or you can even order you some now at this link, here!

Despite our burns, we really did enjoy our time exploring the whole island. We even enjoyed just walking downtown! Looking in all the shops, and stores, seeing what all they offered at the local grocery store was a lot of fun. We want everyone to experience the love of travel that we do! We want you to enjoy reading about our adventures and helping create your own! This trip we are going to throw something new at ya! We are going to make a travel guide! What to pack, what to see, what to do, and where to eat! We are going to give you all those tips and tricks FO’ FREE! So, if you are interested in Aruba, you will definitely want to stay tuned! We will want all the feedback, so please leave your love, questions, and comments for us here or on our instagram!!

Thigh Gap…wait…Stephens Gap Cave

We are coming back to you after a couple of weeks of no blog posts!

Update: WE ARE STILL TIRED…. then we got sick… and life happened.

BUT, WE ARE BACK!

We want to know, do yall ever just get in a rut? Do you ever just feel yucky? We know that we certainly do. It seems like things never end with work and life, but we found a way to come back! Sometimes you just have to push yourself through to the next event, to the next moment, to the next chapter in your life! This weekend was our breakthrough.

As you all know, we love to be outside, but we have been a little under the weather for a while. We could tell we had been missing the great outdoors. We had heard of a place right in our own backyard in Woodville, Alabama, called Stephen’s Gap. We saw this place on a fellow Instagrammer’s page and knew we had to go! AND WE HAD TO GO SOON! Yet, it rained every weekend for three weekends straight. This was the weekend it finally happened!

Some important information to know about Stephen’s Gap is that it is a protected preserve, so you have to go to the Southeastern Cave Conservancy’s website to get your free permit. It is really simple and easy to do. There are so many caves in our area that we had no idea even existed, and we obviously have plans to visit many of them this summer!

The directions to Stephens Gap are practically two turns. We have passed this place hundreds of times and had no idea it existed! The trail is about a mile and a half long. The notable thing is that you actually hike up on a slight incline on the way to the cave, which is nice because on your way out after spelunking around in the cave, your trek back to the car is easy and downhill! This is not very typical of hiking here in North Alabama. Usually, you hike down into a gorge or valley. Following, you have to hike up on the way out, which can make the hikes more physically demanding.

We learned a lot on this hike. Just about halfway into it, we learned that you should always bring toilet paper with you when you’re in the woods where there is no indoor plumbing for miles. 🙂 We also learned that hiking post sickness, our stamina was very low. We had hiked at a pretty steady pace for about thirty minutes when we began to feel quite the fatigue. Out of breath and quite frankly frustrated with ourselves, we seriously just contemplated turning around. We knew the next little bit of our hike was going to take some leg work as the incline increased significantly.

But, just like in life, we knew if we turned around and quit we would regret it. AND WOULDN’T YOU KNOW…. It wasn’t but about 5 more minutes of hiking, WE MADE IT TO THE CAVE! Life lesson here for ya folks: DO NOT GIVE UP! You never know what is just around the corner, or just over the hill!

We were no longer out of breath from hiking, but we were gasping at the beauty that was before us! A HUGE hole in the ground that was all-encompassing of the rainfall from the weeks before! We stopped here to gaze at the sights and have a little snack we had packed with us in our handy dandy backpack we got from The Glacier Company. You can use the link to find one for yourself. If you use the code “carryon” you’ll get yourself a nice little discount as well … After tempting the edges of fate, we peered into the vast cave as much as we dared before we decided to just climb on down inside of the belly of the beast!

It was a slippery slope! As we began our descent, we could feel the temperature cool quickly. The rocks were wet, and the mud was super slippery. We stayed low to keep our balance. Any of you have read our previous post know that we are a little prone to sliding down. We eased and slowly lowered ourselves into the earth.

There was a picturesque rock that we were determined to get ourselves on, but it took some thought and some trial and error to get to it! Hilary tried first, then Rachel tried another way. It was the third time that was the charm, but it was definitely not easy… or safe at all, really. BUT,  WE DID IT! After making it onto the rock, our laughs echoed into the cave walls. Rachel was soaking wet and muddy and barefoot and bleeding…. Hilary looked like she descended from Hiking Heaven with no mud, no sweat, and perfectly dry hiking boots. We keep telling you… we are perfectly matched opposites. We both wanted on the rock so bad we could taste it. We just took two entirely different approaches to get there. Rachel wallowed, climbed, and rolled around; Hilary took very calculated and perfectly placed footsteps to achieve the goal. Another life lesson: It does not matter how you get there, as long as you work to reach your goals, you will be successful!

We had taken in all the sights, splashed in the water, climbed all the rocks, and decided our time here in the cave was coming to an end. It was wonderful to take in the cool air and feel the cold rushing water. We felt accomplished. We felt our bodies needed the physical activity after being kept in the house for so long. It was a good day.

We climbed our way out of middle earth and started back down the trail. We laughed and reminisced about our amazing weekend. Rachel was leading the way out, head down, listening to Hilary tell a wonderfully risque story when Rachel not so calmly interrupted her with the word, “SNAKE!!!!!”

About three footsteps ahead, a snake slithered across the trail. No questions were asked. We both started HIGH STEPPING It back the other direction. This was all the while Hilary was screaming, “IS IT A BLACK RACER?! IS IT CHASING US?! THEY ARE SO FAST!  RACHEL, IS IT CHASING US?!!”

Rachel could not help but just ignore everything Hilary said until she knew they were a good thirty yards away and out of harm’s way! Then we both just started laughing uncontrollably. It never fails, no matter where we go together, there is always going to be memories we made forever!

After picking up a stick and braving our way back down the trail to see if Mr. Snakey had slithered out of the way, we found ourselves safely back at our car. A day of hiking was in the books. And now… our next stop…. ARUBA!