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!!

Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

We have been told by TLC countless times, “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls”, but if you tell us not to… well, we can almost guarantee that we will. This little impromptu weekend adventure was brought on by record setting rainfall here in northeast Alabama! Over the last few weeks, the weather has resembled that of Seattle, Washington much more than the deep south. The ground had soaked up as much water as it could. This meant that the water was running over the edges, cliffs, and runoffs all over our area.

We can definitely say that we come by our desire to travel honestly. Our dad’s had planned a day of chasing waterfalls and we invited ourselves along. We jumped at the opportunity to go exploring with them!

The chance of rain was at a minimum for the first time in over two weeks. Cabin fever had set in and we needed to stretch our legs.

Our first destination was not far. Tucked in the corner of Geraldine, Alabama lies a locally known hot spot called High Falls Park. The park is home to a set of falls that plunge about 35 feet down. There is also a rock formation that has been eroded into a picturesque arch with a walking bridge, as well. It can be very dangerous here, so swimming and diving are at the visitor’s own risk. However, today no one in their right mind would have even attempted such activities. The water was rushing over the falls in enormous volumes. It was beautiful and humbling how powerful nature can present itself.

There are pavilions here for spending the day grilling and a playground for the little adventurers, also. Now, many of you know we aren’t so little, but that will never stop us from acting like children! Travel Pro Tip: When you see a merry go round, you demand that your dad spin you around!

After a wobbly restart we left the park headed for another falls, just about fifteen minutes down the road! The next falls are known as Griffin Falls, located in Collinsville, Alabama. An important note is that this waterfall is located on private land. The owner is awfully sweet to let adventurers on his land, so please remember to be respectful. This fall can be found on a good old dirt road just off of Highway 68. After just a short drive down the road, there is an obvious pull off where the trail begins. It is quite a steep trek to the top. There are lots of rocks that can be slippery when wet (Right, Hilary?).

Rachel’s dad and Hilary’s dad where the first to lead the way. Hilary’s mom was also along for the trip and up the side of the mountain we went.

Green moss lines the trails and makes for lush views. The 40 foot waterfall was a beautiful sight; however, you had to navigate just past the first boulder to get the full view. The higher we climbed, the prettier the view! If one is brave enough you can navigate behind the waterfalls into an open cave to get an ethereal view from behind the water.

There are lots of flowers oddly planted along the cave wall. These were planted and left by a local religious group that meets periodically here behind the water. It was a serene feeling standing behind the falls feeling the mist and splashes of water against us.

Navigating the wet rocks on the way up was a bit unsettling, but as everyone knows…what goes up must come back down. Hilary just came down at a quicker velocity than she expected during one little section of the trek to the bottom.

We all had a good laugh. As you might remember, Rachel took a very similar fall a couple weeks back! The mud never scared us, and then on to the next stop!

The hiking had made us hungry, so we stopped downtown Fort Payne at a local burger joint known as The Strand! Home of the delicious Bonanza Burger and some of the best onion rings around. The service here is unbeatable and the antique decor is all for sale! Be sure and ask for a slice of the homemade desserts, as well. We all shared a peach cheesecake that was divine!

We traveled to the overlook at Little River Canyon. It was foggy atop Lookout Mountain, but that didn’t stop us or the other adventurers from using their Saturday to see the water! After a quick stop there, we were onto Rome, Georgia! Gregg (Rachel’s Dad) and Paul and Becky (Hilary’s Parents) where all up for some antique shopping. There was an Italian place we were wanting to eat for dinner later in the evening. Rome was about an hour drive away. For Hilary and Rachel that meant time for more laughs and more ideas… One of which will probably get us into some trouble……You know what they say…. “When in Rome!!”

Our parents are notoriously always looking for a good deal and love thrifting. However, that isn’t really our “thing”, but knowing Italian was on the menu for dinner we traveled along for the trip in our own car. We figured we could find something to do while we waited for our parents to go shopping, right?

Well about twenty minutes from splitting with our parents we found ourselves in a little corner shop. Gotta do something to pass the time! We paid tribute to our love of travel and our rebellious nature all in one place!

Follow us on Instagram @carryoncousins to see what our tattoos look like!

We were excited to go to dinner with our new secret hidden by our hiking leggings! Rachel said to Hilary as we met up with our parents “Are we going to tell Aunt Becky?” Hilary quickly replied with a sharp “No!?” … deal. We mutually decided we would keep a secret.

We waltzed into the best Italian restaurant called Provino’s with a giddy and sneaky smile.

Hilary’s first words to her mom and me was “Come to the bathroom.” Rachel knew to follow. As we swung open the door to the lady’s room, Hilary peels up her leggings to reveal our not so secret surprise! Rachel just simply followed along and raised her leggings to show hers, too! Hilary just really doesn’t enjoy having a plan as much as Rachel does!   

Our dads didn’t need to know just yet… and, well, this will be a test to see if they actually read our blog!

This wild, crazy, spur of the moment decision embodies how we want to live our life. A notion we coined “The Carry-On Mindset” means living a life for the moment. Valuing what is now. Valuing the moment you are in right this second. We know that tomorrow is a thing, that there is a future, and plans are important to have. However, we do not want to live for tomorrow because we know it may never come. Hilary’s Motto:Plans are made to be broken. Rachel’s Motto:Don’t tempt me with a good time!

When we had the “Best Idea Ever” to create a blog that documented our travels, it began as a travel journal for ourselves simply to let our friends and family in on our adventures. We both had experienced some adversities in our life that had pushed us to make some really hard decisions. The notion of “deciding to be happy” is easier said than done. We often sit back in awe at how our lives where intertwined so closely because we began to make the same decisions at the same time in our lives, and that is what brought us so close together.

We leaned on each other for support when things were not going so great. When we were scared of what the future held, or when we were lonely at all the wee hours of the morning, it always seemed that the other had just experienced the same thing and was able to help talk the other one down off that steep ledge.

We quickly realized that we both had similar coping skills. When we were upset, sad, lonely, or mad as all hell, it really helped us to change our scenery. We would get up and get going on a quick whim to force our brains to process new information so we could step away from the negativity we could not seem to shake sitting at home. We both struggle with not being able to stop thinking about it. Traveling and going on adventures is a way we could force our brains to stop picking apart the one thing that was bothering us and focus on what really matters; being happy with ourselves. What makes us inspired? What makes our heart beat outside our chests? What makes us stand there in awe?

We will never forget the first real trip we ever took together. It was right before we would both take a huge leap of faith. We were both stuck at a place in our lives where we were sacrificing every bit of our happiness to please others. It’s not like we are two selfless, caring, nurturing sweet girls who just get trampled on. If you knew us, you would say right the opposite. We both STRUGGLE with letting people down, and in order to do what we needed to do to be young, wild, and free…. Or young, dumb, and broke more like it…. we inevitably knew that we would hurt a lot of people in our lives.

This post itself may pain a few people because of our decisions made on this very day, but we want everyone to know that the best way to handle life and all of its struggles is to pack light and carry on. You might regret getting a tattoo, but you will never regret travelling! 🙂