The Adventurist: One Happy Island

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As I write this, I am sitting on a beach chair under a palapa with sugary white sand beneath me and crystal turquoise water in front of me. It’s my last day in Aruba. If my friends never see me again, it’s because I didn’t get on my plane to come home.

Every summer, I look for a new tropical location to test out. Aruba first came up in conversation last year as we discussed potential destinations, but we settled on Dominican Republic (pre-Delta Diaries). This year, after being slightly disappointed with the beach/water/sand in the DR, Aruba was once again an option. I had read great things about the little island, so I began looking for accommodations and flights.

I am normally a rent-a-house-to-myself type of person, but unfortunately, there are no AirBnB properties on the oceanfront in Aruba. That prime real estate is taken up by the bigger resorts and hotels. That, combined with the daunting idea of renting a car and driving around the island for eight days, led us to pick an all-inclusive option. While Aruba is not littered with all-inclusive resorts like some Caribbean islands, there are a few to pick from. We chose Divi Aruba All-Inclusive because it resembled more of a beach house community as opposed to a high-rise hotel (Riu Palace). We booked our room, flight, and transfers through CheapCaribbean.com several months beforehand. We selected a beachside room which ran us about $2,200 per person. This included a roundtrip flight with American Airlines. Unfortunately, no straight-through routes leave from Dallas/Fort Worth to the island, so we had a 1-hour layover in Charlotte, North Carolina (this could be good if your plane is early or really bad if your plan is late). Thankfully, we did not experience any difficulties with our connections coming or going*.

*We interrupt our regular programming to bring you a public service announcement about how it is bad luck to write a blog post before your trip is complete. Why? Because our connection from Charlotte to DFW was cancelled!!! Thankfully, we were able to get on another flight the next morning. This is the last time I’ll write a post before I am back in the comfort of my own home.

Divi All-Inclusive is a neat little resort. Keep in mind that all-inclusives are not normally my cup of tea – with just having stayed at Paradisus Punta Cana in the DR – so I do not have much of a basis for comparison. However, I would say Divi ranks higher up on the list than most. Our room was beautiful with a view to kill for. The beach is just steps from any room on the resort and one of the four pools will also be within throwing distance, as well. Reviews on TripAdvisor mentioned the drinks were watered down, but I am here to tell you that I felt every single drink I drank. *sips daiquiri*

Some of the best on the menu were the Brown Lady, Frozen Pink Panther, and my own creation: a strawberry colada with peach schnapps in addition to the rum. The local beer, Balashi, resembles Miller Lite, which is not my favorite, but some places do serve Presidente and Presidente Lite, which is a more palatable beer that I discovered in the DR.

The food did not disappoint, either. In fact, the cool thing about staying at Divi is that you will also get access to the Tamarijn All-Inclusive resort, too, which is just right next door. At Divi, there is a buffet that is open for all three meals, a pizza grill and a snack bar that are open from 11:00am until the bars close at night, and two sit-down dinner restaurants: Red Parrot and PureLime. Red Parrot offers a variety of dishes and PureLime serves Latin cuisine. At Tamarijn, you will find Paparazzi (Italian), Ginger (Asian), Fusion (Wine & Piano Bar), and Palm Grill (Hibachi-style). Palm Grill was my personal favorite because of the wide range of options and the concept of cooking your food yourself at your table. There is another buffet at Tamarijn, as well as more snack bars.

When you see pictures of the coastline in Aruba, don’t assume they are photoshopped; the water really is that blue. When you are swimming, it looks like you are in a pool. The clarity of the water is incredible. However, not all beaches in Aruba are the same. The further north you go from where Divi All-Inclusive is located, you will find the soft, sandy beaches turn to sharp, jagged volcanic rock. The beaches at the resort toward the northwest end of the island are manmade, so they will not be as wide or pristine as Eagle Beach or Palm Beach. The waves are smaller in these areas, but there is also more coral. Just south of the resort, right before you reach the city of Oranjestad, the beaches are full of sea grass. This can be intriguing to snorkelers, but you lose the crisp, blue water.

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Speaking of snorkeling… We went to De Palm Island for a day. It is a short (not short enough if you get seasick, but still worth it) 5-minute boat ride away from the mainland. There, you can snorkel, swim, zip line, and much more. It is an all-inclusive excursion that can be booked through the concierge at your hotel, so drinks and food are included once you get there! The snorkeling was incredible, and now I have added a Go-Pro to my Christmas list. I would have done more on the island if I hadn’t taken a Dramamine before the boat ride and slept on the beach for the rest of the afternoon until I had to get back on a boat and go back to the mainland.

Another excursion that is a must while in Aruba is the UTV Natural Pool Adventure. This is different than the Jeep tour… That one is lame (but family friendly) because you just ride with a bunch of people in a safari van. The UTV tour is fast, furious, dusty, exciting, dusty, kinda scary, and dusty. Did I say it was dusty? I think they call it “Aruban Makeup,” but I just call it walking outside in West Texas. I am still getting dirt out of places where there should not be dirt, but I would do it all over again if I could. You will get to see the Natural Pool in Conchi, Natural Bridges, Blackstone Beach, Bushiribana Gold Mill ruins, and Alto Vista Chapel. The Natural Pool was my personal favorite, even though I climbed up to the top of a rock formation to jump into the pool and cut both of my feet and one of my hands. Yes, there were signs saying not the do those things and no, I didn’t care. Matthew and Gio were our guides during this tour and it was the most fun I had on the whole trip.

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If neither of those excursions pique your interest, there are plenty of other things to do, such as a submarine dive or sunset sail. Of course, I could not partake because Dramamine can only go so far, and you can’t look at fish when you’re unconscious.

They call Aruba “one happy island,” and I could not think of a more fitting catch phrase. People are nice, life is easy, the streets are safe, and the water is blue. I could write thousands of words about this tiny slice of paradise, but the bottom line is if you want a pristine beach on a desert island where the temperature hovers around 82 degrees and the wind blows at a constant 20mph, Aruba is the place for you.

 

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