We spent 6 glorious days in Aruba and it didn’t seem like enough! The island is known as “One Happy Island” and it definitely lives up to it’s name! The people are so nice there, it’s very clean, and you feel very safe. The beaches are gorgeous, full of white sand from coral and white rock weathering away onto the shores.
There are many activities to do for couples or as families. If you’re bringing kids, teens would enjoy the island more than tiny kids. We were there for 6 days and never bored. Here is all you need to know to plan your perfect trip to Aruba.
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Arrival into Aruba
We arrived into Aruba’s Queen Beatrix Airport, right along the water! Arriving was pretty easy, we got off the plane, handed a government agent our declaration card and scanned our passports where our picture was taken by an automated machine. Also, the airport had views of the ocean were gorgeous while walking through!
Pro-tip: Tourism boards are usually parked in the arrivals area with reusable bags filled with coupons and info about Aruba... they are FREE, so take one! We used them all over, around the hotel, threw towels in for our UTV tour, to the beach, etc.
It’s a $25 flat rate to get from the airport to the high rise hotels or $18 to get to the Downtown hotels. Here is a link to handy chart for taxi rates for getting around Aruba: Taxi Fares in Aruba
Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort, Spa & Casino
Address: Juan E, J.E. Irausquin Blvd #85, Noord, Aruba
Website: Hyatt Regency Aruba
We ALWAYS find THE BEST rates through Booking.com. See deals of up to 50% off! You can save a bunch of money if you book a bundle flight+room+rental car! They even have apartments, lodges, and houses you can rent, just like AirBnB or VRBO! By booking through this link, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you! PLEASE support our blog and bookmark this link!
We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort, Spa & Casino for 4 nights over New Years 2019! Located mid beach of hotel row, it is the perfect place to spend the day at the beach and walking distance to everything! The rooms were so nice, hard wood floors and super spacious! The pool was huge, complete with a water slide, volleyball net and swim up bar to get your drink on!
My favorite part of walking through the resort was looking for wildlife! Parrots, swans, large iguanas, coi fish, and turtles were all over!
Read our full HOTEL REVIEW here: Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort, Spa & Casino
We also stayed at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino so we could visit the flamingos on Renaissance Island’s Flamingo Beach! Read our full review on the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino and Everything you need to know about Flamingo Beach. We’ll get more into that on Day 5 and 6!
Afternoon Beach Time
After we checked into the Hyatt Regency Aruba, we couldn’t wait to go to the beach and grab a bite to eat! There were a bunch of restaurants inland but we wanted to eat by the water. From our room, I could see a restaurant on Pelican Pier and said we should eat there. Reviews on Yelp and Google Maps said The Pelican Nest Seafood & Grill Bar was good, which was good enough for me!
Restaurant: The Pelican Nest Seafood & Grill Bar
Address: On Pelican Pier, J.E. Irausquin Blvd 237, Noord, Aruba
Cuisine type: Caribbean, Seafood | Price Range: $20 - $30
We sat down in the bar which was open seating, ordered chicken sandwiches and happy hour beverages since we were there between 4-6pm. We sat at the bar along the walkway and weren’t complaining about the oceanfront views.
After our meal, not sure if it was lunch or dinner, but walked along the beach to catch a beautiful sunset.
Watch where you step, you never know what you might find!
Ice Cream in Aruba - Gelatissimo Palm Beach
Address: J.E. Irausquin Blvd 345, Noord, Aruba
Website: Gianni’s Gelatissimo
We went exploring inland where we saw shops and restaurants on our drive in. Of course we had to find some ice cream and we came across some delicious gelato at Gelatissimo!
I went with a waffle cone trying the Stracciatella (chocolate chip) and Nutella (chocolate hazelnut).
New Years in Aruba
We asked our cab driver where the place to be is at midnight on New Years Eve, to which he said, “right in front of your hotel!” Perfect. He wasn’t wrong, we had a few drinks at the bar and wandered down to the beach around 11p. Fireworks are legal in Aruba so they were going off all day along with these giant firecrackers that people would set up randomly in the streets. We sat and watched as people set off sparklers and small fireworks around us. As soon as midnight hit, a bunch of barges in the water close to the beach shot off fireworks for a good 20 minutes! It was spectacular, the whole beach was lit up from this amazing display!
Breakfast in Aruba - Dushi Bagels & Burgers
Address: J. E. Irausquin Blvd #87 Noord, Aruba
Cuisine type: Bagels, Breakfast, Burgers, Sandwiches | Price Range: $7-$12
We decided to try a restaurant recommended by a friend, which was walking distance to our hotel called Dushi Bagels. The price was right for our meals and the service was quick. There was a bit of a wait so we just ate at the bar. They also offer to go options if you’re in a hurry! We enjoyed a breakfast burrito with ham, french toast, and delicious hash browns.
UTV Tour - Around Aruba Tours
Or book through Viator tours: Aruba UTV Tour
Booking: We took a 4 hour UTV Tour around the island with Around Aruba Tours. It was $180 for the 2 of us. The Hyatt Regency concierge was able to book the afternoon tour for us. They also offer ATV tours and Jeep tours too! Note: An ATV is for one person, the UTVs hold 2-4 people. The driver should be at least 18 years old with a valid driving license while the minimum age for the passengers is set at 6 years.
What to bring: You will get very dusty, I’d avoid wearing white. You must wear sunglasses or something to protect your eyes. They will provide a souvenir bandana to shield half of your face from the dirt and dust. The tour ends in the Natural Pool, where you can jump in the water if you want to, I’d wear a swimsuit under your clothes because there isn’t a place to change. Also, bring a towel if you’re going in the water! The tour provides small bottles of water that they have in coolers on ice.
Our guide was AB, who was energetic and funny, and he even grew up on the island! He picked us up at our hotel in a school bus around 2pm and took us to Phillip’s Animal Garden to get situated. We paid there (they do take credit cards) and as the tour company was collecting information and payment, we were able to wander and feed the island’s most exotic animals.
Our first stop was the Alto Vista Chapel which was built in 1750. It was renovated in 1950’s and rebuilt by missionaries from Venezuela. It resembles the church in Westworld to me!
We traveled as a group following single file. Driving from spot to spot was dusty (and very bumpy) but had spectacular views.
The next stop was the Natural Bridge, where a rock formation created a bridge. Not a whole lot to see but you can walk on top of it (or jump).
Our next stop was the abandoned Bushiribana Gold Mill, which sits on the northern coast. This site once processed ore from mines in the nearby hills during Aruba's gold rush of the nineteenth century. In 1824, gold was found on the island and over 3 million pounds of gold were produced.
Next, we entered the Arikok National Park on Aruba’s east coast. Conchi is a natural ocean pool sheltered by craggy rock formations. Beaches include Boca Prins and Dos Playa, a turtle nesting site.
Some got in the pool while others wandered around. I climbed on rocks and could see crabs and fish in the shallow waters nearby. Josh got in and waved!
We were dropped off at our hotel and needed to shower off the dirt! We were starving and wanted to go somewhere close-by that we could walk to…
Dinner at Smokey Joe’s Island Grill
Address: J.E. Irausquin Blvd 87, Noord, Aruba
Cuisine type: American, International | Price Range: $20 - $30
AB our UTV tour guide recommended Smokey Joe’s and told us they have all you can eat ribs on Tuesday and Thursday claiming they are “the best ribs in the Caribbean.” The ribs were good, and we got some chicken as well. The service was really slow, but we weren’t in a rush, just hungry!
I saw the Pink Iguana drink on the menu and it was everything I wanted. It was like a Miami vice or lava flow, filled with coconut cream, rum and strawberries! For dessert, we HAD to try the Fried Oreos and vanilla ice cream! We didn’t leave anything behind.
We did a quick stroll around the shops to walk off our dinner.
Breakfast at a Dutch Pancake House - Diana’s Pancake Place
Address: J.E. Irausquin Blvd 370, Noord, Aruba
Website: Facebook Page
Cuisine type: Dutch | Price Range: under $15
Diana’s Pancake House is located by hotel row and across from the Hyatt, above the I Love Aruba store. Dutch pancakes are served as one pancake on a large plate with whatever ingredients you desire from the menu. The pancakes were bigger than my face! I went with the Hawaiian (ham, cheese, and pineapple) and Josh had the Apple Cinnamon. They were good, but we weren’t planning on going back every morning.
Diving with Aqua Windies
Address: Dr. Horacio E. Oduber blvd 4, Eagle Beach, Aruba
We went diving two days in a row with Aqua Windies! Everyone was super nice, we would get picked up and get our gear at the dive shop before continuing on to the boat. On our first day our crew was Sean, Big Rob, Rob, and Dan. We went out with Sean, who was new to them. He was very nice, but wasn’t privy as to where to look for marine life that frequented certain spots.
We drove out past our hotel to a dock with tons of birds and the prettiest aqua waters.
We had two great dives, checking out some sunken ships and the coral reef that has grown on and around them! We even caught a ray passing through!
Dinner at Salt and Pepper
Address: J.E. Irausquin Blvd 370-A, Noord, Aruba
Cuisine type: Spanish, Tapas | Price Range: $10 - $20
Salt and Pepper shakers were everywhere! They had different salt and pepper shakers at every table and the walls inside had shelves and shelves of shakers. They even offer free sangria for those who bring a set for them to keep! After our dives we were so hungry, so we ordered quite a few tapas plates to try:
Meatballs - my fave
Chicken wings - josh fave
Fried Brie - Yum *drool*
Spicy beef - Great!
Chicken pincho - good sauce
Grouper - not a huge fish fan, but it was pretty good!
Chorizo sausage - it was good, but everything else as better
We ordered a beers to go, you can walk around with alcohol (just like Vegas)! We walked down through some of the hotels and played in the casinos, while checking out the pools and properties.
Diving with Aqua Windies
We went out for a second day of diving with Aqua Windies bright and early to check out the airplanes. Our guide’s name was Ed who was from New Jersey and was hilarious! The airplanes were so cool and so large underwater. You could even go right through them! Our second dive was at Harbor Reef where we found lots of giant eels!
One of our favorite dives was the Airplane Wreck (70-90 ft / 24-30 m), a Convair 400 and a Beech craft 18. Both airplanes were sunk on a sloping reef surrounded by soft corals. Check out our video here:
We shared a sandwich at the pool bar and spent the afternoon by the pool and took a long walk along the beach.
For our last dinner over by Palm Beach, we decided to be fancy and have a nice steak dinner. We had a reservation at Sunset Grille, located in the Hilton Aruba Resort, which was right next to our hotel and a quick jaunt down the beach.
We sat outside to enjoy the sunset while at the Sunset Grille! I had a mouth watering Filet Mignon and Josh ordered the Cowboy Bone-in Rib Eye. For sides, we tried the Garlic mashed potatoes and Gouda Cheese Croquettes. The croquettes were little balls of cheese and potato heaven. SO GOOD.
For dessert, we had the Chocolate Decadence Cake, rich and sweet, served with fruit on the side. YUM!
Breakfast at Salt and Pepper
American Breakfast | Price Range: $10 - $20
Even though we had already had dinner here, we loved the service and the breakfast menu looked good! I had and omelet that was overloaded with ham (thats a good thing) with amazing hash browns! Their house coffee was great too, came with free refills!
New Hotel Check-in: Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino
Address: L.G. Smith Blvd 82, Oranjestad, Aruba
Website: Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino
Find the best rate to visit these flamingos by booking your room through Booking.com
I had been waiting ALL week to check into this hotel! What I was looking forward to the most for our Aruba trip was meeting the flamingos on Renaissance Island’s Flamingo Beach.
Renaissance Adult Only hotel
There are 2 hotels at the Renaissance property, both right across from each other. The adults only hotel is more inland but still in the marina. It’s also connected to a very fancy, high end mall and casino! We tried to check in, but our room wasn’t ready. We were given passes to get to Renaissance Island to go to Flamingo Beach!
More flamingo pictures here: Everything you need to know about Flamingo Beach.
Dinner Downtown at Driftwood Restaurant
Address: Driftwood Building, Klipstraat 12, Oranjestad, Aruba
Cuisine type: Aruban, Caribbean, Seafood | Price Range: $25 - $35
Loved the ambiance! The walls were plastered with driftwood and it felt like a being on a ship with steering wheels as lamps (minus the sea sickness)! Something happened in the kitchen and it took over an hour to get our food. The way they seat you and take orders, we weren’t quite sure who exactly was our waiter. We asked if everything was alright with our order and they apologized for the delay. A round of drinks with mermaid accoutrements came on the house.
I ordered the chicken with tropical citrus sauce and wish I had the recipe for that sauce! Josh tried the Aruban meal - fresh catch of the day with potato and veggies. Although the presentation of the meal was underwhelming, the food quality was spectacular.
For dessert, we ordered the Brownie a la mode and it was perfection!
After dinner, we walked around the downtown area and played in a few casinos. I was still reeling from my day with the flamingos!
Renaissance Island’s Flamingo Beach & Breakfast
We had to get up early to go to Flamingo Beach one more time so I could feed them! We tried to hop on the 8am boat but because the tide was low, they were boarding outside so we missed it and waited for the next one. The island wasn’t crowded at all! I was able to feed them and get some great pictures of just us!
We had breakfast over by the Iguana beach and this completed our PERFECT Aruba trip.
Departing from the Aruba Airport
We were warned by a few people to get to the airport at least 3 hours early if you are traveling back to the United States from Aruba. Not only do you pass through Aruba customs, but you also pass through US customs. The benefit here is that you don’t have to hassle with customs when you get to the US, the bad part is you spend a long time in lines at the airport. There were 7 steps to get to the gate, here is why it takes so long to get through the Aruba airport customs:
First you have to check-in and check your baggage, which took about 30 mins to get to the counter.
Next, you have to clear customs with Aruba. This line was outside and luckily it was a nice breezy day! It took about 15 mins to get to the front of this line.
After, we were to take everything through the TSA metal detectors, all electronics must come out of your bags. This line took another 15 mins or so.
We thought we were done since we entered the terminal with duty free shops, but no, we were not done yet.
We kept walking until we entered the US customs area where you have to find your bags that you checked in step 1. Some bags were on the carousels and others were lined up by airport staff. We were not allowed to open our bags.
After gathering our bags, we lined up for the US customs check. The line takes about 30 minutes or Global Entry had no line.
Once we were passed the custom agents, we dropped our bags off, again.
Now we had to go through the TSA metal detectors one last time. Luckily there was a separate line for TSA pre-check, but you still have to take your shoes off. This took about 10 minutes.
Finally, we entered the terminal to find our gate! We had time to spare and with our Priority Pass account, we could go into the VIP lounge. It was a small lounge with limited snacks: bagged chips, muffins, sandwiches, and drinks included: wine, rum, whiskey, coffee, beer or soda. We were ok with this, all we wanted to do was sit and grab a bite to eat!
We were exhausted when we got back home, but were ready to go back right away! Let us know what you thought of the post or if you have any questions in the comments below!
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