Ah the holidays. The time of year that tends to bring unnecessary conflict, drama, and stress. Over the years I have managed to cope by escaping to somewhere far away from the Midwest, and take advantage of the legal holiday and make it into an extended vacation. This year was no different, and thanks to a ridiculously cheap airfare, I found myself heading to Aruba for a week of fun in the sun.
I had two main goals during my trip:
- Stress free fun in the sun
- Get out and see more than the beach
With these two things in mind and with a pretty low rack rate, I found myself calling the Renaissance’s adult only portion of the hotel my home away from home. This hotel is a bit odd, as it is in part of a mall and the service and friendliness of the staff was a bit off. The saving grace of this hotel was the fact that it had a private island that it took its guests to, it had a Starbucks, and was within walking distance to many shops and restaurants.
Highlights from the trip:
+ Finding Gluten Free and Casein free food!
- Yemanja Woodfire Grill – Thanks to their healthy menu that clearly marked allergens and ingredients, this was my go to dinner restaurant. Yemanja’s was healthy, fresh, and above all else safe. These guys did an excellent job handling cross contamination, and I am pleased to say, I did not get sick once while eating here.
- Elements Restaurant- located at the Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort on Eagle Beach, this was one of the best lunches, thanks to the stunning views and service. The restaurant itself is cheap, especially during lunch. If you’re looking to dine there for dinner expect to shell out a bit more money. **These guys only accept credit card, so make sure you don’t show up with out it. **
- The Dutch Pancake House – While maybe not always casein free, you could get pretty much every crepe can be prepared gluten free. The prices were cheap, the portions were huge, and it was a relatively quick meal with friendly service
+ Exploring Aruba
- Renaissance Aruba’s Private Island- After embarking on a short 8 minute water taxi ride, you could find yourself soaking up the sun or enjoying the cool Caribbean waters. Plus, thanks to its location, if plane watching is your thing, you had a great focal point to view take offs and see the planes on approach while being far enough from the noise, but have a great view.
- Renaissance Mall/Market Place- If shopping is your thing, the Renaissance was smack dab in the middle of it. Plus, it is within a few blocks of the cruise port, so there are additional shops. At the marketplace, they had local musical acts performing on stages, as well as local vendors trying to sell their handmade good on a few of the weekend nights.
- Sunset Sail Cruises- There are a handful of tour operators that offer these, due to cost and last minute booking availability, I sailed with De Palm Tours. These guys provided round trip transportation to the boat and a fun 2 hour sail along the coast and reached the California light house, right as the sun was sailing.
- Half day island jeep tour- Once again due to cost, last minute booking, and itinerary, De Palm Tours was the operator of choice. Their Natural Pool Land Rover Adventure provide 4.5 hours of fun making stops at the Natural Pool (Conchi) after a wild ride through Arikok National Park; photo stops, at such places as the Ayo Rock Formation on the way to the Natural Bridge; a photo stop at Alto Vista Chapel; as well as a scenic ride to the California Lighthouse.
I can see why Aruba markets itself as ‘one happy island’. From the fun in the sun, the summer time weather, and friendly people, Aruba is more than worth a visit.