I have traveled quite a bit, but before Aruba I had never ever considered an island vacation for the simple fact that I cannot sit still for more than an hour. I am the person who schedules in “pool time” during trips to Walt Disney World after waking up before 7AM. I plan in “time for relaxation” between 3 and 4PM when traveling internationally despite having just landed.
But after the insane year that we all had, there was something appealing about a warm, primarily outdoor beach trip with my friends. And luckily, Aruba not only promised perfect weather and crystal clear waters but several types of excursions and activities to keep me from going stir crazy. Now that we’ve returned, I can understand why people choose to make Aruba their yearly vacation – and can understand the appeal of lounging on beautiful, clean beaches. Still, this trip was only made better by the activities we included in our plans.
AN ATV/UTV TOUR
ATV and UTV tours are one of the most popular activities when visiting Aruba and are a great way to visit several sites in just one day, as well as experiencing the desert landscape of Aruba’s Arikok National Park. While there are a handful of tour companies offering these tours, I highly recommend the one we took with RockaBeach tours or at least finding a tour company that offers a stop at the Secret Beach and cave pool. As we were a group of five traveling together, we also loved that this tour company had one 5-seater UTV available.
Our tour lasted approximately four hours from start to finish and included stops at seven spots including the Natural Bridge, Tres Tapi, the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins, and the California Light house. While some stops were shorter than others, we never felt rushed and our tour guides were more than willing to assist us in taking some great group photos.
The best stop though and also the most action-packed was the stop at the cave pool. Please note that getting to the cave pool requires climbing down a wooden ladder, over large coral rocks, and potentially swimming in a pool where you are not able to touch the ground. It was hectic, a tad risky, but incredibly fun and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While the booking site mentions that comfortable sandals are fine for the tour, from my experience wearing sneakers or sneaker-like water shoes will make the cave pool portion significantly easier and more safe.
We also enjoyed getting away from the Downtown area of Oranjestad and away from the beaches. While the entire island is essentially desert, you truly get that desert feel while driving through the national park.
The Jolly Pirate Cruise
The Jolly Pirate Cruise, if the name didn’t give it away, is a large pirate ship you can hop aboard three different times of day: the morning, the afternoon, and sunset. All three tours offer an open-bar, quick BBQ meal, stops at at few snorkel spots with included equipment, and a rope swing. This was easily one of the most fun parts of our trip and we were able to experience that party boat environment without having to be aboard a legitimate party boat, which can often be way too hectic.
In fact, the Jolly Pirate Cruise is totally family-friendly. Though he didn’t take his turn on the rope swing, there was a grandfather on board we dubbed “everyone’s pop-pop” and several kids, including one little girl who wouldn’t jump off of the rope swing until we convinced the entire boat to cheer her on. The cruise manages to be relaxing, entertaining, action-packed, and comfortable for all.
An Open-Air Massage on Renaissance Private Island
Getting an open-air massage on the Renaissance Private Island is relaxing but also feels a bit luxurious, something I’m sure most people wouldn’t mind a bit of while vacationing. Generally, only guests of the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino can visit Renaissance Private Island, sometimes dubbed Flamingo Beach. But unless you were able to grab one of the coveted day-passes offered by the Renissance, booking an open-air massage with the Renaissance’s Okeanos spa is the only other way for non-guests to snag a visit to the island.
We booked a couple’s massage around noon and enjoyed a 50-minute full body massage in an open-air palapa to the sounds of the ocean. The package includes two drink tickets to redeem for frozen drinks at the bar on the island but there is also a package that includes lunch as well. Once your massage is complete, you’re allowed to spend the rest of the day on the island.
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