Aruba: Sun. Sand. Flip Flops.

In a few hours I will be hitting the road for the drive down to Panama City Beach. I will try to give you some updates along the way, at least a few pictures of our beach adventures, but I make no promises. You may not hear from me until Monday.

Now on to my next vacation story…Over the past few years RG and I have taken a lot of “couple” trips. We are fortunate to have great friends who love to travel as much as we do, and have explored everywhere from Cozumel to Prague and Amsterdam with them. A few months ago we planned a trip to Aruba with two other couples, one that we are really close with and another that we had never met before.  That is always tricky, because you never know how personalities will collide.

Aruba Sunset

We stated at the Westin Resort and Casino…the location was perfect and the beach was beautiful. It is very windy in Aruba though, to the point where sometimes you would rather be at the pool than the beach. I definitely came home with sand in everything!  Overall the hotel was ok, we were fortunate to be with an employee of SPG Hotels but if we had to pay the full rate I would suggest staying somewhere else – the Hyatt or Riu looked amazing!  For what we needed the Westin worked, they had 2-for-1 happy hour every night from 4-6pm, which we took advantage.  We were down the street from all the touristy bars (Senor Frogs, Benihana), restaurants and shops.  That could not have been any more perfect, my main complaint about the hotel was the construction and work they did at 7am in the room next door to us! I like to sleep in…especially on vacation and after a night out…but two mornings we were not afforded that luxury because of the construction. And the restaurants there were just ok, nothing to write home about.

View of the Westin’s Pool

The Hyatt was a few hotels down and had an AMAZING pool area.  The lobby was open-air that you walk through and come up on what feels like a jungle, but is actually the pool area. There are literally exotic animals and waterfalls at every turn.  Around this is the pool with a swim up bar, and water slide! They even had a grotto with a restaurant underneath a waterfall. We asked about their rates and on average were only $50 more a night than the Westin.

Hyatt Pool Area

Overall we didn’t spend too much time at our hotel. The trip itself was only four nights long…and it started off with a bit of a debacle. One of my best friends, half of the couple we knew, lost her passport on the way to the airport. All six of us were supposed to meet up at the Atlanta airport (the other four were coming from Nashville) so now we had to find this other couple and hope and pray we all got along…otherwise it was going to be a LONG flight and start to the trip. Fortunately we all did and we started drinking fruity cocktails on the plane!  Our friends made it in late that night…we were just glad the passport was recovered and everyone arrived in one piece!

American Restaurants on Every Turn

We tried a lot of restaurants on the island…the ones at the hotel, a variety in the touristy area and a few downtown. By far the most obscure one in downtown Oranjestad was the best. It was called Driftwood, and they served fresh catches of the day. Between everyone we were able to try calamari, shrimp cocktail crab cakes, the fresh catch, crab legs, garlic shrimp, and so much more! From the start I knew our dinners would not be disappointing. I wish I had pictures of our food…unfortunately this was before I thought about a blog… But you will have to take my word for it, try this restaurant if you are in Aruba!!  The atmosphere is like you are inside a boat, it is all wooden and low-lit. It is definitely family friendly, kind of hidden off a main road though – but any cab knows how to get there.

We were on vacation, so most of the days had some cocktails on the beach before we headed out for dinner. The night at Driftwood was no exception, we were by far those obnoxious Americans, talking way too loud about inappropriate things. I try very hard to not be that person, but we were just having too much fun and enjoying our dinner too much. It was to the point that when we left all of the servers were just staring at us and ready to show us the door. But we made sure to take care of them, so I’m sure they were smiling when they cleared the table!

Senor Frogs

Aruba itself is a pretty family friendly vacation spot, so the nightlife if more filled with college aged people. This long weekend we didn’t quite act as young as the college kids, but it was easy to get carried away! I think we were at Senor Frogs every night, at least for one drink. This was the most entertaining spot to be. They had a different contest each night…it started out tame with a sing-along on Wednesday night and got a little more risqué as the weekend came on…with booty shaking contest on Friday night and a bikini contest on Friday. Don’t worry, I did not participate in any of those!!  I almost got lured into the booting shaking contest, but I quickly jumped off the stage when I figured out what was going on 🙂

A piece of advice for those heading to Aruba…the downtown area is only open when there is a cruise ship docked. RG and I took an afternoon to ourselves and headed in town to see the flea market and walk around. Nothing was open! It turns out a cruise ship had left about an hour before and everything shut down right after. We did find a local cigar shop to stop in and have a drink and try the local cigars. I don’t smoke at all, but I made an exception to try a cigar. We had so much fun, hanging out with locals and just relaxing.

Cigar Bar

The other highlight of the trip was the last day. All six of us hung out on the beach, then we broke off for a few hours…one couple rode jet skis, another went on a jeep tour, and we got pulled on a float all over the ocean. It looked cheesy, but it was so.much.fun!  We also found a pier right down from our hotel that had a restaurant and bar on the ocean. We regrouped there and hung out for the entire afternoon into the evening. It was called Bugaloe, and was the perfect way to end the trip. I hope you all enjoyed!!

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