I’m trying to soak up my post-vacation high as long as I can after spending the most beautiful week in Aruba! It is honestly one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever visited and I now understand why so many people fall in love with the island. I wanted to quickly recap our trip and share some must-see, must-eat, and must-do things for anyone who’s planning on visiting the Happy Island anytime soon…
We stayed at La Cabana Resort & Casino and found it to be the perfect location! Most rooms/suites appeared to be private time shares & we rented directly from the owner of our unit – however, I think you can book on most travel sites. The resort was in the quieter, low-rise part of the island and sat right between the cruise ports and the high rises – both busier areas. Our studio room was perfect, we had a small kitchenette and balcony that overlooked the pool & ocean (I believe every room has some form of waterfront view). La Cabana had some shopping inside, a casino, gym, spa services, huge pool & waterslide, two hot tubs, two restaurants, a cafe, a poolside and beach bar (with happy hour specials between 2-6), some fast food options (Sbarro, Nathans, and Cinnabon…might have hit that up a couple times), beach cabana’s for guests staying the resort, a huge grocery store across the street, and I’m sure a million other things that I’m forgetting. Anything that the resort didn’t have was available nearby. All in all, it was a gorgeous, convenient property and I’d definitely go back!
When it comes to restaurants, there are hundreds of options and we had more recommendations than we knew what to do with! I wish we could have tried them all (guess we’ll have to go back), but it’s safe to say that we didn’t have one bad meal. A few of our favorites were:
MooMba Beach Bar & Grill. This was RIGHT on the beach! They had a lively bar, lots of seating, and delicious food! Our table was literally in the sand and we were able to enjoy dinner with bare feet as we watched the sun set. Dan ordered the Swordfish and Shrimp, and I had the Chicken Pinchos (one of their specialities) and they were so tasty!
Las Ramblas. This restaurant was right in front of our resort – after a minor mishap during check in, they gave us a gift card to use at any of the bars/restaurants on the property so we decided to try this one out! Our waiter was awesome, we had a fabulous view of the beach across the street, and our meal was incredible. I had the short ribs and Dan tried the filet, shrimp, & scallop special – I loved it there!
Terrazza Italiana. This was a rooftop restaurant right next door and although we dined way after sunset (9pm dinner = no view), it was still a great experience and yummy meal! I had the Carbonara which was so good (huge bonus: they didn’t prepare it with peas – my least favorite veggie lol) and Dan had Lasagna and Chicken Alfredo.
Dutch Pancake House. We skipped the big breakfast most mornings, but had to try this place! Their crepe-like dutch pancakes (and poffertjes) were insane! I went savory, Dan went sweet, and everything was fabulous. This breakfast was soo filling & held us over until dinner lol.
Sunset Grille. This restaurant was located at the Hilton and the property was so gorgeous! I didn’t take many photos this night (besides the one of Dan below), I had a dirty martini during dinner that most definitely did me dirty lol but everything was incredible. I had the roasted chicken & mushroom risotto (amazing), Dan had the salmon, and we both loved the chocolate coconut soufflé for dessert.
Passions. On our final night we had reservations elsewhere, but changed our mind last minute and decided to go here! This restaurant was also right on the beach (across from our resort) and every afternoon while we were laying out, we’d see them set up the tables for dinner. We decided to give it a try and it was the best way to end our trip! Such a cozy, romantic, and absolutely delicious dinner. Dan had the Treasure of the Sea and I had the Coconut Crusted Grouper which I will 100% be dreaming about for years to come.
Other restaurant/bar recommendations we had to save for next time:
As far as activities were concerned, I think we could both agree that our favorite was the UTV rental! We opted against joining a tour & just rented one on our own for the day. We booked through Arubiana and they were incredible – they picked us up at our hotel in the AM, brought us to their office to get everything situated before we went out, and then they dropped us off at the hotel later on. With the help of their GPS app (no wifi or service needed which was great since we rarely had any lol) we took our time exploring the entire island. They marked a bunch of interest points along the way and we hit most of them. There was definitely some intense off-roading through the desert areas, some slower coastal cruising, and some road/highway driving as well. My favorite part of this day was visiting Baby Beach!
We had nooo idea how perfect this little spot would be. We had lunch at Big Mama Grill bar, ordered a few drinks, and just floated for a little bit. The whole day was incredible, we had so much fun and thought it was the best way to truly see Aruba (you can definitely get around the entire island in just a few hours).
While checking in, I was flipping through one of the pamphlets at our resort and stumbled across a “How Much Do You Know About Aruba?” quiz. There was a picture of a huge green mountain on the page – we both enjoy hiking but were under the impression the island was pretty flat, so we had to look into it! We were so excited to learn about Mt. Hooiberg – no one had told us about this! It’s a huge mountain in the middle of the island with 600 steps to the top. At it’s peak, you can see e v e r y t h i n g! The climb isn’t exactly easy, but it’s manageable. People of all ages were there and you can definitely climb at your own pace (with plenty of rest points along the way). We made it up pretty quickly and were so impressed with the views – you could see every inch of the island. Since Mt. Hooiberg is in a bit of a remote area, we took a taxi there. Our concierge told us that there would be nooo taxis waiting for us when we got back down so we asked our driver how to get home – he said sometimes drivers will wait, come back for you, or send another driver. For us, his friend who was a driver happened to live at the bottom of the mountain so when we arrived, he pulled into his driveway and asked if he could bring us home. It worked out great for us that day, but definitely figure transportation home before you go!
ACTIVITIES FOR NEXT TIME:
- Flamingo Beach
- Arikok National Park/Natural Pool (we opted to skip this on our UTV day)
- Snorkeling & Sailing Booze Cruise
- Kukoo Kunuku Bus
A few nights we ventured to the high rises where there is a ton of shopping, bars, and nightlife. Instead of cabs, we used Birds (if you read my Cali recap last Fall, you know how much I loveeeeeee Bird scooters)! We ended up double birding everywhere (oops), but my phone was the only one that seemed to catch a signal and you need service to activate and park your ride. It was actually so fun to scoot together, the sidewalks and paths were very safe, and bonus…it was a pretty affordable way to get around vs. cabs!
And honestly, our favorite thing to do was go to the beach all day and stay until sunset (do not forget your sunscreen – everyone will tell you this and they’re not lying. We went thru 2 bottles in a week! The sun is incredibly strong, but the beaches are stunning and the sunsets are magical! We’d order some cocktails or split a bottle of wine and just chill until dusk. It was so nice to slow down, enjoy the moment, and the beauty around us. Missing those beautiful sunsets already.
That’s pretty much it – I feel like I missed a million things and I always wish I took more pictures once I get home, but it’s also refreshing to unplug a little bit. 🙂
If you’ve ever been to Aruba or plan to visit in the near future, let me know what’s on your list! The island has so much to offer and I have a feeling we’ll be going back at some point!
Love this in-depth review! I sooo need a beach vacay!!!