Quickie to Aruba under $1000
Aruba was a a taste of paradise that was oh so sweet. It was a quick flight from Charlotte to Aruba via Miami (American Airlines), with a total flight duration of 4.5 hours. Flights to Aruba are ALWAYS cheap from Miami so if you purchase that flight and find some other means to Miami that is cheaper than directly to Aruba from your hometown, I'm sure you'll save some money. For example: Charlotte to Aruba = ~$950 usd, however, Charlotte to Miami then Miami to Aruba = ~$375 usd. This is probably the cheapest paradise to jump to if you only have a few days to spare, a $1000 max to spend and endless swimsuits to break in. I for one have had my fair share of beach paradises so I was utterly surprised at the chill locals, 20mph constant wind, warm sun, and ice cold drinks. You can enjoy Aruba in 5 days like us and spend $1000 or splurge and spend $5,000. It's a place that you can cater to your own pockets, even with a group.
There's not an ounce of nightlife unless you're in good with the locals. We were so warn out from the sunshine and activities that we ended up closing the nights with a glass of red wine and new episodes of Rick and Morty.
You could easily visit this place once to a few times a year without blowing through any real vacation days. I'm already ready to go back and lay on the sandy beach.
Our main purpose for visiting was to celebrate my best friend's 30th birthday! Her and her husband enjoyed an All- Inclusive experience of Aruba. Check out her review here!
Where did we stay?
We had one goal for this trip, and that was to make the most of every second we had. With that being said, we ended up finding a hidden airBnB gem called Montaño’s resident 5 minutes from the airport, 15-20 minutes from everything all over the island and 10 minutes to the most popular beaches. The cozy spot included access to onsite laundry, a full size kitchen with plenty of cookware, supplies & seasoning, beach chairs, a spacious balcony to watch the sunset, plenty of parking, and a quiet surrounding area. It was extremely clean and had an ice cold AC unit. Each morning we made our scrambled eggs with fried potatoes. Then, we'd pack up sandwiches, water, chips, and beer in the cooler the airBnB let us use. The hosts didn't bother us once and available if we needed anything. There was also a 55" tv with Netflix and Hulu programed for us to enjoy. There's at least a dozen towels to use, beach towels, and an extra warm comforter in the closet. Literally the BEST place we could've found. They definitely should charge more.
What beaches did we visit?
In order of the best!
1. Arashi Beach (Divi Divi Trees): Arashi was perfect for some 3-5 ft surf waves, Divi Divi trees, ice cold drinks, and within walking distance (2-3km) of the California Lighthouse. (Easy Parking).
2. Eagle Beach : This is the staple beach for all visitors. It has the typical beach chairs and umbrellas to rent. There's plenty of space for everyone to sprawl out. (Easy Parking)
3. Mangel Halto (Mangrove Beach): The mangrove trees were deeply rooted and matured with white sand and milky water leading out to the open ocean.
4. Dos Playa: You could only reach this beach via the Arikok National Park. It was listed as a no swim beach...for good reason. It lists at the top for beauty though!
5. Natural Pools: The natural pools were quite dangerous to reach. We lowered into the carved rock beside the gold mine , avoiding putting our backs to the water (I did not follow this rule and almost paid for it).
What excursions did we do?
Surfing: You can rent a board for $20 usd for a half day/ or $35 usd for a full day.
The California Lighthouse: The lighthouse can be seen from the highest points in the middle of the island. The lighthouse is $5 usd per person to go up to the top or free to view from outside. I would advise going during sunset to enjoy the well lit island view and the Italian restaurant for some grub.
Jolly Pirates Snorkeling & Barbecue: We actually did this tour the same day as our flight home at 4:30pm. If you book a flight in the late afternoon or evening , I highly recommend one last day of fun. This excursion is 4 hours , from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. Included in the tour is snorkeling gear, unlimited alcohol, and barbecue. If you have a dietary restriction, you can call ahead of time even
up to that morning, to have them cater to your needs. The crew was phenomenal and hilarious. Just from observing the other surrounding boat tours, we clearly were on the liveliest boat. The music was just as fun as the crew. To wrap up the fun activities, everyone can line up to jump off the ship into the ocean on a rope. We had to take full advantage of that :-) . Also tip: EAT BREAKFAST, since drinking and swimming for four hours is hard to do on an empty stomach. I tried it....Also, this will be an excursion that we do every time we go!
UTV Tour| Natural Pools & Indian Cave (Fontein Cave): If you aren't going to rent a 4 wheel drive vehicle to see the Arikok National Park, then you should book a UTV excursion with ABC Tours. We were able to see two natural pools, the highest point in Aruba, Bushiribana Gold Smelter, the Dos Playa, Fontein Cave, and wild goats while getting our feet cleaned by the little fish. (Ask about Eduardo as your tour guide!!) Make sure you purchase the protective eyewear ($10 usd) and the scarves ($5 usd). The roads get dusty and the rocks from the UTV in front of you will definitely graze your cheeks. WARNING you will get dirty! The scariest part of driving the UTV's are when you're heading up to the highest point and have to remain on paved track only designed for your tires. Other than that, have at it! Last tip: purchase the $25 usd protection since they are technically able to charge you for any damages. 20 minutes into the excursion a couple rammed theirs into a rock and had to get a loaner.
Sero Colorado: Located at the most southern tip of Aruba, there are raging waters, sharp cliffs, and angry cacti everywhere. There's not much to say about this breathtaking spot. the winds are strong enough to send you over the cliffs into the sudsy water. You can visit this spot in a normal vehicle following the carved out roads.
Passions on the Beach: After chasing the sunset along eagle beach, we drove the cost in search of food. Finally we found soft lit white tables with the after glow of sunset in the distance. Crashing waves and subtle wind provided the most romantic feel. With our toes dug into the sand, we indulged in mojitos, ceviche, Ahi Tuna poke style, and Caribbean coconut chicken broth. Then our lovely waitress Eleonora made us a warm mint tea with honey to top off the dinner. This was by far the best meal we had on the trip. The unique flavors complimented the seafood nicely and left our stomachs full yet light.
Bon Bini Festival: This fun festival occurs every Tuesday night around 7:00pm. It's in an open quad through the Willem Tower that cannot be seen from the street. Entry is between $3 usd- $10 usd. We were given $15 casino promo vouchers which came in handy later in the night. The festival includes local food, alcoholic/non alcoholic beverages, live music, and live dancing. There are chairs facing the stage and it's quite an intimate setting. During this time of year, it wasn't as decorative or colorful in dancing and costumes as it appears to be. Later we found out that if we arrived in February, we would see the full costumes and participation from locals.
Renaissance Casino: The casino was freezing cold, but as soon as you start winning money, somehow you stop noticing. We took our $15 promo vouchers (you cannot cash these) and were able to get $15 worth of slot machines and a $15 voucher match on any of the tables. I won nothing, but Ollie won $9.00 in cash from the slot machines. We both then took our chances on the Roulette table. We put both of our table vouchers down with $30 usd cash and won $60!!! I'd say we had a good night since we walked out with $69 cash. Instead of continuing to risk it all, we took our hard earned money and bought a nice Italian dinner off the pier with live music.
San Nicholas Art District: It's always nice seeing the local art anywhere I travel. I was blown away by the masterpieces painted all over the town of San Nicholas. We parked our car on the side of the street to hop out and walk the blocks like an outdoor museum.