Rough Draft Itinerary: Aruba
Due to the COVID quarantine, I am creating rough draft, “off the shelf” travel itineraries for when travel resumes normal operations so we do not waste any time getting out and exploring!
As the snow continues to dump down upon us in the northeast, the feeling of desperation is starting to set in. I think this has been the longest gap in travel I have had since starting my travel journey. And while there are crazy extenuating circumstances, we still made 2020 a memorable year as we navigated through this new time. It has been since October, and while my job has ramped up (running a COVID vaccine state mega site) causing any plan I had to be put on indefinite hold, I am feeling it. Travel became a part of my identity that I completely love. Not having it has spiraled into me creating these rough drafts so that I could at least get the joy from the planning process. And that has now become the only writing I have to fill the void on DESKRIB. It is depressing, I need a vacation.
Until I am able to break away and escape, I continue to follow my favorite travel bloggers and live through them, envious of their freedom and ability to pave their own path (as I read Practical Wanderlust’s How to Quit Your Job and Travel). Helene in Between recently worked with the Aruba Tourism Board and showcased the island – I was intrigued.
As I began to think about it, Aruba actually is a pretty ideal destination during the pandemic. For the same reasons I found Hawaii to be a good choice (now cancelled 3 times…), Aruba has the advantage of outdoor activities and dining being the primary means of tourism as well as good weather all year round. The flight from the northeast area (to escape the snow) is an easy 4 hour non-stop flight – winner! Which is why I cultivated a long weekend, 3 day itinerary – this should make for an easy getaway.
COVID Notes: Aruba is actually allowing for visitors from the US as tourists. There are a ton of details – including PCR COVID testing within 72 hours (cannot be an at home test or saliva test) and travel declaration – but thought it could be a good time to look more closely in the event we are able to safely go. Travel insurance is also needed and this is becoming more and more common with international travel requirements. The most recent update is now to re-enter the US an additional COVID test is needed 72 hours before arrival. It is important to know the travel requirements not only to the destination you are traveling to but also re-entry requirements back home. Do not see these requirements as barriers – with enough planning and research, it can be done.
What is there to do?
We are not “lounge on a beach” type of vacationers and I was surprised to learn how much there is to do on the island besides enjoy the sand. Because the island is small, it is easy to hit all of these things in just a few days.
- Tons of beaches to explore – Baby Beach, Mangel Halto, Dos Playa, Eagle Beach, Hadicurari Beach, Malmok Beach, Druif Beach, Arashi Beach to name a few! Wherever you are on the island, you are near a beach. Pick a favorite to commit to or beach hop to enjoy them all.
Arikok National Park
- A very unique part of Aruba taking up 20% of the island. This national park offers a break from the beach life and transforms into a desert terrain, complete with cacti.
- There is an 11 dollar conservation fee if you are visiting yourself but there are tour companies as well.
- Some of the attractions in the park can only be accessed by foot (about a 40 minute walk), horse, ATV or 4×4 vehicle, such as the popular Natural Pool.
- I will be honest, this one I do not quite understand. It feels like a money grab, tourist trap, social media tag. Yes, you get to feed / interact with flamingos but at a steep price. Though the flamingos are not native… so… back to tourist trap.
- The island is owned by the Renaissance Aruba Resort – if you end up staying at this resort, access to Flamingo Beach is included in your stay. If you are not a resort guest, there are only 30 passes a day available at $125! I don’t know, if someone has been there before, I am interested to know if this is a worthy use of travel funds.
- Bubali Bird Sanctuary – viewing tower that affords the opportunity to bird watch among the watering hold, mangrove and more. Pack your patience – it looks like this is legit bird watching in the wild and not a rehabilitation establishment for bird encounters.
- Donkey Sanctuary – an interactive petting zoo style place for donkeys! While admission is free, donations are encouraged and reviewers recommended to bring some fruit and veggies for the donkeys.
- Horseback riding – there are several ranches for those interested from beach side to country side.
And of course, lots of water and boating activities!
Where to eat?
I have to say, I was not expecting to come across so many interesting places for dining – from fresh caught seafood to fine dining tasting menus, I am all in. The dining alone got me excited, especially since outdoor dining seems to be a norm on the island – COVID friendly!
- Upscale – Atardi, Madame Janette, Quinta del Carmen, Yemanja Woodfired Grill, Wilhelmina Restaurant, Flying Fishbone
- Casual – MooMba Beach Bar, Eduardo’s Beach Shack, Daily Fish, Pinchos Grill, Zeerovers, Diana’s Pancakes Place, Linda’s Dutch Pancakes
Based on the above information, here is how I would structure 4 days in Aruba, excluding the travel time to get there. Days are interchangeable and are grouped by location on the island so mix and match depending on weather and what you are up for that day. As with most of my three day weekends, I try and leave Thursday afternoon to get the most out of the trip.
|Evening||Enjoy resort and a good meal|
|Day 1||Morning||California Lighthouse / Arashi Beach / Malmok Beach|
Bubali Bird Sanctuary
|||Afternoon||Beach hop or relax at your resort / favorite beach|
|||Evening||Explore Downtown Palm Beach|
|Day 2||Morning||Guided Tour or Self Guided Tour (car rental) |
– Arikok National Park
– Quadirkiri Cave / Fontein Cave
– Dos Playa / Conchi / Natural Pool
|||Afternoon||– Natural Bridge / Bushiribana Ruins|
– Casibari Rock Formations
– Donkey Sanctuary
|||Evening||Explore Downtown Aruba (Oranjestad)|
|Day 3||Morning||Water activity – snorkeling|
|||Afternoon||Relax on beach|
If you have been to Aruba before, let me know what I missed and what your favorites are!