I’m still elated by the memories made on my very first international trip. Aruba was amazing: the beautiful beaches, the toasty weather, the friendly faces, the abundance of adventure. I wish it didn’t go by so quickly. Here are a few highlights from my vacation with a few close friends.
I flew out of LAX at 11 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 9 and could hardly contain myself knowing that soon enough I would be running wild in the Caribbean! The songs “Kokomo” by the Beach Boys and “Caribbean Queen” by Billy Ocean were on a constant loop inside my head. By the time I caught my connecting flight in Washington, D.C. — where I met up with my pals Yvette, Sierra, Corneka and James — it was beginning to feel like Christmas.
We were greeted at the airport by Yvette’s brother, who was kind enough to let us use his timeshare at Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club, and on the short car ride there, my eyes were wide, drinking in the sights.
After we got situated in the room (which, by the way, was a lovely two-bedroom, two-bathroom suite with a kitchen, living room and balconies facing the resort’s pools), the first order of business was to feed our growling bellies. Thankfully, we found Hadicurari, just steps away from the resort.
Here’s a glimpse at some of the things within our view while dining.
We soon got acclimated with Balashi, the quite refreshing Aruban beer. It became our drink of choice while at the neighboring Moomba Beach Bar, right on Moomba Beach, a popular hangout spot for tourists. And in case you were wondering just how far away you were from other signs of civilization, there was this crafty sign pointing you to wherever you wished to go.
There was a quaint owl greeting us at Moomba, where we also discovered Balashi subset Chill — equally refreshing as the original.
We could not wait to hit the beach and test the inviting, blue water. Along the way, we came across the Cool Runnin’s boat, which was owned by some fun-loving locals. Sierra, the perpetual runner, found this one particularly amusing. Also, wasn’t Cool Runnings a pretty great movie from yesteryear?
I had to stunt on ’em just a little with the “Damn Gina” tank from Abrupt. Yes, “Martin” is one of the best sitcoms that ever existed, and I’m pleased to report that I had nary a “Chilligan’s Island” encounter with a gargantuan rodent while in Aruba.
Selfies in the sand!
Now I could get used to this. It was such a wonderful feeling to set aside time just to take a break from regular life and enjoy myself. I realized I definitely need to get away more often.
Being on the beach also resurrected my childhood pastime of shell collecting, and I’m glad I had a fellow shell collector in Sierra.
Also, the resort was overrun with lizards. This big little guy decided to chat me up while lounging poolside. Spotting the colorful creatures also became a favorite activity of ours. I told Sierra she should quit her day job, find an institution to fund her research efforts on the lizards of Aruba and bring me along as her photographer/assistant. Far fetched, but a girl can dream, right?
Now back to being cute.
As the sun set on our first night in paradise, I couldn’t wait for what the rest of our stay had in store. Little did I know, a few hours later I would be belly deep in meat. Yvette’s brother treated us to a mind-blowingly delicious dinner at Texas de Brazil churrascaria, where the meat was forthcoming and binge eating is encouraged. We feasted on various types of meat — from filet mignon to prime rib to parmesan chicken to sausage … man did I love the sausage — and as a result got dangerously close to getting gout. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. Texas de Brazil also had great sangria and plantains, but the dessert literally made us ladies squeal with delight!
Their Key lime pie was sooooo good! As was the crème brûlée, cheesecake and bananas foster. A fat kid’s paradise for sure.
Top billing on the day’s agenda was a
booze cruise snorkeling expedition that touted an open bar and the promise of one tasty sandwich per guest. This would prove to be a major selling point for Yvette, who couldn’t stop talking about the lunch option.
Before that, though, we got a quick bite of chicken wings and fries from the resort, not without taking plenty of photos. This side-by-side shot of my BFF Vettie and I proves three things: 1) We love each other, 2) We’re weird, and 3) We brought the ugly to the island — without any qualms.
It was never a dull moment with these guys.
When we boarded the catamaran, a photo shoot commenced. Here’s one of my faves. You’re welcome.
Our captain, Armando, was more than happy to show Yvette the ropes of sailing, and I soon got behind the wheel for a quick photo opp. The wind was a-blowing, which accentuated the thickness of my locks, which loved blowing in the gentle Caribbean breeze. Big hair, don’t care!
Us girls being girls.
Snorkeling was a little intimidating at first but tons of fun once I got the hang of it. The first stop was far out near the site of a shipwreck, where you could see the rusted vessel and fish. A few lucky participants even saw a sea turtle. The next stop was into about 12 feet of clear water, where I spotted all kinds of fish and sea life. The captain dove deep and picked up a living starfish from the ocean floor and let us touch it (We put it back). He also picked up a sand dollar for me. I was bummed, however, that it did not survive the flight home. In all, I was proud of myself for facing my fear of deep water. This picture was taken moments before I used the rope swing to jump from the boat and into the water, without a life vest. I did it! And the captain throwing fresh fruit to a small flock of seagulls was quite memorable. As was Corneka’s back flip from the swing!
With all the eating and drinking we’d been doing, the girls thought it was a good idea to take a Zumba class offered at the resort. The look on my face says it all. Working out on vacation? Are you serious? Apparently they and many other vacationers really were, as the class was packed with folks getting their morning cardio in. Check out Corneka in the turquoise up front tearing it up!
Of course we followed our workout up with more chicken wings, among other tasty dishes like nachos, fish and chips, steak and chicken skewers at the neighboring Ocean Club’s Champions sports bar.
We also went to the nearby shopping complex to purchase souvenirs for our loved ones.
These hanging owl crafts were especially cute.
As the day wore on, it became more and more clear that soon our romp in paradise would be over. We were so spoiled over the previous few days with views like this.
That night, we hit up the Stellaris Casino at the Ocean Club, where I put in $20 and I made off with $15 in earnings from playing the penny slots. We then hit up Moomba Bar for one last hurrah. After encountering a sand crab, collecting more shells (A shell collector’s work is never through) and singing one last a capella rendition of “Kokomo,” we called it a night.
I call this one, “Goodbye, Aruba.” I had to get up early for my flight home and back to reality.
Here are a couple of items that struck my fancy while killing time at the Aruba airport. I opted for the cup as a fond reminder of one of two Papiamento words I learned during our stay: dushi (sweetheart) and lolo (the meaning of which I cannot type — keeping it PG, folks!).
From Aruba, I flew to Panama City, where I had a four-hour layover. The saving grace of that stop was knowing that I would be on a Copa Airline flight with free in-flight entertainment and a meal (This was my first time flying Copa, and I highly suggest it to anyone traveling to Central or South America), and that my boo wop would be there greeting me with open arms once I got back on U.S. soil.
In all, I had an amazing time in Aruba! I feel so blessed to have been able to see the island and spend some care-free days with some of the best friends a girl could ask for. I loved every minute of the trip, but if I had to do it over, I would see more sights and venture off the resort for more shopping and dining. I hear that it goes down during Carnival, from January to March, so who knows? Maybe I’ll find myself back to the “happy island” again.
P.S. Special thanks to Sierra and Yvette for letting me use some of their pics! And to her brother for letting us stay in paradise free of charge!
And for another view of our trip, read Sierra’s amusing version of events here.