Last week, David and I hugged the girls and took off to the beautiful island of Aruba for the first time!
I don’t talk a lot about David’s work beyond his unpredictable schedule, but I have to diverge real quickly and have a proud wife moment. His hard work over this past year earned him a prestigious award within his company that ended up whisking both of us away for a celebratory six days in Aruba. So we hugged the girls who barely noticed we left thanks to the loving and capable (and fun!) hands of Nana and Mema (to whom we are so, so grateful) and took off for “The Happy Island!”
It was our first time there and you could say we were eager to explore as much as we could. I believe we took over 350 pictures. I tried to whittle it down, I really did, but this is the best I could do. So without further adieu, here is our highlight reel from spending six days in Aruba!
We are both fairly efficient packers, so our goal was carry-on only. Sunday morning I played tetris with my clothes and made it work, and packed my laptop and other carry-on items into the bag I snagged from Target the night before, which I am now officially in love with for travel.
We lucked out on the way down with an empty seat between us, an incredibly friendly and funny flight attendant, and a new plane that featured basically pre-loaded ipads in the the back of every seat. I intended to do emails and such but instead got sucked into Big Little Lies and It’s Complicated instead (no regrets). After a 4 hour direct flight we arrived in sunny Aruba, where a bus was waiting to take us to the hotel.
We spent our six days in Aruba at The Ritz Carlton and I still can’t say that without breaking out in a huge grin. The grounds were gorgeous, but the people really made the difference. The level of attentive service and kindness we experienced surely spoiled me rotten.
We grabbed a celebratory beverage on the deck and attended the welcome reception that night. It was a wonderful gentle ease into vacation.
Monday began with the breakfast buffet. I was so grateful to have this each morning and start the day with lots of fruit, some potatoes, eggs, hot tea, and a view.
The company hosted games and activities on the beach for the day and we wasted no time jumping in on the action. David joined in on volleyball.
I watched for a bit, then was lured into trying the banana boat (which barely bounced since the water in Aruba is more like a flat lake most of the time than an ocean) and the paddle board.
We spent the entire day reapplying sunscreen so we could continue to enjoy all the activities, then headed back to the room in the late afternoon to wash up and get ready for the foodie highlight of the trip.
my romper is sold out, but David’s favorite vacation shirts aren’t!
Once cleaned up we caught a cab and wandered through downtown Aruba for a bit. Aruba is very clean and the people are super friendly. I felt safe and welcomed on the island.
We had a ball exploring and I tried to figure out a way to bring one of these rolly chairs home with me.
Finally it was time to head to the night’s destination- Fred! We decided we’d celebrate my birthday on the trip so David researched which restaurants were the most recommended. Two dinner experiences came up over and over again: Two Fools and a Bull and Fred.
After being on the wait list for Fred, we received a call a week before our trip that a spot had opened up and we snagged it! Fred offers an intimate dinner experience, like a dinner party with 12 friendly strangers. Fred and Tom prepare a 5 course gourmet meal with wine pairings and create a warm atmosphere to enjoy it in.
I considered writing an entire post just dedicated to this evening because it was such a special experience. The conversations were lively and the food? My goodness…
It was certainly something to write home about. My favorite dish from the evening was the white asparagus soup. The broth was poured into our bowls, directly over the smoked salmon and chives. It was heavenly!
Though the food was fantastic, the real treat was getting to chat with Fred and Tom. By the end of the evening (and a few glasses of wine), they joined us on the rooftop deck to finish out the night and we departed feeling like old friends.
Such a special evening!
Tuesday brought our first real excursion- sailing and snorkeling! After breakfast we boarded a catamaran and spent the next few hours exploring three different snorkeling sites, including a real shipwreck, which made me shiver.
It was great to get out on the water and the crew was hilarious, telling made up history stories to every question I asked, to which I believed almost all of them. We ate lunch out on the water and it was such a nice way to chill and enjoy the day. That evening was the awards dinner, which was set up on the beach. Needless to say, the view setting was incredible.
On Wednesday the company rented out De Palm Island, an all-inclusive private island fun zone. When we stepped off the ferry I couldn’t help but think how the girls would lose their minds with excitement if they were with us.
From the kids water park, to snorkeling, to restaurants serving free food and drinks- it was such an entertaining spot! We wasted no time snagging one of the private cabanas. It took David all of 5 minutes before he declared that he had found his happy place and could spend the rest of the vacation in this exact spot.
Oh goodness was it nice. The breeze kept things at a comfortable temperature and we took off to see which activities we could get into. We snorkeled of course, swam a bit, went on the zipline, and took advantage of the free mini massages set up. Ahh-mazing.
We also dipped into the Patron. Most of the pictures after my consumption of margaritas have been deleted to protect, well…me, but I can tell you that I did not waste a single tune the DJ played and made sure the dance floor did not get lonely. The staff got in on the merriment and let me just sum it up by telling you it was a rocking party!
We stayed all day at the island and once we got back to the hotel all I wanted was a giant plate of pasta. Solanio, the Italian restaurant at the Ritz, did not disappoint. The seafood linguine might have been one of the best dishes I ate all week!
After an early bedtime the night before, we woke up refreshed and ready for adventure! Or so I thought. We booked deep sea fishing for the morning. I was told Aruba always has calm, flat ocean water, which is what coerced me to agree to this excursion, but when we showed up to the dock the captain told us in all sincerity that it was rough out. Great.
The picture doesn’t do the 10 foot (not exaggerating) seas justice. I basically spent 3 hours focused solely on not getting sick, though I did manage to reel in a tuna or two too. Upon arrival back to the dock, we learned several boats had to turn back because of people getting seasick, so our boat considered it a win that we all made it through. The few fish we caught were just the bonus.
My stomach took quite a while to get right after that. I took a nap when we got back to the hotel while David decided to take a kite boarding lesson instead. I made it down at the end to watch him take on the board once or twice. It was awesome!
That evening was the farewell dinner on the beach. I wasn’t sure what that would entail, but I new I would have to rally. I showered, sipped some espresso, and did, indeed, successfully rally for the occasion.
(I am getting a lot of questions on my dress- it is from Target circa a year or two ago! However, this romper is a similar look and currently on sale!)
Thank goodness too, because the set up was jaw-dropping.
The evening was ridiculous, in the best sense of the word. After the speeches from the team leaders, there were costumed dancers, fireworks, a killer buffet, and a band that had us all dancing to 80’s rock. It felt like a luxury wedding and I had to pinch myself a few times to believe it was all really happening.
It was wonderful to be there with David’s partner, too. Jackie and David have been partners for years and it was really wonderful to get to see them celebrated for their hard work.
Though the trip officially ended that evening, we opted to stay one more night. I’m so glad we did because Friday was such a treat. We started with a long walk down the beach, exploring a couple hotels while we wandered. After all the week’s activity, it felt so nice just to take it easy.
After an early lunch, we showered and headed to the spa. Y’all, I seriously could not wipe the excited grin off my face. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so giddy about anything in my life.
We each got a glorious massage then spent another 2 hours just relaxing in the couple’s relaxation room and rotating between the sauna and steam room. It was HEAVEN. The only reason I eventually departed was to get ready to enjoy our last night in Aruba.
We chose Faro Blanco, the Italian restaurant up at the lighthouse, for our final dinner. We arrived just prior to sunset and the view was breathtaking. Being at a high point on the island allowed us to see not only the ocean, but also the varied landscape of the island. Absolutely incredible.
Though I’d say the food was “fine/fair,” I’d still recommend this spot simply because of the awe-inspiring view. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to Aruba.
Saturday morning we packed up and bid farewell to the happy island.
We traveled home feeling grateful for such an incredible getaway and most importantly, for the time we had to just spend together. After 8 years of marriage (and 5 years of dating before that) we found out we still have things to learn about each other (for example: David had no clue that I love visors ;)). Having time to just be together and leave the roles of mom and dad behind for a bit is really great for our marriage.
That being said, coming home to big hugs and little girl squeals won’t ever get old.
If you are still reading at this point, kudos to you! The recap got a little lengthy, so I’ll cut it off here. This week is all about getting back into the swing of things, but let’s first talk islands–
What is your favorite island you have visited OR would want to visit?
Exploring the Baths on Virgin Gorda is still one of my favorite experiences of all time.