I am a full-time traveling registered nurse, fitness enthusiast, and nutrition expert. Every morning I wake up intending to bring awareness of the importance of health and spiritual wellness, especially to the traveling community. At Messy Bun Traveler, we promote travel that allows the traveler to either kick-start, maintain, or enhance a healthy lifestyle. So whether you're someone who travels for business, travels for pleasure, or new to travel and looking for health advice while on the road, this blog is for you!
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It’s an interesting story about how I came to choose Aruba as my next destination to visit. After Dustin and I returned from the Philippines and Vietnam earlier this year, we sat down and discussed what trip we wanted to start planning next.
To make a game out of it, we each thought of 10 different countries, wrote them down on a piece of paper, put them in a hat, and randomly drew. We each selected one, and then planned on narrowing it down based on weather, availability, travel time, and so on.
The two destinations we drew from the hat were Morocco and Aruba. Both sounded like epic countries to visit, but something about Aruba was calling out to me. We didn’t set anything in stone but kept these two countries in mind as the destination for our end-of-the-year trip.
As the summer was nearing an end, as well as my travel contract in Redondo Beach, I knew the optimal time for me to travel was September. Unfortunately, due to his work, Dustin could not make the trip possible. After much debate, we decided that it was best I took this trip solo.
And so, after spending 11 days on the island, it became apparent to me why it was nicknamed One Happy Island. I loved Aruba for not only its perfect white sand beaches but also its rugged, adventurous hiking trails, cliffs, and dunes. The locals are amiable, accommodating, helpful, and as a female solo traveler, I felt extremely safe.
The island was also able to nourish my adventurous wild side, indulge in my self-care needs, and satisfy some much-needed travel therapy.
This trip was more than just a solo vacation. Instead, the island became a wellness haven for me. I learned to be present in the moment and listen to the sounds of the waves. And I learned to love myself again.
Sometimes the best thing we can do for our health is to escape our regular daily routines and remember what it’s like to be human again. Not busy, not always working, not feeling like a machine. But instead, be present in the moment and remember what it’s like to have fun and live.
If you’re seeking a “mental vacation” and would like to disappear to have some time to reconnect with yourself, a trip to Aruba may be for you.
Here is a list of my favorite TOP 10 things I did while in Aruba:
There is never a wrong time to visit Aruba! With the island being in the tropical Caribbean yet outside the hurricane belt, travel to Aruba can be done year-round. If you want to avoid crowds and inflated resort prices, the best times to visit are from April through October.
You’ll see the highest hotel prices during their busy season, which is typically from December to March. Aruba’s hottest months are August and September, and the month with the most rain (although it is still very little) is in November and December.
There are a handful of hostels on the island of Aruba, ranging from 15-30 dollars per night. In my personal opinion, if you’re looking to save some money on accommodations but want some privacy and luxury, Airbnb may be a better option as the prices per night are comparable.
Airbnb’s are becoming more accessible in Aruba and are an excellent way to travel! If you’re wanting to stay in a lovely accommodation relatively close to the beach but do not want to pay the high resort hotel prices, Airbnb may be your best bet.
For the first half of my trip, I stayed in an Airbnb and loved it! It was close enough to all the shops and eateries that I could easily walk, but far enough away so I was away from all the noise and the hustle and bustle of the town. I also had a locked gate where I could park my rental car, and I felt safe the entire time.
Hotels are not hard to come by in Aruba. The majority of the hotels are located in Palm Beach. Palm Beach is where I stayed for my trip. I highly recommend it as there is much more to do and see in Palm Beach. All the other beaches and towns of the islands are easily accessible from there as well.
The hotel I stayed at was Divi Phoenix Beach Resort, notable for having a lively pool and bar lounge as well as a colossal Jacuzzi overlooking the white sandy beach!
If you’re looking for an all-inclusive resort, there are plenty of these on the islands as well. Although I did not stay in one myself, based on what people had to say, the highly recommended ones are the Riu Palace Aruba, Divi Dutch Village, and Barcelo Aruba.
There are a couple of these, my recommendation is the Rui Palace Antillas! You’ll have access to an adult-only private beach and swimming pool with a poolside bar!
Rent a 4×4 and Explore the Island
On my first day in Aruba, I made the mistake of thinking my little Nissan Versa rental could handle Aruba’s rugged terrain. I had read online about the roads being difficult, but being overly confident in my driving abilities and thinking I could hike where the car couldn’t go- I was dead wrong.
The majority of the island’s roads (especially on the east side of the island) are NOT ACCESSIBLE BY CAR. When I realized this, I immediately called every car rental company to see which one could loan me a Jeep Wrangler for the next day. My advice, plan ahead, and book your Jeep well in advance.
I used Fox Rent A Car for my Nissan Versa. Fox Rent A Car rents out Jeep Wranglers as well, make sure to reserve one well in advance.
My journey started in Palm Beach, where I first headed north and then traveled the island in a clockwise direction.
Things you’ll most definitely want to see are:
California Lighthouse & California Beach. Located on the north side of Aruba. Perfect for taking epic Instagram pictures and driving around in beautiful sand dunes and virtually untouched beaches.
Natural Bridge, Bushiribana gold mine ruins, and Wairuri bridge. These sites can be seen with a tour group, as well. Please note that the Natural Bridge collapsed in 2005, but it is still an exciting place to check out as you can see much of the bridge remains.
Must-see beaches include:
In the evening, be sure to check out the Rum Reef Adult Lounge w/infinity pool.
A perfect and refreshing spot after a long day of exploring! It’s located right between Baby Beach and Roger’s Beach.
Day trip to Arikok National Park with the Natural Pool and Caves
A journey to Arikok National Park is a must-do while in Aruba! You have the option of visiting by renting your 4×4 (majority of the park is not accessible by a regular car), or it can be done with a tour group as well.
You’ll purchase your ticket at the visitor’s center (it’s $18 for a day pass), and you’ll get a wristband that grants you access to the park. The most visited location in Arikok is the Natural Pool, so don’t pass that up!
Take a slight detour to check out the Ayo Rock Formation and Indian cave paintings, which date back as early as 2500 BC!
In the evening, head to Bugaloe Aruba Beach Bar for some delicious food, refreshing cocktails, and free salsa dance lessons!
Visit Oranjestad and snorkel in Mangel Halto
Aruba’s quaint little town of Oranjestad is excellent for shopping at luxury retailers, cute and diverse boutiques, and souvenir shops. There are also tons of fun eateries and beautiful beaches (including Mangel Halto) as well.
Dinner at Zeerovers
One of the best-known eateries in Aruba is a seafood place called Zeerovers! Everything served was freshly caught that day and seasoned to perfection! Zeerovers is one of the few places on the island that is cash only, so plan accordingly!
Take a half-day trip to De Palm Island All-Inclusive Adventure.
This little island offers snorkeling, banana boat rides, and all you can eat and drink! They have half-day and full-day tours available. I recommend doing just the half-day option. The island is currently under construction until December to revamp its waterpark! Oh, and you’ll see flamingos here as well!
Spend the evening in Eagle Beach.
Eagle Beach is voted the third-best beach in the world, and you don’t want to overlook it! Yoga on Eagle beach is offered at the Manchebo and is a great way to spend a relaxing evening as well!
SUP YOGA with Island Yoga Studios.
S.U.P. is short for stand-up paddleboard yoga, and I recommend this to anyone that likes yoga with a twist! I made a reservation with Island Yoga.
Spend the day in Palm Beach.
Palm Beach is easily a beach you can spend an entire day. Besides relaxing on the beach under the plethora of tiki umbrellas, many watersports are offered as well. Watersports include inner tubing, parasailing, jet skiing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and more!
In the evening, check out Gusto’s nightclub for some cheap drinks and fun music!
Visit Philip’s Animal Garden
Philip’s Animal Garden is a non-profit organization that focuses on rescuing exotic animals in Aruba and surrounding islands. Here you’ll see donkeys, horses, ostriches, monkeys, parrots, and more! The entrance fee is $10, and all proceeds go to taking care of the animals. Plus, you get a bag of carrots to feed the donkeys and goats!
Take a day trip to Renaissance Island (aka Flamingo Island)
You can easily spend a whole day at the Private Renaissance/Flamingo Island. Keep in mind this is not a public island, and space is limited, so plan ahead! There are some things you’ll want to know, so I have dedicated an entire post on how to get to Flamingo Island, here.
I am a full-time traveling registered nurse, fitness enthusiast, and plant-based nutrition expert. Every morning I wake up intending to bring awareness of the importance of health and spiritual wellness, especially to the traveling community. At Messy Bun Traveler, we promote travel that allows the traveler to either kick-start, maintain, or enhance a healthy lifestyle. So whether you're someone who travels for business, travels for pleasure, or new to travel and looking for health advice while on the road, this blog is for you!
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Great post and tips! I have been to Aruba before with friends but going solo sounds like heaven! I would actually pick a beach any day for a solo trip! Can while away hours on my away staring at the ocean. I would be nervous riding the jeep though on that rugged terrain – so kudos to you! And how did you take those shots of yourself on the arch and in the pool?!
The picture of the bridge I used my drone. At the pool I used my tripod!
Such an excellent guide! Definitely saving this for when I visit. Also, love the idea of writing your top destinations on a piece of paper and drawing from a hat!
Thank you! And yeah, we liked it too! We’re going to start doing it for future trips!
I have always dreamed of visiting Aruba and after seeing your pictures and reading your post I might just book a ticket :). I love your tip about not just parking your tush at the resort. As tempting as that might be, you don’t get a true feel for the culture and life of the island.
Ohhh Aruba – how I share your love for this island. ???? Well written post chock full of wonderful things to see and do on this beautiful island. I’ll have to set out the Champagne Breakfast & Lunch Cruise!
I have always wanted to go to Aruba ever since I saw a video with the pink flamingos. I was actually worried that there wouldn’t be much to see but I’m glad to see that I was wrong. Hope to visit soon.
I have only been to Aruba for a day, but see that I definitely need to go back for a week! The food was good, the one meal I had, bet more meals would be yummy!