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Aruba

This year Greg took me to Paris for my birthday, so when his birthday rolled around the bar was set très high.

I started his birthday month by making him a list of U.S. cities, telling him I planned a trip to one of the places on the list. Each day I would cross one off as Greg tried to guess the final destination. I watched him politely hide his disappointment as the final two cities were revealed: Fresno and Akron.

But then the day before we left I revealed our actual destination, which was so much better than any of the cities that had been on the list! We were going to Aruba!

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Suitcases brimming with swimsuits and sunscreen, we checked into The Ritz-Carlton Aruba, the nicest hotel on the island.

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

We spent most of the week playing by the ocean, marveling at how stunningly clear Aruba’s turquoise water is.

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

We developed a pattern. We’d wake up late, read on our balcony for a bit, then settle into lounge chairs on the beach covered with plush, white towels. There we’d have breakfast with the most beautiful views imaginable.

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

And some days we even had company!

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Then we’d spend the afternoons alternating between sleeping in the shade and relaxing out on the water… with a beachy cocktail in our hands of course!

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

The Ritz-Carlton has the best location on the island. It’s on the end of the strip of resorts, making it a lot quieter and less commercial feeling than some of the other hotels. But it still offers everything you could wish for, including free water activities.

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

We made sure to take advantage of the stand up paddle boards. Greg kept falling into the water, and I was teasing him about his stand up paddle boarding skills (or lack thereof). That is until I fell in, and when I stood up the wind whipped my board into the air and smacked it, hard, into the back of my head.

Karma is real, my friends! I never should have teased you, Greg!

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

I couldn’t be a bigger fan of The Ritz-Carlton Aruba. In addition to fabulous amenities and delicious restaurants, the hotel has some of the most hospitable staff I’ve ever encountered. Everyone remembered our names and would bend over backwards to make sure we had everything we needed throughout our stay. They even remembered it was Greg’s birthday and brought him his favorite cocktail to celebrate!

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Speaking of celebrating, I planned a little something special for his birthday dinner. Let’s just say it was an experience you can’t exactly get in New York City!

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

We sat down as the light was beginning to change, enjoying the quiet beach and the beautiful views.

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

And as the sun slowly began to set over the ocean, we tucked into a delicious dinner prepared by the resort.

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

And we were so lucky to be able to experience it together.

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

After an array of delicious dishes, the meal concluded with a song and a celebration. Happy birthday, Greg!

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

We didn’t spend our entire vacation on The Ritz-Carlton campus, of course. We rented a car and drove around exploring the island. There are some really beautiful secluded beaches in Aruba.

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

And a very tall lighthouse!

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

But surprisingly, when you leave the coast, most of the island looks like this:

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

The land is barren, covered in cactuses and tumbleweeds and crisscrossed by dirt roads. It’s really ugly, so I don’t recommend renting a car to traverse the island.

Instead, you should do an ATV tour! For whatever reason, when you’re on an ATV the landscape feels rugged and edgy rather than dead and depressing.

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

There are many ATV tours on the island, and I can’t speak to which one is the best. But I will say we booked ours through Action Tours Aruba and enjoyed it a lot.

The guide took us to famous locations in Aruba, like the Alto Vista Chapel.

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

We got to get up close to Aruba’s natural bridge.

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

And we spent some time exploring near the Bushiribana gold mill ruins.

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

But the very best part was visiting the natural pool! This was the culmination of the tour and after spending several hours on an ATV coating ourselves in dust and grime, the pool was the perfect way to cool off.

Make sure you bring snorkel gear with you, because the water is so incredibly clear and has brightly colored fish swimming every which way.

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

And if you love snorkeling, you should also book a snorkeling cruise with Pelican Adventures. After having a drink at the pier’s bar, you’ll board a catamaran and head out into the open water.

There’s our hotel on the left!

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

There’s an open bar on board the boat, so you can continue sipping while the wind whips through your hair and the boat bounces on the waves.

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

If this isn’t paradise I don’t know what is!

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

The boat anchors in two locations, allowing you to first explore one of the Caribbean’s largest shipwrecks, the WWII German ship SS Antilla. Then you’re taken to the much more tranquil Arashi Reef for more snorkeling as well as swimming, diving, and picture taking (I may have added in that last one)!

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Aruba - dining and travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Our trip to Aruba is certainly one we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. Thank goodness it wasn’t Fresno or Akron, huh Greg?

Happy birthday, babe!

~A

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