Monday, October 26, 2009

Aruba -One Happy Island

Warning: This is an extremely long post. Only venture if you dare....
We took our family back to Aruba this October for our big vacation. We were so excited to go and had been waiting since February - looking forward to it all year. We first went when Beckham was only 9 months old- in 2006 and fell in love with the place, and as we talked to other people we found that it seems to be a place people return to over and over again.

Initially we chose it because I still had flight benefits with Delta at the time and we generally travel off-season, so that time of year also means hurricanes and unpredictable weather. Aruba is part of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao) off of the coast of Venezuela that are outside of the hurricane belt, so hurricanes and tropical rain are rare.
This was why we chose Aruba the first time. No hurricanes.
But there are many reasons we keep choosing to go back. We are very fond of this island - it is a completely unique place. At first glance it really is not the most beautiful island in the Caribbean. It is actually more of a tropical desert, with divi cacti all over the island mixed in with palm trees. I've never seen another island like that. It doesn't have the lush feel like some other places, but it does have incredible beaches - sugary white sand and impossibly perfect turquoise Caribbean waters. Incredible.
Another reason we love this place is that fact that the people are some of the friendliest I've ever come across. We felt completely safe and they were so great with our kids. It is a Dutch island and a large group of the population are transplants from the Netherlands. Which means....dutch chocolate, gouda cheese, beautiful tall people, and a lot of European food items and customs.

But probably the biggest reason we keep returning is because we found a little hidden gem on that island in the form of an old coconut plantation turned into a fantastic European boutique style hotel called The Boardwalk. This place is what really sealed the deal for us. The first time we went we were so impressed with it, that we talked my parents into going at the last minute the week after we got back. It was my mom's birthday and I sent the office manager an email and she went to the local bakery and picked out a beautiful cake and placed it in their room secretly along with some fresh flowers. I think I paid, like $15 or so for the cake - if that. My point is, the staff is so generous and welcoming and it makes you feel like it is your second home.

The Boardwalk is across the street from the big hotels that are right on the beach. The big hotels are crazy and busy and expensive. At the Boardwalk, there are only about 15 or so casitas - each with a kitchen and a patio with a grill and hammock. There are big comfy duvet beddings and a staff that provides anything and everything you would ever need - without any tips or expectations. They provided all of our snorkling gear, beach umbrellas, a cooler, beach toys, kids toys, books, movies, etc. They had a little book in the room that they came up with all the stuff to do on the island, where to get groceries, etc. Just truly helpful in every way.
We will usually go to the local grocery stores where they have all sorts of imported foods and we stock up and head to the beach or take back groceries to our little casita. The daily maid service even includes doing your dishes....I love that!

We arrived late Saturday night and saw the note and the key they left for us on the office door and we stepped into our little casita to climb into the comfy beds and drift off to bed after a long flight day.

Sunday we thought it would be nice to take the kids to church over there. We looked up the ward info online and headed there and pulled up just as they were all leaving. The info had changed so we had the wrong time, and weren't able to go. We were disappointed - but not much time for wallowing. We had beaches to get to! We spent the rest of the day at Arashi beach and grabbed sandwiches from a bakery downtown for lunch.

Arashi Beach

Dinner at Hard Rock

Our favorite most perfect beach. Little hut umbrellas on the beach for shade. Clear turquoise water and soft sand. Did nothing but boogie board, swim, dig, read and play.

Another BIG reason we came back: Linda's Pancakes and Pizza. I had been craving it for the last year - holy smokes they are good!! They use gouda instead of mozzerella on their pizza and our fave is the salami/gouda/onion/pineapple. The pancakes are thin - but not as thin as crepes. My favorite pancake - we get both pancakes and pizza - is the brie and walnut and honey. It's usually all mine, because the kids all like their mango or strawberry pancakes with whip cream. Who wouldn't? Kerry usually goes for the apple-bacon. Trust me on this. They are worth the airfare right there.
They totally dote all over our kids - they have some toys and coloring things they bring out and even take the kids into a little desk inside to draw while we were waiting for our food. This cute kid was the son of one of the waitresses and he became our little buddy.

On Tuesday -De Palm Island

De Palm Island
This place is a little private island off of the main coast of
Aruba. It is only about a 3 minute ferry ride and it is set up as an all inclusive type deal where they have all the food and drinks included, snorkeling coves and a great water park - all right on top of the ocean. When we were in the restaurant buffet Becks went back to get some more food and as he was leaving he turned around and, being concerned that his brother might take his food, said pointing at me, "Mom. You're in Charge." Good to know who rules the roost at our house. This place was a lot of fun. The kids (and Kerry and I) love the big bucket that fills up and dumps all over the slides at the water park, and the boys couldn't get enough of the slides. Eva and Kerry went snorkeling and she did really well - it was pretty windy that day and there were some waves that weren't easy to maneuver through. It is the home of the "friendly blue parrot fish" and they are everywhere. Great place to relax, eat, swim, read, play.

Wedenesday: Palm Island
This beach is across the street from our hotel and is on the main hotel strip. It is a beautiful beach where we spent the large part of the day and had burgers at the Moomba bar.
Even in paradise....Becks has a moment of rebellion.
Eva took all of these pictures of Ethan. I think they are fantastic.
Heading back from the beach to the pool. If you ask each of our kids what they liked best about Aruba they will tell you the swimming pool. The days went like this: get up and have breakfast in our little casita, kids throw on suits and run 10 feet to jump into the pool, we drag them out of the pool to go to the beach, get a bite to eat, and then when we get home they head straight for the pool again. All week long.

The pool was just a short jump from our casita. Ethan and Eva would run from our door and dive into the pool. By the end of the week their dives were really good! It is set up like a tropical garden with a very simple pool that we would occasionally see geckos swimming in and out of. Very natural feeling and not too big or commercialized. You get to know the other guests because it is a small place and you see each other at the pool each day. The first time we were there, there was a family from Sweden that had 2 kids about the same ages as ours. They got along great together - meeting everyday in the pool and we'd see them at the beach. This year we got to know a Dutch family that were living in the casitas temporarily while moving over to the island. The kids swam in the pool everyday. They are adorable. Their mom spoke English, but the kids did not and so they all just figured out how to understand 'Kid' language of having fun. This is another reason we love this place. Every time we have made friends and feel like we've made some neat connections.
Becks at the pool after a long day at the beach

Eating at Linda's - Again. We went back that night for more.
The California Lighthouse and Sand Dunes
This is just up the road from where we stay so we took a drive to check out the view before heading to the beach.

Back at Arashi Beach. Ethan really has enjoyed reading and I would find him and Kerry sitting next to each other with their shades on and a good book. I was glad to see him reading just for the pleasure of it. I think one of the best parts about traveling is having time to read. I remember a lot of the trips by the books I read while I'm there. It's like a double memory of a good book and a good vacation.
Ethan was reading the Sister's Grimm series and is totally into it. All sorts of fantasy and imaginative creatures.
Kerry was reading a James Patterson war/spy book.. his 'go to' category.

And I read 2 books and was able to start a third.
The Traveler's Gift is a quick read and full of great stories from historical figures that are trying to teach a man about the way to live life. I loved this and Kerry just finished it and thought it was great. Think of "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" and take out the 'dudes' and give it a bit of refinement. That's this book.

I was a little addicted to this book. It was one that was left by a previous guest in the casita and I thought it looked interesting and was hooked on the first page. This is by the author of PS I Love you, Cecelia Ahern - a twenty something daughter of the Prime Minister of Ireland and a very witty writer. It is 400 pages of school kids' notes, text messages, emails, and letters between a girl and a boy from the time they were in gradeschool through to their 50's. Besides a few f-bombs, which drive me insane that they have to add a couple of times, I couldn't wait to get to this book each day.
And this was started on the tail end of the trip and of course, I had to read the book after seeing the show. It is bizarre and I'm really enjoying it.

Our headless children. It was a little windy so we covered their heads with their towels. All 3 of them fell asleep. An hour or so of pure bliss....

Kitesurfing - this is the place to do it. This was awesome to watch.

Some of the Divi Cactus
Dinner that night downtown at a little restaurant we decided to try for seafood. Outdoor seating and across from the ocean.
Eagle Beach at night.

Rest and relaxation. The best part. Becks brought along his puppy "Koo Koo" and lovingly placed him on his daddy's arms when he was asleep. Becks decided he wanted to be a puppy and sleep under the nightstand. Eva's just enjoying the comfy beds after a sun-filled day.

Our last day at Eagle Beach.
The kids boogie boarded and buried their dad in sand. Becks found a new affinity for beer-lid-bottle cap collecting. The beaches were clean, but people take the bottle caps off and just left them by the little huts. Becks kept collecting them and we had to slowly throw his collection away each day. He'd collect them in my hats.

Our last night we ate at The Buccaneer restaurant. The kids digged this - it was set up like an old sea ship and all of the tables had aquariums - some with sea turtles, crabs, etc. It was a great last night of our trip and the only thing we did all week that required us to be on some sort of a schedule because we had made a reservation. Those are the kind of trips I like.
When we got home, Becks brought back a white tushy-tush souvenir. I couldn't resist.
Back home at the end of a great week :)


Brooke and Jonny said...

Looks like a blast I loved this long post!So so fun, we need to do a family trip with the Darrohn's

The Stones said...

OOh! What a fun trip, that pizza/pancake place sounds divine!

Candy said...

That looks like HEAVEN. I'm so glad you were able to take your kids and go back.


Thanks for sharing the awesome photos and good tips for where to stay.