003: Oranjestad, Aruba

I visited Oranjestad, Aruba for my 28th birthday! This trip was planned literally no more than 2.5 weeks in advance, and I had the time of my life. This was during the strict international travel restrictions due to Covid, so I was taking a chance by even going and running the risk of having to stay an additional 2 weeks if I tested positive before returning home.

To further commemorate my birthday, I, of course, had a photo shoot! Have you ever had a dress that just made you feel like a woman? The San Marino Mini Dress from 12tribe is that dress. This beauty is the sultriest satin dress that fit me perfectly. I kept the jewelry and heels simple so the dress could do the heavy lifting. This color is no longer available, but it’s currently offered in emerald.

I landed at Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA), and everything was going smoothly until I noticed my luggage was nowhere to be found. The baggage claim associate pointed to the screen that read “Baggage: Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.” My friend and I looked at each other completely dumbfounded lmao. Luckily, my friend was there to handle the situation because I was STRESSED. I am a planner/itinerary kinda girl, so I was freaking out because leaving luggage behind was not in the plan! There was no need to cry over spilled milk, so we had a small shopping spree courtesy of Delta instead ♡

All of the rental car companies are conveniently located right across the street from the airport. We picked up our car and checked in at the Hyatt Airport Aruba. The hotel was gorgeous, and the food was great. The only downside is that we ended up having to drive about 15-20 minutes everyday to get into town. I’ll definitely stay much closer to the action when I return to Aruba.

The first restaurant I went to after shopping at the Paseo Herencia Mall was Screaming Eagle, and the Lobster Ravioli was a 10 out of 10 as it was very sweet and tangy! It also never hurts when the presentation of the food and the restaurant’s ambiance matches the amazing taste. The staff is knowledgeable and very friendly!

The traveling, dinner and unexpected shopping day wore me out, so I went back to the hotel to rest. I didn’t waste any time the next day and headed out early to The Dutch Pancakehouse. I tried the Strawberry Fields pancakes, and they were pretty good. Due to my lack of research the thinness and size of the pancakes caught me completely off guard. However, I would still rate this dish overall as a 10. The pancake was just sweet enough and the centered vanilla ice cream added a perfect touch. I also saw Mimi Faust from Love & Hip Hop on my flight and dining here as well!

I headed to Mangel Halto beach after breakfast and was told this beach is loved by the locals. The drive wasn’t too far, but definitely away from all of the Aruba tourist attractions. I would describe this beach as secluded, beautiful and woodsy as it’s surrounded by Mangroves. After much needed rest I headed to YOLO Cocktails & Tapas where a jumbo cocktail made for 6 people was heavily enjoyed by 2 in addition to top tier lobster bruschetta and mussels. There were just enough people in the club and the DJ was amazing. I don’t recall what time we stumbled out, but we made it back to our hotel safely and that’s all that matters!

The next day was flamingo day (and I now have my luggage)! I knew seeing these beauties in real life would be one of the highlights of my trip. I had to get a $125 day pass to the private island that houses Flamingo Beach and Iguana Island since I didn’t stay at the accompanying hotel, Renaissance Wind Creek Aruba Resort. If you stay at the Renaissance hotel, then you can go back and forth to the private island anytime you want for free. The first boat is scheduled to leave at 7a so I was sitting on the pick up dock no later than 6:30a. The early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the best pictures!

The gorgeous flamingos immediately flocked to my friend and I as we were 2 of the first 6 people that day. We gout our pictures out of the way first and fed the flamingos afterwards. Little did we know at the time that this was the smartest order of operations since the flamingo food also attracts crows as well. They definitely aren’t as aesthetically pleasing as the flamingos! Even if you aren’t an early riser like me, I strongly encourage you to get to the island as early as possible, because the flamingos are fast asleep after they’re fed. The day pass also includes lunch and 1 free alcoholic beverage at the restaurant located on the private island. Usually the food isn’t great when it’s included in day passes, bundles, etc. but the dishes here were pretty good and the drinks were solid! The only downside is that I had to walk through Iguana Island to get to and from the restaurant, and I absolutely despise lizards and anything that resembles them but I survived and made it back to the boat to get back to the mainland.

After showering and napping, I attempted to go to Black Stone Beach but soon realized we didn’t have the correct rental to make it up the rocky, narrow hill lmao. You will definitely need a Jeep at the minimum! Instead of dwelling on not making it up to the beach, I went back downtown and got my souvenir shopping out of the way then headed to the yummy Kamini’s Kitchen. This is somewhat of a hidden gem that’s clearly loved by locals, and it’s easy to see this is because of the amazingly sweet owner, Kamini. She warmly welcomed us into her establishment and was kind enough to give a backstory on the restaurant. I enjoyed the Roti Curry Shrimp that was accompanied by a side salad and white rice. Later that night I headed back to YOLO Cocktails & Tapas, but was there for only 10 minutes. The club was PACKED this time, like hold your drink in the air and walk sideways every step you take packed – definitely not my vibe.

Instead of the clubbing the night away as planned, I went to Candela’s, a food truck spotted earlier in the week. The food was a solid 8, but the service and wait time was a very strong 1. I actually patronized Candelas twice, and the second time the waitress was mad at me for making my food wrong 🙃. The food is basically The Halal Guys with Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar sauce layered on top.

The next day I had to get tested for Covid in preparation of my departure. Everything costs including these mandatory tests, and of course, they only took cash. At this location, they surprisingly swabbed your nose and throat but whatever it takes! Luckily this only took about 20 minutes and I was able to spend the rest of my time at Eagle Beach to look at (and take pictures with) the beautiful Divi Trees and at Flying Fishbone for dinner. This restaurant is absolutely swoon worthy as you can dine with your feet in the ocean and watch the sunset. The view, dinner, and dessert was amazing! A perfect 10/10!

My friend and I both received negative Covid results and enjoyed our last day in Aruba worry-free and on a catamaran! I guess it made sense that there was nothing but fellow tourists on the catamaran besides the staff. I don’t imagine this is something locals would care to do since they can just swim in the ocean whenever they want. The catamaran included lunch, unlimited alcohol and amazing music. I met the friendliest people and keep up with them til this day via Instagram, and my friend dropped his Apple watch in the ocean lmao.

Aruba is absolutely gorgeous, and I will definitely be returning. ♡

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