Aruba. My favorite Caribbean island. Not that I’ve been to all of them to compare, but I cannot imagine that I could love any island more. The weather is perfect all year long – warm, dry, sunny, and breezy 365 days a year. The national park makes up 20% of the country so there are a lot of hiking opportunities. The seafood is fresh and delicious and the people are the nicest! We first visited Aruba five years ago as part of a surprise trip that my husband planned for me, just because he is the best. You can read about that vacation here and here. This trip, we returned to celebrate our babymoon. We planned to fill our four nights on the island with a lot of relaxation, exploration, and fantastic seafood and we definitely succeeded. If you’re reading this because you’re going to Aruba for your babymoon, you’ve made a great choice. And if you’re reading because you’re considering it, we encourage you to go! This post will detail our recommendations on where to stay, where to eat, and what to do on your visit. Our first babymoon was in Maui, which was also an excellent choice, but a much farther destination from the east coast.
Where to Stay:
Ritz-Carlton, Aruba – If you’re looking for a luxurious stay with personalized service and a gorgeous beach, look no further than the Ritz. The views are incredible in nearly every room in the resort and even from the hallways! Some other perks of staying at the Ritz-Carlton are the complimentary valet and lack of resort fee. We had a fantastic experience – all of the staff was so kind from guest services to the beach and pool attendants to the room service and cleaning staff. There is so much attention to detail. For example, when we checked in and mentioned it was our babymoon, guest services asked what I have been enjoying eating and surprised us with a fruit basket and card that evening. And when they saw that we always finished the water bottles in the room, they brought us a case to have during our stay.
The five-star resort has a large beach and pool area with complimentary chairs, umbrellas, towels, and even sunscreen (of various SPFs and after sun gel). The resort also provides rafts to use at the pool, which many people bring to the beach. There are also a few palapas and cabanas available to rent for an additional fee.
One of my favorite aspects of the Ritz-Carlton beach is the partnership with Vela Sports. Vela offers complimentary stand-up paddleboards, pedal boats, and kayaks to guests of the Ritz-Carlton. They also have amazing circular floats for in-water lounging. Bring these to Florida, please! The Ritz has thought of everything: for example, their beach towels slip over the back of the chairs so they don’t blow away in the Aruban tradewinds. If you are staying at any other resort, I highly recommend purchasing clips to keep your beach towel in place (a quick search on Amazon brings up loads of options).
There are a few on-site restaurants; however, Aruba has so many great local restaurants that we never ate at any of them. We did stop for breakfast sandwiches and coffee one day at Ritual, and ordered ice cream for dessert one evening. It was really nice to have a convenient spot to grab a quick breakfast or dessert in the hotel!
If you want to walk down the beach, check out other resorts, or have lunch at one of the beach restaurants I listed below, you can easily walk to other resorts along the boardwalk. From the Ritz-Carlton to Bugaloe Pier is a total of 1.5 miles one way, passing by the Marriott, Holiday Inn, Hyatt, and Barcelo resorts. This is also a great path for an early morning walk or jog!
Where to Eat/Drink:
Eduardo’s Beach Shack – If you’re looking for lighter, healthy fare, Eduardo’s has smoothies, acai bowls, ahi tuna bowls, and a few other items like chips and guacamole. It’s the newest, hippest, most Instagram-friendly stop on our list. Be prepared to wait in a line, but don’t worry – you’ll have beautiful ocean views to enjoy while you wait (or you can always have an Instagram photo shoot if that’s your thing).
Bread Basket – On our last trip to Aruba, we ate breakfast here twice and this time, we did the same. You can’t beat the Bread Basket for it’s fast service and delicious breakfast sandwiches. Also, it’s a nice walk down the boardwalk and there is an adorable seating area on the beach to enjoy your breakfast or wait for your food if you’re taking it to go. The Aruba Watersports Center is also located here so you can arrange diving/snorkeling/jet ski/parasail rentals as well.
Linda’s Pancakes – You’ll have to leave the resort area to have breakfast at Linda’s, but it’s totally worth it. The pancakes are authentic Dutch-style pancakes with a variety of toppings. I tried the apple bacon and Alex got strawberry and Nutella – I love trying both a savory and sweet option when it comes to breakfast!
Scott’s Brats – One of our favorite quick lunch stops on the beach is Scott’s Brats, a beach hut owned by an American couple. Brat + beer + beach? What could be better? It’s cash only, so don’t forget your dollars.
Charlie’s Bar – This unique and historic bar (open since 1941) is located in the south part of the island in San Nicolas. A lot of people stop in for just a drink or two and admire the international memorabilia and hear hilarious stories from the bartenders, but it’s worth staying for lunch too as the food is delicious! They are known for their shrimp and scampi dishes, but ask about the daily specials if you’re looking for something else. If you plan to visit Charlie’s Bar, consider bringing a small item to add to their collection!
Zeerovers – Zeerovers is a must when visiting Aruba. A local establishment that has become famous to tourists as well, this low-key restaurant is loved for a reason. You order shrimp and/or the fresh catch by weight, tell the cashier if you want a side of plantains, cornbread, or fries, and they will put everything into a basket to fry up and bring to your table. We ordered 0.6 pounds of shrimp with fries and plantains and found that to be the perfect amount for two people to share. You cannot get fresher seafood anywhere! Also cash only!
Bugaloe – This casual beach bar/restaurant is literally on the water so definitely wins for best atmosphere. It’s even better when live music is playing. Bugaloe is located on a pier and offers typical beach food and a full bar with amazing views of the beach and water.
Passions – One of the most romantic places to eat dinner in Aruba is at Passions with its tiki torches and live music. There are tables for groups, but it definitely caters to couples as all tables in the first two rows of tables are set for two. The tables are right on the beach so you definitely want to make a reservation during the sunset hour. The seafood dishes are amazing with a lot of variety to choose from.
Papiamento – This is a classic Aruba dinner choice that offers authentic Aruban dishes. It isn’t on the water, but the garden/pool setting under twinkling lights is quite charming. The restaurant is in a 126-year-old “cunucu house” filled with antiques as old as the early 1800s. Don’t miss the Keeshi Yena appetizer, baked tenderloin and chicken stewed with prunes, raisins, olives, and cashews all topped with Dutch cheese. Also, if you order a “stone special” entree, you actually get to finish cooking your meat or fish on a hot stone which is pretty fun!
Flying Fishbone – This was easily my favorite dinner and the one I most wanted to repeat from our last trip. The tables are right on the beach and some are actually in the water (though note that if you want a water table, you can only reserve it for 5 p.m. You definitely don’t want to miss the sunsets here, so plan for a lengthy dinner). The service was fantastic – they’ve thought of everything from shoe stands for water and beach tables to a footwash to rinse the sand off your feet. The food is excellent and you just can’t beat the ambience.
West Deck – For a more casual dinner where you’ll still get a taste of authentic Aruba, West Deck is your best bet. You can order entrees, but we recommend sharing a selection of appetizers to get a taste of all of the different items. This was the only restaurant where we didn’t have seafood – we chose to try some of the chicken, beef, and vegetarian dishes instead. Everything was fantastic, but the most unique Aruban dishes were the Fried Funchi and Keeshi Yena. We shared a salad and four hot appetizers and were sufficiently stuffed.
As I mentioned above, one of the things I love most about Aruba is the fact that a large portion of the island is a national park. While we didn’t officially make it into the park on this trip, we did visit much of the surrounding areas that we hadn’t seen on our last trip and made our way to the southern tip of the island. I’ve included the highlights below.
Natural Bridge – The famous Natural Bridge is a bit of a tourist attraction with a souvenir shop and snack bar nearby, but it’s quick stop with great views and photo ops of the rugged north coast.
Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins – There are a few gold mine ruins in Aruba that remind visitors of the history of gold prospecting, dating back to the 1400’s and 1500’s. Interestingly, gold wasn’t discovered in Aruba until the 1800’s! The abandoned Bushiribana gold mill processed ore from mines in the nearby hills. This particular mine on the northern coast is just a short drive from Natural Bridge.
New Natural Pool – You may remember from our previous trip that swimming in the Natural Pool (Conchi) was one of my favorite memories. We tried to visit it on this trip, but found the road to Daimari Ranch was in such bad condition that we couldn’t make it with our rental car. You’d most likely be able to get there with a 4 wheel drive vehicle if you have one. A bit disappointed, we turned around and headed for the New Natural Pool near Bushiribana Gold Mill. It was actually quite magical. You descend down a short ladder and scramble over the rocks, climbing down into a cave where you can swim in a small, secluded lagoon. There’s a great spot to jump, although I didn’t participate due to being pregnant!
Boca Grandi – There are several public beaches along Aruba’s coast. Boca Grandi is one of the most beautiful, with white sands and clear blue water. We had the beach mostly to ourselves, besides a few windsurfers. Due to the strong winds and large waves, Boca Grandi is known to have the best windsurfing on the island. (The first picture in this post was taken at Boca Grandi.)
Baby Beach – If you have children with you or don’t enjoy big waves, Baby Beach is the place to be. The waters are shallow and calm for a good distance out to sea. It also has a small restaurant for lunch or refreshments. Farther down the beach, you can rent beach beds, but there are also complimentary palapas along the beach (first-come, first-serve).
Drive Around the Island – It couldn’t be easier to get around Aruba. There are only a few main roads so it’s difficult to get lost. Aruba has been spending a lot on it’s roads so many of them are in great condition although it is still common to encounter very bumpy dirt roads in less populated areas. The island is small – you can drive from the southern tip to the northern tip in an hour so nothing feels very far. We really enjoyed driving around the east side of the island where there aren’t any resorts and you can enjoy secluded beaches like Boca Grandi and visit Arikok National Park. I’ve included a few pictures below from our drive along the east coast of the island.
Sunsets – Make sure to build in time to view one of the incredible Aruban sunsets. Whether you make your dinner reservation at sunset, have drinks on the beach at your resort, or find a secluded spot on the island, you can’t go wrong. The best sunsets are when there are a few clouds in the sky but it’s not too overcast (which is fortunately most days in Aruba)!
Don’t forget, Aruba is one of a few countries that has U.S. Customs Pre-Clearance, meaning you’ll go through customs and immigration before you board your flight back to the States. For this reason, you need to allow for more time than you normally would, particularly if you are flying on a weekend. We had Global Entry for this trip which saved us a lot of time. I’d recommend arriving three hours early if you don’t have Global Entry, but two would be fine if you do.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our Aruba babymoon! If you have any questions, please feel free to email me or leave a comment below. Have you been to Aruba? Are you considering Aruba for your babymoon?