Hey guys! Five years ago I decided to do a Christmas vacation every year as the boys Christmas present. My only rule is that we try a new place every year and do an activity we have never experienced. It’s always exciting when we put our places together and then the final destination is chosen. My goal is for the boys to travel around the world and experience other cultures, foods and activities.
The first year, we went on the Disney Cruise which was the debut of their new ship with my friend Brandy and her kids. The second year, we went to Disney World with Brandy and her kids. The third year, we went to the Atlantis in the Bahamas and that was one of my favorite vacation spots. Last year we went to Costa Rica and this year we choose ARUBA! It was recommended by one of my colleagues so I did my research and picked the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa & Casino.
We arrived on Monday and my boys spotted Benihana as we were approaching our hotel. It was within walking distance from the Hyatt, so that’s where we ended up for dinner. I always leave the day of travel open so we can unpack and unwind. My mom and I took the boys down to the pool and beach and we also took a quick tour of the hotel.
On Tuesday we woke up and had breakfast at the buffet, which really wasn’t our favorite. The boys ate for free and my mom and I paid $30/per person. It wasn’t worth it to me because I don’t usually eat that much food. After breakfast, we took the boys down to the pool and went on the waterslide, which was super fun!
For our activity of the day we went parasailing. The hotel has direct access to the beach so as soon as you walk down, you have every water sport imaginable available. None of us have ever been parasailing so we went in two’s and it was an exhilarating experience. The views were amazing, but I wouldn’t recommend this if you are afraid of heights. Also, Palm Beach is very windy so the wind would sway our parachute hard. After that experience, we were ready to get back to the pool for some football.
We decided to eat dinner at the restaurant in the hotel called Mexicado which advertised Sushi night on Tuesday’s. I was very disappointed, as the sushi menu only had a few rolls and the other food turned out to be sub par. The fajitas we ordered came out cold and Kaden said his sushi roll tasted sour. I would not recommend this place!
Wednesday, we started off at the pool like every morning. I had arranged a private tour of all the top places with the concierge for just $75/hour, which is the lowest private tour cost I have ever been on and it was worth every penny! He picked us up in a open jeep named the Green Iguana and we started our tour by seeing some of the other beaches. We went to the first Catholic church built in the 1700’s, Philips Animal Garden, The California Lighthouse and Gold Mill Ruins.
The beaches were beautiful but very windy and the Catholic church was quaint with seating for 20 people. The boys were very intrigued and asked many questions.
Then it was off roading to Philips Animal Garden, where you get close and personal with exotic animals. It is a wildlife sanctuary and rehabilitation center that cares for more than 65 different species of abandoned and rescued animals. It is an entertaining and educational experience for both children and adults. The price of admission is $10/adult and $5/children and includes a bag of food to feed the animals. This was by far one of the best experiences you could have with animals. A sheep had given birth an hour before we arrived so the boys had many questions when they saw the blood coming from the mother. We also saw two turtles you know….. Kasen being the innocent child said “look mommy how nice, he’s giving the turtle a piggy back ride.”
Our last stop would be Gold Mill Ruins. On the northern coast, midway down the island, sits the abandoned gold mill that once processed ore from the mines in the nearby hills during Aruba’s gold rush of the Nineteenth Century. In 1824, gold was finally discovered in Aruba and eventually the industry produced more than 3 million pounds of gold. The only negative thing I can say about our experience is that the concierge didn’t tell me to bring some eye wear to protect our eyes from all the dirt that would fly into our eyes. For dinner, Hostaria Da’Vittorio came highly recommended to us by the concierge. This place was AMAZING, real authentic Italian food and the best was the tiramisu, which is said to be the best on the island.
On Thursday my sister arranged tubing and jumping on a trampoline that was situated in the ocean. The boys and I love tubing but this was a different type of tube that allowed for all 5 of us to ride at the same time. I initially thought that 20 minutes was not long enough for us to enjoy the ride but 20 minutes for $100 dollars was plenty of time. This was a complete blast but we should have worn goggles because once the salt water hit our eyes it burned and we were forced to keep our eyes closed most of the time. For dinner, my sister and I went over to the Ritz Carlton hotel to enjoy a quiet evening at BLT steakhouse, one of my favorite places to dine.
Friday, I convinced my sister to climb Hooiberg which stands at 541 feet and has 600 steps according to our tour guide. I finished up in 8 minutes and the view from the top of the mountain was beautiful! It was about a 15 minute cab ride. Afterwards, we took the kids to the famous Dutch Pancake House in downtown Aruba. We stayed downtown for a while and visited the shops there, which is cheaper than the ones that are located around the hotels. We finished up the night at Aqua Grill which had amazing seafood.
Saturday morning was spent packing up and preparing for our flight home. The airport experience was quite difficult and you really need a good 3 hours to depart. Once checked in, you had to stand in line outside for about 30 minutes to go through a TSA check. Then, you stand inside with no air-conditioning for about 30 minutes to go through security. You have to pick up your luggage and go through customs standing in another line for 45 minutes to drop your luggage off. Then after all that, you must stand in line again to go through yet another security line and then you’re finally ready for take off! Besides the airport experience we enjoyed our trip and my kids had an awesome time!
What are some of your family traditions? Are there any places you could recommend for our trip next year?