Tag Archives: Aruba

Final Aruba Installment – The Delicious Food

As promised, I wanted to end my Aruba posts talking about some of the amazing food that we had for dinner while on the island.  Since we had been to Aruba before, we already had an idea of where we wanted to eat each night.  Key is to make reservations early, so you can get a prime table for watching the sun set.  During May, the sun goes down right around 6:45, so getting seated by 6:15 gives you plenty of time to get settled.  All of the restaurants on the coast where the hotels are located give you a perfect view.

photo 1-55 Our favorite casual dining/happy hour on the island is at the Pelican Pier.  Flip flops and bathing suits are appropriate for drinks and/or dinner here. The restaurant and bar literally sit on the end of a pier situated in the middle of all of the hotels.  After a short walk down the beach, we are able to get a great meal.  Fish in Aruba is so fresh. As such, almost every restaurant has an assortment of ceviche.  See the special at the Pelican Pier above.  Super healthy and it tastes better than it looks!photo 2-54 I mentioned that we also love the happy hour here.  They have about every tropical drink that you can imagine (some include a scoop of ice cream).  The view down the pier is incredible.  Check out the picture below.photo 3-43 After drinks, we decided we would just go ahead and eat dinner here.  The bar sits in the middle of the pier, where catamarans and dinner cruises come and go.  The restaurant sits at the end of the pier.  Perfect view to watch the sunset.  In fact, it was almost impossible for us to get a good picture prior to the sun setting because of the overwhelming amount of natural light.photo 4-31Most of the fresh fish offered at the seafood restaurants on the island is cooked healthy.  I’m talking char grilled, organic (fresh out of the ocean).  I opted for the house special – Mahi Mahi.  Fresh vegetables and rice on the side.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

photo 5-16Although this meal was rather impromptu, we had reservations the rest of our time on the island. As part of the reservation process, we were asked if we were celebrating a special occasion.  I had mentioned to several of the restaurants that we were celebrating our second wedding anniversary.  If you tell them, they will listen.  We were surprised to find that all of the restaurants took this into consideration in choosing our seating and giving us a celebratory dessert.

photo 1-53Our second night on the island, we headed to Flying Fishbone. This restaurant is car/cab drive away. What makes it worth it?  The tables are not just situated on the beach, but the several of the tables are placed such that the water rushes under your feet while you dine.  We were lucky enough to have one of these tables.  Check out the little stand beside the table to hang your shoes.

photo 2-52I stuck with fish again at this restaurant.  The grouper presentation was beautiful, and once again I was blown away with how fresh and juicy the fish was prepared.

photo 3-41After a great meal, the server gave us an option for dessert, which we had planned on getting either way.  We were blown away, when the server came back with a celebratory anniversary plate.  The quality of the picture is bad, because it was dark, but this was such a sweet gesture.  With all of the people coming in and out of that restaurant from all over the world, they still made us feel like we were “regulars”.photo 4-30After two nights of fish, our third night we had made reservations at an Argentinian steak house – El Gaucho.  This was not on the water, but indoors.  Lighting was very dim, which made it hard to get any good pictures.  Nevertheless, the beef was a good break from all of the fish.

photo 1-54With only one full day left on the beach, we trekked back down to Pelican Pier in the afternoon to enjoy one last cocktail.  This time with a scoop of ice cream.  Go big, or go home.  Mango Dream was to die for.  photo 2-53The picture above gives you a better idea of how the pier is situated.  We clearly don’t need a super, fancy, expensive place to have a good time!photo 3-42Our last night on the island, we had dinner at one of my favorites – Pinchos.  This restaurant is also a cab drive away from where we were staying.  It is situated on the end of a pier, however, the attire here is a little more dressy and the atmosphere is incredibly romantic.  If you are thinking that you want a destination wedding, consider this place for a rehearsal dinner or reception.photo 1-52Yet again, we watched an incredible sunset.  The weather just can’t be beat here.  Photos don’t even do this justice.  Since it was our last night, we enjoyed several appetizers and a drink before dinner (why not prolong our time?).

photo 2-51I mentioned the ceviche on the island before, but check out the ceviche that we got at Pinchos.  Incredible mango salsa topping the shrimp.  In fact, the salsa was so good, that we ended up also topping it on the coconut shrimp below.  photo 3-40Almost everything at this restaurant is flame grilled.  It’s funny because we had been here before, and I ended up getting the exact thing.  The restaurant will take a sample of the fresh fish of the day and skewer the fish with several fresh vegetables.  Incredible way to end a great week of eating.photo 4-29We ended dinner with a quick picture on a swing that hangs right off the pier.  Clearly, my happiness radiates.  This time together was truly special for my husband and I.  This isn’t the last time that we will visit the island.  There is a reason why almost everyone that you meet there asks, “How many times have you visited the island?” instead of “Is this your first time here?”photo 5-15

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The Aruba Mountain Bike Excursion

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, we decided to go on a mountain bike excursion while on our trip to Aruba.  We intended to make the entire vacation very relaxing and unplanned, but after a day of just lounging, we approached the concierge about a possible activity.  We began to start the reservation process for a catamaran/snorkeling excursion, when we saw a flier for a new mountain bike/snorkeling tour.  I’m a cycle instructor.  This was just up my alley.  We booked it with De Palm Tours.

photo 1-50The company has been offering the tour for only about two months.  Typically eight people will ride from the north, choppy, Atlantic Ocean side of the island around the northern most tip (where there is a lighthouse) to finish at a small, beautiful beach.  The ride was described as “strenuous”, which we didn’t really take too seriously.  They actually mean it when they say “strenuous” though.  The north side of the island is almost like a desert. Lots of sand and rocks.  Did I mention it is also extremely hot?  That is probably why the tour begins so early (we were picked up at 7:30 AM).

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The bus picked up six people from various hotels before taking us to the start of our bike trip.  Our guide was great.  Bikes were super nice and definitely the appropriate type of bike for the riding that we would be doing.  You can’t use a beach cruiser here.  After a brief intro about the bikes, we were given plenty of time to ride and around to get our bearings on both the bike and the terrain.  Riding on a mountain bike in desert like conditions is 100% different than riding on a bike indoors that is bolted to the ground.  I give a lot of credit to people that do this regularly.  With unexpected road conditions, it is very easy to lose control.  After several minutes of test riding, we started our trek.  Our first stop was at an Aruban natural bridge.  We got off our bikes to walk over to the shore and check it out.

photo 1-51We spent a decent amount of time checking things out before our tour guide asked us to continue on our journey.  It was at the point that a mini disaster occurred.  I have been on many tours all over the world, and I have never actually seen someone get hurt.  My husband and I followed the guide up the next hill (which I had to walk up because the sand was so deep I couldn’t pedal through), until we heard the horn beeping of the truck that follows the last biker. We turned around to see another woman on the tour laying on the ground with everyone else surrounding her.  We came to find out that she had lost her balance trying to just get on her bike.  She was unable to make contact with the ground to catch her fall and landed on her right arm.  We never found out the extent of her injury, but nevertheless help was called and she was not able to continue on the tour.  The guides handled the situation in the appropriate manner, however, I can’t help but think this injury could have been prevented through proper core training. Remember when I posted about how core training can make every day tasks easier?

photo 2-50As soon as the situation described above was handled, we continued on our journey.  Our next stop was beautiful church.  This was a quick stop.  The church is absolutely beautiful and offers services every Tuesday.  Here we also fueled up on fluid (since we had been out in the hot sun for quite awhile).

photo 5-13This time we rode literally until our final destination.  The terrain was pretty intense with a lot of rolling hills.  It was in our favor to pay attention to the road ahead to avoid large rocks and areas with deep sand.  I did have to walk again through some deep sand.  Our guide did a great job of warning us when there might be trouble.  The ride was worth the beautiful beach that we ended up at.

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We spent almost an hour enjoying company offered snacks and drinks while cooling off in the beautiful (almost desolate) water.

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You know we had to Garmin the ride too.  Would you believe we rode almost ten miles. Pace was pretty slow, because we stopped several times, but it was just what we needed on our relaxing vacation.  We wish the woman that was injured well, and we certainly recommend this excursion to people who can actually handle a strenuous workout while on vacation!

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Our Aruba Beach Bootcamp Workout

I am not going to lie; I did a little research prior to leaving for our vacation on possible gyms that we could workout at in Aruba. I am spoiled with my boutique fitness studios in Charlotte. Most of the places that I could find were not worth the investment of me renting a car or taking a taxi to get there. After several failed attempts at finding a place, I finally came to my senses and realized that I didn’t need to go somewhere inside to get in a good workout when I was staying on one of the most beautiful beaches that I have ever been to.

IMG_1093 I am all about efficiency. On vacation, I usually don’t want to spend more than thirty minutes getting a good sweat in. My father in law once told my husband, “Just do enough to keep the furnace burning.” With that in mind, we put together a little thirty minute beach circuit workout. Using some of the exercises that we did, you could totally put together your own beach workout depending on your resources. We did bring the Garmin, so we could track mileage, but we did not utilize any equipment (even though we had a very nice gym onsite at the hotel).

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Watch started with our first exercise. We found a short wall in the pool area of the hotel that we did decline pushups off of. I did 10, for most exercises that my husband did 15-20. You could also do incline pushups here.  After pushups, we ran down the beach to the next mock station (another wall, this time separating the beach and a pool). Here we did the following:

  • 10 step ups on each leg with a knee drive (this will hit the core a little bit)

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  • 10 dips

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  • 10 jump ups
  • 10 dips

Start your run again. The next mock piece of equipment we ran into was large rocks lining a path down to a pier. Great place for some incline pushups (10).

photo 1-49Beside the rocks, were some benches in a waiting area for a departing tour. Great place for another mini circuit of exercises (complete the following circuit twice):

  • 10 slow mountain climbers (1 each leg, knee to elbow)

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  • 10 squats

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  • 10 abdominal leg pull ins

photo 5-11My husband is such a good sport by letting me take pictures of him. Hoping to change up our exercises, we ran from this mini circuit down the beach until we found a solid railing that we could do some supine pull ups off of. Do 10 overhand, 10 underhand. FLAT BACK.

photo 2-47By now, my arms were tired. We continued to run down the beach until we found an elevated step. Place your left leg on the step, your right leg on the ground. Do 10 squat jumps. Switch sides and do 10 more.

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photo 1-48Your heart rate should be elevated after these. Pick back up on your run. The next station that we came across was a round picnic table. Hold a plank and walk your feet and hands around the picnic table one time. Beside the picnic table do 10 burpees. Keep running.

photo 4-24We ran up on a long breaker, extending out on to the water as we neared thirty minutes. Perfect place to end with some lunges. From the beginning of the sidewalk, we lunged to the end. What an unreal place to do lunges. With what little time we had left, we did as many burpees as we could.

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photo 5-12With a check of the watch, we came in just shy of 1.75 miles. We did happen to squeeze in sets of 10 burpees on some of the random patches of grass that we ran up on (just to keep our heart rate elevated). Even better, after that tough workout, we took a leisurely walk back (took pictures of what we did) and enjoyed the beautiful sunrise. We might be a little crazy, but the point of this post is to give readers an idea of easy ways to get a quick, outdoor workout in on vacation. Believe it or not, we got more compliments from people that we passed than odd looks.

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If you don’t dig the outdoor bootcamp, we did do a mountain bike excursion through the rugged Atlantic coast of the island that I will blog about tomorrow. Let me just warn you, when a tour is described as strenuous, take it seriously. I will blog about how a weak core could have been the reason why one of the members on our trip ended up getting pretty seriously injured.

Aruba – Our Happy Island

photo 2-45If you read my blog regularly, I’m sure that you noticed that I haven’t posted in almost a week. For the first time in almost two years, my husband and I took a “real” vacation. By “real”, I mean no phones, no computers, and no social media. In determining where we should go to escape, we wanted to stick to a place that we had been to before (so we wouldn’t have to do much planning) and we could ultimately blow through all of the remaining Marriott hotel points that I had left from public accounting.

IMG_1093Aruba it is. We have traveled to some pretty amazing places, but there are a few reasons why Aruba stands out to us.

  • Direct, affordable flight + a clean airport (it is hard to find a nice airport in the Caribbean)
  • English speaking, friendly natives
  • US currency is accepted everywhere – Yes, no currency exchange!
  • Gambling is legal – there are some really nice casinos, and I’m talking Craps, Roulette, and Black Jack (not just slots)
  • It doesn’t rain here – Average rainfall is 16 inches a year. Yep, pack the sunscreen; you will be in the sun A LOT!

Leaving our daughter for several days while we went away was the hardest part about the trip. Thankfully, my parents moved into our house to watch her while we were gone. Since we have been to the island before, we knew that we were going to be overwhelmed with some amazing (even healthy) food choices, but we also packed our workout gear because we knew that there were some great outdoor running areas. Over the next few posts, I plan to share with you some pictures and reviews of some of our amazing meals, plus our fun workouts.

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Let me start by saying that we were lucky to have stumbled upon the Marriott Stellaris Tradewinds Club. On our first trip to the island we decided to stay on the club level, and we enjoyed it so much, we decided to come back. Here are the details. To stay in the Tradewinds Club you have to pay a premium on top of your nightly amount. However, the premium includes all of the following that a regular room does not:

  • Complimentary breakfast – see pictures of my typical breakfast compared to my husband’s breakfast.  Like I said, you can make it as healthy or unhealthy as you want to!
My typical breakfast.

My typical breakfast.

My husband's typical breakfast.

My husband’s typical breakfast.

  • Complimentary lunch

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  • Afternoon snacks
  • Complimentary bottled waters (big time advantage in the heat), soda, and beers during the day.

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  • Evening happy hour (including a taste of specials from the hotel’s restaurant dinner menus, plus cocktails – wine, beer, and liquor)
  • Free internet
  • Private adult pool
  • Private beach area with optional beach hut and chairs

IMG_1102We did the math and we definitely won out here. Not only are the breakfast and lunch options good, but you can make both meals extremely healthy (or not). There was always a significant amount of fruits and vegetables at every meal. Not to mention whatever type of cold beverage that you wanted to take back to the beach for the afternoon (or morning).

IMG_1094The private beach in front of the hotel is pristine with little to no waves. You can literally pull a raft out into the ocean and not float away. In fact, I think the ocean might even be less choppy than the lakes surrounding Charlotte!

Since we hadn’t gone on a real vacation in years, we even took advantage of the spa and got massages. I will be the first to tell you that I don’t get massages often. I think they are awkward. Should I talk? What if I fall asleep? What should I wear? Yea, it’s not my thing. This place blew my mind. I set up a Bali (relaxing) massage at the Mandara Spa. Everything about this place is calming and somewhat euphoric. Even the smell when you walk in the door makes your shoulders drop (if you are someone who sits at a desk all day hunched, you know what I’m talking about). Relax. I felt like a different person when I left this place. This was exactly what I needed to force myself to settle into a day of doing nothing.

The transition area.

The transition area.

The selection of scents and scrubs for massages.

The selection of scents and scrubs for massages.

With my introduction of the island and our hotel, look forward to details about our meals and workouts throughout the next several days. While I enjoyed our time away, it does feel good to be back!

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