Mallorca: Top 7 Things to Do

Mallorca (pronounced My-orca), also spelt Majorca, is the largest of the 4 main Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera) located off the eastern coast of Spain IMG_5662and absolutely BREATHTAKING! This 1,405 square-mile island is situated in the western Mediterranean Sea and is a popular tourist destination for Europeans, especially Germans in particular. We visited in September 2017 and the good news for us is that since tourism is the island’s greatest source of revenue, almost everyone on the island speaks multiple languages, with a universal language being English! While not many Americans visit Mallorca, many Europeans speak English as a second language, so it is a pretty universal language with which to communicate with….lucky us! Mallorca is a beautiful island that can provide just about any type of IMG_5674terrain that can thrive in a Mediterranean climate that you can think of…it has gorgeous sand beaches, pebble beaches, coves, caves, limestone cliffs, and rugged mountains. The island is a well-known travel destination for rock climbers due to its mountain peaks, limestone cliffs, and coves. Many famous climbers venture to Mallorca for its deep-water soloing locations, and the famous Es Pontas. Mallorca offers lots to do for adventurers and relaxers alike, and is one of the most beautiful islands we’ve ever visited! Keep reading to find out more about this amazing island, our favorite spots, and our best advice!

1.) Rent a car

  • We knew that we wanted to explore the island a bit during our 5 days, so we rented a car that would give us the freedom to explore as we wanted. Because we had a carIMG_5085 we were able to see so many different parts of this amazing island, and all on our own time and schedule! Pro Tip: if you’re planning on renting a car, DON’T rent from Gold Car. They are the cheapest option online, but have a bunch of hidden fees that you don’t know about until after it’s too late. The $15 insurance is not optional, and even if you purchased it online like we did they still make you purchase it in person from them. They also require a surprise $100 gas deposit, that, even if you return the car with a full tank of gas you only get $75 of that deposit back. Everyone in front of us in line was having the same issue with these surprise fees, which made the process long and tedious…it took forever to get our car, and they did not negotiate or compromise with us or anyone else in line at all. In the end, we ended up only renting this car for 2 days, and then we returned it and rented a car from Avis for the rest of our trip. We paid about $140 for 2 days at Gold Car, and $160 for 3 days with Avis and a lot less fuss. HIGHLY recommend getting a rental car for the freedom it offers, but don’t bother wasting your time with Gold Car 🙂

2.) Try all the Tapas

  • Tapas are a traditional Spanish cuisine that usually refers to appetizers or snacks, although to be honest, it seems like really anything can be considered “tapas” these IMG_5771days. While they were traditionally appetizers or snacks, every restaurant does them differently, so it is a little tricky to figure out. Sometimes they really are appetizers and snacks, other times they are sides that are ordered alongside an entree, and other times you order several tapas to share and create a customized IMG_5026full meal on your own. The only thing that really seems consistent from restaurant to restaurant is the fact that they are small(ish), shareable portions. Our favorite tapas came from the restaurants that did them as mini entrees, so we created a full meal by ordering 5-6 tapas plates and sharing them all. This way allowed us to really try a lot of different Spanish specialties at one sitting without a.) getting too full, and b.) spending a ton of money! We didn’t have to make decisions about what to try or not try, we could try it all!

3.) Cala d’Or

  • We spent our first 2 nights in Cala d’Or, which is on the southeastern coast of the island and about an hour from the airport in Palma. It probably would have been hard to get here without a rental car, so again, highly recommend going the rental car route! We opted to stay at a more budget-friendly hotel option (stay tuned for that post coming soon!). The main hub of the town is a super cute little downtown area full of shops and open-air restaurants…it actually reminded us a lot of Greece, except it was cuter and cleaner, just not on the water. That main hub there is the perfect place to stroll in the morning and grab a cappuccino or espresso on your way to the beach. If you see a “cafe delice” on any of the menus you HAVEIMG_5036to try it! Its half espresso and half condensed milk that you mix together and drink, but I’ve only ever seen it on the menu in Cala d’Or, so definitely give it a try if you can find it! I know it sounds gross, but don’t knock it ‘till you try it 🙂 We also did dinner in that main hub every night too, it’s a super fun little area where you just walk around and read menus that are displayed until you see something you like, or hop around and get drinks and tapas. Definitely don’t forget to stop for gelato….that became a nightly tradition for us 🙂 (Pro Tip: tipping isn’t a thing in Mallorca, in fact, when you pay by credit card there isn’t even a tipping option available, however, it does mean that concierge services like bellhops and valets aren’t a thing either).
  • Even more important than the adorable downtown area with great food are the coves and beaches! Most of the beaches are pretty crowded due to the fact that theIMG_4919 majority of the coastline is made up of limestone cliffs, so sand beaches are a hot commodity and fill up pretty quickly. The good news is that if you aren’t a fan of crowded beaches, you can almost always adventure along the limestone rock coves until you find a more secluded SGKA3405area. A lot of the coves have ladders that go right into the water so you don’t even have to jump if you don’t want to! Just make sure you have shoes with you, as the limestone can be pretty sharp. I was mostly fine in flip flops, it just requires some concentration. We checked out the coves at Cala d’Or Beach, and Cala Gran and were not disappointed! Absolutely STUNNING!
  • We also took a 30 minute drive south down to Cala Llombards and found an even more secluded spot along the rocks after a little bit of hiking, with a great view of Es Pontas off in the distance too! We brought bread and cheese out with us and had a perfect little lunch right on the rocks by the water. The coves in general were all very similar but absolutely GORGEOUS! At all of them the beaches were crowded but we just hiked around until we found secluded spots. The gorgeous views of turquoise water and white limestone cliffs are just absolutely breathtaking!
  • About 30 minutes north of Cala d’Or is Cala Varques. Again, very similar to theIMG_5873IMG_5872 other beaches and coves that we had visited where the beach is small and crowded, but if you do a little hiking you can find your own spot free of other beachgoers! This one in particular had a super small parking area, so most people (including us) parked on the road and walked the 1 mile down the gravel road until we got to a large chained gate at the end of the road with an opening just big enough to squeeze through. From there you have to walk another 1/3 of a mile down a rock path through the woods to get to the beach. Once there, we did an additional ¼ mile walk around the beach up to the rocks that led to a secret cove on the other side of the beach that was basically empty. IMG_5805I think this ended up being our favorite cove that we visited due to it’s exclusivity and it’s cliff jumping! Andrew used to be a rock climber, so he loved trying the climbing spots and jumping off the cliffs. There were a few other climbers there who were deep water soloing around the caves and such. Word of caution though, there are jellyfish in the water that we were unaware of until it was too late…we realized they were there the hard way when I got surprised by one that left a 3-inch long rash for several weeks. As long as you’re looking for them though you should be fine! Other than the jellyfish, this was probably our favorite cove that we visited on this trip, so we highly recommend it!

4.) Es Pontas

  • Es Pontas, or “the big bridge”, is Mallorca’s famous natural arch, which also IMG_4962happens to be the hardest deep water solo climb in the world, first ascended by Chris Sharma. The structure is absolutely breathtaking and pictures really don’t do it justice. It is pretty difficult to find if you don’t do your research ahead of time. We didn’t, and used a combination of road signs, a sometimes-working GPS, prayer, and lucky guesses until we miraculously found it. It FSUY1352probably isn’t that difficult to find if you know ahead of time to research it, and should only take about 30 minutes driving from Cala d’Or if you don’t get lost. Even getting lost thought it was still worth the trip; we stopped at a few other coves to explore along the way… sometimes getting lost isn’t a bad thing 🙂  (For those wondering, Es Pontas is located between Cala Santanyi and Cala Llombards. You’ll park outside what looks like a national park with a dirt path that you will walk along until you see the arch. You should see a sign or two along the way – it’s only a few minutes’ walk, not a hike). We ended up climbing straight down the cliff so that we could get in the water and swim to the arch, which was UNREAL! We didn’t fare too well on the climb, but there is a pretty sweet rope swing tied to the arch that is available to anyone who can get out there!

5.) Port de Soller

  • Soller is located on the western coast of the Mallorca, and is about 1.5 hours away from Cala d’Or and 45 minutes away from the airport at Palma. It’s a super cute

    little harbor town with lots to do. There are 2 lighthouses here…one, we found out IMG_5236the hard way, is a military base that is blocked off and closed to visitors (we didn’t find that out until we had walked over there to get in). The other one has a paved road that you can drive up or walk up to get to the top. The lighthouse itself is not accessible to the public, but there is a great view from the top and a restaurant up there if you’re interested. On the way down, I’d recommend stopping at the little café at the bottom of the path…the owner always has a great stash of Spanish wine 🙂 Soller’s main pedestrian road is car-free and runs right along the harbor with houses, shops, and restaurants, and is a great place to stroll and get drinks, tapas, and gelato. There is also a small rocky beach for the beach bums as well, although, to be honest, it was our least favorite beach and we didn’t spend any time on it. We DID spend a lot of time on our hotel balcony which had an absolutely MAGNIFICENT view…I mean, can you GET much better?! To see where we stayed in Soller with this view stay tuned for a post coming soon!

  •  I HIGHLY recommend driving to Soller and going the “long way” through the IMG_5126mountains. You can take a tunnel that goes through the mountains, but obviously, you miss out on the best part – the view! Winding through the mountain is absolutely incredible, and allows you to get the full Mallorcan experience…beach, coves, and cliffs!
  • Cala Deia is a gorgeous little cove about 30 minutes from Soller that I would highly recommend making a pit stop at. The drive from Soller is absolutely gorgeous and IMG_5501runs through the incredible little Spanish town of Deia. The town looks like a picture from a magazine of a traditional Spanish town with its stone walls, shingled roofs, overflowing flowers, and Spanish homes. IMG_5486Even better is the cove with its small pebble beach and rock cliffs. I would suggest going early as the parking lot supposedly fills up and it gets trickier to drive down there once it gets crowded. The road down to the cove is a long narrow road with lots of switchbacks and tight turns that make it a little difficult if there’s a car coming the other way. Parking is only 2 euros for the day, which isn’t bad at all! We chose to forgo the small pebble beach and opted to follow a path through the woods that led to a rock cliff that we were able to climb all over and explore. It was only a 5 minute hike through the cliffs and woods to get to our secluded spot on the rocks…totally worth it!

6.) Palma

  • We spent our last night in Palma, the main city of Mallorca that also houses the IMG_5922airport. The city is thriving with culture and life and you definitely need to check it out! We aren’t big on cities, but this was a fun one….especially since there happens to be gelato on every street corner 😉 There are tons of shops and restaurants and cafes all over the main plaza, where you can find anything you want, it’s kind of like a mini NYC, but older and prettier. Plus, there are tons of little bonus alleys that you can explore and adventure all through the city, and really cool doors around every corner!
  • The biggest attraction is Catedral de Mallorca, also known as “La Seu”. The huge gothic cathedral dates back to 1229 and is absolutely stunning. IMG_5948It was only a 15-20 minute walk from our hostel (again, post on where we stayed coming soonIMG_5964) and is totally worth it for the view of this magnificent building. You can tour the inside of the cathedral for about 7 euros per person, but we didn’t end up opting into the tour based on our limited amount of time. If you have time to I’d recommend trying it, but even without the inside tour the outside view is outstanding and definitely worth a trip!

7.) Eat

Obviously, eating and drinking is a huge part of Spanish culture, check out some of these famous Spanish specialties!

  • Paella – this is obvious, and honestly probably the best authentic Spanish cuisineIMG_4869we had on our trip. Paella is a traditional dish made up of rice, spices, veggies, and meat. Most restaurants will have several different versions to choose from, usually they offer a traditional paella with chicken or beef, seafood, or a vegetarian option. Even if you try nothing else authentic, DEFINITELY try this one!
  • Jamon – this is Spanish dry-cured ham that has been cured for up to 18 months and is served in thin slices, often on top of some type of bread. The two main types are jamon iberico, which is ham from a black Iberian pig, and jamon serrano, which is ham from a pig from the mountain range.
  • Croquetas – these are the Spanish version of croquettes, which is essentially an American mozzarella stick, but instead of cheese, the inside is filled with jamon, chicken, or cod. The chosen filling is then bound with béchamel sauce or mashed potatoes, rolled in breadcrumbs, and fried. Croquetas are a common tapas option in most Spanish restaurants. (To be honest, these weren’t our favorites, we prefer the Greek version with cheese, but still worth trying!)IMG_4878
  • Café delice – not sure if this is a Spanish thing or not, and we only found it in Cala d’Or, but this drink is AMAZING! I mentioned it above, but’s made up of espresso and condensed milk that you mix together, and worth a try!
  • Espresso and cappuccino – these are a European staple, in fact, it’s hard to find regular coffee here sometimes, everyone just drinks cappuccinos or espressos! Not that we minded…. 😀
  • Gelato – gelato shops are all over Mallorca and I was in heaven!  We got gelato every night, with our favorites being hazelnut and coffee flavors. Since gelato actuallyIMG_5982originated from Italy I can’t classify it as an authentic Spanish specialty, but I definitely think it should be on your list to try! What’s not to love?!
  • Tapas – as stated before, try all the tapas you can! It’ll give you an opportunity to try as much of Spain as you can!
  • Beer/Wine/Sangria – like most of Europe, beer and wine are almost always cheaper (or at least the same price as water) at every meal, so we had beer and wine at every meal, not that we were complaining 😉 You can get both beer and wine for around 2-3 euros each, and I would highly recommend trying the local varieties!IMG_4866
  • Gazpacho – we didn’t get a chance to try this, but from what we understand it a traditional Spanish red soup made of vegetables and served cold.
  • Turron – we didn’t get a chance to try this either, but were told that it was a Spanish specialty. Apparently it is made up of honey, sugar, egg whites, and nuts and is shaped into a rectangle or round cake. It is typically served as a traditional Christmas dessert in Spain.
  • Churros – we were super excited to try this Spanish fried dough treat that actually originated from Spain and we looked all over the island for them. We asked tons of locals who either couldn’t figure out what we were asking for (probably because my husband can’t roll his “r”’s correctly), or had no clue where we could find them…NOT a good sign. We FINALLY found them in a food truck in a mostly-deserted corner of Plaza Espana in Palma, near a children’s carnival area that had about 3 rides. They were wildly disappointing and I would recommend leaving the churros for mainland Spain since Mallorca is apparently not up to the typical Spanish churro standard 😉

**all opinions and photos are my own, for which I received no compensations or discounts.

Tips and Tricks: Visiting Grand Cayman

There are definitely some helpful things to know when visiting Grand Cayman that don’t necessarily fall into a “Review” post, so I thought I’d do an extra bonus post with some additional Cayman tips and tricks! To be honest, most of these tips can be applied to almost any Caribbean island trip, or really, on most trips anywhere 🙂 Hope you find them helpful, and happy travelling!

Cayman Tips and Tricks:

1.) The islanders are very friendly and are super helpful in recommending places to visit and giving directions, so don’t be afraid to ask! We may or may not have stopped several times to ask for directions 😀

2.) Driving is a little tricky in Grand Cayman for several reasons:

  • First, there are hardly any street signs. For people who don’t have an international phone plan (us), it can get pretty tricky if you can’t use Google Maps internationally. Luckily, about halfway through our trip we discovered that you can download certain portions of Google Maps and use them to drive with even if you don’t have wifi. Once we learned that we were golden, so I HIGHLY recommend using this free option if you plan on driving.
  • Secondly, there are LOTS of roundabouts. Probably not an issue for Europeans, but for us Americans who don’t use them much it is something to be aware of. Most likely, your car rental dealer will want to explain them to you since locals don’t like accidents either.
  • Third, if you’re American, you’ll be driving on the opposite side of the road in Grand Cayman. Not particularly hard, it just requires a bit more concentration. You MAY even get a car with the steering wheel on the opposite side as well, our rental dealer asked what we preferred, so you may have an option, but if you don’t have reservations you may not have an option                                                       IMG_3068 IMG_3069

 

3.) Just a head’s up…the island itself if pretty expensive. We went to the grocery store and bought our own bread, cheese, and snacks so that we could make our own breakfast and lunches in an effort to avoid going out for every meal. We actually do this on almost every trip…European-styled breakfast/lunches are super cheap and filling, all you need is some decent cheese (we recommend Gouda or Havarti) and a french baguette!

4.) As you could have guessed based on the previous item, drinks can also be fairly expensive. At one location, one drink cost us $17! In order to avoid steep drink prices, we bought local rum ($20), coke ($2), and Pina Colada mix ($4) at the store, and made our own rum and cokes and Pina Coladas in our room. We were lucky enough to have a full kitchen at Caribbean Club that included a fridge with an icemaker and a blender, so we could easily make our own, but this may be a bit more difficult if your hotel doesn’t offer those appliances. Either way, there are definitely alternatives to spending a ton of money on food and drinks if you think creatively and plan ahead, but if you’re on a budget it is helpful to know what to expect! (Pro Tip – invest in some Yeti tumblers and pack them on every trip! These worked like a charm for us and kept our homemade drinks nice and frozen all day!)

5.) Pack your own snorkel gear – all you REALLY need is a mask, don’t pay outrageous prices for rentals when it’s small enough to pack! If you plan on using it on other trips it’s probably worth the (small) investment.

turtle snorkel

6.) This is obvious, but if you’re on a budget…do the FREE things! Starfish Point, Rum Point, Smith Cove, 7 Mile Beach…all free! Read more here, but honestly, you don’t NEED to drop a ton of money on tours, trips, and toys to have an amazing Cayman experience. Cayman may be a bit expensive, but you can definitely MAKE it more budget friendly if you want to.

7.) Pack your own sunscreen in your checked bag – we ALWAYS do this, sunscreen prices in tourist locations are astronomical, so we prefer to bring our own sunscreen that can be bought at home for a less inflated price. (Can anyone guess who wears which sunscreen options between the 2 of us?? :D)

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Top 5 Things to Do in Grand Cayman

We spent time in Grand Cayman in July 2017 and absolutely LOVED it! It is probably our new favorite Caribbean island! Grand Cayman is the largest of the 3 islands that make up the Cayman Islands. By “largest” I mean really only 22 miles long, but still larger than the other two – Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. The Cayman Islands are British islands whose main source of income is banking, so everyone speaks English and accepts US dollars, which makes it a super easy vacation destination! One thing I would definitely recommend is to rent a car. Car rentals are pretty cheap (we paid $24/day, plus a one-time fee of $15 for a Cayman driving permit) and it gave us so much freedom, especially since the attractions of the island are pretty spread out!  Keep reading to find out more about our favorite spots on the island!

1.) 7 Mile Beach

This one is obvious, and you’ve probably already heard about this one if you’re even IMG_3874remotely interested in Grand Cayman…and for good reason! Easily our favorite Caribbean beach, 7 Mile is absolutely breathtaking! The sand is white and the water is clear and beautiful…..clear enough to see 50 feet in all directions and a wonderful ombre color of blue and turquoise! We visited in early July 2017 and the water was warm enough to not be chilly, but cool enough to be refreshing – a perfect blend! It’s also great for snorkeling….we saw a variety of fish at 7 Mile Beach, and even a few wild sea IMG_3543turtles! There are plenty of restaurants and bars on the beach (our favorites were Luca and Royal Palms) within walking distance. We stayed in Caribbean Club (read more here) right at 7 Mile Beach, which is located further away from other resorts which allowed us to have a pretty quiet stretch of beach that was amazing! By far our favorite beach and an absolute must-see! Not to mention the sunsets…..be sure to check out 7 Mile sunsets too! Options like jet skiing, scuba diving, paddleboarding, and other attractions are also available for those interested! We would highly recommend 7 Mile! For more reviews check it out here.

  • Luca: Luca is the on-site restaurant at Caribbean Club, but is open to the public as well and is an island favorite. We went once for a quick snack after we first arrived and had a spectacular lobster bisque-type soup that had a wonderful lobster flavor. We went to Luca again a few days later for dinner and had some of the best Red Snapper and Mahi Mahi of our life! The fish is caught local, cooked to perfection, and paired wonderfully with sides of asparagus, lemon risotto, and fingerling potatoes. The atmosphere is perfect and if you sit outside you get a wonderful view of the perfectly manicured courtyard and beautiful infinity pool that leads right to 7 Mile Beach. If you plan your dinner right, you can even catch the sunset at the beach which makes for a perfect night! Lunch is pretty casual and we came in right off the beach, but dinner is a classier affair for which everyone dressed up a bit. We didn’t get alcohol and our total bill was still around $70 I believe….but so worth it! We would highly recommend this restaurant for it’s outstanding food, service, and views, and would absolutely return! Check it out here 

  • Royal Palms: We took a 10 minute stroll down the beach to have dinner at Royal Palms and we were not disappointed! The location is absolutely perfect, you literally walk in right off the beach onto a deck that is built over the sand, so we got to have dinner on the beach as the sun went down! My husband had a wonderful seafood linguine and I had some fabulous fish tacos. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the linguine was loaded up with healthy portions of fresh seafood, and every bite had seafood in it. The tacos also had healthy portions of fish, which was complimented with a wonderful mango salsa. The service was great and we even received a complimentary dessert of some type of delicious raspberry chocolate truffle! We enjoyed our experience here so much so that we came back the next day for a take-out lunch of mahi burgers which were absolutely delicious! We loved the casual laid-back vibe of this restaurant/bar that offered delicious food and spectacular views! Read more here

2.) Rum Point 

Known for their famous mudslides, this super cute little spot is a popular tourist stop. IMG_3413Complete with a pier, lounge chairs, shops, and dining, you could spend all day here! We went on a Sunday morning (during the rainy season) and had the whole place practically to ourselves, which is how we were able to get photos without other people in it, although I’ve heard that it can get pretty crowded. However, the downfall of a Sunday morning trip was that we couldn’t get mudslides unless we were willing to wait until the bar opened at noon, and we weren’t since we had other things to do that day. But we would definitely recommend a stop-in! We walked along the IMG_3346IMG_3481boardwalk area, along the beach, and up and down the pier before finding some chairs to lounge in and eventually snorkel a bit. Since we didn’t end up getting mudslides, this ended up being a free activity for us, so for those on a budget this is a great option! This was about a 45 minute drive from our hotel in 7 Mile Beach, so we were glad to have a car. Rum Point is also situated right next to Starfish Point…so if you make the trip over here I highly recommend making a stop at both locations! Check it out here.

3.) Starfish Point 

We almost didn’t do this trip because we didn’t have a ton of time and we aren’t really big starfish people….but we were so glad we did! We didn’t stay that long, but it was definitely worth going! It’s a free little state park-type “beach” where the woods back all the way up to the water.

Dotting the water are all kinds of starfish that you can pick up and touch. Now, you aren’t supposed to pick them up out of the water, but you can hold them in your hand under the water. There isn’t anyone monitoring, but it’s important that visitors are respectful of wild life in their natural habitat. We waded around and collected different sizes and types of starfish and had a great time! Fair warning, this is not a beach that you’d lay out at, and there are no chairs or anything around, you literally only go to wade around and play with starfish, but what more do you need?! Again, this was a Sunday morning trip for us, so there was no one else around when we visited, but I would imagine that it can get busy during peak hours of high season. This spot is a short 3 minute drive from Rum Point, so if you’re headed that way make sure you stop and check out both spots! Read more here.

4.) Smith Cove (Barcadere)

Having done research ahead of time, we knew we definitely wanted to be sure to fit in a IMG_3787trip to Smith Cove. One of our favorite things to do is explore un-commercialized coves and areas of natural beauty, so we knew this would be a highlight. From what I’ve read, this spot can be IMG_3815crowded when cruise ships are in town, but there were only 3 people there when we got there….then again, we went around 8:00am in order to avoid any crowds 😉 We were a bit disappointed to find that the rocks were not as high as we had thought they would be, we had read about cliff jumping, but these were definitely not cliffs. Still super fun though, we were still glad we went! This is definitely not a commercialized spot as there is nothing around it, and no bars or restaurants to rent beach chairs from. There is a little beach area, but you’ll have to bring your own chair or just use a towel. The cove is perfect for snorkeling IMG_3832though, and we had a great time jumping of the rocks and exploring all the nooks and crannies under water and meeting all kinds of fish! This would also be a great area to kayak or paddle board to. This is definitely a great place on the island to visit, especially if you’re on a budget since it’s free! Just be sure you have some kind of shoes on… those rocks are super sharp 🙂 Also, it’s kind of hard to find, so downloading Grand Cayman on Google Maps ahead of time and searching for “Smith Barcadere” helps! Find it here.

5.) Camana Bay 

We almost missed this spot but we made it there on our last night on Grand Cayman and we were so glad we did! We went on a Sunday night for some amazing gelato at Gelato & Co. Cremeria Italiana (check it out here). My husband had hazelnut and chocolate gelato, and I had a Nutella and Ferrero Rocher gelato…needless to say, I won (obviously) 😀 We got our gelato and walked around the cute little bay, which had an amazing fountain, docks, and a bridge that went to a tiny little island that had rocking chairs where we rocked and ate. It was a perfect low-key ending to our night! There is lots of shopping and dining in Camana Bay as it really is more of an outdoor mall, however everything was closed when we went on Sunday night except for the bars and restaurants. But if you’re a shopper then you’d probably love this location for the shopping as well! To see more about Camana Bay you can read additional info here.

 

Other areas that we didn’t get to explore but would have liked to try are listed below…if you try them out you’ll have to shoot us a message and let us know how they are! We’d love to hear from you!

  • Mastic Trail
  • Cemetery Beach
  • Bioluminescent Bay (Bio Bay)
  • Georgetown (duty free shopping)
** Disclaimer: all photos and opinions are my own, for which I received no compensation or discount

Aruba: What to Do

Aruba is a tiny 70 square mile island (20 miles long, 6 miles wide) that is located in the IMG_1369 (2)Caribbean, just 18 miles from Venezuela. Also known as “The Happy Island”, it is a Dutch island owned by the Netherlands, which makes it part of the “Dutch Caribbean”. It’s capital is the colorful city of Oranjestad, which boasts Dutch-inspired architecture and colors, and the weather maintains a pretty consistently amazing 82 degrees year round. About 75% of Aruba’s gross national product comes from tourism, so you will find plenty of resorts, casinos, restaurants, shopping, and taxis. The locals are all extremely friendly and willing to help, and pretty much every establishment will accept US dollars and speak English. My husband and I visited Aruba for 3 days and 2 nights in February 2017 and had a blast! Fair warning though, I wouldn’t classify Aruba as one of our cheaper destinations. Being that they rely on tourism, they are used to tourists spending money, so prices aren’t overly friendly. I think of all of our travels over the past year and a half, we spent the most per meal on food in Aruba than anywhere else. Still wasn’t bad, just not as budget friendly as other places we’ve visited and we weren’t necessarily aware of that when we booked it. There are, of course, ways to MAKE it more budget friendly, but just a head’s up, it may require a little more research and creativity! Below is a list of some our favorite parts of Aruba!

1.) Eagle Beach – chances are, you’ve seen photos of this beach whether you realized it or IMG_1977 (2)not. This is one of the most popular beaches on the island, characterized by its white sand and beautiful turquoise water. However, the unique feature of this beach are the trees that appear sporadically throughout the beach. These famous divi-divi trees are common throughout the Caribbean, but the uniqueness of the Arubian divi-divi tree is the fact that all the branches of these trees in Aruba point southwest due to the constant trade winds that blow across the island. The trees are a popular photo subject and are also a common place to post up for the day for whoever gets there first, so you may have to try a few times before you’re able to get a photo without anyone else in it! However, other than the trees, this is a gorgeous IMG_1381 (2)beach that surely won’t disappoint. Most hotels/resorts have a block of lounge chairs and umbrella huts that you can use, however, they fill up quick, so you’ll need to get down there early to claim your spot (early like 6am!). There are also several beach bars spaced throughout the beach where you can get drinks….be sure to ask about Happy Hour to get that BOGO pina colada! Just a head’s up, if you’re looking for seclusion and privacy, this is probably NOT your beach. It isn’t the most crowded beach we’ve ever been to, and you can still find plenty of room to walk and swim, but it is a popular beach. If you are looking for more seclusion I’d recommend walking down the beach away from the resorts, however, there won’t be chairs for you there, so you’ll have to prioritize what’s more important to you. We stayed right next to Eagle Beach, read more here.

  • Passions on the beach: This was a fancy little pop-up beach restaurant where you literally sit at tables in the sand. The combination of the sand, sunset, ocean and glow of candles and tiki torches definitely make this the most romantic place we’ve ever eaten! It is a bit of a nicer place, and you usually do need reservations otherwise you won’t get in until it’s dark out. We had reservations for 7:00, which was perfect since that was right at sunset. I would recommend going for a 6:00 or 7:00 dinner, but no later, as it does get dark pretty quickly. It’s still very fun at night with the fires, but if you’re paying for the view then make sure it isn’t too dark to see the ocean! Also, make sure you have reservations, because those prime ocean-viewing hours are busy! We shared a $40 plate of the mixed seafood sampler and everything was AMAZING! Some of the best mahi-mahi I’ve ever had! Check it out here.

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  • Red Fish Restaurant: Amazing fresh seafood, friendly staff, and great atmosphere! IMG_1449 (2)More of a local place, so it’s not overly “touristy”. My husband and I shared the seafood paella plate which was wonderful!! Would definitely recommend! The owner actually goes fishing every morning so the seafood is super fresh! If you’re looking to eat with a view this is not the place, as it is right off the road and the view is a road/parking lot, but they have dressed it up as nice as you probably could! It is covered seating but you’re technically outside, but it is flourishing with greenery everywhere which makes it a really cool spot! Would absolutely go back! For more info visit here.

2.) Palm Beach – arguably the most popular beach on the island, Palm IMG_1479 (2)beach is definitely more crowded than Eagle Beach, partly due to the fact that there is a pier jutting out  from it and a boardwalk directly behind it. We only stayed long enough to eat our pitaya bowl lunch since crowds aren’t really our thing, but it was still worth going if not only for the pitaya bowl and for seeing more of Aruba. The boardwalk behind the beach is great for little bars and dives, and the town behind the boardwalk is great for shopping if you’re wanting to shop! There’s also a Starbucks in the town area if you’re one of those people who just HAVE to get a Starbucks country mug for every country you go to 🙂

  • Eduardo’s Beach Shack: Literally the BEST thing I ate the entire trip. If you don’t try anything else from this post at LEAST do yourself a favor and try this one! This is a tiny little beach shack right on the Palm Beach boardwalk area that is some type of IMG_1576 (2)vegan-ish establishment. I’m not vegan or vegetarian or anything, so I don’t know which one this place is, but it’s one of those super healthy places. I got a pitaya (dragon fruit) bowl and my husband got an acaia bowl. Pitaya bowls have been my new favorite thing since Feb. 2017. I came back to the states and found out the closest place to me that makes these asap! It’s basically a smoothie blend (mine was dragon fruit, his was acaia), topped with granola, honey, all kinds of fresh fruit, and raw coconut. SO AMAZING! And such a refreshing treat/lunch right at the beach! Fairly cheap too compared to other island food…”fully loaded” bowls (the ones with granola, honey, and coconut) were $10 each, but cheaper options are available if you’re looking for something smaller. The bowls are big enough to share though depending on how hungry you are! Do yourself a HUGE favor and check it out!

3.) Oranjestad – as the capital of Aruba, you will probably drive through this main city as IMG_1922 (3)you go to and from the airport, but if you can fit it in, you should absolutely make plans to walk around and visit this incredibly fun little city! With it’s Dutch architecture (maybe it’s just me, but I’m a sucker for cool and unique architecture, so this may not actually be a selling point for everyone else) and vibrant colors it’s definitely something you’re not going to want to miss! We aren’t city people by any means, but we were so glad we spent an afternoon here. It was honestly like what I would imagine visiting a little beach town in the Netherlands would be like. Not that I would know, but one day I’ll find out for sure 🙂 If you’re a shopper then this is probably your best one-stop shop, with lots of convenience stores, boutiques, touristy stores, and designer stores as well. We just took a few hours and walked around the city, eating dutch pancakes, admiring the awesome buildings and visiting the blue horses.

  • Notice the different 8 blue horse statues displayed throughout Oranjestad as a tribute to the past and the important role that horses played on this tiny island. A vast majority of Aruba’s rich history is centered around horses and the thriving horse trade that was the main economic source of the island. Horse Bay was where shiploads of horses were flung out to sea to swim to shore. The deep blue color is symbolic of the water on their skin as if they had just emerged from the bay and trotted into town. Be sure to find all 8 horses in the city…if you’re interested in the story, there are reading plaques next to each of them which tell different stories (we didn’t read them all, but it’s an option for those who will!). Each horse is in a different stance, has it’s own name, and represents something unique!
  • The Dutch PancakeHouse: Dutch pancakes are a real Dutch specialty, so we couldn’t IMG_1930 (2)NOT try one, especially if it has nutella and strawberries on it! There are several well-known pancake houses that the web will point you towards, but this was just the one we happened to walk by and stumble upon first, so that’s how we chose this one. I’m sure they are all pretty much the same though! Not fluffy and thick like our pancakes in the US, but more like a cross between US pancakes and crepes, and absolutely DELICIOUS! Honestly, this was more of a dessert than a brunch, but they have so many options that can be more breakfast OR lunch based, including savory and cheesy options! We just split the one because we really just wanted a taste and didn’t want to spend money, but it was HUGE! So I’d recommend splitting one for sure. But a DEFINITE must-try! The mimosas and Arubian ice coffee sure weren’t too bad either 🙂 Read more here.

Side Note: If you’re looking for Aruba’s famous flamingo’s keep reading! Aruba’s pink flamingos live on Renaissance Island, which is owned by the Marriott. If you stay at the Marriott you get free access to the island, where you can spend the day on their private beach and mingle with flamingos. However, if you are not a guest of the hotel, you can buy tickets to go out there for the day for about $90 per person. We thought about staying at the Marriott, but ended up finding a way better deal elsewhere (read more here), and in the end we decided that $90 per person was just way too much to pay to lay on a beach. Come to find out, there’s really only like 6 flamingos on the island, and there’s a chance they won’t even be out that day. We asked our cab driver about the island and he advised us not to bother, saying it wasn’t worth it. In the end, a beach is a beach, so we certainly weren’t disappointed. If you’re on a budget, I’d recommend forgoing this excursion and sticking to the free beaches. We plan to save the flamingo-visiting for other islands like Bonaire where they are more abundant!

* Disclaimer: all photos and opinions are my own, for which I received no compensation or discount