Have you ever needed a vacation from your vacation — or more accurately, a vacation from your hardcore, jam-packed, adventure-laden travels? That’s how we felt leaving Bonaire. We’d had the most amazing week ever, but we hadn’t stopped to catch our breath for a mere moment. By the time we hit Aruba, we were exhausted and ready to relax for three days on what the local tourism slogan assured us would be “one happy island.”
While together they make up two thirds of the “ABC Island” (the third, Curacao, we only saw from the air), Bonaire and Aruba are wildly different. Bonaire is an undeveloped paradise beloved by scuba divers and independent traveler alike, while built-up Aruba is one of the most visited islands in the Caribbean, favorited by cruise-shippers and all-inclusive guests alike. We had a bit of a shock landing in Aruba after Bonaire, which doesn’t have a single stop light. In Aruba, we pointed out international chain restaurants and fast food joints to each other like their were wild novelties from a land far, far away.
And so we went to Aruba to experience it the way so many of its biggest advocates do — from the luxurious shores of an all-inclusive, the Divi Tamarijn.
We’d barely touched down on the island when we were whisked away by one of Divi’s hilariously hammy staff (I’ll say this for the bubbly Arubans I encountered — they’ve got the tourist patter down pat!), pampered with an arrival massage at Indulgence by the Sea, and then shown to our champagne-and-cheese-platter-stocked oceanfront suites. I immediately cursed our sensible decision to stay just three nights — we’d considered adding a forth — and sent a group text asking if it was too late to change our minds.
After relishing in this luxurious trifecta of my favorite things — manchego, massages, and mismosas, duh — I excitedly explored my new stomping grounds.
And they were vast — our yellow all-inclusive bracelets gave us access to ten restaurants, seven bars, four pools, complementary bikes, yoga, aerobics, and zumba classes, and all the non-motorized watersports we could handle. It was definitely more than we could wrap our heads around in just a long weekend, but perfect for those who are staying a week or more and worried about things getting monotonous.
But who could ever get bored anyway, with a beach like that steps away? …and did I mention the seven complementary bars?
I think it’s fair to assume that over the long weekend we consumed a gallon of tropical liquid goodness each, at least. That said, I noticed the same phenomenon that I did at my last truly all-inclusive in Bali — when there’s no happy hour or nightcap or other time specifically set-aside for drinking, you just kind of casually imbibe throughout the day and never actually push beyond pleasantly tipsy. Before I visited one for myself I assumed all-inclusives were full of hammered people (picture an open bar at a wedding, but on the beach) but I haven’t found that to be the case.
drink photos courtesy of Camels and Chocolate
For such a short stay, we did some good work sampling the many restaurant offerings of Divi Tamarijn and its sister properties. We dined at Fusion Wine and Piano Bar, Red Parrot (my two favorites), Windows on Aruba (gorgeous view overlooking the golf course), and Paparazzi, with the rest of our meals at the breakfast and lunch buffet at Pelican Terrace. I wish we’d had one more meal to try Ginger, the in-house Asian fusion joint. Yum!
photo courtesy of Camels and Chocolate
And what about the nightly entertainment? There was a nightly show with local musicians, dancers, or entertainers. Yet I wasn’t kidding when I said we were wiped from our week in Bonaire (diving is exhausting, y’all!) and so it seemed we couldn’t get back to our crazy comfy beds fast enough once the sun went down. But we did enjoy a small routine of dressing up for dinner, enjoying sunset drinks, having a nice meal, peeking at the fun the rest of the resort was up to, and then sprinting back to our suites.
This night’s outfit coordination? Completely unplanned. I swear!
During the day we had a similarly laid-back vibe. We would have loved to have taken advantage of some of the zumba or yoga classes, but none really lined up with our short visit. Under normal circumstances, I would have loved to have hopped on a bike or in a jeep and explored the island — a book of beautiful Aruba photography in my room had me itching to return some day and see more — but this trip was all about relaxing and recharging.
And, you know, impromptu photoshoots.
when in doubt, pack beach balls
Sometimes, the photo shoots even took place on inflatable bounce couches. When we first had checked into the resort, I gazed out to the sea and saw a tiny red couch being pulled behind a boat. And I promptly lost it, using all caps volume to inform the girls that the bounce couch was the funnest thing I’d ever done and we absolutely had to do it together, no exceptions.
When they tired of hearing me obsess, we headed over to the watersports counter and paid our $20 each. Angie was a tad concerned about the thrill level of this adrenaline ride, and I’d very sincerely reassured her that when I’d last done it in Greece, I was mocked for choosing the “baby version” of the various get-pulled-behind-a-boat watersport options.
“It’s not that bouncy, right?” I asked the local operator.
Mistaking the intention of my question, he nodded enthusiastically. “Oh yes! One hundred percent bouncy.” Angie shot me a death stare, turned dramatically, attempted to hop on the couch, and immediately shot off of it into the sea. Things were off to a pee-your-pants hilarious start.
The next twenty-minutes were a literal roller coaster of both emotions and heights above sea level. I was alternatively thrilled, concerned for the emotional well-being of my couch mates, and deep in concentration while trying to take selfies.
Personally I had the time of my life — jury is still out on the long-term effect on our collective friendships, though.
Just kidding. How could we ever stay mad at each other? The best part of any all-inclusive is spending stress-free quality time with people you adore, and this was no exception. I’ll be back to see more of Aruba someday (promise!) but I have to say I got exactly what I needed out of this trip. All-inclusives are a guilty pleasure of mine — along with procedural crime dramas and Kraft Mac n’ Cheese — that I really enjoy partaking in every once in a while (this was my third ever). They are one of those types of trips that are all about the company. And for this one, it was stellar.
You all have put up with enough of my gushing about these girls, but suffice it to say it was a very sad goodbye at the end of our ten days together. With our crazy schedules and distant locations I’m not sure what destination will be scene-of-the-crime for our next get together, but I sure hope I don’t have to wait too long to get there.
Aruba, land of one thousand chins
Aruba, thank you for the much needed rest and recharge,
and for being a beautiful backdrop for time with my girls.
Many thanks to Divi Tamarijn for hosting us. As always, you receive my honest thoughts, full opinions and poorly written jokes regardless of who is footing the bill.
I think I’ve said this before but, oh my gosh. You have got to teach me how to dress for beach vacations like you do. You kill it every time! My family’s going on a cruise in July, so I’ve got some time to improve. 😉 I definitely have the impression that all-inclusives are exactly like wedding open bars 24/7. But thank you for shedding some light on my (wrong) assumptions! This looks wonderfully relaxing. Even besides Angie’s face on the bouncy couch!! Ha.
That was my favorite part 😉 And thanks for the kudos! The red dress was a hand-me-down from my lil sis and the romper is an old favorite from Khao San road. Did you see my packing post? I threw anything and everything bright and tropical in there!
That couch ride looks like SO much fun! I can definitely see how an all-inclusive for a few nights would be relaxing.
It’s just nice not to have the back and forth about where to go, how much to spend, who is going to pay… it’s easy! I can see why they are so appealing especially to groups.
Dying to go back to Aruba, particularly now that it is TWELVE DEGREES IN TENNESSEE.
Send me some of that Caribbean sun!
Whoa! That’s unusual! Right? I feel like you said you guys normally have really mild winters!
This post is seriously making me question my decision to leave the carribean and live in Colorado for the season.
Ha, at this time of year I can see why 😉
What an amazing place to have a stress free break!! Stunning!! I’ll be dreaming of palm trees and white beaches!!
The beach here was the best part. It was ever-so-slightly curved so we didn’t see any other building or resorts — felt like our own piece of paradise!
Great photos and a fantastic vacation from your normal adventurous life!
Indeed. Nice to take a true break every once in a while 🙂
Ah, the A I will be missing from the BC I’ll be visiting soon 🙂 That’s sounded a bit more cryptic then I meant it, but I’m sure you know what I mean! The resort looks like a nice place to relax – I would’ve relaxed there for ten days knowing your busy schedule considering there are ten restaurants to try out 😉
I’m still missing the C! Sounds like we both have return trips in our future! 😉
I totally understand the whole needing a vacation from your vacation thing! Aruba is definitely a great place to unwind. I went last year and we spent most of the time just relaxing although we did do a self-guided UTV tour one day. The good thing about Aruba is that it’s so small you can see everything in one day so we visited the national park, natural pool and the caves at once, with plenty of beach time left over! Definitely recommend checking it out next time you go.
Aaaand I’m off to go read your blog posts about Aruba 🙂
All inclusives are kind of like guided tours, sometimes it’s best to just let someone else do the planning so you don’t have to worry about anything.
Indeed. Even for the most dedicated independent traveler (me!) it’s so nice to take a break sometimes and just r e l a x.
OMG those bounce couch photos are hilarious!! I love those things! My whole family went on one of those “bananas” in St. Martin once and needless to say we all bounced off one after the other. We were cracking up about it the whole vacation.
I rough it 90% of the time, so I totally get what you mean about a true luxury vacation. Your photos of the resort and of Aruba have me wanting to book a trip there ASAP!
That sounds like the very best kind of family memory 🙂 Fun in the sun!
It’s funny, I’ve heard of the ABC Islands, but only have I really heard of Aruba & Curacao – I never paid much attention that the “B” island was Bonaire! Bonaire really is this new-found island for me that I must see! Your Aruba getaway though looked and sounded super relaxing! Sometimes you really do need a vacation from a vacation 🙂
Yeah, Bonaire is definitely the most unknown and mysterious of the three islands. I haven’t been to Curacao yet, but I have a feeling Bonaire will remain my favorite!
So fun! And I, too, am a fan of your island wardrobe. I’m pretty sure Tieks would love that group-beach-jump photo! Did you show them? It’s super cute.
We did! I can’t get enough of those turquoise soles…
Sounds like Aruba was the perfect vacation from your vacation. Divi Tamarijn looks amazing and I’m sure you could have burned yourself out there as well with all the activities they offer. Good thing they also had a beautiful beach with endless drinks for some R&R time.
Yes, the beach was the best part. We were on the “low rise” section of the beach and when we drove by the “high rise” section I definitely appreciated it. The high rise part felt more like Miami!
The Divi looks like a great resort! I wanted to stay there years back but my friend had a room nearby on Eagle Beach where I stayed with her. We walked down towards Divi – a good way to spend the late afternoon when the sun isn’t too high up. I know your vacation was for relaxing from a vacation haha but next time take a drink and stroll up past Manchebo Beach and back. It’s great for the legs and taking random dips in between!
That does sound awesome, Angelica! Any friend with a room in Aruba is a good friend indeed 😉
I want to take a ride on that couch-so fun! And the food looks amazing too. I’m a little jealous looking at these pics as I sit at home in the cold winter!
The Caribbean is the perfect winter escape… 😉
Oh my god this looks amazing. I really need to get around to doing the all inclusive thing someday. The whole idea of all inclusive cocktails sounds like absolute heaven haha.
Holidays from your holidays are the best. I spent a whole week at my Aunt’s place in the UK just having pj days, chilling out and watching movies and it was such bliss. The recharge I needed.
I tried to do the same thing in San sebastian a couple of days ago. I only planned to sleep, eat and hang out. Being low season the whole reason I was going was for the food anyways. But then when I arrived I realised there was going to be a 24 hour street party going on for San Sebastian day. SO the resting business doesn’t always work out 😛
Your aunts house sounds amazing 🙂 That’s my go-to move when I’m visiting family!
I’ve yet to try an All-Inclusive resort, but I can definitely see the appeal when you just need some down-time!
I think I could go for one a year… like my annual trip to Vegas dream 😀
Hi Alex! What airline did you take from Bonaire to Aruba? Worried about which one will be most reliable as I’m reading some horror stories of cancelled flights and lost money. We want to hop over to Bonaire for two days during our week on Aruba so a cancelled flight would really ruin it! Thanks for any tips!
Hey there! I’m pretty sure we flew Delta — this was a press trip so everything was booked for me but I remember being wowed by the size of the plane for such a quick and easy flight. Bonaire is SO WORTH doing an island-hop for. Hope everything goes smoothly!
Your photos are amazing. What camera, lens, filter, settings are you using?
Thanks for the tips on Aruba!
Hey Dessie! Loads of info on my cameras and other photo equipment right here. Hope that helps!