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.