I’m finally 25! So yes, that means I’m a Virgo. If you know any Virgos, you know that our birthday celebrations are over the top and we make a HUGE deal out of them. I got my passport when I was 19 as I was planning a trip with some girlfriends to celebrate my 20th birthday. Ever since then, I’ve vowed to spend my birthday in another country. So far, this is the list:
Due to COVID, this birthday was not able to go through with my original plan, but it still turned out absolutely amazing. I took the entire week off from work, and started my trip visiting my mom, siblings and grandparents in Tennessee. From there, I spent one day in New Jersey and also visited NYC. Next, I went down to Miami for a night before finally going to the grand finale– ARUBA!
Since the other destinations were all short and somewhere I’ve been countless times, this post will focus on Aruba, how we got there, what we did there, etc. However, if you have any questions about anywhere else I listed above, feel free to comment below.
Deciding where to go was not easy of course, due to COVID. I thought I settled on a place, but their COVID restrictions got stricter, so I was set on Aruba, cautiously though just in case things change. One question I’ve repeatedly got was: How did you travel out of the country?! While there are so many places not allowing Americans in, there are a select few who are. I mainly used this list to keep track of that, although there are several resources out there that I encourage you to research prior to choosing a destination.
While Aruba allows Americans, it requires proof of a negative COVID test taken no more than 72 hours before departure. Luckily, I had some great friends from college post about Walgreens in Staten Island getting them their results back in an hour for free. You have to fill out an online questionnaire and then you are able to pick a location and schedule an appointment up to 3 days in advance. On the Friday before our trip, I made appointments for Myles and I for the upcoming Monday.
When we went, it was a self-administered nasal swab. We did it, handed it back to the lady, and she sent off to the lab. Myles only took 20 minutes for his results while mine took about an hour. After we got those, we filled out Aruba’s ED card, which is required for you to even board your flight. The form asks about how long you’ll be there, where you’re staying, gives you a place to upload your results and asks you to pay for their health insurance, which is $15/day and covers you if you happen to get COVID there. For Sep. 2-5, it was $60/ea, so $120 total for both Myles and I. This form is very important and has to be filled out at least 12 hours prior to departure. Once you fill out the form, you get a QR code which you need to show prior to boarding.
If you do not get your results before then, there is another option. You can opt to take a COVID test upon arrival at Aruba’s airport, but you must stay in your hotel room or Airbnb for at least 6-8 hours while you wait for the results. We definitely did not want to do this so we opted to take the test prior.
We started off in Miami, so we opted for the first flight out at 6am to ensure we had plenty of time in between landing and our 1045am flight. Both flights were wide open. About an hour before our Aruba flight, the gate agent asked everyone to form a line (while still social distancing) so he could verify our completed form QR code then we were on our way!
Arrival into Aruba
Once you arrive in Aruba, you go through customs just like everywhere else. We were the first people off the flight, so this went by very quickly. We then went to the Duty Free shop, where only one bottle is allowed per person. We got a bottle of Patron and Champagne for about $89 total, so pretty normal US prices. I definitely recommend getting your bottles here because those prices DOUBLE when shopping at the island’s grocery stores.
After Duty Free, you pass by the station where someone gives you the COVID test, if that’s what you opted for. If you already have your test results, you continue on to a line where attendants ask to see the date of the test and then you are off to go!
We rented a car for our time there from Ace Rent a Car, and it was only $77! They had a shuttle come pick us up and drive us 3 minutes away and the checkout process took less than 5 minutes.
I knew from the start that I wanted to see the infamous flamingos on the island. Upon starting my research, I realized Aruba isn’t just full of random flamingos everywhere. They are primarily on a private island, owned by the Renaissance Hotel. There are two ways to see it. You can either stay at the hotel and access the island for free, or you can buy a day pass for $125/pp, which includes access to the island, a welcome drink and lunch. If you opt for the day pass, you can only buy them the day before or day of and they normally sell out fast. The stay at the Renaissance is normally around $500, but due to COVID, it’s only about $290, so we decided to stay there one night to get access to the island.
The first thing you see walking into the Renaissance’s lobby!
Aruba is very small, only 20 miles long and 6 miles long. It took us about five minutes to get from the rental car center to the hotel. Masks are required in all indoor places. Once we got checked in, we went to our rooms and changed and went to the pool, where they have happy hour of 2 for 1 drinks from 4pm-6pm and 8pm-9pm. It wasn’t too crowded and had a DJ playing music so it was so nice to just drink, relax and watch the sunset. We did this for about two hours before going upstairs to change and get ready for dinner.
For dinner, we went to Flying Fishbone restaurant, which was the most beautiful restaurant. It’s overlooking the ocean, but there are some tables that are literally in the water. It was an amazing experience and the food was kind of eh or just overpriced, but I would go back just for the vibe and view.
Be warned that they stop taking reservations at 830pm. We got there at 9pm and they almost turned us away but the chef allowed them to take us.
After dinner, we stopped at a random bar and had a beer before going back to the hotel. I originally planned on going to bed early, but I was convinced to stay up until midnight to officially bring in my 25th year!
I started my birthday off early. Flamingo Island is open from 7am-7pm, and my research quickly showed me that 7am is the best time to go to get pictures without the crowds. I was up by 615am and did my hair and makeup before leaving the room at 650am, taking the 710am boat to the private island.
From the minute I stepped off the boat, I was in awe. The private island is so beautiful. There are two different beaches. Flamingo beach and Iguana beach, each with signs pointing to where they are. We immediately went over to Flamingo Beach, and there were only two other couples there at the time, both just lounging in the chairs.
We set our stuff down and started snapping. We wanted good pictures, but we also wanted to get that out of the way so we could enjoy our time there. There are about 6 flamingos, you can feed them or just walk around them while you snap pics. The stand to buy food from wasn’t open yet, so we did our best to peacefully get beside them as we took our pictures. They came out really cute!
After we were done taking pics, we explored the rest of the island. I will say that Iguana Beach is a nicer beach water and sand wise, but we wanted to watch the Flamingos the whole time so we stayed at Flamingo Beach. Additionally, there’s also a bar on Flamingo Beach and a restaurant and bar on Iguana Beach. I thought I read that you’re allowed to bring your own drinks onto the island, but apparently that’s not true, so we had to sneak and drink it. We ordered a pastry tray and two orange juices and lounged the rest of our time. Access to the island also comes with free access to floats, kayaks and more, so make sure you take advantage of everything!
We stayed on the island until 1145am, 15 minutes before checkout. We checked out at the desk before heading up to our room, which they said was fine. Once back in our room, we made sure we had everything before leaving.
The next two nights we booked this Airbnb. It comes equipped with two studios and a pool with a swim-up bar!! Super fancy. You can either book the studios separately or together. We booked them together for the first night then just the bigger one the second night. It was $100/night for the bigger studio, which we considered extremely cheap. The Airbnb is also less than 10 minutes away from the main Palm Beach strip, so that’s another plus.
After we checked into our Airbnb, we knew we wanted to go to Baby Beach for the rest of the day. Aruba has a lot of beautiful beaches, and one beach, Eagle Beach, was even voted #3 in the Caribbean. However, I hear Baby Beach is the real stunner, and we were not at all disappointed. Baby Beach is on the southern tip of the island, and we were staying on the northern tip, but it only took us 40 minutes to drive from top to bottom! No kidding, that’s how quick it is.
Baby Beach was breathtaking. Even writing this I’m longing to go back. The waters were so blue and so calm. The sand was perfect. It wasn’t crowded at all so it had a very intimate feel. Definitely our favorite beach of Aruba. We played music, drank and swam for about 2 hours before heading back. Baby Beach is a MUST if you’re in Aruba.
For dinner, we made reservations at Lola Taqueria, a Mexican restaurant in Palm Beach. They were doing half off drinks, but the menu was very small. I’m very picky about my tacos, so I opted for a Power Ball, which was ok but overall the restaurant was kind of blah, including the service. The prices and drinks were nice though.
Nearing the end of my birthday, I wanted to go to a bar though I knew there weren’t many options.
Through a recommendation from a man off Instagram, we found this outdoor bar with couches and hookah!
I was so impressed considering I did not think we’d even be able to find a bar at all. They played good, up to date music and even stayed open until 11pm, being that there’s a 12am strict curfew on the island. We vibed there until it closed and then went back to our Airbnb where we swam for a bit before heading to bed.
We slept in for the first time all week and got breakfast at Linda’s Dutch Pancakes down the street. Another unimpressive menu to me personally, but I’m not a huge restaurant breakfast fan at all.
This was our chill day, so after that we went to check out Eagle Beach, which is in front of several hotels. However, all beaches in Aruba are public so you’re allowed to go anywhere! We picked a spot next to a bar/restaurant so we could order food while we sunbathed. The water and sand was nice but did not measure up to baby beach at all. It was also a little cloudy so that definitely could have affected it.
We ordered typical beach food, pizza and chicken and swam on off for the 2 hours we were there. The beach chairs were free too so that was nice. We then went back to our Airbnb to get ready, as Myles planned a nice birthday dinner for me, even though technically it was the day after!
Myles made reservations at Gianni’s Italian Restaurant, and it was the best food of the trip. We started off with calamari, followed by the signature entree, Spaghetti Al Formaggio Parmigiano, which they describe as their show stopping spaghetti with fresh tomato & basil, tossed in Whiskey flambeed wheel of parmigiano reggiano at your table. A really cool experience!! We both got that as our entree with two orders of meatballs. For dessert, the restaurant gave us a free slice of tiramisu. We absolutely loved this restaurant and HIGHLY recommend it!
After dinner, we went to the same bar as the night before, and it was much more lively and fun. We stayed until closing before going back to our Airbnb and swimming in our pool and then going to bed, because tomorrow was going to be an early one.
Now would it be a Crystina and Myles trip without an excursion?! I knew of some places I definitely wanted to go but hadn’t booked anything until the day before. While on Flamingo Beach, we got a recommendation from two friends for ABC Tours, and we decided to do the Natural Pool and Indian Cave Jeep Safari. It’s a 4.5 hour tour that’s offered both in the morning and afternoon. The morning tour includes stops at the California Lighthouse, Gold Mill Ruins, Indian Caves, Northern Coast and Natural Pool.
10/10 recommend this excursion. The guides were kind and hilarious! Be warned the roads are very rough and it was tough for us even, so while still possible if you’re older, definitely a little harder. We even ended up getting a flat but the guide had the tire changed in less than 10 minutes. It was $77pp and included lunch.
When booking this tour, we knew we were cutting it close to our flight, which left at 405pm. Our tour was supposed to end at 1pm but didn’t end until 145pm! We rushed back to our Airbnb, since our kind host allowed us to check out late to shower before our flight, and then went to return the rental before getting dropped off at the airport.
There are several lines at the Aruba airport, and you actually go through US Customs there, so you don’t need to when you land. These lines can add up to a lengthy experience, I even talked to someone who said it took them 2 hours to make it through! Luckily, we made it through in 30 minutes and had more than enough time at our gate before boarding our flight. On the way back, we were the only standbys and were cleared with ease. We were back in our apartment in Minneapolis by midnight 🙂
My birthday was truly amazing and I felt so much love from all my family and friends. I felt so blessed to be able to travel internationally and I wanted to share my experience for anyone thinking about doing the same anytime soon. I felt completely safe in Aruba due to the testing requirement and small crowds everywhere. If you want to travel, do it, but do it safely! If you have questions about anything that was not covered in this blog feel free to comment below. As always, thank you so much for reading! ❤