If you don't like long trip reports with pics, please do yourself a favor and stop now...
Family of 4, 2 adults and 2 kids (14 and 12)
Due to bad weather and the collapse of I-85 in ATL, we decided to stay down by the airport the night before our departure.
We don’t live far from the airport, but not knowing what the traffic would be like, we took the cautious route.
Glad we did, stressless wake up and got the airport in plenty of time to board, ATL-AUA.
My husband got upgraded, the kids and I did not, no big deal, the flight is not that long.
Great flight, landed in time to grab our luggage, get our car from National, first time using them and being able to use National points, worked out great.
We got a Ford Fusion sedan, held all four of us and our luggage with plenty of room….yet not much ground clearance for the windward side (foreshadowing)
We stayed at the Hilton on points for the first time ever. What a gorgeous property and beach. Could not have been happier with the resort, the staff, everything and this is coming for a “low rise” person. I would stay at the Hilton again in a heart beat. The resort went over and above to help us celebrate our daughter’s 12th birthday, reserving us a front row palapa, decorating it, bringing out a dessert plate with sparkler and the staff singing Happy Birthday. They also sent cake to the room later in the day. The maid service was excellent, gave us 4 bottles of water daily, with small fridge and cooler we bought, we always had plenty to drink. We noticed visible security all over the resort, always felt very safe, more uniformed guards than any other property we have stayed at.
Day 1: We arrived and went to the BB party at the Amsterdam Manor. Got to meet Judi, Ronnie and Karen. So great to meet in person. Lovely to spend time with all 3 of you. After drinks we headed back to our hotel and walked over to Salt & Pepper for dinner, our usual 1st night meal. Food was good, Sangria was good. A great first night.
Day 2: We took the kids to De Palm Island. We used the $5 off coupon from the Little Switzerland bag for the 3 adult tickets and 1 child ticket at reg price….I think it was around $350 for the 4 of us. Since we had a car, we just drove ourselves down to the departure site after having my favorite breakfast in the world at Linda’s pancakes. The kids had a blast at De Palm. We snorkeled, very rough that day, almost make you seasick and we are pretty experienced snorkelers. The kids loved the water park, the zip line, the banana boats ride, the air jumpers, DH and I relaxed on the beach and had at least 20 min where we could forget we brought the kids. The food was ok, drinks were ok and all you can manage to take in. The kids loved the virgin daiquiris and pina coladas and they had their fair share! We spent most of the day there then took the boat back and headed back to the hotel to chill out for a bit, shower, get ready, pick up DH’s friend, a pilot for Delta, and then meet our friends from the UK, Susan and Dave, their kids and grandkids for dinner at Bingo! Great food and company, Bingo never disappoints. Due to severe weather in ATL, our pilot friend was “stuck” in AUA for 2 days and could not get out….worse places to be stuck, that is for sure. We hit Cafe 080 for a drink and snack to end the night.
Day 3: It was our daughter’s birthday, so we let her pick the day. We decorated our room with streamers, balloons and a sign to surprise her. We walked down a few resorts to Playa Linda to go to Eduardo’s for fruit bowls, both kids got that and they were delicious, $21 for both and DH and I ate at Scot’s Brats for $14 including water. Great walk, gorgeous weather. We then met our UK friends at our front row palapa that was decorated by the Hilton. I had no idea they were going to do that and had actually brought stuff to do it myself, but they had taken care of it. We chilled out and floated on the good matt floats ($5 each at the Hilton) kids played in the pool and we had lunch at Bugaloe pier. Love that place. I had the goat cheese salad, which the recipe had changed, birthday girl got a little over stimulated so I took her back to the room to chill out before heading to her birthday dinner at Passions on the Beach at the AMBR. I hate to even say this, but Passions was a total disappointment this time. It was almost funny, but the short version is they knew it was our daughter’s birthday so they tied balloons to a large piece of coral for the table as a decoration. It was festive but it was VERY windy….the balloons knocked over 3 drinks and 3 out of 4 of us ended up with wet laps before the night was over. The food was ok-good, but not worth what the price was. Server was very new and did her best. The sun even got in on the act and it was the most blah Aruba sunset I have ever seen. Of course, we did not tell our daughter any of this, she felt special, had a big day and that is all that matters. I was just sad to strike Passions from my “must do” list as it was that big of a disappointment. Back home to yet another cake that we had ordered from Super Food, they did a great job customizing the cake and at a very reasonable price. Delicious! I highly recommend the bakery at Super Food. We are officially caked out at this point!
Day 4: Boca Catalina Snorkel day: We had the continental breakfast at the Hilton, which is great. We met our UK friends up at Boca Catalina for some snorkeling. It was fairly rough day as it was really windy at the beginning of the trip, more so than usual. We did see some great fish, coral, marine life, tried to avoid the snorkel boats, had a bite to eat after at Taste of Belgium, the food and drinks were great, but we ended up spending WAY more on lunch than we had anticipated. We all went back to our resorts, chilled out by the pool, had a bit of a nap, happy hour then met up at Sole Mare for dinner, 1/2 the group got the Parmesan Wheel, the rest of us ordered various dishes. Food was great, but for party of 11, the bill was pretty big. Decided to eat cheaper the rest of the week. Had a drink with our friends staying at CPV and headed home.
Day 5: Windward side. We stopped at the Super Foods and got food for lunch, some bread, cheese, ham, cookies, waters and packed our cooler. We headed to Arikok National Park, which DH and I had never been to before, in all our other trips. We took our Ford Fusion…so sorry Ford Fusion….even though the roads are paved, they have those drainage ditches at what feels like 90 degree angles, not meant for sedans at all, wishing I had my Honda Pilot back at home. 4WD is really helpful on that side of the island. We did go to the Quadirkiri caves, which we had never done. I was amazed, with the light that comes in they are so beautiful. I will admit, I fell twice in the caves, tripping in the dark. Think both my kids died laughing at me. Nothing funnier than your mom falling when you are 12 and 14. We took lots of pictures at Dos Playa and Boca Prins. We had asked the guides at the Arikok National Park building about the “new” natural pool, which is not actually in the park, they gave us excellent directions and after the caves, we got a bite to eat at Boca Prins, just split some fries and drinks before eating the sandwiches we had packed. Then we headed up to the Bushiribana Gold Mill ruins and took the directions to the “new” natural pool, as seen on video on the Local Aruba Facebook page. This new pool was only created a year to year and a half ago when a tremor from a nearby earthquake split off a piece of one of the Bocas to create this wedge with a pool tucked under it. It was way more dangerous to get to than I had imagined. In hindsight, not sure it was the best thing to have talked both my kids and husband in to, but we had a blast! The jump might be 12 feet, not really sure but you have to crawl over lava rock to get to it, very precarious, with waves splashing you. There is also a pretty strong tidal pull in the “pool” that you jump into. We happened to be there with about 10 other people so when they left, we did too….did not want to be the last one there….your head starts imagining what ifs…..and the thought of NO ONE ever finding you if something went wrong. Glad we did it, but at 46, I had to wonder if this was the smartest thing I have ever done. It was also a high light of the trip. The 2nd time I jumped in, I went with a little more gusto and hit the bottom which wrenched something in my neck. Falling apart at 46. We then headed to the light house for the view, drove past Boca Catalina, saw how calm the water was and hopped out to get a quick snorkel in. The conditions were perfect. We had much better visibility than the previous visit and no snorkel boats! So glad we turned the car around and always carry our snorkel gear in the car with us. Got home, chilled by the pool, met the UK group at Barney’s for a great dinner. Food was reasonably priced and the burger I had was wonderful. I love when you get that slip of paper and can fill out exactly how you want it and it was delicious after a pretty active day. My son had the all you can eat BBQ and got his money’s worth. My bird like eater daughter got the ribs and ate every bite. The acoustic guitar player was really good and we enjoyed listening to her all night. I would definitely go back to Barney’s. We headed back to the Hilton and the kids and I went for a shopping walk that might have involved ice cream….My kids hit Double Dutch Dips and loved it. Very rich and cool idea with multiple options for toppings and dips.
Day 6: We woke up in time to hit Linda’s pancakes one more time before leaving b/c they are closed on Sundays….so glad we did! Snorkel Day at Mangel Halto. My favorite view in all the world is this spot. We lucked out! The snorkeling conditions were the best I have ever had while in Aruba. The were really no waves, sunny skies, so the lighting was excellent. The reef was lit up and full of fish. I am so glad we went, after thinking it would be too rough, it was not at all. We did have 2 issues with those using the full face masks where they got stuck and had a hard time breathing. My son is a really strong swimmer and he had an incident, luckily in shallow water. Our UK friend had an issue in deeper water but luckily we were right there and able to get him calmed down and back on track. Very scary and a reminder to NEVER snorkel alone, always go with a partner or group. That said, it was amazing snorkeling, a high light of the trip for sure. We then had a picnic we had all packed up by the parking area. We had stopped at Super Foods and got bread, ham, chips, cookies, drinks (I bought a bottle of rum and various ctrs of juice to make tropical cocktails on the fly, it was delicious) Note here….I went to hop off the “wall” at Mangel Halto to jump in the water and completely miscalculated the distance….totally fell and hit my shoulder and elbow pretty good. Thank God no on in our group saw me as I flopped on the hard sand and rolled into the water. I would never hear the end of it! So by now, I am really sore and feel like I have been in a car accident….again, 46 and falling apart. We then traveled back to the airport and let the kids jump at the jumpy water park by the airport. It is $15 per hour per kid. You sign your kids’ life away on the form and head to the awesome beach bar next store. I think it was called Surf Side? it is RIGHT next door to the jumpy park and has only been open for 2 months. Kids had a blast and the parents enjoyed the cheapest cocktails on the island. We had no idea the prices were in AFL not $$, so it was a pleasant surprise! Kids wanted to stay another hour, but we headed back to the resorts to shower and get ready for dinner. The kids hung out together with one set of parents and went to play pool and Cafe 080. DH and I went with our UK friends to La Terrazza Italian on top of PBV. It was lovely. We had an excellent dinner. I would highly recommend. Sangria was good, my entree was wonderful, a bit heavy but delicious. It is not super fast, but we knew that and just enjoyed the company and lovely evening. We hit the casino for a bit, nobody won and then went to pick up the kids at CPV. Said our goodbyes and headed home to the Hilton.
Sunday: We had an afternoon flight so we slept in, had the continental breakfast again at the hotel, which was excellent for the price (Free!) and had a great array of food to choose from, fruit, breads, cereals, yogurt, cheese, meats, etc. Loved this option right out our door. I walked with the kids down to Playa Linda to buy a few things at the Juggling Fish, and got back to the room to pack. After that, we headed to the airport and stopped at West Deck for a final meal before the air port. West Deck has a great view and wonderful food. I got the sate and loved it. My husband had the burger with apple and gouda and devoured it. Ian got ribs and loved them. Lilly had just had a smoothie at Eduardo’s and was still full. After turning in the car (after many prayers that they would not look under the car and see what all those noises we heard on the windward side were…sigh of relief they did not as DH was sure we had $1000’s in damage bills to pay) we went through the departure process with no problems. Husband got upgraded again, kids and I did not. We had a very uneventful flight home. Took off 10 min early, landed almost 40 min early then we went to the wrong baggage claim, like idiots so any time saved was lost again. Had to laugh at ourselves and take a shuttle to the international terminal instead of domestic (they would not let us back into the terminal, they say this happens all the time with Aruba flights, since we cleared customs in AUA, we forgot about being Int’l and went to domestic, which is now totally separate in ATL from Int’l) Husband got the car while kids and I went to Int’ll to get our bags, no big deal. Got home in time to pick up our dog and all was well.
We had a wonderful trip. The kids loved Aruba. The snorkeling was excellent. The jump in the “new” natural pool was exhilarating. We tried some new restaurants and hit some of our old favorites too. This was a much more active trip than we normally do in Aruba, we did miss just chilling out. We picnicked for lunch when we could and it worked out well. All 4 of us in 1 room at the Hilton was not the end of the world. The Hilton property is gorgeous, the staff was excellent the continental breakfast was more than enough for us for 3 days. DH had 12 breakfast passes, so that worked out perfectly. I would stay at the Hilton again in a heart beat. So great to catch up with Susan and Dave & their family from the UK. Great to meet some monkeys at the BB party. Wish we could have stayed longer. Best Spring Break we have ever had. Can’t wait to return to Aruba….but hope to do it without the kids next time. I like having a place that is just for me and my husband. We’ll see if we can ever get away with that again!
Any questions or comments, feel free to pm me.
Karen, Judi & Ronnie at the BB Party with my family
Just the monkeys....Judi, Karen, Ronnie and me
Happy Anniversary to us! 19 years this day! at De Palm Island
Lilly at Linda's pancakes
The kids at De Palm
The boat to De Palm
Ian, his hair and Lilly getting ready to zip line
De Palm water park
Chilling out view pretending we did not bring the kids
Hanging out with the Limey's and Captain Steve at Cafe 080
Lilly on her birthday at the decorated Palapa at the Hilton
Walk down the beach for breakfast
Eduardo's at the Playa Linda
Lilly at Bugaloe
Susan and Me at Bugaloe
Lilly and her birthday treats from the Hilton
Dinner at Passions on the beach
The cake we ordered from Super Foods, delicious!
Family pic at Boca Catalina
The whole gang at Boca Catalina
Windward day family pic
Inside the Quadirkiri Caves
kids at Boca Prins
Climbing out of the "new natural pool
The gang at Barney's
Lilly at Double Dutch Dips
Mangel Halto, my favorite view
The family in the mangroves in Mangel Halto
The Limeys in the mangroves in Mangel Halto
water park by the airport
Surf Side bar next to water jumpy park by the airport
not a bad set up
Dinner at La Terrazza