Last month, we decided to head to Aruba while lockdowns were still in full swing. We wanted to see what it was like to travel to find out if the “one happy island,” as the locals call it, was still a happy place. Read on to find out, and check out our video below as well.
Entry and Hotel Check In
We flew into Aruba, and aside from facemasks and PCR tests, the airport experience was very similar to pre-pandemic days. The nice part was that despite each traveler taking a little more time to have their entry processed, the line was much shorter overall since people seemed to be avoiding traveling. Once we spent 45 minutes in those lines, we were off to the Hotel Riu Palace.
The check-in process was a breeze, and the front desk staff was extremely nice. They really made you feel like you were getting a four-star experience. We were shown to a nice room overlooking the beach, and it seemed like every room had a similar view – just with a different perspective.
The Beach and Touring
We headed to the beach, and it was pretty surreal to not see a ton of travelers crowding the beach and searching for the hard to find lawn chairs, but it was also more relaxing than normal. It was nice to not have throngs of people getting in our way. But overall, the lack of people made the beach more enjoyable, and it was still as beautiful as ever.
The Riu had a great selection of drinks (try the dirty bananas) and the local beer, Balashi, was quite good. They had a beautiful pool, a lot of activities poolside, and a broad selection of water sports options like snorkeling and paddleboarding. While most travelers did not seem overly concerned about Covid since everyone was outdoors, the hotel had sanitizer stations and temperature checks at each of the food stands and the sun-soaked air made us feel very comfortable.
Exploring the island seemed much easier and less expensive as well. In one day, we were able to tour the entire island – it is only 20 miles long from one end to the other. We started at the national park and checked out Conchi, the famous natural pool built in a volcanic rock formation which creates a tranquil pool to relax in. It’s remote, but worth the trip – just make sure you rent a four-wheel drive vehicle. The national park is a beautiful drive, and you can stop at one of the several caves to check out stalagmites, ancient Indian rock drawings, and even some bats. And you can wrap up with a visit to an abandoned gold mine to see some of the island’s history.
If you have kids, you probably want to check out Baby Beach near the national park area. It’s a very calm lagoon area and is great for snorkeling. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by a local restaurant called The Old Cunucu House to try the un-official dish of the island, Keshi Yena. This recipe has changed over the years, but it typically includes ingredients like raisins, curry, tomatoes, and baked cheese – the version we had tasted amazing.
So after an amazing week in Aruba, if you asked us if we'd do it again we would definitely say yes. From the very beginning, we felt safe, and the government even had insurance plans in case we caught a virus. The Riu Palace was very diligent with safety checks, sanitizers, masks, and temperature checks. And the locals made us feel extremely welcome, and the island lived up to its one happy island namesake.
We highly recommend the Hotel Riu Palace – all food and drink was included in the price, and both the location as well as the beach front access were extremely convenient. The food was delicious, the entertainment was entertaining, and we’re looking forward to doing a follow-up to see how the area is when it’s running at full capacity.
Check out the video below for more!