Thursday, November 24, 2016

Bodies in the Sand, Tropical Drink Melting in Your Hand...

I have been home from Aruba for a couple weeks now but I am still dreaming about our week in paradise. It was beyond dreamy and I figured a post devoted to our experience was due!

We stayed at the Riu Palace Antillas, an all-inclusive adults-only resort right on the beach. Cody and I have never taken a destination vacation before (unless you count our weekend getaways to Vermont, NH, and Maine) and it was quite the experience.

Before I dive into the cool activities we booked while there - I have to say we picked the best resort. Everything at Riu was so above and beyond - from the service (we were in the lobby for merely 10 minutes checking in when a cocktail waitress appeared at our side with two glasses of champagne - I mean...), to the fun staff at the pool (every once in awhile they'd come around with a tray of watermelon or a fun punch for "happy hour"), to the awesome dinner/drink options (4 themed restaurants or their huge dinner buffet were available to us in our all-inclusive package as well as 3 open bars), and the insane features in our room (an unlimited liquor dispenser in each room!? WHAT!?), we were beyond thrilled with our experience.

The Riu pools right beside the beach!

Cody and I scheduled our week's activities early on. We knew we wanted to have one activity a day so that we had some fun but also had part of the day to lounge at the pool or beach. The beach was beautiful and the water was so warm. I am not a beach person at all and didn't like stepping on sea weed and other things on the ocean floor, but it was lovely for the couple days we spent there and Cody enjoyed the waves. On the first day there, Cody went off and jet ski'd while I read in the shade - it was the perfect trade off!

There were 2 iguanas that hung out in the trees by the pool - of course, we befriended them!

We splurged on couples massages on our second day there and were given a bottle of Rose before we left the spa - it was such a nice touch and sweet surprise! We shared the bottle in our room later that night while watching Bob's Burgers re-runs and campaign updates on CNN.

I loved being able to spend half of every day at the pool. Not only does the Riu have a huge in ground outdoor pool, it also has a smaller pool with a swim-up bar and floating loungers! I had never experienced that before and we loved it! We could sit on stools in the cool water and sip on fruity drinks. We had two favorites - a popular fruity rum punch called an Aruba Ariba and a banana/chocolate/coffee liqueur frozen drink called the Dirty Monkey. Yum!

The sunset was right outside our window each night...

The bar staff at the pool were the best - not only were they super friendly and fun, they never let you sit with an empty cup for long. It was dangerous if you weren't careful, for sure! It was a lot of fun, though, and we met so many people from all over the world while hanging out there.

On Saturday we did some snorkeling off a catamaran and got to see some beautiful fish along some shipwrecks in the ocean. While very cool, I didn't quite like it. Not only could I not see due to not having my glasses on, but it was a total sensory overload. I am not a good swimmer nor have I ever snorkeled so I had a lot to get used to between swimming with flippers, breathing through my mouth with the snorkel, and watching out for other swimmers. I got overwhelmed big time at one stop we snorkeled at that had other snorkelers already there as well as more waves in the water. Luckily, I was able to just grab a drink and sit in the sun while Cody had a blast.

The view we woke up to on our first morning in Aruba

Luckily, we got to snorkel again later in our stay in more shallow water. It was MUCH better and I loved it. Because it was shallow water and everything was closer to us, I could see much more clearly and loved having the fish swimming around me. They really do come right up and swim around as if you aren't there!

Sunday was perhaps one of my favorite days - surprisingly so! We took a UTV tour of the desert side of the island - Cody was behind the wheel! It was a wild ride and we returned to the hotel absolutely covered in dirt!

I totally expected to hate it but it ended up being awesome! Cody did great driving over the bumpy terrain and we had a ton of fun.

On our last day, we had more deep sea fun with a submarine tour. This was definitely more up my alley for aquatic life viewing - I could sit comfortably in a dry space in a cute dress AND see cute fishies and sea turtles 135ft below? Sign me up!

We saw a lot of sea life (including 2 sea turtles!), ship wrecks, and tons of coral reefs and wrapped up our vacation on a high note.

I really could go on and on about our week. The Riu was amazing - I am still stunned at how pretty, clean, and dreamy the resort was and how amazing the staff was. They have the all-inclusive stay down to a science and really know what they're doing! I highly - HIGHLY - recommend staying there if you find yourself vacationing in Aruba. It is worth every penny!