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affordable caribbean vacation

ARUBA ON A BUDGET

With a crazy southern winter snowstorm to kick off the season, it seems like all of our friends are looking to escape to warmer weather. Ever since we honeymooned in Aruba in 2014, I’ve been able to highly recommend it as a place that’s not only extremely affordable, but easy to travel. After all, who doesn’t love an affordable caribbean vacation? Take a look below to see how we honeymooned in Aruba on a budget!

It’s almost like the forgotten Bahamas – every bit as beautiful and entertaining, with less of a crowd and less money required.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If you want to hit the islands during peak US vacation times, it’s still going to cost you. This isn’t a weekend at your local hotel. But if you’re strategic, and patient, you can plan a week long trip to Aruba on a tight budget – and yes, you can do it all yourself. There’s no need to spend the extra money on a travel agency.

ArubaOnABudget

Even those of us who live at the beach enjoy a good island vacation! So I set out to find us a Caribbean destination that would offer everything a good honeymoon needs. I’d never left the country before, let alone been on a real resort-style vacation, so I had no idea what I was looking for. After a friend suggested Aruba, I quickly narrowed down my search and lo-and-behold, it looked like the perfect destination.

BON BINI! Welcome to Aruba!

WHEN TO GO (AND WHEN NOT TO)

Aruba is actually outside of the major hurricane belt, but you should still take hurricane season into account. In addition, the most popular vacation times for US travelers are January – March, making the Caribbean islands extra packed (and extra expensive) during those months. Your true sweet spot is May through September. We went in October and noticed that the island was still much less populated than we expected, and much more affordable. After a few questions with our hotel, we learned that November is when the prices start to go up, and by January prices reach their peak, and hold there through spring.

WHERE TO STAY – BOARDWALK SMALL HOTEL

After some serious digging into the all-inclusive style resorts (plenty to choose from!), we actually decided that those weren’t for us. We knew that Aruba was a foreigner-friendly country (unlike many other Caribbean destinations where it is highly recommended that you stay on the resort, Aruba is safe to travel, island-wide). We wanted to take advantage of being outside the United States, and really experience a different country. So we turned down the all inclusive resorts (also knowing that we couldn’t eat enough seafood or drink enough alcohol to justify the price) that would keep us in one place all week, and opted instead for a smaller, more home-y place.

Boardwalk Small Hotel seemed questionable at first, because it wasn’t advertised as waterfront and it was a teeny tiny privately owned place. When I called to ask about pricing, and was told 178/night, I responded with I’m in the United States, do you know how much that is in USD? I was so surprised to hear that that WAS the USD rate, that I became even more skeptical. How could such a nice looking place, be so affordable? I’m not sure why, but I guess enough online reviews convinced me to go ahead and give it a shot. And holy moly are we glad we did! Not only was Boardwalk meticulously maintained and offered amazing guest services, but it was GORGEOUS. Can’t even explain to you how beautiful this property is. The high rise district tends to be a bit… well… brick and cement with windows. BSH was home to beautiful casitas with bright colors, and beautiful outdoor scenic pool and pavilion, – it just can’t be beat!

I could literally write an entire book about this place, but we have other things to mention. So I’ll let you look for yourself. This place can not be beat.

**For those of you who have asked. No, this is not a waterfront property. It actually sits behind the Ritz Carlton in the high rise district. However. We quickly realized that we got to the beach faster than if we were on, say, the 15th floor of a high rise hotel. You literally walk out of your casita, across the street, and you’re on the beach. Those in the high rise hotels will wait longer for an elevator. Trust me. This should NOT be a deal breaker for you. **

WHAT TO EAT

You could easily book yourself an all inclusive stay, and stuff yourself silly with seafood and alcohol. But we knew that we wanted to check out the local spots, and really take advantage of spending a week in a different country. Our first day on the island, we actually took a bus to the major grocery store, Super Food. This cost less than a dollar round trip. We stocked up on some fruit / grab and go snack type foods, as well as drinks (not water. Drink the island water, it’s the cleanest you’ll find anywhere and is delish!). This way, we could eat out one nice meal a day, and have plenty of food in our casita.

MooMba Beach starts the day as being the most perfect breakfast spot! You also get a discount as a guest at BSH. With a ton of fresh fruits and fresh made waffles, pastries, and more, this all you can eat outdoor / covered area is the best way to start your day. We know, because we started every day there. Go back later that night and it turns into a great night time party spot.

ZeerOvers – You’ll need to rent a car to get to this one, but you’ll be doing that one day anyway (more on that later). Zeerover is on the southern side of the island and is home to the best fresh caught seafood. They literally don’t even have a menu, because they offer what comes in on the boat. We could have lived on this for the rest of our lives! Bonus: you can actually watch the fishermen come in with their catch, and clean and prep it to cook. It’s the coolest!

The Old Cunucu House – You can walk to this one from the high rise district, but we don’t recommend it. Even though you are totally safe walking there, we as Americans can promise you that you won’t believe it. Take a cab and you’ll see that you end up going through some old neighborhoods to find this hidden gem. Here in the states, we’d call that risky. We almost turned around and went back, but we had been so reassured by the locals that we kept going. And we’re glad we did! We did, however, call a cab to get back to the beach. Remember – you’re a lot safer everywhere in Aruba than you are in most US locations.

There are a ton more places to eat but these three were delicious, affordable, and really gave you a taste of the local island life!

WHAT TO DO

The list of adventures in Aruba is endless. And we recommend checking as many things off the list as you can. We enjoyed spending all morning at the beach, and adventuring in the afternoons. These are just a few of the things we did!

Rent a car. If you stay at BSH, the owners will set you up with a car rental any day you choose. The renters will pick you up, and then bring you back when you return the car. We got a jeep one day and packed a lunch and set out on a tour (with directions from the hotel owners) the 4×4 side of the island. There are so many historical landmarks to see, that you start with the light house on the north end of the island, and follow the list to the south end (ending with dinner at Zeerover!). There is so much history and local adventure to be had on the 4×4 side, you’ll almost forget where you are. It seems like a completely different country. This one’s non negotiable. You’re missing out if you don’t do this! Make sure you end your day at the Natural Pool.

Aruba Watersports Center. You can find this team on Palm Beach in front of the Hilton. The first activity we did with them was their half day snorkel trip. You start by sailing out to a reef to snorkel in calm waters, and then they sail you out to a shipwreck! We didn’t understand how we’d be able to see a shipwreck from the surface, but the water is so clear there that 50 feet above seems like you’re right in front of it. You can see everything! Best part – this trip included lunch sandwiches and rum punch!

We went back to the same people another day to go parasailing. What! An! Adventure! Aruba really does have the most beautiful waters we’ve ever seen. It was gorgeous to see the view from so high.

They also have every type of water equipment you could ever want to use, so your water activities will be more than you even have time for. Jet skis, paddle boards, you name it and they’ve got it!

Alright. You’ve got places to eat, adventures to take, and beauty to soak in. The rest of your time in Aruba you’ll want to spend on the white sandy beaches enjoying the crystal clear water with a rum punch in hand. You’ll understand fast why we call this place the forgotten Bahama. It has all of the charm (and more) while feeling less touristy and more… amazing!

Have you been to Aruba? Leave some of your favorite suggestions in the comments below! We’d love to hear what you loved most about the One Happy Island!