Vacationing in Aruba, 8/10 to 8/13

Guys, Aruba was a much-needed breath of fresh air. This was my first view of the ocean and I was utterly enchanted.Our hosts, Deno and Helen, very generously picked us up at the airport when we arrived on Saturday and delivered us to their timeshare at Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club. The drive to the resort was such a visually interesting experience. Aruba used to be a Dutch colony, and there was a great contrast of gingerbread-y architecture and open air island markets.

driving in Aruba

If I had to change anything, I would only have asked for more time, but we made the most of what we had. Bags were dropped off, swimsuits and cover-ups were donned, and we made our way down to Hadicurari, a restaurant on Palm Beach. I ordered a grouper sandwich off the lunch menu, and could not believe how delicious it tasted. At first I thought they added special ingredients, but then I realized it was just slathered in mayo. I always hold the mayo these days and I had forgotten how creamy and tasty that stuff is! We settled back to soak in the island life and the local beer, Balashi.

Hadicurari

beach lounging

That first night, I had a near-gout experience. Deno treated us to an unforgettable meal at Texas de Brazil. It was my first time at a Brazilian Steakhouse, and I wasn’t ready. Let me repeat, I was not ready.

We had a bit of a wait time before we were seated, and when we were shown to our table, I was ready to get down with some food. The meat was succulent and juicy (especially the chicken sausage), and before I knew it I had consumed at least 48 lbs of it. True story. And then I decided to top it off with creme brulee because why not. We had planned on going out that night but by the time we made it back to our suite, meat coma had struck us all. It was a rough, uncomfortable night.

Texas de Brazil

Despite having gained 10 lbs overnight, I fearlessly threw on a two piece the next day for some fun catamaran action. This was the only excursion we did while in Aruba, and it was easily the highlight of the trip. Our first snorkeling stop was over a shipwreck which totally made me feel like a treasure hunter. The water was pretty deep so I couldn’t see a lot of the WWII ship, but it was still pretty awesome. These black and white fish were the friendliest and if you held your fingers out like you had food, a school of them would come up and swarm around in front of you. Some people on our boat saw a sea turtle!

catamaran

The thing I ended up loving the most about the excursion was the rope swing on the boat!! I’ve never in my life used one of those things, and for my first swing over the water I screamed bloody murder (I almost drowned out the laughter from the boat). The second swing was rough too, our fearless captain was attempting to give me a good push for more speed, and instead I slipped off the boat before I was ready. By the third go round I was a freaking pro!

rope swing

When we made our way back to the beach and the resort area, we headed over to MooMba Beach Bar & Restaurant for a few libations. I loved the vibe of this place. It’s an open-air palapa right on the beach, and a perfect stop after a dip in the ocean. The bartenders were friendly, prices decent and hamburgers were surprisingly large and tasty (again with that mayo!). MooMba is the place to be on Sunday nights, for visitors and islanders, and when we made our way back there later that night, it was packed.

MooMba

I had been hoping to make the 6ish mile round trip run to the California Lighthouse, but I just couldn’t work up the motivation in the face of all that humidity. I wasn’t going to go my whole trip without doing something active (besides posing for pictures), and Monday morning happened to be Zumba morning at the Marriott. The class was a sweaty good time.

Zumba and cool runnings

The rest of the day was all about take it easy mode. We did a lap at the swim up bar, lounged, chilled with some of the fellow resorters…

iguanas in aruba

…and did some souvenir shopping.

souvenirs in aruba

I didn’t spend all of my money on souvenirs; I saved a little to play with later that night at Stellaris casino. My roulette skills had been hyped up all day, so of course I lost twenty bucks in two minutes. I didn’t lose it at roulette though, I lost it by sitting down at a machine that I thought was penny slots but was really dollar slots. D’oh. Does that only happen to me?

Stellaris casino

Waking up Tuesday was a cold dose of reality. Ashley and James headed out early to catch their flight, but Yvette, Corneka and I had almost a full day to say goodbye to beautiful Aruba. We made our way to a restaurant we hadn’t tried yet, Nos Clubhuis, and it was easily my favorite meal of the trip. We ate lionfish, bony but delicious! We also tried pastechi (like hot pockets only twenty times better) and funchi.

Nos Clubhuis

And then it was time to wish Aruba a fond farewell.

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Always, Sierra

For another take on Aruba, check out Ashley’s travel log here

I’m Back! Wish me luck!

After an 11 hour over-night layover in Charlotte, North Carolina, we made it back from Aruba safe and sound. The layover made for a long trip home, but we managed to entertain ourselves.

Waffle house

A post all about our trip is on the horizon. Also on the horizon for tomorrow is Run for the Seals, a 4 mile run in the beautiful Marin Headlands. Due to diligent tapering vacaition-itis, my legs are going to be super fresh. I haven’t ran since last Friday. Wish me luck!

Five Things I’m Looking Forward To In Aruba

A day of heavy computer work and sitting yesterday left my hips all achey and my ankles all twingey, so I did some yoga at home to stretch things out.

yoga on hulu

Quick tip: Hulu is a great resource for free yoga “classes”. Most of the classes are 20-30 minutes long so you can combine different target areas to customize your workout. (One caveat: you still have to sit through 30 second commercials in some of the episodes, but I use that time to focus on my breathing…or check my phone for messages…bad yogi, bad!)

I wanted to take it gentle on my hips and ankles so I wouldn’t have to worry about hobbling around in…Aruba!

Tonight I’ll be hopping on one of these…

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..and tomorrow I’ll be waking up to this!

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Y’s brother is letting us use his timeshare, and I could not be more ready for time spent with good friends and some tropical paradise in my life. I’ve been doing some research to let the anticipation build, and here are a few things I’m looking forward to.

1. Running to the California Lighthouse – The lighthouse isn’t open to the public, but the views are supposed to be spectacular, particularly at sunset. First lit in 1916, it is named after a steamship that sank not far off the coast in the late 1800s. It’s around a 6-8 mile roundtrip run depending on where in Noord you start. Exploring new places on foot is one of the reasons I started running, so I’m super excited. Word on the street is that all the local goats hang out there too, and you know I love me some animals!

2. Learning some Papiamento – Papiamento is the official language of Aruba. Its parent language is believed to be Iberian,  but it has grown to incorporate parts of Dutch, English and Spanish. I enjoy hearing the rhythm of different languages when I travel, and I hope to pick up at least a word or two. With phrases like

Eynan e porco su rabo ta krul (“That is where the pig’s tail curls”): that is where the problem lies.

how could this not be an awesome language?

3. Exploring Arikok National Park – Almost 20% of the island of Aruba has been dedicated to create this national park that is home to burrowing owls, bat caves, wild donkeys, cascabels, and Arawak Indian drawings. Horseback riding and hiking are both options, and there’s a Natural Pool to take a dip in too. I’m not sure if we’ll make it here since it’ll be a short visit and we’re staying on the other side of the island , but I hope we do!

4. Absorbing the culture – By absorbing, I mean opening my mouth and inserting deliciousness like pastechi, croquettes, and calco stoba. Checking out the flea market would also be fantastic, and I found this great website for birding.

5. Taking some time to just be – I’m going to enjoy the chance to get out of my head a bit. To get away from the busyness and sense of urgency that comes from putting out a dozen small fires a day. There will be sun salutations. There will be sketching and poems and rambling sentences. Laughter, and hugs, and joy at winning roulette. There will be fun in the sun with good friends. Restoration and relaxation.

I’ll have some scheduled posts going up until I get back next week. I’ll leave you with this priceless gem, something I’ve been humming all week and that I never get tired of…

Always, Sierra

What’s the last vacation you took?

Have you been to Aruba? Any recommendations?

What’s your favorite Beach Boys song? Did you see that one episode of Full House? You know the one!

 

Healthier Living Goals: Staying Active on Vacation

I had three goals for Cabo: have fun, get some quality girl time in, and stay active.

Oh wait, make that four goals.

In the past, my vacations have been all about the food…

donuts in seattle

{donuts in Seattle}

Leonard's in Hawaii

{Malasadas in Hawaii}

…and the drank.

beer in seattle

Kona brewing company

Going from a lifelong “I deserve to indulge and relax on vacation” to a shiny new “It feels good to work out anytime, vacation or not” is a work in progress. Sometimes I struggle, and sometimes it’s almost effortless I struggle less.

Our recent trip to Cabo was a big success for me, especially because I had some great workout partners.

Cabo gym time

The first and biggest hurdle was just packing running gear. I used to question whether it was worth bringing the running shoes along when I wasn’t sure I’d even use them. I could be using that precious space for two clutches and a pair of heels!

The thing is, if I don’t pack the shoes, I’m already giving up.

When we went to Cabo, I traveled there and back in my running gear. I didn’t have to worry about cramming the shoes into my carry on, and I was super comfy on the plane. Just walking around in the stuff made me feel like I was a bad-ass, one step away from pro athlete status.

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(Sidenote: I took a pair of running capris for travelling only to make sure I didn’t stank up the plane on the way back. You’re welcome, fellow passengers.)

I also brought some running focused reading material for the plane ride there to keep me motivated. I managed to get through at least two articles between daydreams of margaritas and lounging in pools.

My whole goal in wanting to be active on vacation is to explore new places by foot, but that doesn’t mean it’s always going to work out that way. I knew that the location of our resort wasn’t going to be conducive to outdoor runs, but I didn’t want to sacrifice my bigger goals because I couldn’t do exactly what I wanted. That meant some gym time.

Too bad my regular gym doesn’t have this view.

Riu Santa Fe

Everything on the treadmill was in kilometers. Now, I know I should be able to figure out km/h relatively easy and dial in my pace (hello 5K and 10K). My brain, however, refused to do math on vacation, so that meant I bounced around a bit and probably settled for something on the slow side.

Another down side? Apparently three treadmills going at the same time was one too many for the resort gym. A power surge caused all the treadmills to stop with no warning and I almost bit it hard. I think we recovered well, don’t you agree?

Working it out

Since the cardio equipment was a little spotty, I switched things up and focused more on strength. I have a small, free gym at work which is convenient, but it only has dumbbells and medicine balls. It was nice to use some of the strength machines for a change and push my body a little harder and in different ways. Because I stayed flexible in what I wanted to accomplish, I never got discouraged by the limitations I couldn’t control.

Before we left, I didn’t talk to any of my girlfriends about working out while we were there, but I knew that at least a few of them would pack their gear. It’s so much easier to take time away from drinking and sunning when you’re not doing it alone. Y and C were my workout partners at the gym, but all of us also took a water aerobics class together, danced up a storm, and had long walks escapades on the beach. It’s crazy how much of a workout you get just walking in loose sand!

We were in Cabo for about four and a half days, and we were at the gym on two of those days. Trying to build new habits is all about thoughts and intentions, and I rocked it on this trip!

Always, Sierra

Do you have any active vacationing tips?

What are your favorite workouts when you travel?

How do you plan for working out on vacation when you’re the only one who wants to?

Living it up in Cabo San Lucas

Our girlfriends getaway weekend in Cabo was a smashing success!

us girls in cabo

We stepped off the plane onto a hot tarmac, found our shuttle, and got right down to business.

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We stayed at the all-inclusive resort, Riu Santa Fe. A really critical feature won me over almost immediately…

towel animal

There are two main swimming areas at the resort: a lowkey pool in the middle area of all the buildings and three infinity pools at the back of the resort, overlooking the Sea of Cortez. Two of these infinity pools had swim up bars and this is definitely where the shit show party was at. One guy told us he had been at the resort for three weeks! I don’t know if I could have made it that long.

borrowed from C

borrowed from C

Riu Santa Fe has specialty restaurants on-site that are part of the all-inclusive deal. I’d check out their Italian restaurant, and skip the steakhouse. The buffets were okay, although very American-ized food, and the breakfast buffet had a really great selection. Most of the mixed drinks were overly sweet and left us reaching for shots before too long. Ask for Jose!!! Otherwise you’ll be taking shots of low-budget tequila gasoline. So gross.

Lover’s Beach

Our resort backed up right to the beach, which was super convenient for grabbing water taxi’s here and there. We snagged a glass-bottomed boat to Lover’s Beach and spent a fun afternoon walking on hot coals exploring the famed arch.

borrowed from M

borrowed from M

 The Arch at Lover's Beach

I thought about doing some rock climbing, but decided to settle for rock lounging.

Lover's Beach lounging

On the way back we came across these guys.

borrowed from M

Hot Nights in Downtown Cabo

We took a party bus to downtown Cabo for one night, deciding to play it safe instead of striking out on our own. It was worth it in that we didn’t have to pay for entrance anywhere, got some free shots/beers, opened up VIP sections at each place, and never had to wait in line. But downtown Cabo is pretty much like Vegas, and we would have been fine going by ourselves and sticking to the main block of bars.

The party bus/walking tour took us to Knotty, Pink Kitty, Mandala and Squid Roe. They were all a lot of fun, but Knotty and Squid Roe were my faves.

squid roe cabo

{Squid Roe – source}

The Office and Mango Deck

The best food we had on our trip was at The Office.

the office

{source}

The seating right on the beach with lots of colorful umbrellas and live music gave it a fun, authentic atmosphere. We ordered all the food shrimp tacos and ceviche, and they were ah-mazing.

the office2

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Mango Deck, just next door to The Office, had more delicious drinks and booty shaking contests!! Both of these spots were a $3/per person car taxi or $3/per person water taxi ride from our resort. We took the water taxi back, and the Sea of Cortez ate one of the girls cameras :(.

water taxi in cabo

Sunset Booze Cruise

This was easily the highlight of our trip. Sure, we had to deal with being herded towards expensive jewelry stores for an hour before taking off, but it was balanced out by tequila tasting, delicious fajitas and endless shots/frozen drinks as soon as we boarded.

borrowed from J

borrowed from J

We went towards Lover’s Beach for some awesome sunset pictures, and then circled around the Sea of Cortez for a while. About a half hour into the trip, everyone was friends with everyone, and dance contests were happening left and right.

Do you wobble? We wobbled while the ship wobbled, and the next morning most of us still felt like we were still wobbling!

I love these girls, and I’m grateful for the fun-filled times and memories I’ll treasure forever.

girls in cabo

Between the drinking and lounging and drinking and eating and drinking, I even managed to get some workouts in. Come back tomorrow for staying active on vacation tips!

Always, Sierra

Riu Santa Fe Tips

  • When you book at the resort, ask for Building 7 if you want to be close to the livelier pool areas.
  • Hit the gym early. By the time Saturday and Sunday rolled around, it was packed by mid-morning.
  • Make reservations for the specialty restaurants first thing in the morning, but get to the restaurant early to deal with any hiccups.
  • The resort offers free Wi-Fi, but only for one hour a day in the main lobby. The hour has to be all at once, and then you’re not allowed back onto the Wi-Fi for a full 24 hours.

Cabo tips

  • Bargain! You can get everything for just about $1-$5 cheaper than the original asking price, especially taxi rides.
  • Pesos are handy, but everywhere accepted pesos and dollars.
  • Take lots of sunscreen! We had to buy an extra bottle while we were there and it was $35. I’m not kidding.
  • Hydrate! The resort had all kinds of bottled water available.
  • We paid extra for a private shuttle from the airport to the resort and vice versa. This is really a personal preference, but it was nice to have a direct ride and not have to stop at other resorts or be packed in like sardines.