Mama Loves Food

Visiting Aruba - Ten Day Cruise through the Panama Canal

The Island of Aruba was the first gorgeous stop on our ten day Panama Canal Cruise, it's definitely a destination you'll want to add to your vacation list!
how to plan a trip to aruba
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Wesley and I recently had the incredible good fortune to go on a ten day cruise through the Panama Canal with Princess Cruises (thank you so much for hosting us, Princess!).  Aruba was the first stop, and we chose to do a 4WD Vehicle Adventure with DePalm Tours (spoiler alert = it was awesome).  I first want to say though, that I absolutely completely and truly fell in love with Aruba.  My brother-in-law, Enrique, spent his childhood summers there and has waxed poetic about the island for years, but I never really understood until this trip.  I get it now. I. Love. Aruba. 

View from the Casabari Rock Formations in Aruba

climbing the casabari rock formations in aruba

The tour took us around the majority of the island of Aruba, beginning with Casibari Rock formations.  We had a great guide who gave a quick explanation of what we were seeing at each stop and then let us explore on our own.  The rock formations were very pretty, but my favorite part was climbing up and seeing the island from above.  The colorful buildings were as cheerful as the people in Aruba.  

princess cruise excursions in aruba 4wd tour

did you know aruba is a desert

Did you know Aruba is a desert?! That was a total shocker to me.  Cactus and sand dunes everywhere!  Not at all what I was expecting from a tropical island, but so beautiful and a fun surprise.  

These geological formations add relief to the landscape and a glimpse into the island's ancient past. Casibari boulders are clustered together weighing several tons and creating unique forms. There are walking trails through this rock garden, and a climb to the top of the highest boulder rewards with panoramic views. -Princess Cruise website

things to see in aruba

There were eight excursion choices in Aruba ranging from calm and casual to super active.  Check out what some of the other folks in our cruise group did while they were there!

where to go in aruba

Dutch influence still lingers on this balmy Caribbean island, part of the former Netherlands Antilles until its independence in 1986. Aruba is a contrast: the island's arid interior is dotted with cactus and windswept divi-divi trees while secluded coves and sandy beaches make up its coast. 
Aruba's long and colorful heritage is reflected in its dialect. Called Papiamento, it is a tongue that combines elements of Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, African and English.

what is the best tour in aruba

cruise excursions in aruba

After the Casibari Rock Formations, we took a drive along the shoreline of Aruba.  Aruba has a rough side and a calm side.  On both sides the water is a magical stunning bright blue.  It really looks like something out of a storybook.  

depalm 4wd tour in aruba

baby natural bridge in aruba - places to see in aruba

Our second stop was the Baby Natural Bridge.  There were originally two land bridges, but the first one collapsed several years ago.  Thankfully in the early morning when there was no one around!  The second natural bridge still stands, but it is only for viewing.  

In 2005, the Natural Bridge, a coral limestone formation chiseled by years of pounding waves and powerful winds, collapsed to the dismay of locals and tourists alike. But a smaller bridge, the intact Baby Natural Bridge, is a structurally sound arch carved out of rock and coral and a photogenic island highlight. -Princess Cruise website

what to take pictures of in aruba

rock cairns in aruba stay safe in aruba

Near the Baby Land Bridge were hundreds of piles of stones.  We were told the tradition was started by tourists but is now continued and encouraged by locals.  You're supposed to place a stone and make a wish - I placed one for each of my babies, who I was missing a lot at this point!

how to see everything in aruba

why you should visit aruba

best places to see in aruba

We were truly captivated by the colors of the landscape and the ocean.  Wesley teased me for taking so many pictures (this is only a small small sampling), but I have no regrets.  This was still the rougher side of the island, so we weren't dipping our toes in - but just watching the waves was enough for me. 

turquoise waves in aruba

aruba is the perfect island to visit

Next on the agenda was the Alto Vista Chapel.  It exists at the site of the first chapel on the island and is still in use today.  The structure was rebuilt a few years ago and is a popular site for Catholic holidays.  Islanders and visitors will camp out near the chapel on holiday weekends, especially Easter. 

cruise to aruba with your family

alto vista catholic chapel in aruba - pilgrim's church

A winding road dotted with crosses brings you to the top of a hill on Aruba's north shore, where this brightly painted, yellow chapel stands proudly. In the early 18th century, Catholic Indians settled in the area. The original chapel was built by an Indian from Santa Ana de Coro, Venezuela, in 1750. The present chapel was completed in 1952 and is also known as Pilgrims Church. -Princess Cruise website

view from alto vista pilgrim's chapel in aruba

cactus in aruba

We only had one day in Aruba, but we really did get to see so much with this fun tour.  The 4-wheel drive vehicles were great because they were open air (with a canopy over top) so we were able to see and smell the beach the whole time.  It was also a smaller tour, with a total of about six folks.  I loved the intimacy of it.  

gorgeous views on vacation in aruba

the california lighthouse in aruba

The California Lighthouse, named after the steamship California, which sank off the coast of Aruba, this iconic stone lighthouse, built in 1910, offers picture-postcard views of the expansive coastline. 

plan a family vacation to aruba

plan a family cruise to the Caribbean

California Lighthouse was next on the list, but I'm going to tell you a secret.  I snapped this one quick picture and then hightailed it to the coast to get more picture of the ocean.  As we walked away from the lighthouse, a local gentleman told us to follow him for the best picture ever.  He led us into the small restaurant and then out back to the patio.  He wasn't kidding.  The view from there was phenomenal.  Really and truly stunning. 

balashi is the local beer in aruba

We ended the day at Arashi Beach on the calm side of the island where we were able to grab a local Balashi beer and put our toes in the surf.  The folks of Aruba are very proud of their water and the beer that is brewed with that water.  The water is desalinized right on the island, and I can say with conviction that it tastes delicious!  

I also had great cell reception here, so we took a moment to have a face-time call with the kids and make them jealous for a bit.  We already have plans brewing to return with the kids and hopefully a crew of cousins.  

arashi beach in aruba

One thing I so love about cruising is that it gives you a taste of so many places in a short period of time.  We love to be able to experience a wealth of things that we wouldn't be able to do on our own and also to use it as a jumping off point for planning future adventures!

Having been an avid cruiser for many years (this was my eighth!), I can't say enough how much we love the Princess line.  Impeccable ship, amazing staff, yummy food, and incredible destinations.  If you've been thinking about trying out a cruise, I would encourage you to check out all the deals and itineraries available with Princess!

why you should plan a cruise to the Caribbean


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  1. I really enjoyed all the wonderful photos of Aruba! Thank you for sharing them.

  2. We LOVE Aruba. So fun to see your experience!


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