An Expert's Must-See & Do's in Aruba!Words by Courtney Cox
It’s time for the next installment of DID’s Destination: X series. This month, we’re featuring the gorgeous Caribbean island of Aruba! We will be bringing you recommendations, tips and advice from some of the island’s most colorful locals and vendors. There will also be lots of inspiration in the form of real weddings and must-visit spots from a talented Aruba photographer. Today, the insanely cool and savvy Laura DeCarlo of Laura Dee Photography is sharing her can’t-miss list for any couple thinking of hosting their destination wedding or honeymoon on Aruba. Please stay tuned throughout the week for everything you’ll need to say “I do” on this ‘Happy Island.’
So, you're getting hitched in Aruba? Congratulations and ‘bon bini’ (welcome)! My name is Laura and I am a wedding photographer who was born in Holland, raised in Aruba and now living in Connecticut with my totally adorable family unit. I love living in CT, but Aruba is where I will always call home, my most favorite place to be, and my kids' second-most-favorite place...after Disney World!
The tiny tropical rock of Aruba is pretty damn terrific and boasts not only world famous white sandy beaches and bluer-than-blue Caribbean Sea shore, but an entire other side to explore and fall in love with! I'm talking cacti, desert landscapes which look like Tatooine, massive rock formations, wild donkeys (yes, donkeys) and colorful buildings. Take it from me, the Kodak moments on our island are endless. Not to mention, Arubans are delightful! We love to laugh, dance, hang out on the beach, enjoy an ice cold beer on a sunny Sunday afternoon and just enjoy island life. Aruba truly is ‘One Happy Island’ and a stellar spot to say your “I do's.”
Here are a couple of tips on what I would do and where I would go, if I got hitched in Aruba!
Where to Eat, Drink & Party
• The Dutch Pancake House
Dude. DUDE. If you are looking for a life-altering experience instead of your average breakfast, look no more. The Dutch Pancake House is it. The Dutch know how to do breakfast and this little nugget o' gold, situated at the Renaissance Marketplace, takes the cake. The pancake, that is. Serving authentic Dutch pancakes, available with pretty much ANYTHING baked in 'em (sweet or savory), alongside fresh-squeezed orange juice mimosas, we ate here four consecutive times on our last trip. I have yet to bring a Dutch pancake virgin to this place and have them NOT fall madly in love. And if you do end up here, make sure to order a batch of traditional poffertjes.
Zeerovers is Dutch for Pirates and that's kind of how it feels when you roll up to this seaside eatery. A local hotspot in Savaneta (the old captial of Aruba) for fresh fish and a tasty lunch, this place is always busy and bustling. Don't bother dressing up, at Zeerovers you can come as you are. Take a seat on a colorful fishing dock overlooking the sea and watch the fishermen bring in the very fish you'll be chowing down on soon. There is no real menu, it is whatever the catch of the day is, alongside some Aruban staples, such as Pan Bati, Banana Hasa (fried plantain) and an ice cold Balashi Chill, our very own locally brewed beer.
• Sand Bar
After a long day of exploring and enjoying Aruba, unwind with a tasty cold beverage! My favorite spot is Sand Bar, in the high-rise hotel area. Fully outdoors, with comfy seating, as well as a dance floor, this place is perfect for a couple of cocktails and some fun island shenanigans. We closed this place down a few times during our last trip and went home with sore feet from dancing and smudged eye makeup from laughing so much! Tell Andres or Humberto behind the bar that their blue-haired friend Laura sent you, and you might just get a free shot, too!
How to Wedding Aruba-Style
• Explore the Island
Aruba has, in my humble opinion, the nicest, most beautiful beaches and crystal clear water in the history of ever. (I'm not biased or anything.) But, this tiny island has so much more to offer, in addition to that white sand we are so famous for! Once you head inland, the terrain turns into incredibly stunning, dry, desert-like landscape, littered with cacti, Divi trees, some goats and tons of color. Our houses are painted in shades of bright and happy, and every so often, you come across some of the coolest abandoned buildings, which make for perfect photo opportunities. Not to mention the caves, the roois (ask a local about those!), the goldmine ruins and the ever-colorful streets of San Nicolas, so full of history and flavor that I could spend an entire day photographing there.
If you get married in Aruba, please, PLEASE, make sure to explore. Take gorgeous engagement and wedding photos all around the island, from the beach, to the rugged North coast and every stunning spot in between. (For Laura’s Top 10 Best Photography Spots on the island, stay tuned for tomorrow’s post!)
• Be Creative with Your Flowers
Go see my buddy Stuart, the flower whisperer, at Flora Market, and tell him I sent ya. This dude can whip-up the most amazing fresh flower arrangements and insanely fun bouquets. One of my favorite things to do every time I am on the island to shoot, is visit Stuart and get ridiculously out-of-the-box creative.
• Go Boutique Shopping
If you aren't sure what to wear to your rehearsal dinner, stop by Trash by Ronchi, the island's most kickass boutique full of all things pretty, for every size out there. From colorful dresses to funny shirts with snarky Aruban sayings on 'em, you're sure to find something fun to bring back home!
• Enjoy a Post-Party Brunch
Words cannot explain how incredibly dope the brunch at Arikok National Park really is. Put together by Fernando Mansur, a super talented local planner of House of Mosaic, this tasty late morning shindig feels like a straight-up Fata Morgana in the middle of a desert oasis. It is the perfect way to come together with all your loved ones the day after your wedding for some colorful, low-key eats and to enjoy some authentically rugged Aruban landscapes; your guests will freak when they see this…make sure to have a camera handy to capture their reactions!
There are so many more amazing things I could share with you about Aruba, like how you HAVE to try a pastechi together with a batido di mango. You cannot miss out on heading towards Seroe Colorado to chill with some wild donkeys and enjoy the stunning Baby Beach and you should definitely rent a car (4-wheel drive is a must) and try to make your way to the Natural Pool. Aruba, tiny as she might be, packs a punch unlike any other Caribbean Island and you can't NOT have a terrific time saying your “I do's” on this island.
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