When I visited Aruba for the first time, I decided that instead of trying to see and do it all, I would embrace a more laid-back approach — the complete opposite of how I live my life in New York City.
The island, after all, is practically designed for relaxation: The white sand beaches, bright blue water and gently flowing surf have a virtually hypnotic effect on the system. Plus, the island’s compact size (it’s only 20 miles long!) makes it a breeze to hop from one low-key destination to the next — no early morning wakeup calls for long excursion drives needed.
With relaxation in mind, I planned plenty of time on the beach, along with these five rejuvenating activities. This blend of movement and mindfulness helped me discover my Zen pretty quickly — and you will, too.
Find balance with stand-up paddleboarding.
I normally do yoga a couple times a month, but I took my practice to another level in Aruba with a stand-up paddleboard yoga class. I booked with Island Yoga, a local company led by Instagrammer and social-good blogger Rachel Brathen. During the hourlong session, I tested my balance through a series of poses on the board — all while bobbing atop the water.
From afar, the boards don’t look very sturdy. But once I was on one, I was pleasantly surprised by my ability to keep steady. (Though make no mistake — it’s challenging!) In fact, the gentle rocking of the water underneath my board not only enhanced my core training, but it also added to the relaxation. The class, which was held on the beach outside my hotel, was the perfect way to kick-start my first full day on the island.
If you’re not quite ready to try stand-up paddleboard yoga, opt for a traditional yoga class instead. Many resorts offer morning meditations and yoga sessions throughout the week.
Get pampered at the spa.
I rarely splurge on spa treatments in my day-to-day life, but while in Aruba, I decided to pamper myself. I opted for the 50-minute Balinese massage at the Aruba Marriott® Resort & Stellaris Casino’s Mandara Spa. Before heading into my treatment room, I was asked to smell and choose between three different fragrances. I chose lavender for its soothing properties, and it truly added to the luxurious experience.
The massage itself is designed to strengthen and heal the body with stretching, long strokes and pressure techniques that I found exceptionally relaxing from start to finish. I’ve experienced a few of these massages in Bali, and I found it unexpectedly comforting to know that the same healing treatment is offered halfway around the world in Aruba.
Get some vitamin sea.
Aruba isn’t called One Happy Island for nothing; it provides countless reasons to smile. One of those reasons is its copious amounts of sunshine, which delivers healing vitamin D with every ray. Another is, as I like to call it, vitamin sea.
Taking to the ocean can be extremely rejuvenating, especially in a tropical paradise like Aruba. If you’re looking for a replenishing dip that comes with an eyeful of nature, I recommend a snorkeling tour. I chose a tour that combined a bit of sailing with stops at three different snorkel sites: Catalina Bay, Arashi Reef and the site of the World War II wreck of the Antilla. I saw plenty of angelfish and a rainbow of other fish species at Catalina Bay, and then it was on to spot bright coral at Arashi Reef. We finished up swimming with the stingrays at the Antilla site. Having the experts pick the destinations allowed me to focus on connecting with nature, which was a truly blissful experience.
Pick up some Aruba Aloe.
Even though I applied sunscreen faithfully during my stay in Aruba, I still managed to get sunburned. My predicament led me to the Aruba Aloe Museum and Factory. (Tour buses often stop there, too.)
Aloe vera is one of nature’s most soothing ointments; it’s known for cooling sunburns and rashes, treating burns, boosting the immune system and even aiding digestion. My tour of the museum taught me that the plant was first introduced to the island in 1840, and it has been a major ingredient in locally made skin care products ever since. It eased the sting of my sunburn, and I ended up buying a few carry-on-size lotions to bring back home.
My life in New York is often hectic, so what I appreciated most about Aruba was its considerably slower pace. I didn’t feel rushed — or stressed — in the least.
Physically, I exercised plenty, but it hardly felt like a chore; snorkeling and playing tennis in a gorgeous tropical paradise is a lot more fun than running on a treadmill. Mentally, I simply took time to take in everything around me. My hotel room balcony overlooked the ocean, and every evening I made a point to toast to the view, whether with herbal tea or a chilled glass of champagne. Each time, I discovered that the oceanfront vistas and salty air breezes provided a much-needed escape from the norm.
And that’s when I truly fell for Aruba. Any destination that has the power to totally relax my city sensibilities and plant me fully in the moment has me for life — and I can’t wait to experience it all again.