Chocolate Mug Cake

Warm oooey gooey chocolaty goodness ready in five minutes flat! Dessert doesn’t get much easier (or healthier!) than Chocolate Mug Cake.

a chocolate mug cakeChocolate Mug Cake
(1 serving)

1/2 cup milk (we like almond, it’s higher in calcium)
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon grade A maple syrup, honey or coconut sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark chocolate chips (optional)
1.) Load all ingredients into a mug.
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2.) Mix thoroughly to combine.
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3.) Microwave mug for 90 seconds.
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4.) Continue microwaving for 30 second increments until cake is fully baked.
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5.) Add toppings as desired.

a chocolate mug cake

Chocolate Cake is probably my all time favorite dessert.

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Hubs is not a big fan of cake though so I usually only make cake for company… with the exclusion of Chocolate Mug CakeThis single serving sweet always hits the spot when a chocolate cake craving comes on.

a chocolate mug cake

Cheers to nutritious and delicious Chocolate Mug Cake!

8 Excellent Eats in Aruba

There are lots of amazing Aruba eats to indulge in. From toes in the sand dinning to fresh Caribbean catch and authentic cultural cuisine, this island has a little dab of this and tad bit of that on the menu. Check our the 8 Excellent Eats in Aruba we experienced!

A 8 Excellent Eats in Aruba

1.) The Pier

DSC00108Bugaloe is a hot little spot hanging out over the waters of Palm Beach.

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The menu is made up of bar food classics with a fresh island twist.

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A super casual atmosphere with spectacular views takes over here.DSC00113

2.) The Sand

IMG_0053Simply Fish offers just that. A list of local sustainable fish accompanied by a soiree of sides are offered up on the menu.

IMG_0048 Here toes are in the sand and every single table has an upfront view of the captivating Caribbean Sea.

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Our fish dinners came with complementary bread, tapenade, sushi rolls and a pallet cleaning sorbet. Every drop was delectable.

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At the end of the meal, the check is delivered in a treasure chest and a tiny statue of the island’s iconic California Lighthouse is presented in a small gift bag. DSC00238

Simply Fish is scenic, romantic and one of a kind.

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3.) The Island

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Papagoyo was by far the most unique Aruban eat we experienced. DSC00309

Only accessibly by boat, the bar and grill sits in the sands of Iguana Beach on Renaissance Island.

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Iguanas and flamingos frolic freely on the beach and tropical fish float in the protected waters.

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You can pull up a bar stool or order food and drink from the comfort of your chaise lounge like we did.

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 This beach made our Top 10 Aruba Beaches.

4.) The Harbor

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Paddock is an open air English inspired pub docked right in heart Aruba’s capitol, Oranjestad.

DSC00048  There’s good times and great views to be had here.

5.)  The Beach

Gilligan’s overlooks the palm huts along Palm Beach.

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The open air spot offers up fast and friendly service and a bar-style menu.

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6.)  The Sidewalk

Casa Tua sits just inland from Palm Beach along a lively sidewalk.

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The Italian drinks and food are excellent. The atmosphere is energetic.

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 7.)  The Towncenter

Fish and More says it all in its name.

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This place has a little bit of everything on the menu and a lovely little low key patio out front.

8.)  The Patio

Salt & Pepper serves up fresh fish and great outdoor seating.

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 Located next the previous two places in a quaint shopping strip near the high-pace high-rise resorts, a meal here can conveniently be accompanied by a number of other actives. Read more about all that Palm Beach has to offer here.

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Feel free to share your own Aruban excellent eats experiences in the comment section.

Shepherd’s Pie

A lovely friend‘s recent request for a Mind Full Food version of Shepherd’s Pie inspired this cozy casserole just in time for the looming polar vortex!

a shepherd's pie

 Don’t let the extensive list of ingredients intimidate, Shepherd’s Pie is super easy to whip up.
roux recipes
This is one of those Quick Roux Recipes!
a shepherd's pie
(6 – 8 Servings)
Mashed Potato Topping:
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon butter (we like vegan, it’s half the fat)
1 cup milk (we like almond, it’s higher in calcium)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pie Filling:
1 tablespoon oil (we like avocado, grape seed or coconut)
1 onion, fine chopped
3 – 4 stalks celery, chopped
4 cups fresh or frozen vegetables (carrots, peas, etc.), chopped and cooked
1 cup lentils, canned or cooked in stock (or low fat ground meat)
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
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1.) Boil potatoes for 15 – 20 minutes or until fork tender. Meanwhile…
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2.) Heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and celery, sautéing until translucent or about 10 minutes. Toss in garlic during the last couple of minutes of sautéing.
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3.) Whisk flour into onion, cooking for a couple minutes or until slightly browned.
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4.) Add stock, continuing to whisk until smooth.
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5.) Stir in ketchup and seasonings, cooking until thickened.
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6.) Mix in vegetables and lentils or meat with the sauce.
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7.) Dump the pie filling into a prepared casserole dish.
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8.) Whip cooked potatoes with butter, milk, salt and pepper.
9.) Top pie filling with mashed potatoes.
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10.) Bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden brown. a shepherd's pie

 My sister (who’ll be home for the next couple of months, yay!) helped prepare the above Shepherd’s Pie for Sunday supper with the family.

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While I failed to snap a shot of us around the table that night, I remembered the night before up at the cabin with our cousins. Success… other than peeping Dad.

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Cousin Uncle Sonny came up to show us how to survey the family’s recently inherited mountain acreage. The statuesque rock below marks our property line. How awesome it that?

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It was a lovely night of catching up, sipping soup and watching home movies.

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Blue Mountain is so beautiful in the fall!

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Enjoy the last of the candy colors and once old man winter settles in, take comfort in this delicious and nutritious Shepherd’s Pie!

a shepherd's pie

Arikok National Park Top 10 Attractions

 Some of Aruba’s most beautiful attractions lie within Arikok National Park. This east coast stretch serves up a fresh perspective of the island.

A Arikok National Park Top 10 White

1.) Arikok Visitor Center

The Arikok Visitor Center quickly acquaints guests, easily enhancing the park experience.

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Park tickets are purchased at the visitor center so stopping by is must, however its many informative displays are definitely worth a glance.  Along with admission tickets, a detailed map of Arikok and off-roading rules are provided.

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The enlarged aerials above demonstrate development over the last decades in Aruba. Looking beyond that gnarly glare, wow. The visitor center’s many other displays are dedicated to Arikok’s wildlife.

2.) Unique Wildlife

After learning about Arikok’s burrowing owls and nonaggressive rattlesnakes among other unique inhabitants, we had our eyes peeled.

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The droves of billy goats roaming the park mostly kept us entertained though.DSC09813

Wild goats of all ages, colors and patterns were everywhere!

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We were amused by them but they aren’t interested in humans. The goats below got up and left when I (slowly) approached to take a picture. Others just wondered by the car completely uninterested.DSC09806  DSC09808 DSC09809

3.) Sand Dunes

Upon approaching the shoreline an area of sandy dunes dots the rugged terrain. Aruba really does have it all!

4.) Dos Playa

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Just beyond the dunes a long bumpy dirt road leads to a completely unspoiled nook in the park.

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This special little spot feels like a secluded island.

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The softest sands meet the most beautiful blue waves at Dos Playa.

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We found Dos Playa to be the most beautiful beach on the island.

A Top 10 Aruba Beaches

This is our kind of heaven!

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5.) Conchi Natual Pool

Only accessible by foot or off-road vehicle, Conchi Natural Pool is Aruba’s hidden gem.

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While it came highly recommended by fellow Americans, the locals didn’t have much to say about it. Short on time, we saved this adventure for our next Aruba visit. (More on Conchi, Dos Playa and Aruba’s other Top 10 Beaches here!)

6.) Fuente and Boca PrinsDSC09905

This rugged stretch of Aruban coastline has been carved out over time by wind and water.

DSC09903 Fuente is a gorgeous gaping hole that’s been formed by the powerful sea.

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Stairs built right into the rock allow curious eyes to get a closer look at the striking natural formation.

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Boca Prins is a tiny cove of sand guarded by volcanic rock.

DSC09902There’s a lot of energy here!DSC09887

7.) Fontein Cave & First Governor’s Mansion

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Ranger John fascinated us with Aruban history at the Fontein Cave and First Governor’s Mansion.

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Regularly stationed at Fontein Cave, this enthusiastic Aruba native greeted us with a high five and offered to give a quick tour of the cave.

DSC09911 Guided by a flashlight, we delved deeper into the cavern. All the while  John briefed us on Fontein’s past, interpreted lots of ancient Aruban art and pointed out bats hanging overhead.

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The super nice ranger was not only informative, but a pro at shining the flashlight for photography and video.

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He even offered to take these creative shots of us. LOVE!

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Sensing our enthusiasm I suppose, John also offered up a tour of the First Governor’s Mansion.

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We were led down a path back towards the coastline. Passing by a pond of tilapia, he mentioned that they were there to keep the mosquitos away.  How interesting!

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 Intriguing tid-bits on the property were shared as the tour continued. At one point John plucked and passed us a fragrant yellow flower that’s said to bring a day of good luck (above). How sweet is that?

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Although clearly neglected by abandonment, beautiful handmade tile and vibrant wall colors left evidence of the home’s hay-day.DSC09959

John’s guidance left us with the confidence to explore Arikok’s other cave on our own!

8.) Quadirikiri Cave

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Upon arrival Brian read of Quadirikiri’s past involving love, rage and an Aruban princess.

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DSC09993The depths of this cave hold beautiful hollows gleaming in natural light a few hundred feet back.DSC09976

Climbing back into the cave is a bit creepy with possible critters crawling under foot and bats hanging from above, but its beauty is unworldly.

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Just keep in mind, excitement is scientifically proven to create bonding!

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9.) Wind ParkDSC09781

Towering turbines overlook Aruba’s east coast.

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  Clean energy harvest always bring us joy.DSC09761

10.)  Sero Jamanota

Last but certainly not least, there are amazing views of the entire island up on Aruba’s highest peak, Sero Jamanota.

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             Whether hiking or driving up, this point in the park is worth it’s weight in views.

DSC00014Above is a view of the southern most tip of Aruba from atop Jamanota. Moving clockwise, the panorama below looks to the most northern point.

DSC00015Continuing to turn clockwise, a photo of the island’s east coast follows.

DSC00016The jump shots we did up on Jamanota were the most fun photos.

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Here are just ten of our favorite attributes. There are so many reasons to love Arikok National Park, Aruba!

A Arikok National Park Top 10 White

Top 10 Aruba Beaches

Aruba has some of the most amazing beaches! Our list of the Top 10 Aruba Beaches is based on our awesome week on the island, a little research and a few fabulous recommendations.

A Top 10 Aruba Beaches

1.) Arashi – The Locals’ Favorite Beach

Beginning with the most northern of Aruba’s beaches, Arashi is a snow white sand beach dotted with palm huts and sprinkled with snorkel spots. While we only stopped by this spot for a brief moment on our first day when getting acquainted with the island, it was a beautiful moment.

A Arashi Beach Map

Not only did I read that Arashi Beach is a favorite among the locals, a native Aruban actually told me Arashi was their favorite beach on the island. Coincidentally it was just up the road from Arashi Beach at the California Lighthouse (below) where the kind native offered the opinion.

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We may have made more time for Arashi had the recommendation come before our last morning.

2.) Boca Catalina – The Best Snorkeling BeachIMG_0335

The Boca Catalina Cove is another place we may have made more time for if not for discovering it during our last couple of hours on Aruba.

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This beyond gorgeous location just southwest of Arashi Beach is a sensational snorkeling spot.

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Within our quick stint here, we spotted tons of sea life including starfish, colorful coral and a variety of brilliant tropical fish.

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We also saw a couple of anchored yachts hosting snorkel excursions at The Cove, further proving its popularity.

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There was more than enough room for everyone to swim around, even Molly.IMG_0347

Boca Catalina is a sweet little spot!

 

3.) Malmock – Best Sunset and Shipwreck Beach

DSC09657Offering up authentic Gillian’s Island shipwreck appeal along side spectacular vistas, this stretch of shore is a favorite among locals and tourist alike.

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There’s always something fun to see or do on Malmock Beach, even if that something is simply staring out into the beautiful wild blue yonder!

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 We were constantly entertained the seven days we stayed in a room with a fabulous view of Malmock Beach.

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The Antilla Shipwreck coupled with fairly calm rolling water offers up the perfect conditions for all things water.

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IMG_9652From scenic sunbathing and shell collecting to scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, surfing and SUP boarding, Malmock has it all.

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Strolling alongside Malmock Beach is a dirt path accessible to joggers, horseback riders, bikes, ATV’s, etc.

DSC00107 Molly met many Aruban dogs, tourists and locals while walking the gorgeous Malmock Beach path morning, noon and night.

DSC00093       The sunsets from Malmock Beach were picturesque each and every evening.

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One of our favorite spots on Aruba!

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4.) Hadicurari – Top Watersporting Beach

Expert Kite Boarders, sailors, surfers and their equipment are all up for rent here at Hadicurari Beach.DSC00149

Home to the annual Hi-Winds Windsurfing Tournament, Hadicurari has perfect rolling waves and easy breezy conditions for sailing and surfing of any kind.

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5.) Palm – Best Resort-Style BeachIMG_9922

Lined with high-class high-rise hotels, Palm Beach offers up a plethora of seaside luxuries.

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Some of the Palm Beach amenities include tiki bars, lush gardens, shaded full service lounge chairs, waterfront dining, seaside casinos, yacht cruises and more.

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Although Aruba is pretty safe in general, this stretch of bright lights makes walking the beach at night even safer.

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A scenic powdery white stretch along Aruba’s Midwestern shore, Palm Beach is a slice of pure paradise.

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6.) Iguana – Best Wildlife Beach

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Home to beautiful and bountiful island wildlife, close encounters with curious creatures are almost unavoidable here.

IMG_0227Iguana Beach is located just off-shore on Renaissance Island.

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The island is named after its owner and the beach is named after its most prevelant inhabitant.

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The exclusive experience is only accessible to hotel guests and paying visitors. Visitors tickets can be purchased at the hotel’s front desk and include water taxis to and from the island, a meal, a fruity beverage, a water toy and the company of a few friendly flamingos and iguanas.

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Pretty pelicans and iguanas welcome guests to the island at the boat dock.

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Gorgeous pink flamingos stand guard along the soft sandy beaches sectioned off as family friendly and adult only.

DSC00310 We had a fabulous day with the super friendly flamingos and iguanas.

DSC00333For flamingo lovers like myself, this place is a dream come true!

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After meeting the land life, we rented rafts with our water toy tickets, then strapped on our snorkel equipment and explored the underwater offerings of Iguana Beach.

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I was feeling lazy that day and preferred to lounge in sun. Ahh-mazing!

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While I floated above, hubs explored the vibrant creatures under the water.

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The whole experience was exciting, relaxing, indulgent and definitely one of a kind.

DSCN3318  7.) Baby – The Best Day Trip and Least Fur Friendly Beach

DSC09715We were excited to check out this dreamy tropical beach.

DSC09720Baby Beach is a protected cove that forms a half moon of white sand. Palm huts and rentable beach cabanas dot the beach while a bar & grill docked at either end put food and drink within easy reach.

DSC09719Baby Beach was beautiful, but does not welcome dogs. We only stayed long enough to snap a few shots.   DSC09716

8.) Boca Grandi and Bachelor Beach – Best Sunrise and Breeziest Beaches

DSC09754Offering endless ocean views by day, I can only imagine the amazing sunrises at this southeast area on Aruba.

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 Vast views appear beyond the rugged terrain that’s been carved out by strong the winds at Boca Grandi and Bachelor Beach. DSC09761

Ideal terrain for rock climbers and goats!

DSC09769    Much like the California coastline, the conditions are excellent for wind and wave surfing. DSC09749  Turbines collecting clean energy overlook the ocean. Cactus and driftwood scatter the ground leading to the beaches.DSC09781

Boca Grandi and Bachelor are beautifully unique beach experiences.

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9.) Dos Playa – Best Unspoiled BeachDSC09886

Located on the east coast of Aruba’s Arikok National Park, Dos Playa Beach has remained completely natural other than some railings, stairs and a sign.

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The amazing white sand is so soft your feet feel like they could sink right in.

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 Although the visitor’s center advised against swimming in the rough water, wave loving hubby couldn’t resist the salty temptation.DSC09861

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If there was more time we could have stayed all day, but we reveled in the pure splender then went on our way to explore the rest of the park.

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10.) Conchi Natural Pool – Best Hidden Beach

Only accessible on foot or by off-road vehicle, it appears a lot of Conchi’s appeal lies in the journey. At the end of this jaunt, the clear calm waters of Aruba’s naturally formed pool make for perfect swimming and sunbathing conditions.

a aruba mapConchi is located in the northern part of Arikok. While we saved this special spot for our next Aruba adventure, a half day was dedicated to touring the rest of the park. Check out the awesome Arikok National Park Top 10 Attractions!