Thinking of jetting to Aruba for a little sun? Here’s what you need to know, need to avoid, and whether or not this is the destination for you.
Sunshine-lots of it:
Aruba sits south of the hurricane belt just off the coast of Venezuela. This means that you can almost guarantee a suntan and no rain out, every day, of every week, all year long. The island only gets 20 inches of rain per year and is famous for its trade winds, it’s a wind surfer’s paradise, so even in the heat, it’s comfortable.
I would classify Aruba as a budget island. Since it’s the Caribbean, summer is off season, and well priced. However, the trade winds make it very comfortable, and a good time to get a deal on a hotel. A quick check for travel in both November of this year and summer of next, has rooms at the Hyatt, a perfectly nice hotel, at $335/night.
There is one true luxury property, the new Ritz, it’s nice but not over the top. The pool is tiny so I don’t think it would be great for kids. However it sits on the nicest part of Palm Beach, it’s relatively uncrowded and the spa is lovely. I can’t vouch for the rooms as I didn’t stay there. I did however review both the drinks and the massages at the Ritz and can highly recommend both. They also offer scented oxygen in the relaxation room while waiting for your treatment. It’s sort of like having Febreze shoved up your nose, but oddly relaxing.
Just down from the Ritz is the Hyatt and that’s the beach with all the action, it’s full of cheesy fun for teenagers and drunk people from New Jersey. You can rent a jet pack from Red Sail Sports, or get pulled behind a boat in an inflatable couch. Not sure when tubing became so much work that they started pulling couch thingys, but I saw it with my own eyes.
Some good restaurants, and a lot of bad ones:
There are a few really fabulous restaurants. The Flying Fishbone offers a true “toes in the sand” dining experience. I’m picky when it comes to food and wine, they had a great menu of both. Also, the service was fabulous. I dined at a few other restaurants on island that had great food but the service was so slow that I couldn’t recommend them.
I went to Aruba on a press trip so you don’t always get a choice in where you stay and what you do. I’d like to think of this trip as my chance to share where not to stay when in Aruba. The Renaissance has two hotels, one on the beach for families and one in town (sort of in a mall, for real) that is not family friendly. I would like to think of a good reason to recommend this hotel but I can’t come up with one. It was sort of like a W, but without the service. The music from the pool thumped through my room all day and late in to the night. The service was horrendous, seriously, jaw dropping bad. They boast their own private island that you get to by boat. There are flamingos that live on the island, they are cute, but even they can’t make this hotel worth staying at. The one upside, there is a Starbucks in the lobby. And the drinks were two for one during happy hour. There, I said something nice.
There is a large cheese factor in Aruba. I noticed in the Ritz magazine while sitting at the spa they had gorgeous photos of the colonial Dutch architecture. However they had all photoshopped the Quiznos and KFC signs off of these gorgeous buildings. Where is the island’s architectural review board? There are a lot of casinos and I noticed buffet food signs. I didn’t check out any of them, sorry. I think if you are 24 and looking for fun, this is a great destination. If you are the parents of 24 year olds and want them to go on vacation with you, this is also a great spot. You can even ride the Kukoo Kunuku Party Bus from bar to bar. According to Trip Advisor reviews there are people who think this is a lot of fun. I chose to take a taxi.
Aruba has gorgeous natural resources. We trekked in to the Arikok National Park and hiked in to a natural pool called Conchi. We rode in the back of a pick up, I sort of felt like I was being deployed in Afghanistan. The Ritz tells me they send their guests in Hummers which I would imagine is more comfortable. I saw that a ranch allows you to trail ride in, I would suggest either one of these options. The natural pool really is gorgeous though, however you get there.
I think Aruba is the perfect spot if you are looking for guaranteed sun at a great price point. Jet Blue flies directly from many major airports. They have a getaways package that includes airfare and 3 nights at The Hyatt for $969/person. If you have teens that you are worried will be bored on a quiet island or you want to play a little slots, Aruba is for you. We visited the cutest little hotel I’ve ever seen, The Boardwalk, just across the street from the Ritz. The owners are serious about customer service and the villas are adorable. USA Today just named it a Hidden Gem Hotel, I couldn’t agree more. I would stay there or at the Ritz, eat at Flying Fishbone, and avoid the party bus at all costs.
I was the guest of the Aruba Tourism Authority for this press trip and clearly, my opinions are my own. I debated whether to write a review at all, but you my dear readers, always deserve the honest truth.