ARUBA: Where To Stay, Play, and Explore
It is easy to understand why Aruba is one of the most visited Caribbean islands. Look out into the island’s gorgeous seascape and you will discover dazzling shades of blue you never knew existed. The sand is soft and powder-white. There is a constant, refreshing breeze, thanks to the trade winds, and the arid climate has garnered Aruba the title of the Caribbean island with least rainy days. As an added bonus, the island lies just south of the hurricane belt, so it is spared the wrath of Mother Nature that threatens so many of its Caribbean neighbors to the north. Upscale Living travelers seeking to escape the cold or simply recharge, will relish in a visit to the self-proclaimed “one happy island”, where they can just forget about the world and relax.
WHERE TO STAY | Start by booking a room at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino’s exclusive Tradewinds Club, a product of the resort’s $50 million renovation in 2008. The property is located on Palm Beach, known for its calm waters and long sandy strip. Tradewinds Club guests must be over 18 years of age and receive upgraded hotel service, such as a private checking and checkout center located in the modern Tradewinds Club Lounge, a 1,900-square-foot lounge area with a 200-square-foot terrace, accessible only to Tradewinds Club guests. The Lounge also offers complimentary gourmet selections that include breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, Discovery Hour (drinks and tastes from the resort’s restaurants), and cheese & pastries in the evenings. There is an open bar serving juices and soft drinks throughout the day and alcoholic beverages in the evening.
Once checked in to any of the 49 rooms reserved for upscale travelers, patrons will find their accommodations outfitted with upgraded bathroom amenities, deluxe robes and slippers, and a “pillow menu.” Tradewinds Club guests enjoy additional exclusive privileges throughout the resort such as free WiFi, vacation planning services, unpacking, pressing, and packing assistance (upon request) and preferred spa and restaurant reservations made by the concierge staff.
Guests are free to enjoy the resort’s main pool, with cascading waterfalls, pool bar, and live music or enjoy the more private, adults-only pool which features a relaxing, minimalist design. Beachgoers are privy to a secluded area of the beach offering oversized towels, complimentary floats, and beach beds along with outdoor Mandara Spa treatments in the Tradewinds Beach Cabin.
Dining options at the resort are numerous. Enjoy the open terrace of La Vista with pool and ocean views, or for a romantic sunset dinner, head to Atardi, whose tables rest right on the sand in the beach! The central lobby bar serves as a gathering spot for evening cocktails and entertainment, with The Lobby – Shake & Roll featuring a diverse cocktail and liquor menu (including themed happy hour menus on certain weeknights), a sushi bar, and live entertainment nightly fro 7-9 p.m. There’s also a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Starbucks (the largest on the island!) and Gelato & Co, an authentic gelateria created by famed Italian chef, Stefano Frencheschi.
PLAY | Because everyone feels lucky in Aruba, a visit to the casino is a must. With over 15,000 square feet of gaming space, the Stellaris Casino is the largest in Aruba and is open 24 hours. The casino offers more than 500 slot machines and 32 gaming tables.
For those seeking outdoor activities beyond sunbathing, the Marriott has got you covered with water sports like SUP, kayaking, windsurfing, and kitesurfing, snorkeling and scuba diving. They also offer traditional sports like tennis, basketball, and beach volleyball for in addition to pool games and aquarobics. There is also a bi-level, air- conditioned health club at the resort, with exercise equipment and a sauna.
EXPLORE | One could easily make their entire holiday revolve around a stay at the Marriott, but if adventure calls and you want to explore beyond the luxury and comfort of the resort, Aruba has plenty of fun excursions to offer.
Oranjestad | Visit the quaint capital city where you’ll find local shops, boutiques, restaurants, and bars on charming streets with Dutch architecture and colorful buildings. The city is small but packed with high-end clothing and jewelry stores. You’ll hear locals speaking papiamento, the island’s official language that is a blend of Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, and West African.
Art Excursion Through San Nicolas | Aruba’s under-the-radar and trendy neighborhood called San Nicolas is quietly and quickly become a hub of creative expression. Once a desolate and rundown part of the island, San Nicolas is now bustling with colorful murals created by worldwide artists as well as boutique shops selling local, handmade goods. Visit the recently inaugurated Museum of Industry located inside the iconic water tower in downtown San Nicolas that forms part of a five museum constellation of Fundacion Museo Arubano. The Museum of Industry tells the remarkable story of the industrial development on Aruba during the last two centuries, a history that had global impact and may come as a surprise to many. Museum of Industry, Water Toren, Torenstraat, San Nicolas; +297 584 7090
Adventure to Arikok National Park and the Natural Pool | This national park comprises almost 18% of the island and is a stunning visual difference from the placid beaches the island is most known for. De Palm Tours offers a 4. 5 hour rugged Jeep Safari excursion in open-air Land Rovers to take in the beautiful, windswept terrain, breath-taking views, and history-rich gems like the Alto Vista Chapel, California Lighthouse, and Gold Mine Ruins. The highlight includes a dip in the famed Natural Pool, a natural pool of water formed by rock and volcanic stone circles, bursting with colorful, tropical fish. De Palm Tours Aruba L.G. Smith Blvd. 142 Oranjestad; + 297 522-4400
Visit the Donkey Sanctuary | Although not originally native to the island, donkeys have existed in Aruba for 500 years, having been the primary mode of transportation until cars began to be introduced on the island in increasing numbers. In 1997, this non-profit and completely-volunteer run sanctuary was founded to care for and protect the donkeys on the island. Admission is free and visitors can feed these docile and very friendly animals, who, it turns out, make excellent selfie partners. Donations are accepted and visitors can also adopt a donkey for $200 per year, which goes towards ensuring the donkeys receive food and water, shelter, quality medical care, and lots of love. Bringamosa 2-Z, Sta Cruz, Aruba; +297 593 2933
Where To Grab A Bite
Charlie’s Bar: Founded by Dutch couple Charles and Marie Brouns, this iconic spot located in the San Nicolas neighborhood has been an island legend for more than 70 years. It seems they have been collecting paraphernalia for just as long- the space is cluttered with posters, pennants, license plates, cash, and so much more. It’s a great lunch spot to sample good homemade food- from seafood to their famous ribs and their trademark “honeymoon sauce” to spice things up. Wash it down with the local “Chill” beer. Bernard van de Veen Zeppenfeldstraat 56, San Nicolas; +297 584 5086
Tierra del Sol: The Restaurant Tierra del Sol Resort & Golf Club makes this a must-visit spot for a romantic dinner with dramatic north coast views. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and offers a flavorful menu that includes freshly caught seafood as well as upscale European fare. Tierra Del Sol Resort, Caya Di Solo # 10, Noord; +297 586-7800 ext. 230; e-mail: [email protected]
+297 Restaurant: Named after the island’s area code, this hip, modern restaurant/lounge will have you feeling you are in South Beach with its ultracool feel. The restaurants offers a fusion of flavors meant to be shared like tapas, alongside a menu of provocative craft cocktails. J.E Irausquin Blvd 374, Palm Beach; +297 – 5822297; [email protected]