Aruba: Where to stay, what to do
MEGAN PINCKNEY | 6/22/2017, 4:28 p.m.
WHERE TO STAY
The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba
Can you ever go wrong with staying at a Ritz Carlton property? The answer is no, and this property is one worth checking out. In conjunction with the exceptional service and attention to detail we have all come to expect with the brand, each of the 320 spacious guest rooms has access to a private balcony—perfect for watching the sunrise or sunset over the ocean. The property has four different restaurant options (ranging from poolside grill to white tablecloth seating) and gives guests the option of requesting a romantic dinner on the beach, with a butler and personalized menu. There are two swimming pools (one of which is adults only), a luxury spa and a state-of-the-art fitness center with enough equipment to keep you on your gym routine while on vacation. The hotel also offers a 15,000-square-foot, 24-hour casino located in the hotel for guests and non-guests.
Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino
Located in the heart of Aruba’s busiest tourist district, the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino offers guests an unparalleled experience. The resort has 40 acres of exclusive beach sand and shore, which are home to a flock of wild flamingos and countless iguanas. Guests arrive to the private oasis by water taxi, which leaves from the lobby’s canal. The resort is divided into two zones: adult only and family friendly, allowing you to choose the type of vacation you wish to have. Rooms come complete with free Wi-Fi access and most have access to balconies that offer ocean or garden views. The resort also has a luxury spa, outdoor pools, easy access to Renaissance Mall and a 24-hour casino.
WHERE TO EAT
This locally owned restaurant gave me one of my favorite beach dining experiences to date. Diners are treated to a table in the sand (that quickly turns into “a table in the water” as the waves come in) amid the backdrop of a breathtaking sunset and an ocean that never ends. As the sun sets, colored lights reflected on the water creates a magical feeling under a starry sky. But the views aren’t the only reason this restaurant is named No. 8 on the list of “best beach restaurants around the world.” The menu is filled with delectable seafood and steak plates that use local ingredients and techniques to create a culinary experience you won’t soon forget.
WHAT TO DO
Renaissance Aruba Private Island
Even if you aren’t a guest at the Renaissance, you can purchase a day pass for $99 per person to their private island (if their hotel isn’t at capacity). A water taxi will take you on a 10-minute ride to the island, where you can spend the entire day soaking up the sun with wild flamingos and iguanas, getting pampered at the Spa Cove with a view of the open sea, partaking in water sports or beach activities and enjoying a good lunch at Papagoyo Bar and Grill.
Arikok National Park
With more than 7,000 acres (18 percent of the entire island) designated as a national park, Arikok is a must if you’re visiting Aruba. The park is made up of three distinct geological terrains: the rough hills of the volcanic Aruba lava formation, the mysterious rocks of the batholithic quartz-diorite/tonalite and the limestone rocks with fossilized coral. The park has huge significance in the history of Aruba as it has traces of the earliest human activity—the Caquetío people left rock paintings in Cunucu Arikok and Fontein Cave. Within the park is one of the island’s most sought after attractions, Conchi (or the Natural Pool), which is a calm pond created, in part, by the massive rocks that block out the rough seas, but it can only be accessed by foot, horse, ATV or four-wheel drive vehicle. The park also has several mini-beaches throughout, giving guests the opportunity to stop during their exploration. And visitors can see most of the island from atop Arikok Hilltop. The park is open Monday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $11 per person, or free from anyone 17 and under.
Aruba is known for having some of the best sunsets in the world, thanks to its location in the Caribbean Sea. Book a sunset cruise so that you can enjoy the view of the pink and orange sky from the sea. Most cruises last approximately two hours and offer guests snacks and cocktails for the duration of the cruise. While sailing along the coast, you’ll have the opportunity to glance at oceanfront properties that you can’t see from the main roads. Tickets are $55 per adult and $29 per child (ages 3 to 11).
Megan Pinckney (@shadesofpinck) is a retired beauty queen turned lifestyle blogger who loves exploring the world and writing about it.