Originally posted by imagrits on February 19, 2012
We visited Aruba, and enjoyed the wonderful Dutch influence and culture...without the lengthy Atlantic flight! If you are Interested in experiencing a new culture, and only have a few days...consider this lovely island!
You notice the friendly Dutch influence at the airport, as your taxi driver welcomes you into their "personal" vehicle...cabs are strictly licensed in Aruba, and cabbies who do not keep their vehicles in pristine condition will lose their license. Our cab was a Mercedes, and our driver served as a welcoming tour guide, courteous with great knowledge of the island. He showed great pride in his service - cab driving is a much coveted career in Aruba, and it was evident in every cab we took throughout our stay.
We began our adventure at the Stellaris Resort, where we splurged on a Tradewinds upgrade, securing the corner suite on the top floor. The upgrade means you check in at the Club, not in the lobby. Served champagne upon arrival, we were warmly greeted by Marriott employees, working here temporarily, on "leave" from their home country of Holland, with the melodious accent of their homeland evident as they checked us in. The club is quite lovely, with lots of comfortable seating to enjoy the (count 'em) 5 various food offerings each day. Our suite was equally pretty, very spacious in restful colors with floor to ceiling windows to enjoy the beautiful 180 degree view, (only slightly marred by the construction next door) We put the extra large balcony to great use - lovely way to start the day with a cup of coffee...and end it with a nightcap. So tempting not to leave...
We enjoyed the beach, securing a tiki umbrella close to the water. Waitstaff was on the beach each day, serving beverages and food as desired. So nice to not have to clean up to head into a restaurant! Although we chose the beach, the pool area was gorgeous with a lively bar and music. TEHO! The trade winds kept the temps enjoyable, but by mid-afternoon we headed into the casino for a few games of chance before dinner.
Dining is one of the great treats in Aruba. The Dutch influence is strong, but tempered by tropic influences- lots of fresh fish prepared "island style". White asparagus is a real Dutch treat - make sure you try it! A great indoor/outdoor restaurant we tried was Madame Jeanette's - highly recommend it, it's an easy cab ride from the Stellaris.
After a couple days, we moved to the Marina Renaissance for a completely different, downtown experience. The hotel is older than Stellaris, and like most city hotels the rooms are small - but what a great lobby, pool area, and casino! This was our favorite casino on the island - we aren't big gamblers, but had fun. We also dined at LG Smith's, the steakhouse on site. Not particularly Dutch...but an elegant meal amid the laid back island atmosphere that we enjoyed.
It was great being downtown as we could walk everywhere, and enjoy some of the great dutch inspired architecture, in lovely tropic pastels. Again, some great meals, within walking distance of the hotel. Cuba's Cooking for enjoyable musical performances while you dine, and SimplyFish for some of the best fish I have ever eaten! I don't love fish, but this was freshly caught, and bought by the chef that afternoon. So fresh, and prepared simply in a fun nautical setting. We also ate a small restaurant serving wonderful Dutch pancakes in a small shopping mall ...amazing what one can find when you wander - and you will have to, because I cannot remember the name!
The pool at the Renaissance has an infinity edge - so gorgeous, but my favorite part of this hotel was access to a private island, shared only by other guests....and lots of turtles and flamingos. The launch picks you up right in the lobby (yes, a boat dock right in the lower lobby!) and speeds you over to enjoy your day! Lots of activities, a restaurant, both shade and sun, and a spectacular spa....all designed to give you a day you will never forget! I headed over quite early, and was the only guest there for an hour or so, sitting quietly, flamingo's walking close by, completely ignoring me as they wandered this paradise. I have traveled a great deal, and seen many beautiful things...but that peaceful hour is a memory I will treasure always.
There is a second Renaissance directly across the street, Ocean Suites. Billed as a family hotel, we chose not to stay there, which is a decision I regret. Although the Marina was quite nice, we would have enjoyed the larger rooms (suites) with great ocean views. We ate breakfast here one day, in an open air setting with lots of tiny birds vying for crumbs. Staying here, one has all the benefits of being downtown, while still enjoying a resort type setting...and of course, access to the private island!
An easy flight from most of the US, if you decide to visit the island, there are the 3 Marriott hotels above...and a couple Vacation clubs, too. Younger, older, family or not, this friendly island offers a glimpse of another culture with lots of relaxing activities - we loved it, and can't wait to return.