Through a series of events too complicated to explain here, I'm getting the wonderful opportunity to experience Aruba almost for free. Sadly it will only be for 24 hours, and no, this is not a cruise stop.
My airfare is covered and I'm getting a modest sum to help with the cost of my hotel. Even better, I got to choose the property. Based on availability, price, and the limited resources granted to me, I choose the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino. I think I'll still end up paying close to $150 for the hotel (once the taxes, fees, and service charges totaling almost 25% are added in ), but considering that is the only cost associated with the trip (other than food, "meds," and fun), I couldn't pass this up.
This is a very short, solo trip taking place near the end of February. Having never been to Aruba, I thought some Insiders might have a few recommendations. I'll be arriving on a Saturday afternoon around 2:30 and leaving the following evening around 5:30. Allowing enough time to check in for the flight back to the U.S. means I'll have almost exactly 24 to explore. Not enough time by a long-shot. I have no doubt I'll love the place and want to return for a longer stay, but if not, this is a great way to find that out. I just couldn't say not to what is almost a free trip to Caribbean despite the extremely limited duration.
With all that in mind, I'm open to suggestions for dining or activities (snorkeling, maybe) that I can fit into a very tight schedule.
bejacob, we are going next week, so I will do some research and report back! Maybe you can send a postcard from their Parliament Meanwhile, check this out:
I'll eagerly await your report.
No need for me to worry about the postcard for this trip. Hmm, I wonder if that makes it more of a vacation or less of one. With my county collecting, I have a specific goal (and detailed plan) when I go. This time, it's all about fun even considering the limited duration.
I'm trying to decide if I should rent a car while I'm there or just rely on cabs and the bus system. You'll have to let me know how easy it is to get around the island clebert.
Seems I could rent a car for a day at roughly the cost of a cab ride each way from the airport, so I'll have to consider it. I suppose it depends on where else is worth exploring and how I would get there without a car. Plenty of time to figure out.
you wont have a lot of time so really depends on what you do the day you are there. I both times I stayed at the Ren took taxis to and from . and did walk a lot. Never ventured out to Palm Beach area . Another great restaurant that I have eaten twice is barefoot. As you can imagine the tables are in the sand so if you decided to go there make res at sunset. Aruba is also a desert island which means once you get back from ocean it is not ( to me) very attractive and reminds me a little of Phoenix. it is also a somewhat poor island. One more point security can be crowded at certain times of day and they recommend two hours in advance as you during this time clear US customs which will also cut down on your time to see more stuff
I checked. They don't charge for parking (good thing to know in advance).
My initial thought is I don't need a car. I'm considering it only because it's essentially the same price as two taxi rides. With my limited time, I probably don't need it. Just keeping it in the back of my mind. It does seem I could do pretty much everything I want by walking.
You've been a wealth of info already, jerryl. If you think of anything more, please pass it along. I'm taking notes.
you can do global entry in Aruba and it is a interesting experience as you first go to the airline and I think check your bag. then you go thru aruba customs and pick up your bag then recheck and then go thru us customs. Sine an airline likely has only one flight people get there early and if you are first great if not can be a long wait . So yes get there ealr. The private beach is great. Iguana everywhere and pink flamingoes
jerryl, thanks for the GE info - glad to hear it. We are on AA, and believe it or not, AA runs 5 flights from AUA the day we fly out of there. So I imagine the airport is going to be a nut house when you consider all the other carriers with flights as well. I have to admit, I'm not sure I'm going to love Aruba since it's so developed. I'm not a huge fan of crowds and actually dread the thought of fighting over pool chairs, standing in line, etc. (which explains why I'm not a Disney/theme park person). If the weather is 85 and sunny, that should make up for any lack of peacefulness, though. Plus, we're taking the kids so I imagine they will enjoy being around other kids, etc., and we should fit in pretty well and not get the evil eye for having kids with us.
bejacob, jerryl raises a really good point about customs. Leaving AUA for the US means you'll clear customs at AUA rather than back in the US. AA is telling us we need to be at the airport at least 3 hours before departure to clear customs. We have Global Entry but don't think that is going to work at AUA - not sure about that, though. I will find out and report back. We are not planning to rent a car. Arubus is suppose to be clean and safe but not sure we'll take that. All of my cabbie experiences in the Caribbean have been a bit sketchy - seems that the cars are never metered, drivers charge whatever they want and take only cash. Supposedly there are flat fares between destinations based on the distance, but I am skeptical.
Top Ten Experiences
|Vacation Owners have told us that these are their Top Ten favorite activities when staying at this resort.|
|> Vote for the Top Ten Experiences at this resort|
|1.||Be a beach bum|
Just steps from the resort, Palm Beach is near perfect with its powder-soft sand, calm waters, cooling trade winds, easy access to water sports, and refreshments close at hand. Malmok on the northwestern shore is a small beach bordering shallow waters that extend 300 yards from shore. It's a great place to learn to windsurf. At the southeastern end of the island is Baby Beach, so named because its calm, shallow waters are ideal for children.
|2.||Relax and enjoy the views|
Capture the beauty of the sunrise/sunset from the balcony of your villa or take a short drive to the California Lighthouse to witness an Arubian sunrise/sunset with the awesome colors and cloud formations..... don't forget the cameras and best of all, these spectacles are free! This is Mother Nature's way of thanking you for visiting this terrific island.....
|3.||Enjoy a night on the town|
Aruba is renowned in the Caribbean for its nightlife. Great restaurants offer a wide range of cuisine, and fun is a priority. There's even a nightlife tour. The colorful hand-painted Kukoo Kunuku bus will pick you up at sundown and after a champagne toast take you to a dinner featuring local specialties. Next, the tour stops at some favorite watering holes, brining you back to the resort around midnight.
|4.||See life underwater|
Whether you snorkel or snuba (a shallow-water diving system that does not require certification), you will love being underwater here, where visibility reaches up to 90 feet. Both advanced and novice divers will find sites to explore, including some interesting shipwrecks. The coral reefs here are home to a colorful collection of sea life, including manta rays, sea turtles, octopuses and plenty of tropical fish.
|5.||Sail away on a catamaran cruise|
Sailing is a great way to enjoy Aruba's best features—its clear, turquoise waters and renowned trade winds. Try a sunset or full-moon cruise, with hors d'oeuvres and complimentary bar. Or a dinner cruise that treats guests to a 3-course candlelight meal catered by award-winning chefs. Snorkeling trips usually include equipment, instruction, stops at multiple snorkeling sites, plus food and beverages.
|6.||Take a chance with Lady Luck|
The Stellaris Casino at the Aruba Marriott Resort offers traditional gaming activities plus Caribbean Stud Poker. In this variation of the game, created in Aruba in 1988, each player competes only with the dealer for a progressive jackpot. Enjoy live music nightly at the casino bar.
|7.||Tour the island's geologic attractions|
Aruba has several caves and interesting rock formations. Huliba Cave with its heart-shaped entrance is unofficially known as the Tunnel of Love (flashlight needed). Guadirikiri Cave has two chambers that allow sunlight to shine through for a unique photo opportunity. The Arawak Indian drawings on the ceilings of the Fontein Cave make it a popular stop. The Ayo Rock Formations were once home to an ancient race that left pictographs on the boulders. Climb to the top for views of the countryside.
|8.||Shop for European imports and more|
The charming capital city is the main shopping area in Aruba. Good buys include imports from Europe and beyond. Some examples: Delft porcelain, Swiss watches, English china, French perfume, Danish crystal, German and Japanese cameras, and Indonesian fabrics.
|9.||Explore Arikok National Park|
Nearly 20 percent of Aruba lies within the boundaries of this nature preserve. There are many walking trails you can use to explore on your own, or take a guided tour. Enjoy the unusual flora and fauna as well as ancient Arawak petroglyphs, the ruins of a gold-mining operation and the remains of Dutch settlements.
|10.||Pamper yourself, Balinese-style|
Marriott's Aruba Ocean Club is home to Mandara Spa, named for an ancient Sanskrit legend about the quest for eternal youth. The spa offers about 20 different services, including various massages, body scrubs, aromatherapy baths and body wraps. Couples can enjoy service packages for two.
SSince you'll be at the Renaissanc, you should definitely check out their private island. Besides being able to lay out On the beach, you could choose to go on a nature walk there on their trail, eat at the restaurant there and last time I was there (5 years ago so things may have changed) they had a workout facility there and maybe a spa if you'd like a massage. the hotel also has all the shops around it. I've snorkels in Aruba and that was fun. People also love the jeep tours there. Enjoy your short stay and let us know what you decide to do!
I love Aruba and I go every year. Just curious on why you picked the Renaissance? I stayed there for a couple of nights the very first time I was in Aruba but this hotel is not on a beach. Yes, the private island is nice but honestly, there is no comparison to staying on the beach. If it not to late, I would switch this immediately to the Marriott Stellaris or one of the MVC right next door in Palm Beach. Stay on the beach especially if you only have a day!!
If I only had one day, I would simply stay at one of the Marriott properties on Palm Beach and enjoy everything that is around there. Get up in the morning watch the iguana feeding at 10am then get a Palapa to hang out on the beach for awhile (although that time of year will be very busy ). Eat at the outdoor restaurant right on the beach in front of the Marriott for lunch. Later, take a walk along the beach to the main area where the other hotels are and stop in at the Bugaloe bar on the pie. Great place with singing bartenders and a lot of fun. From there walk to the street in front of the Holiday Inn etc.. there a lot of different restaurants and bars. Stop in at Sopranos bar and watch the piano player. Again a lot of fun.
If you want to get more adventurous, rent a car and drive to Eagle Beach and then to Baby Beach to see two of the most beautiful beaches you will ever see. If your into snorkeling, take one of the excursions such as the Pirate Ship which will take to the shipwreck area and some other great snorkeling areas. Natural bridge is also an option but with one day, I would want to stay by the hotel and enjoy the beach and great food. Go to Madam Janet's (better make reservations now) !!! You don't want to miss this place. Excellent!
I would highly recommend you change your hotel reservations and stay at one of the Marriott's on Palm Beach.
Mainly price and availability. The VC, RC, and Marriott are all two to three times the price of the Renaissance. This trip wasn't on my plans for the year, so it's not in the budget despite the fact that I don't have to pay for my flights. By staying at the Ren, I can do the entire trip with very little out of pocket expense. The Marriott is over $800/nt while the Ren is under $300. I just don't see getting an additional $500 of value.
As for the rest of the suggestions, all sound great.
I'd love to call this a vacation, but realistically, it's an opportunity to see Aruba for a very short time and for almost no cost. Leaving at 5am on a Saturday and returning home around midnight on a Sunday with 24 hours of Caribbean sunshine sandwiched in between will not allow for a great deal of fun. I suspect it will whet my appetite enough to make a return visit. It's always easier to plan a trip to a place you've experienced before. The next time will be on my dime and will certainly be for longer than a day.
fistuk, better Curacao than Venezuela, at least for those of us holding US Passports.
That was my thought as well, aje5837. I'll wait to hear about Arubus from clebert. It sounds like that might be a way to get to the northern beaches if I want to go. I may decide I don't really need to do much other than enjoy the private island and find a good place to eat.
All these tips have been great. I'm still several weeks away from the trip, so there is plenty of time to plan.
I am not sure I'll get Spouse on Arubus, but it looks like it's $10.00 per person per day for an all-day unlimited pass. If we use it, I'll report back. It goes to Baby Beach but looks like you have to switch busses to get down there. Would be a good deal for a single traveler. Arubus N.V.: Home
Ok, bejacob, we just returned from a week in Aruba, so here are some suggestions:
The Renaissance is right downtown and has its own plaza with tons of shopping options, as you know. You can walk to some beachy areas nearby if you don't mind a 20 min. walk or so, but the beaches close to downtown aren't the really nice ones. We didn't try Arubus, but it looked clean and safe, and the buses seemed frequent and plentiful. Taxis were very, very expensive. There is a cab stand outside the Ren but otherwise it's a bit tricky to flag down cabs as they don't have lights to signal whether they are for hire, and they aren't clearly marked as taxis. To cab from the Marriott Surf Club (where we were) to the Palm Beach Plaza Mall was $7 or $10 on Sundays or holidays, and the distance is only .3 miles and really only a 5-10 min. walk. And of course the cabbies only take cash (USD accepted) and aren't really very good about telling you the fare up front, etc. - typical of the Caribbean in my experience. Also Aruba cabbies are not the friendly tour-guide type we experienced in St. Kitts and Nevis where you get a great local guide narrative wherever you go. Instead they are just as likely to be ignoring you while gabbing on their cell phones. So, I would consider doing a half-day organized tour if you want to see the highlights of the island and learn about the history, people, etc. Or rent your own car or consider renting a scooter/moped since you are traveling solo, but then you don't get the history and local folklore, etc. We did the half-day De Palm bus tour which took about 4 hours. It started at 10am, and the driver picked us up at our hotel and dropped us off. It's $40, and the Ren will give you a coupon for 10% off, and of course you'll want to tip the driver. Our driver was named Gio, and he was fantastic. Or you can rent a car or 4-wheeler, but they you won't get the local color/history you'd get with a guide. Plus, it's dusty and easy to get lost on the backroads, most of which are not real roads at all but just trails. Palm Beach has every water activity imaginable from swimming, to sailing, to windsurfing, parasailing, speedboats with pull-behind inflatables, jet skis, water jet pack things, a submarine-type thing, diving, private snorkeling tours, dinner cruises, booze cruises, etc. Palm Beach is that beautiful shallow turquoise Caribbean beach that you imagine when you think of the Caribbean, but it is very, very busy and packed with people, boats, activities, etc. We did a 20 min. speedboat ride with a pull-behind, and it cost $20 - we hired Sandro near the Jolly Pirates stand between the Marriott Surf Club and the Marriott Ocean Club. He was great. I'd suggest evening drinks or dinner at one of the Palm Beach beachfront bars/restaurants where you can sit in the sand and watch the sun go down. We ate at Atardi (at the Marriott - expensive and upscale - need a reservation), Moomba Beach (behind Marriott Surf Club - casual and fun) and Hadicurari (somewhere between Atardi and Moomba in price and atmosphere - between Surf Club and Holiday Inn). Pelican Nest looked fun, too, but more of a beach bar (between Holiday Inn and Playa Linda). Palm Beach is too cloudy to snorkel and no good reef areas. Arashi Beach is better snorkeling and calmer and less crowded that Palm Beach and it looked like there was free parking up there, but I'm not 100% sure. So maybe suggest a little shopping, then half-day De Palm tour, then cab up to Araski to snorkel, then Palm Beach for late afternoon swimming and beach time, then dinner/drinks at sunset on Palm Beach? I guess that doesn't leave any time for the Ren's private island which we didn't visit. Have fun, and let us know what you do!
PPS - It took us (family of 4 with 2 minor children) 41 minutes to get checked in, bags checked, through US customs, and to our gate at the airport. So, the recommended 3 hours was way more time than we actually needed. The airport was very busy, but we did not experience long lines at all until we got to our gate where there were long lines for the restaurants, bars and restrooms. But checking in, checking a bag, and getting through customs was not difficult at all. They don't give you any preferential treatment for having Global Entry or PreCheck (i.e., no special lines for those qualifications).
Great stuff, clebert. I'll have to read over this a few times to get everything. Glad to have some firsthand, extremely recent information. That's one thing for which this forum in invaluable.