We are planning our honeymoon for September and believe that Aruba will be the destination. Is there a huge difference in staying in Palm Beach or Oranjestad? Does anyone know the difference in the Marina and Ocean Suite Ren hotels besides the Marina does not allow children. Also does anyone know how I can use my poins for an ocean view in the Marina hotel. It does not offer it on the website. Also if anyone would like to give advice, restaurant recommendations, thigs to do, comments etc that would be great!!
The Marina rooms are nice hotel rooms with a few suites. It is not on the beach but has a very nice pool located on the lobby floor (actually above street level) where you have a wonderful view of the harbor.
The Ocean Suites are 1 bedroom time shares many can be booked by the day. It is very close to the Marina and on the ocean. There are 2 pools on that property as well as a lagoon for swimming.
The best part of staying at either is your access to their private island via a free 10 minute boat shuttle. The island has 2 protected lagoon areas - one for families and one for adults. There are plenty of iguanas and flamingos, a restaurant and lots of activities and hammocks under the palm trees to ralax in.
The Palm Beach area is called the high rise area because of the tall hotell and timeshare buildings. The beach there is very nice. If you are considering the Marriott Stellaris, it is very nice but they recently started construction next door on a new Ritz. I've heard that it can be noisey at times. Not sure how it may have impacted the beaches.
I just got back from Aruba. I stayed at the stellaris with family. We had a great time and the facility was great. A few issues was that there was no conciere lounge and that they try to scam you into paying for beach huts. You can just go in the am and get one without paying the 20 dollar fee and they do release some in the afternoon for the next day. We did not have any issues with noise from the building next door.
The renissance downtown is DOWNTOWN. The pool is practically at street level. I would pass if I was you
We stayed at the Marina side in April. The hotel itself is mediocre. The rooms are VERY small as are the bathrooms, and not what I would say is worth the Marriott rating on this specific property. My brother and his wife stayed on the Ocean Suites side, and their room was so dirty they had to be moved. The hotel pool is on street level, small, but nice. The hotel bar has happy hour from 4-6, and Raffi the bartender is great. The best part of this property is the private island you'll have access to. If that had not been there we would have moved properties without question.
I really believe the photos of this hotel are not accurate and make the property seem more plush than it actually is.
If you are looking for a more upscale property, I'd opt for the Marriott over the Renissance.
I travel frequently to Aruba on business and have stayed at the Marriott Marina numerous times as well as hotels in the Palm beach area. Most of the hotels on the island are older and many of the them are going through construction upgrades. if you go to TripAdvisor.com (I think that's correct), you can see many reviews of Aruba hotels. Some good, some bad. The Marriott downtown is a nice hotel but would not be my first choice for a honeymoon couple. It is downtown and most of the activities around the hotel are daytime shopping and tourism from the cruise ships when they are in port. The private beach that is available by boat from the lobby of the hotel is what makes this hotel unique. Most of the restaurants and nightlife are in the Palm Beach area which is only 8-10 minutes away by car. If you stay in the Palm Beach area, most of the available activities are within walking distance.
My wife and I have been to Aruba many times most recently in Dec 09. I have stayed at the Renaissance Marina twice when we first started going to Aruba and used points. It's a decent hotel but now that the nightlife has moved to the high rise areas the downtown area is not as desirable as it once was. The Renaissance has 2 very nice casinos if you like that but most of the High Rise hotels have nice casinos as well.
As far as points for ocean view, the marina hotel can't see the ocean so the best you can do is see the Marina, the Ocean view Suites are timeshares across the street but can be had for points too, but a few more if I remember but you get a bigger room and a kitchen. You can use either pool so the one at the Ocean view suites is better but a bit of a walk if you are in the marina and you have to cross the street. One year when we were there the marina pool was being repaired so we had to use the other. If you really want ocean view, I'd stay at the Marriott on Palm Beach.
The Palm Beach Marriott is a hotel with a Marriott timeshare adjacent and lives up to Marriott standards. You will pay a bit more for the High rise area but I think it's worth it. The other beaches are much better than the private beach, even though it is unique and there are many rocks and sharp objects on the floor of the ocean on the private island beaches vs, soft sand on the others. Most water activites and outings are launced from the High Rise area.
Restaurants are plentiful both downtown and in the high rise area and downtown we never miss going to Iguana Joe's for great drinks and food at a reasonable price. If you like seafood, the Driftwood is outstanding and they have a catch of the day caught by the owner who also has a fishing charter boat. There are many other great restuarants downtown but those two we never miss. In the high rise area there are so many and we've only tried a few but they were also very good. Texas de Brazil is great if you like meat and there is another Churascaria called Amazonia that we haven't tried but have heard is great too. The Argentinian beef is some of the best in the world and it's plentiful in Aruba.
There are many timeshares doing marketing in Aruba and you can get some nice gifts for restuarants, tours, sunset cruises, snorkeling, party buses, etc for attending a presentation. It will wipe out about 2 hours or so but you can get a breakfast out of if and a nice gift of about $100 if you are so inclined. The Marriott presentations are some of the best for gifts and are among the more high end timeshares available if you are in the market for one. Renting a car or jeep if you want to explore the island can be fun and it makes getting around easier even if you only rent for a day or two just to see the island. You can also find a tour to go and do things with a group.
The bus system is cheap and goes most places you care to go for shopping which is great in the high rise area as well as downtown. You can use US dollars there so you don't need to worry about exchanging currency and almost everyone takes credit or debit cards so you won't need to carry a bunch of cash.
The people are very friendly and helpful and crime is low but you should still keep your valuables with you or locked up in your room, don't leave valuables unattended on the beach.
Food at restuarants has been reported to be expensive by some but while it isn't cheap, it is probably similar to the price of comparable food in the US in a large city or tourist area. Service tends to better than in most places that I travel.
My wife and I have been to other islands and nothing compares to Aruba from our perspective. We now own a timeshare and go back at least every other year. We love the people and the atmosphere better than any place we have vacationed.
Having echoed the many other posts about downtown not being what it once was, there is still much to do there and it's much less crowded than it used to be. The private island is a neat adventure to take the boat from the lobby to the island. From the Renaissance you can walk to 2 casinos, hundreds of shops and restuarants and never need a car. Taxi's can be expensive for the distance traveled but everything is close so you usually won't pay more than 15-$20 to get anywhere one way for a 20-30 minute trip.
Pickup a brochure of activities at the airport or your hotel to figure out how to spend your time or go to http://www.visitaruba.com/ before you go.
Also, I usually use points to fly but if you pay or use points, make your reservation as soon as you know when and where you are going. The prices will get more expensive and full if you wait too long. Depending on where you fly from you should be able to find a deal. From Miami, Spirit is pretty cheap and from NYC, Jet Blue. I fly delta from Orlando through Atlanta but if you are paying, you can usually find cheaper if you shop around.
Hopefully this is helpful to you for your first visit to Aruba.
Thank you very much for the great info, it will definatley be put to good use. I think that we are going to stick with the Marina Hotel and see how it goes. We love the idea of a private island. Thank you very much for the restaurant ideas, we are always in search of great local places. I do plan to try and use my mileage points for the trip. Good idea about the time share presentations. We did this in Daytona one year and left with a few hundred dollars and gift certificates. We get up early so we were able to get these done first thing in the morning and they gave us breakfast!!
We have a Marriott timeshare on Palm Beach and really prefer that location to the center of town. My favorite restaurants are Fluing fishbone, Wacky Wahoo, Iguana cantina, Texas de Brazil, Casa tua (pizza). Activities should include Jolly pirates snorkeling (on Palm beach).