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My family has been enjoying fun in the sun the last couple days in Aruba, and while I won’t have the full trip report ready for a bit, I wanted to share some first impressions and thoughts while we are still here.
1. The beaches are as nice, kid friendly, and as accessible as everyone says.
If you just want a few days to lay on the beach without having to work hard to get to a nice and calm spot, then this is your place. You can walk right out of the hotel and be on beautiful and flat water immediately. I have not ever been to a safer (for kids) and more beautiful beach directly off from a points-friendly hotel in my life. I can’t imagine there could possibly be one that tops this in terms of a great and easy spot for families.
Of course, hundreds of other tourists are doing exactly the same thing, so don’t expect a private beach experience, but it really wasn’t overly crowded during our stay even though hotels were sold out.
We haven’t done anything on this trip other than swim, sun, nap, and eat, and that has been great. No rental car, no excursions, no day-long-adventures, nothing. Just relaxation.
2. Pay the extra to reserve a cabana/palapa to avoid the hassle and sunburn.
The hotels know that you can’t sit on the beach all day without shade, so there are hundreds of cabanas and palapas lining the beach, but getting them takes strategy. At the Hyatt specifically, you can line up by 6:30AM to get one of the free palapas, or pay $50 – $75 to reserve a cabana or palapa in advance. Only you know you what sleep is worth to you on vacation, but we were more than happy with the money we spent to reserve a cabana by email in advance and just stroll out to it at 10AM instead of setting an alarm to wait in line and claim our spot on vacation. Still, if money is super tight, or you don’t mind an early wake-up call, it is nice they offer a free way to secure some shade.
Whatever you do, just be sure and secure some shade somehow as I have seen countless people burned to a crisp here.
3. The food and service are not award winning.
Thus far, at the variety of places we have visited (all in the tourist zone) the food and service we have experienced was typically been mediocre, at best. There are some standouts and exceptions, but on the whole Aruba does not seem to be a mecca for amazing cuisine or outstanding service. However, they do have lots of juice and smoothie stands, which I love, and can forgive the soggy and overpriced coconut shrimp in exchange for a fresh banana, pineapple, coconut smoothie.
I also have to mention that even though the food we have eaten has often not been very good, it has been pricey. This isn’t surprising for a Caribbean island, but a “cheap” meal for the three of us has been $30 – $35, and an average meal at a restaurant for the three of us has been $60 – $100 (without drinks). If you have Club access at the Hyatt your food costs can be helped tremendously as they have water and soft drinks available 24/7, and have some sort of snack or light meal out during the day. Quality again is not award winning, but the price can’t be beat.
4. No bugs!
This really should have been #1 for me, as I am probably the biggest bug magnet alive, and I have had just one mosquito bite on Aruba all weekend even though I have not used any bug spray, and have been out at prime times like sunset. I’m sure they do have some bugs, but on the whole this experience has been infinitely more pleasant than places like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands where I was darn near eaten alive by monster mosquitoes and no-see-ums.
5. Great spot to use points.
There are so many hotels right on the lovely Palm Beach that are points-friendly, so no matter what type of points currency you favor, you can use it to stay a few days “for free” in Aruba. We used a combination of Club Carlson and Hyatt points to stay at those two resorts, and it is such a great feeling to have $0 in hotel fees for our long weekend stay even though the selling prices of the rooms are around $400+ per night right now.
Aruba does not call to me like Hawaii does, but I have loved how easy it is to just have a fun time with your kids here, so I would be happy to return here again in the future for another long weekend.
A special thanks to everyone who contributed ideas and suggestions in this post on Aruba as they have been very helpful, and we have used lots of them! Normal posting schedule will return soon, but until then, time to head back to the pool. Or the beach. Or the water slide. Big decisions to be made here in Aruba.