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Just as we did last year to the Bahamas, we decided to bail out on winter for a few days and head to the beach this January using miles, points, and travel deals. This time we set our site on Aruba since we had never been there, had heard it was good for families, there are several points friendly hotel options, and I had been told that unlike in some other Caribbean destinations, mosquitoes and bugs weren’t a problem due to the high winds.
We split our time in Aruba between the Radisson Aruba Resort and the Hyatt Regency Aruba, all paid for using hotel points. I will be reviewing both properties individually, but since as I pointed out yesterday it looks like the Radisson Aruba Resort is to be sold in the seemingly near future, I want to get the details of this property out first.
Location and Check-In:
The Radisson Aruba Resort is located on Palm Beach in Aruba, about a 30 minute cab ride from the airport. The cab ride was about $25, so unless you plan to do some exploring of the island by car, grabbing a cab was a very simple and straight-forward process.
There was a huge group that had rented out the vast majority of the hotel during our stay, and in fact beginning immediately after the stay the entire resort was booked for a week or so by another group. Everywhere we went, including the check-in desk, assumed we were with a group and were a little surprised when we explained we weren’t with any group. The hotel did have some problem finding our award reservation at first, but after a few minutes it was located and we were permitted to head up to our room.
We do have Club Carlson Gold status thanks to the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card, but there was no recognition of that status with any upgrade, perks, food and beverage, or late check-out benefit at all. A bellman helped show us to the building with our room and assisted with the bags (which was great since there were sets of stairs to get from the lobby to the rooms).
The Standard Room at Radisson Aruba Resort:
We used 50,000 points to book a standard room which was a “garden view” room with two queen beds. As you can see below, there were technically two queen beds, however they were the closest pushed together two queen beds I have ever encountered. For my husband, daughter, and myself this was great as it was like a slumber party in one huge bed, but if you weren’t staying with people that you really wanted to share a bed with, it could have been a bit odd. Due to the room size and shape they couldn’t really be spread out much further even if you wanted to.
For our purposes, however, the bed arrangement was pretty great other than lacking in the pillow department. The room had a balcony view mostly of the adjacent hotel and parking lot, but you could also see some of the ocean.
The rest of the room was totally adequate for a short beach stay, and every employee we encountered in the hallway was nice and cheerful.
The room was fine, but you presumably don’t go to Aruba because of the rooms, you go because you want to have some fun outside in the sun, which is exactly what we did the majority of our stay.
The Radisson Aruba Resort Pools:
The hotel had two main pool sections that were divided by a walkway between them. The pools had zero-entry designs which are great for little kiddos. One even had a water feature that squirted water up, also popular with the young crew.
Even though the hotel was pretty much sold out on our visit, the pools were mostly empty the entire time we were there other than a handful of other people. I’m sure it helped that the hotel was sold out with a big event/group that was made up primarily of adults instead of families, but it was awesome having the pools and beach virtually to ourselves on our mid-January stay.
The Radisson Aruba Beach:
The beach is undoubtedly the selling point for visiting Aruba as it is calm, flat, and beautiful. Palm Beach was absolutely perfect for safe family swimming during our visit. I hate when I take our young daughter to some amazing beaches that she can’t really get in because the waves and current are too strong. While of course there are some inherent dangers in any body of water, his was not one of those not-so-safe-for-kids-beaches – this one was picture perfect!
Not only was the water great for swimming, but the sand was great for sand-castling.
At 4PM the evening before we wanted a palapa (umbrella hut thing as shown above) we went down to the activity hut near the pool and simply reserved one for the following morning. We weren’t charged anything for the reservation and use of the palapa, which was fantastic since we spent a pretty penny for something similar at Hyatt on the second half of our stay in Aruba. I’ve heard there can be lines to reserve at 4PM during the busy season, and I believe you can also choose to pay $25 – $35 to reserve one without showing up at 4PM. Regardless, there was no palapa competition during our stay, so we had no problem reserving one the evening before.
There are other vendors who rent umbrellas and chairs on the public beach, so be aware the front row palapas at the Radisson can still have umbrellas and chairs set-up in front of them by other vendors.
Restaurants at the Radisson Aruba Resort:
The first night we were there the weekly activity calendar indicated there was some sort of local fish market dinner going on that night, so we decided that would be a fun and easy way to start our vacation. However, when we went to actually attend the dinner we found out it wasn’t actually happening despite being listed on the calendar. This was somewhat of a common theme as other things listed, like Kid’s Club activities, also turned out to be closed during our stay. I assume this has something to do with the big groups at the hotel, but it would have been nice for the posted calendars to be accurate.
We ended up eating breakfast one morning at the Gilligan’s Beach Bar & Grill at the hotel. I like the setting of the restaurant as it is open-air and right next to the beach and pools. Sometimes with little kids (or hungry husbands) you need to take advantage of easy food options in the morning, even if the prices or cuisine aren’t the best.
In this case the prices weren’t horrible given Aruba food prices in general, and it is worth a mention that the room service prices at the Radisson Aruba were actually reasonable, too, though we didn’t use room service on this trip.
For breakfast at Gilligan’s, daughter and I shared some breads, pastries, and fruit, and we were far from impressed by any of it. It wasn’t horrible, but it didn’t taste super fresh either. The bread basket especially was not our favorite.
Overall Impressions of the Radisson Aruba Resort:
I thought for the points price that we paid, the Radisson Aruba was a solid deal. The beach and pools were perfect for young families, and the hotel was an easy walking distance to some other dining options. This was not a luxurious hotel, and I do think that the large groups it was hosting had an impact on overall service and amenities for the other guests, but overall it was a decent stay.
The grounds are landscaped and very tropical looking with lots of birds to talk to along the way, which of course my daughter was crazy about.
If you want to use your Club Carlson points to book a stay here, I would do so sooner rather than later because of the reported change in ownership on the near horizon. It is an especially sweet deal if you have the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card and can essentially book two nights for just 50,000 total points.
I’m glad we were able to take advantage of that great deal and form some really incredible family memories playing on the beach in Aruba!
Stay tuned for a look at the nearby Hyatt Regency Aruba!
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.