Aruba Travel Guide
While the trend in hotel restaurants seems to be shifting towards unique concepts to feed the hunger for everything hyper-local and hyper-specific, we remain fans of certain well-known restaurant brands, including the BLT Steak and wider BLT family of eateries.
Which means we should start looking at flights to Aruba, where a new BLT Steak is set to open at the Ritz-Carlton Aruba.
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For travelers flying into Aruba's Queen Beatrix International Airport, the first glance of sand beach comes about 10 seconds before landing on the runway. The stripe of lush green mangroves in the middle of Caribbean-blue waters is the Renaissance Private Island, just off the coast, home to two beaches of pristine sand surrounded by palapas, and hammocks strung between the palms.
Entry to this island is completely free, from the water taxi to the use of the beaches, with one big exception: you absolutely must be a guest of the Renaissance Aruba Resort, either the family-friendly Ocean Suites or the adult-exclusive Marina Hotel.
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The Renaissance Aruba Resort is a tale of two hotels. Literally.
Although united under one name and one website, two very different booking options exist: the Marina Hotel or the Ocean Suites. It's confusing, sure, but luckily they're only two blocks apart and connected by a golf cart shuttle that zips across the harbor front.
Are you traveling without children and hoping for a more active location? That's the adults-only Marina Hotel. (pictured above)
Are you a family looking for an ocean view and lots of resort-style pools? Ocean Suites it is.
Both have pools as cool and blue as the Caribbean just outside; both give guests complimentary access to a water taxi to a nearby private island of beaches and flamingoes (more on that to come); and both recently completed renovations to rid the guest rooms of staid patterns and bring the beach indoors.
Andaz Hotels pride themselves on their connection to the authentic, local experience, so when we heard that they may be opening up far off the beaten track in Aruba, we got pretty excited.
Though it's still very much in the early, unconfirmed rumor stage, we hear a whisper that there may be a new Andaz coming to Isla di Oro in Aruba, a site thick with mangroves where there used to be a restaurant on the water reachable via a pier. From what we can figure out, Isla di Oro is a diving spot, so how they plan to construct a hotel here kinda makes our heads spin. We'll just wait to see if it actually happens. Our source says there will be a decision made in the spring.
A visit to the spa can really bring a sense of rectitude to the body and mind -- especially in these tough early January weeks. What we really like about the Hyatt Regency Aruba's ZoiA Spa, though, is that this virtuous feeling extends to the surroundings.
Open since 2012, ZoiA Spa’s architecture and design incorporates sustainable products and materials throughout the entire space. Fabrics are made from recycled materials and decorations make use of cork, recycled glass tiles, and qurt -- a granite-like stone made from seashells. The hotel itself has continued the sustainable ethos by recently becoming the first high-rise on island to install solar panels to heat water.
To say the Ritz-Carlton and Marriott companies are on their grind would be an understatement. We let you know they're moving forward with the long-feared-dead Molasses Reef resort in the Turks and Caicos, and various properties have been opening or renovated left and right.
One of the hotels we're excited about is the Ritz-Carlton, Aruba which we originally reported would open in 2014. When we were on island last fall, construction activity was in full swing. Therefore it comes as no surprise that Marriott International and Ritz-Carlton Hotels has released news that Aruba's first five-star resort will now open November 2, 2013, just in time for winter high season.
The 320-room hotel will have four restaurants, a 15-treatment room spa, two swimming pools, a 24-hour casino, and one of the island's largest meeting facilities. They'll also offer the Ritz-Carlton Club Level with 35 exclusive rooms, concierge service, and five food and beverage offerings. We're not sure what the upgrade price will be, but of our findings, the Ritz' Club Level is known as one of the better options.
Hopefully the construction schedule keeps up the pace and we'll see the new resort ourselves this fall!
[Photo: Ritz-Carlton Hotels]
Reality-tv stars Rachel Reilly and Brendon Villegas, met while filming "Big Brother 12" in 2010, got engaged less than a year later, and returned to do "Big Brother 13", which Reilly won. The couple went on to appear in the latest season of "The Amazing Race".
Well, they recently married in Los Angeles, and decided to honeymoon away from the lights of LaLa Land. The location? The Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino. The stayed at the resort's adults-only Tradewinds Club. This a separate section of the hotel, with only 49 rooms that enjoy Club Level-type amenities and perks. The couple also camped out sipping cocktails in a private cabana at the hotel's new 18-and-over H2Oasis pool.
Now, we know quite a bit about the Caribbean, and agree Aruba was a good choice for this couple for a few reasons:
To be fair, the hotel does offer free WiFi in the lobby. That’s better than what a great many hotels offer on this island where internet access is a pricey purchase, and hotspots are rare. Plus, Brickell’s room rates are pretty stellar as well at $135 a night (and from $115 when you book 60 days in advance), including Continental breakfast. And as long as you book a room AWAY from the pool that also faces the loud Palm Village Mall area, you’ll actually get some sleep. But we digress.
Any time there’s hotel construction going on in the Caribbean, we at HotelChatter adopt the island phrase “soon come” and just wait to see what develops. See, these things take time, so we never fully know when, or IF a project is going to be completed. So, when we were in Aruba last week checking out new developments, we were shocked to see a new Ritz-Carlton being built. Like, actual workers working. We had to wonder if we had had too much sun or rum. Or both.
While the traditional gift for a 15th anniversary is usually crystal, the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino will give out rewards points instead—15,000 of them.
To get the 15,000 Marriott Rewards Points, you have to stay at the Aruba Marriott on August 15, the resort's birthday. If we're at the hotel on that day, we'd see if we could put the 15K points toward a beachside massage or maybe some poolside cocktails.
Just because Aruba is a warm-weather holiday travel alternative doesn't mean you can't still partake in traditions while you're there. The Occidental Grand Aruba is really trying to get you in the spirit by offering Nutcracker performances at the resort starring Kiril Kulish, the Tony Award-winning actor who was one of the original boxer-turned-ballet-dancer title characters in Broadway's Billy Elliot.
Having the 15-year-old Broadway vet in the Aruba resort is rather random, but nonetheless pretty cool. You can see how his ballet chops have fared since he left the Great White Way at the all-inclusive resort on December 29. His free performance as the Nutcracker prince will be exclusively for hotel guests as part of a holiday package.
Note: Yes, we know those aren't the Jams shorts that we all rocked in the 80s. (Even you!) But let us fantasize, will ya?
Whether or not you’re a tennis fan, beach tennis — featuring tan, chiseled-chested men! — is the sort of spectator sport many of us can get behind. Throw in a trip to Aruba and, well, you’ve got the makings for a pretty fabulous vacation, if you ask us.
If you agree, consider the Aruba Marriott Resort’s Beach Tennis Tournament Package. Coinciding with Aruba’s 8th annual International Beach Tennis Event, to be held Nov. 13-15, the hotel is offering a four-night minimum stay that offers a $700 savings, which includes a free night’s stay and breakfast and other free goodies, like a one-hour beach tennis lesson from a beach tennis pro, use of the resort’s beach tennis court and paddles, and the chance to participate in the round robin tournament. The package also includes access to the opening night festivities, free drink and entertainment included, plus a beach tennis T-shirt and BBQ lunch.
Rates start at $339 a night (remember: the fourth night is free). To book the package, request promo code S3Q. Learn more about beach tennis at Arubabeachtennis.com.