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While the average American consumer may have never heard of Aruba’s Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, those in the sustainability segment of the hotel industry will certainly recognize the name. Despite existing and competing in a market traditionally scorned for its boundless consumption of local resources, this Caribbean island resort will receive a Green Globe certification for the 15th year in a row in 2015.
The success all starts with owner Ewald Biemans, who has been recognized with more than two dozen environmental awards and certifications. That resume was further garnished earlier this year when he was named the “Green Hotelier of the Year” in the Caribbean Journal’s Caribbean Travel Awards.
To be honest, I was surprised to learn all that, because when you're at the hotel, you wouldn't know it unless someone told you. That's because Biemans’ approach to environmental friendliness is mostly done behind the scenes, without consequence to the consumer. It's a long list: Waste water is reused for irrigation, beach cleanups occur monthly, energy-saving appliances do their thing in the administrative offices, and so forth. The only things felt by the guest are minor. The soap is put in dispensers, for example, and in-room motion detectors automatically turn off the lights when you're out of the room.
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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.
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Finding a hotel room is easy. Simply go on the Internet or use your smartphone and voila! You're booked.
But if you are only interested in new hotels, then that's a different story. Luckily, you have us. And we're obsessed with new hotels. Here's a list of what hotels are opening this month (and a few that are changing brands as well.) Got a new hotel to add? Send it to us!
HOTELS OPENING IN NOVEMBER 2013
Westin Sanya Haitang Bay Resort, China: This long awaited Westin resort on Hainan Island in the South China Sea (it was supposed to open in 2012) is finally taking reservations for November 7th. The wait may have been worth the wait as this looks like no other Westin we've seen before. Rates start at around $242USD a night but the WiFi is going to cost an extra $13 a day. Also, a full moon is not guaranteed.
Le Meridien Zhengzhou, China: This ultra-luxe and super modern Le Meridien will also open on November 7 adajcent to Zhengzhou Eastern New District, with a shopping centre and cinema next door. But all this poshness DOES come cheap with rates starting at just $122USD a night. WiFi is free in the public spaces but can cost up to $10 a day to use in your room.
Westin Singapore Marina Bay: While this Westin is nowhere near as flashy as the neighboring Marina Bay Sands, it does boast an infinity rooftop pool and a Westin Heavenly spa. Rates for the 305-room hotel start at around $400 on November 12th. WiFi is free in the lobby but will cost $16 to use in your room.
Ritz-Carlton Aruba: Initially expected to open on November 2, the new Ritz-Carlton Aruba will now open 20 days later on November 22nd. Rates at Aruba's first five-star resort start at $649 a night. Rooms with an ocean view are going for $799.
The Landings Resort and Spa, South Lake Tahoe: According to a press release and the hotel's website, guests should be able to get in this month. But when we tried to make a reservation for November 22 (the first available date from the drop-down calendar), no rooms were open. We tried again for December 1st but no luck. So we'll just cross our fingers it opens this month.
WestHouse New York: The newest hotel in NYC will open just in time for Thanksgiving on November 27th. Which is kinda perfect timing since the hotel is all about blending "the privileges of a luxury hotel with the residential comforts of a New York townhouse." Rates start at $499 a night but also include a $30 resident fee per adult. That fee includes daily breakfast presentation, afternoon tea, hors d'oeuvres, evening canapés, in-room Dean & Deluca amenity kit, and unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
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The Ritz-Carlton Closes MoBay: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company is certainly making big moves these days. First vacating Palm Beach and Dublin, and today after nearly 13 years in operation, the corporation ceased management of the Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort, Rose Hall, Jamaica. The 427-room Montego Bay hotel, one of the region’s most famous, was originally rumored to be sold to Playa Resorts. However, in May, the company issued a statement saying the information was premature.
Word on the street is the hotel will open in the 2013-2014 winter season as a Park Hyatt, the first Hyatt brand in Jamaica and renovations will include adding more than 100 suites. However, at this time there is no mention of the property or this news on the Hyatt website. It appears this is as much of a mystery as the legend of the White Witch of Rose Hall, a famous Jamaican ghost story.
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Matachica in Belize is all about the chill, at a great rate...
The great thing about traveling to the Caribbean now through December is that rates are least 40%, below high season rates. Sometimes even more than that. And face it, this is the time of year when most folks are taking their vacations anyway, so you may as well go somewhere that’s inexpensive, right?
We've got 5 Caribbean hotels that are pretty easy on the budget year-round, but are an even better deal now. So, pack your strongest SPF (those sun rays are HOT) and shades and get island bound with the quickness.
This Starwood brand is new to Cancún, and opened just a week ago, so things are likely in tip-top condition. This is pretty important in hotel-glut filled Cancún, where choices can sometimes be hit or miss. We’re also happy to see the Aloft favorites such as the w xyz bar, the 24/7 pantry fuel by Aloft and re:mix lounge, where we are certain the DJ will make sure to remind you you’re in Mexico with some serious salsa beats (and don't forget to drink tequila too!) It should go without saying—but the free WiFi is a plus. Coming soon will be a rooftop pool, but for now you’ll have to walk about five minutes to the beach and the sparkling blue sea. But at these rates, it’s no problema. Rates from $99 per night.
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.