Aruba 10 Years Later

I was really excited to get back to Aruba for my third trip to the Dutch island. Aruba was actually the first Caribbean island that I visited back in 1999 with a group of 15 friends when we chartered a plane from nearby Margarita Island, Venezuela. That trip was so much fun and was matched by another trip with the same group of friends on a charter from Costa Rica in 2004. As a result of those trips, I named Aruba one of the 30 best islands in the world. That had been my last time on Aruba until now.
Aruba, Aruba sign
Aruba has gone through many changes in the past 10-15 years but much has also stayed the same. While the island has clearly grown significantly, catering more and more to the cruise ship industry, this hasn’t made it seem too touristy.
View from Radisson hotel
I believe that people have to be realistic when considering or judging islands where tourism is the main, if not the only industry except for Balashi beer, such as Aruba. They have to grow and cater to tourists. If they don’t keep up with the demands of mass tourism then they will lose those tourists and the dollars they bring. I think that Aruba has done a very good job of this while still maintaining its identity.
Balashi, Aruba beer
The changes and growth have also spurned new developments, areas of shopping, dining and nightlife. The changes have really modernized the areas where many tourists stay along the Palm Beach hotel area of Aruba.
Aruba, sunset dinner, Radisson, hotel
Palm Beach is a gorgeous white sand beach that is dotted with gorgeous high-rise brand name hotels. Names like the Radisson where I stayed on this trip and also back in 2004. It has since gone through a complete renovation and looks like a completely new hotel. I was very impressed by what they have done with the property. I was also very impressed by the excellent, thoughtful and friendly staff that went well beyond expectations with effort over the course of my stay.
Lee Abbamonte, Aruba, Carnival, Radisson
There is also the Hyatt just down the beach; which is where I stayed back in 1999. It still looks exactly the same and the open-air lobby is still one of my favorites anywhere in the world. I enjoyed an amazing dinner on the beach hosted by the Hyatt during this stay and hold the hotel in very high regard.
Hyatt Aruba, dinner
Other hotels along Palm Beach that I checked out for breakfast were the Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton. The Marriott has a great breakfast buffet and a very nice adults only pool beside a large family pool. The Ritz is the newest addition to the high-rise hotels and is on par with what you’d expect in luxury from a Ritz-Carlton. The views from the beachside rooms are fantastic and their breakfast is also very nice. However, I didn’t get a huge sense of either hotels character from my short visit whereas I feel that both the Hyatt and the Radisson have a lot of character. To be fair, that likely comes with having stayed at each.
Ritz Carlton, Aruba, view
One other small hotel, located just across the street from the Ritz is the Boardwalk Hotel. I had never heard of it before but had breakfast there one morning and really liked the vibe and feel of the comfortable casitas. I will certainly consider staying there for a different feel the next time I go to Aruba to keep up with the changing landscape of the island.
Aruba, Boardwalk Hotel, pool
The biggest change I noticed this trip is that most of the nightlife and restaurants have migrated from the main town of Oranjestad to the Palm Beach area. There is a big development across from the hotels that has all types of restaurants, bars and nightlife. It has brought the old Oranjestad to Palm Beach and to be honest it is much more convenient and easier as you don’t have to drive or get a taxi. It has everything you need from Starbucks to a Senor Frogs-if that’s your thing!
senor frogs, aruba
However, regarding nightlife and transportation, I have to mention something called the KuKoo KuNuKu bus. This is something I never for a second thought I would like as I hate loud music and crowded places but after doing it, I can honestly say it was super fun and I highly recommend it for a good night out.
Kukoo Ku Nu Ku, bus, Aruba
It is basically a spring break style party bus that drives you around from bar to bar around Aruba. They actually have dance parties on the bus and blast fun music. Just by the look of it, you can sort of get the gist of what I’m talking about. Yes, it’s a little, well a lot, corny and touristy but just go with it. Sometimes that can be fun and I definitely recommend it for a fun night out on island.
Aruba Beach, Aruba
As far as activities on Aruba, the list is way too long to enumerate but aside from the obvious beach and water activities there is a ton to do on Aruba. My favorite thing in all my visits to Aruba is the jeep tour into and around Arikok National Park. It is fantastic, a ton of fun and the best way to see the off the beaten path Aruba.
Aruba, wild coast, Arikok National park
The fast paced tour, punctuated by insanely fast, yet awesome, off road driving takes you to the places you didn’t know existed. I call it the wild side of the island because it is totally undeveloped and literally looks and feels like a rugged African island as you descend over unpaved terrain nearly bouncing out of the jeep over and over. I loved every second of it.
Conchi, Aruba
The best stop on the tour was at the Conchi natural pools along the coast where you can actually get in and swim. You can also do a little cliff jumping into the large pool below. Also not to be missed is the little hot tub type pool above. This requires some minimal climbing but it can be pretty slippery so just be careful.
beach, aruba, lunch
I could go on and on about Aruba but let me leave you with this. Aruba is a great place to visit as a family, a couple, with friends or as a single person. The island has a lot to offer for all appetites and for whatever it is you’re looking for. Not to mention, it is gorgeous and the weather and sunsets couldn’t be better! Bon Bini!
Aruba, sunset
Disclaimer: I was invited and hosted by Aruba Tourism (www.Aruba.com) for this trip. All opinions and views expressed in this article are mine and have not been influenced in any way…as always!

Comments

  1. @mrsoaroundworld says:

    Quite interesting. I have never been or considered going, but certainly enjoyed following your trip

  2. I want to go here right now!

  3. We LOVE Aruba! Go every year and have stayed at all the hotels you mentioned except for the Ritz and the Boardwalk. I just googled it and it looks pretty nice. I think we might try it for a few nights next time. Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. How was the snorkeling? Does anyone on the island still talk about Natalie Holloway?

  5. Michael C says:

    Great post Lee. I will think about Aruba for my next family vacation. We generally do St. Thomas/John but thinking of switching it up.

  6. IIITTT’SSS BINGO TIIIIMMMMME!!

  7. Jeanette Todd says:

    I love Aruba too! Specially that night ride with Kukoo Kunuku bus. I just love their music the thrill of the ride.

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