Author Topic: 4 days in Aruba  (Read 10903 times)

Offline shaulyaakov

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4 days in Aruba
« on: January 26, 2020, 11:12:14 AM »
Just got back from an amazing trip to Aruba. We took advantage of my mother being more flexible during Yeshiva Week and went child free. We did similar trips to CUN and OGG and I'll try to compare those trips at the end. As most of the trip was spent relaxing, I'll keep it focused more broadly on the resort and the 1 excursion that we did. We went Sun-Wed, which was fine, though I think Sun-Thurs would have been ideal - we just couldn't make it work schedule wise.

Flight - UA nonstop EWR-AUA in coach. Basic economy meant bad seats on the way there, but I was able to snag the exit row on the way back. It's important to note that on the return, there's US customs in Aruba, so you end up with 2 baage checks, 2 security screens, and 2 sets of customs. There is global entry (as well as what looked like a global entry on arrival interview room). There unfortunately was no mobile passport. My wife (who does not have GE) and I who do split up. GE took about 1 minute, vs. regular that took about 40 minutes. They say to get to the airport 3 hours before your flight, but with GE I'd say you can certainly be fine with 2.5hours on a weekend, and 2 hours mid-week. There is a fairly bad PP lounge once you clear US security. It does have a bar, but nothing kosher to eat and it was pretty crowded.


Hotel - We stayed at the Renaissance Aruba, as it is a Bonvoy Cat 5 and is therefore bookable on credit card certificates. Note that it is subject to peak pricing but it fluctuated a lot - when it is peak, it can no longer be booked using the free nights. I booked 3 nights right before peak rolled out, and I noticed that at least one of my nights was peak when it rolled out a few days later. However, when I checked again out of curiosity a couple days before the trip, it was no longer pricing at peak for my dates, so check frequently if you can't get it. There was also no resort fee, which is nice, especially given how often Marriott charges them these days.

The hotel is located in the downtown area, next to the big cruise ports, and is the closest resort to the airport. It is situated in 2 separate properties about a 3 minute walk from each other - Marina Hotel and Island suites. In between the two hotels is an outdoor mall and a casual casino. The outdoor mall has Hšagen-Dazs, which was enjoyable. There is also a second mall and a formal casino on the Marina property.

The base rooms book into the Marina Hotel, which is adults only. Marina has a small pool/bar in the lobby, and not much else in terms of amenities. The Island suites is the family friendly property, where each room is a 1BR suite with a king bed, pullout in the living room, and a fridge/microwave. They would not give me a free upgrade to switch into Ocean Suites - it was a $75/night upgrade fee. As we were travelling without kids, we decided to stay in Marina, which looked slighly more upscale anyway.

The island suites have 2 pools, the larger of which also has a swim up bar. There is also a small lagoon with a man made beach area and a small swimming area. We didn't use it, but it looked fine. However, as I will get to, swimming in the lagoon would be such a waste. Guests of each property can use the amenities of the other, and there is a golf cart to take you around the property, though it is all walkable.

Overall, the hotel was nice. Rooms were in the smaller side, but have been recently renovated, and the service was generally good, though we did have an issue with getting our meals a couple of times. Considering paid rates were $650/night during our stay, I'd venture to say that it's one of the best redemption values for credit card certs. I would not be surprised to see the category bumped up in the future.

I'll note that the more popular hotel is the Cat 6 Marriott Solaris. I very much wanted to use the certs so it was not an option for us, but it seems like a much nicer hotel and is beachfront, vs. the Renaissance which is less upscale and is not on the beach. However, the private island really makes the Renaissance shine, so I'm not sure which is the better option all else being equal.

Food - We looked at the Chabad options, which run $40+ per meal, plus a $20 delivery fee, but decided to BYOK. We brought Grand and Essex travel meals, which the hotel was great about storing and heating. They did charge us $10/per person per service to heat, and were happy to either serve us in our room or in the restaurant.

Renaissance Island - This is the best feature of the hotel, period. Essentially, it is a private island open only to guests of the hotel (free!), as well as a to a non-guests who were able to buy passes, which are $125 per day. Reportedly, they only sell guest passes when the hotel is below 80% occupancy, and they only sell them morning of, so the island should never get too crowded.

The island is about a 10 minute speed boat ride away from the hotels, and if you're at the marina hotel, the boat comes and picks up from the lower level. Pretty neat! The boats come to take you about every 15 minutes. The island is open from 7am-7pm daily.

On the island, there are 2 beaches, Flamingo Beach and Iguana Beach. We spent the majority of our time on Flamingo. Flamingo Beach is the smaller of the 2, and is adults only, and gets it's name from, you guessed it, the Flamingos! The Renaissance has 6 Flamingos on the island that are a lot of fun to interact with (mostly). Note that they do allow kids on Flamingo Beach from 9-10 am, though there were definitely a few kids coming in outside of those hours. Iguana beach is much larger and is for families. I'd say Flamingo is nicer, though on a more crowded day, Iguana probably has more privacy.


The beach is just perfect. Crystal clear water, hammocks, a gym, a bar with water service etc. My only complaint is that the water was a bit shallow. They have free snorkel gear, floats, kayaks (1 and 2 person), and paddle boards. For aviation lovers, the island is located right next to the airport, so there were great views of planes taking off and landing. While there is no lifeguard, the ocean is shallow for the most part, and they built an enclosure with rocks to break the waves.

We snorkeled a lot and saw plenty (as the water was so clear). Unfortunately no turtles, but we did see lots of cool fish. Unfortunately, I left my underwater camera at home, so all pics of fish I have are from land. The shallow water did make snorkeling hated at some points, but the upshot of that was being able to be right next to all the bottom feeding fish.

When you're at the island, be sure to get a "Chill" beer - one of the beers from thr Balashi Brewery, the local Arubian brewery.

Our first day, we went to the beach at about 4:30pm and took the last boat back in at sunset and it was virtually empty when we arrived. Peak time seems to be from about 9am-3pm. Still, Iguana had lots of room the whole time we were there and even at the more crowded times on Flamingo, we didn't feel like it was a packed beach.

Other activity - We did a half day jeep tour with ABC tours, that took us to Arikok National Park. I think the hlaf day tour was the perfect length, and by booking in the afternoon, we weren't required to pay for lunch.

The tour is almost completely off road, so would be pretty hard for one to do independently, though we did see a couple 4x4s out there. The main attraction on the tour was to go to the Conchi, a natural pool formed in the ocean. Technically, swimming was closed when we went, but lots of people went anyway. Still, even without swimming, the views to and from were gorgeous, with cool rock and water formations througout. I'd recommend it, though with the shorter length of our trip, we would have been just as happy spending more time at the island.

Other notes - Aruba is one of, if not the safest island in the Caribbean. It has such a calm feeling and tourists and locals alike were all so kind and welcoming. The water is also some of the safest in the world! Statistically, Aruba has the highest percentage of return visitors to anywhere in the Caribbean, so clearly most people want to come back.

It's honestly night and day compared to Cancun. I'd say the proximity to kosher and Chabad as the only reason why cancun would be better. But for weather, swimming, and overall comfort, I think Aruba is the clear winner.

As far as comparisons to Maui (the other tropical place we've been), I think it rates nicely. Not as much to do, but the beaches are arguably better, and Arikok is similar to the back RTH. Obviously, you miss the waterfalls and water hikes of Hawaii. That being said, for a 5 hour non-stop flight from NYC vs. 11+ hours and 1 stopover to Maui, it's so much more convenient. All else being equal, Hawaii wins out, but if one only has 4-5 days, I think the proximity to the northeast makes it a good option.

Overall, Aruba was perfect for a short trip, and as long as the Renaissance is bookable with credit card certs, I'm pretty sure we'll be back!

Picture Captions

1. View from the "City View" room at the hotel
2. Flamingo Beach, with cabanas in the background - $300/day to rent a cabana - no thanks!
3. Sunset from Flamingo Beach
4. Fish visible from above the water
5-6. Coast off Arikok
7. Plane spotting from Renaissance Island
« Last Edit: January 26, 2020, 11:31:43 AM by shaulyaakov »

Offline Dan

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2020, 11:32:58 AM »
Nice TR. Crazy that they don't have any resort fees.
We should start a thread for Marriott resorts without resort fees.
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Offline shaulyaakov

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2020, 11:35:54 AM »
Nice TR. Crazy that they don't have any resort fees.
We should start a thread for Marriott resorts without resort fees.
I thought they did! I even double checked at check in.

My only fees were the $130 in food/beverage I racked up (about $100 of that to heat up 8 kosher meals, including the 15% service fee.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2020, 11:40:14 AM by shaulyaakov »

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2020, 12:42:10 PM »
Thanks for writing it up! Always great to get reports of places that arenít written about too much.

Offline Joel

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2020, 04:30:23 PM »
Great TR! AUA is on my list.. thanks for all the info

Offline shaulyaakov

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2020, 04:42:45 PM »
Great TR! AUA is on my list.. thanks for all the info
Yeah, surprised how little press it has. One of the few beachy areas with many non stops from the NY area.

Offline BarryLincoln

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2020, 05:25:48 PM »
Yeshiva Week in AUA frequently has hundreds, if not thousands of Jews (mainly Syrian from Bklyn and Deal). They usually stay at the Marriott at the other end of the island.  Last year their caterers set up all-you-can-eat buffets for meals, had 5 minyanim for Schachris. We were there last year with several families and joined their minyanim and had a few meals with them.  Truly an incredible experience...

Interesting that you didnít bump into any of them but then again, they donít really look Jewish, they generally donít wear yarmulkes and are prob not the most tznius dressed... (but they take teffila btzibur very seriously...)

https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/280815/the-pilgrimage-to-aruba

Offline shaulyaakov

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2020, 05:29:31 PM »
Yeshiva Week in AUA frequently has hundreds, if not thousands of Jews (mainly Syrian from Bklyn and Deal). They usually stay at the Marriott at the other end of the island.  Last year their caterers set up all-you-can-eat buffets for meals, had 5 minyanim for Schachris. We were there last year with several families and joined their minyanim and had a few meals with them.  Truly an incredible experience...

Interesting that you didnít bump into any of them but then again, they donít really look Jewish, they generally donít wear yarmulkes and are prob not the most tznius dressed... (but they take teffila btzibur very seriously...)

https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/280815/the-pilgrimage-to-aruba
I was on a flight with dozens of them. Literally didn't see a single frum person I could detect outside the airport. Granted, I went nowhere near the Marriott.

I heard about the food in the lounge on the way back. Chabad was also not aware as I specifically asked about yeshiva week pop ups. So I wouldn't know how one joins with them.

Offline BarryLincoln

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2020, 05:31:30 PM »
I was on a flight with dozens of them. Literally didn't see a single frum person I could detect outside the airport. Granted, I went nowhere near the Marriott.

I heard about the food in the lounge on the way back. Chabad was also not aware as I specifically asked about yeshiva week pop ups. So I wouldn't know how one joins with them.

They operate very under the radar... very insular as you can imagine...

Offline davidmal

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2020, 10:14:54 AM »
Well done.
Iíve been there but would have like to see more pictures for your Tr

Aurba is and always have been one of
The most solid options.

Problem is airfare could be very expensive at times and like you mentioned lack of kosher options in proximity to hotels.
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Offline mimb

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2020, 10:48:37 AM »
Very helpful TR, thank you very much. Did you use points for your flight or you paid cash?

Debating between this hotel and the Hyatt Regency
« Last Edit: January 27, 2020, 11:20:51 AM by mimb »

Offline chief_mag

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2020, 10:54:50 AM »


Debating between this hotel and the Hyatt

Hyatt regency or place?

Offline mimb

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2020, 11:21:06 AM »

Hyatt regency or place?

Regency, edited my old post for clarity. Thank you

Offline shaulyaakov

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2020, 03:12:19 PM »
Cah for flights, as I try not to burn UR at 1.5c. Flights were $380ish each RT, so even a 25k saver award wouldn't be great.

Part of the reason we flew back Wednesday was Thursday flights were hundreds more pp.

Offline shaulyaakov

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2020, 03:16:55 PM »
Also, I should clarify - Chabad is in walking distance to the high rise hotels. The reason I didn't care about that fact and stayed in the Marnina was because they don't have a daily minyan and we weren't there for shabbos.

Offline mochjas

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #15 on: January 27, 2020, 03:19:49 PM »
Why go away during Yeshiva week if you're not going to bring your kids? Go any other time when places are way less crowded?

But Nice TR nonetheless

Offline shaulyaakov

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #16 on: January 27, 2020, 03:40:48 PM »
Why go away during Yeshiva week if you're not going to bring your kids? Go any other time when places are way less crowded?

But Nice TR nonetheless
My mom is a teacher who is only able to watch my daughter during yeshiva week. Plus I get off MLK day so one less vacation day.

Also as I mentioned, I actually didn't see another identifiable frum Jew outside the airport, so I think it was a non issue.

Offline mgoldhammer18

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2020, 04:40:30 PM »
Nice TR.  Nice pics. 

I personally cannot compare the Caribbean to Hawaii, I feel like it is comparing Apples and Oranges.  Hawaii (Kauai at least) was more exploring the Island, Caribbean islands (at least the ones I have been to) are more for beach bums.

I agree regarding your comments on Cancun.

Glad you enjoyed your trip without the kids 

Offline Dan

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2020, 05:18:29 PM »
I personally cannot compare the Caribbean to Hawaii, I feel like it is comparing Apples and Oranges.  Hawaii (Kauai at least) was more exploring the Island, Caribbean islands (at least the ones I have been to) are more for beach bums.
Agreed. Maybe I'm just going to the wrong islands though.
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Offline shaulyaakov

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Re: 4 days in Aruba
« Reply #19 on: February 04, 2020, 05:30:17 PM »
Agreed. Maybe I'm just going to the wrong islands though.
It's not the same, I was more trying to say that for people who only have a sun-Thurs from the east coast, it may be worth it.