Aruba Guide – Part I
Aruba is a great destination for travelling in the Caribbean. Turquoise blue water, powdery soft sand, good food, and warm temperature all year round. There are many activities ranging from gambling at the casinos, snorkeling, diving, 4×4 off roading to the natural pool, relaxing at the hotel pools, sun tanning, and the various bars and restaurants. I recently went there for a rest and relaxation trip and it was overall a fun experience.
When to Go?
When to go to Aruba? With Aruba’s location near the equator, the climate is the same all year round. Nice and warm. It also is located in the southern Caribbean, so there is less chance of hurricanes impacting the trip. Aruba’s peak season rates are in the winter time (November – March) so hotel rates will be very high during this time. Off-season rates are very affordable (June – August) in comparison. We went in June and the weather was still very nice and hotels were offering great rates. The upside to going during off season is that the resorts won’t be as crowded and it’ll take less time to get through the airport.
The first thing to do in planning the trip to Aruba is finding the airfare. For us, it was the most expensive part of the trip.
Airfare from the west coast (LAX) will require at least one stop due to the distance. I’ve seen ticket prices ranging from $419 to $800 during the off season. American Airlines had the lowest prices the last time I checked.
We decided upon Miami as our stop since it was the shortest distance. The Miami airport is a very large airport with a good selection of restaurants. I recommend the La Caretta restaurant if you have a long layover — excellent Cuban food for the price in North Terminal. There are also many fast food places such as Au Bon Pain, Dunkin Donuts, Nathan’s hotdogs, etc. LAX to Miami was around ~5 hours, so its about an 8 hr. flight + layover time.
From the East coast, the flight isn’t too bad as there are non-stop flights from many cities. For instance, the flight from Miami is around ~3 hours.
Once you arrive in Aruba, its a quick walk through Aruban customs.
Hotels – low rise vs. high rise
There are two main areas in Aruba that have resorts/hotels. The first section is the “low-rise” hotels with the nicest beaches in Aruba (if not the world) – Eagle Beach. The beaches are very wide and have clear water. They generally have less view obstruction since the resorts are generally 3-4 stories high at the most. There are fewer stores/restaurants in the low-rise section, so buses/taxis/car rental may be necessary.
The high-rise section is where the major chain hotels are located. Its a bit further to the north in the windier section in Palm Beach. Hyatt, Marriott, Holiday Inn, Rui, Westin hotels are in the high rise section. These are typically high rises (Marriotts are over 10 stories) with lots of shopping and restaurants nearby. From what I remember, there is a large outdoor mall (3 stories) with a lot of higher end stores. Another advantage to the high-rise section is that some of the resorts have very nice pools.
For instance, Marriott Surf Club has a lazy river where you can float all day long. The SwimWays Papsan floats are excellent to float in all day. Easy to carry in your suitcase and are way more comfortable than floating in an inflatable raft.
Low-rise vs. high rise? Each has their advantages and disadvantages. High-rise hotels are great if you want everything within walking distance and don’t mind larger crowds. Low-rise hotels have a more relaxing atmosphere and closer views of the ocean. Nightlife seemed to be more active in the high rise section with more bars, Hard Rock Cafe, and high end restaurants.
There is also a resort in central Aruba (near downtown) for a different type of experience. Renaissance Aruba Resort is located in the main street of Oranjestad with lots of shopping and restaurants. The shopping in downtown ranges from really high end stuff to bargain souvenirs at the several souvenir shops in the area.
That’s it for the first part of the Aruba Guide. The next section will talk about what to do in Aruba and where to eat… stay tuned.