Self-described as “one happy island,” Aruba lives up to its nickname. From the moment you step off of the plane for your Aruba vacation, you’re met with smiling faces escorting you through passport control, directing you to baggage claim and sending you off in a car as you head towards paradise. In less than 20 minutes, you’ll arrive in bustling Palm Beach where your accommodations await and glistening sand beckons. Aruba’s average temperature is in the mid-80s year-round, and the island is outside of the hurricane belt making it an ideal escape any time of year. Should you find yourself in need of a quick getaway to a warm-weather destination, book a vacation to Aruba!
3 Days in Aruba
Take in Aruba’s Dutch influences as you make your way to your accommodations for the weekend, Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino. Located directly on Palm Beach, the oceanfront hotel features 414 guest rooms, each with a 100-square-foot private balcony overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Check in at the front desk, drop your bags, and head straight to lunch at Waves, the property’s beachfront restaurant.
Fresh seafood items such as coconut shrimp lettuce wraps with Caribbean coleslaw and Baja fish wraps with grilled fish of the day fill the menu. Happy hour at Aruba Marriott is more like happy afternoon; it starts at 3 p.m. and includes a range of the most delicious frozen beverages. The Minty Paradise, made with gin, fresh raspberry puree and mint, is chillingly refreshing and slightly herbal. It’s the perfect welcome!
After lunch, get your bearings by exploring the property and all of its perks. There’s the adults-only H2Oasis pool, a kid-friendly pool that’s equally as parent-perfect (it has a swim-up bar, after all), the many palapas on the beach, the Mandara Spa and even the Stellaris Casino. Take your pick for an afternoon delight.
Head to your room to get ready for your first night’s dinner. While there are nine restaurants on property, a long day of travel and sunbathing is best wrapped with a casual dinner at The Lobby. Grab a spot at the bar where you can watch Danny, the Marriott’s head mixologist, shake up drinks like the smoking Old Fashioned or the Aloe Paradise, which features made-in-Aruba aloe vera juice.
For dinner, order from the extensive sushi and sashimi menu. The Tuna Torch roll, which includes tuna, avocado, snow crab and masago, marries smoky tuna with sweet sauces. Don’t miss the tuna poke, either. The tuna tartar is fresh and complemented with various snappy vegetables like cucumbers and carrots. Enjoy live music while you dine along with prime people-watching. The humming lobby is a gathering spot for guests all hours of the day.
Once you’ve had your fill of sushi, pick-up a gelato popsicle from Gelato & Co., also on the property. Unique flavors and even shapes make dessert as fun as it is delicious. Soft coconut gelato dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with coconut shavings is the ultimate Caribbean treat. Make your way to the Stellaris Casino to try your hand at any of the $10 tables or slot machines, or head back to your room to enjoy your gelato, and maybe a glass of wine too, on your breezy balcony.
Rise and shine early, so you can enjoy as much of the island as possible. Grab coffee to-go from the lobby’s convenient Starbucks (and charge it to your room!). Pick-up a local pastechi — a cheese-, chicken- or beef-filled pastry — before boarding your open-air 12-person, Jeep chariot to take you to De Palm Tours for a UTV experience unlike any other.
Aruba is a 19-mile-long, 5-mile-wide island with two very distinct terrains. On one side, there are powdery sand beaches and calm waters like the ones near your hotel. On the other side, there is a desert filled with cacti and rocky, clay-laden topography, plummeting cliffs and crashing waves. Pebble beaches are more the norm on this side of the island, and the natural rock formations rising like King Triton are stately and statuesque.
With an 8:30 a.m. departure time, the Natural Pool UTV tour is 4.5 hours of fresh Aruban air, natural pool snorkeling and mud … lots of mud. Driving a personal UTV for two, you’ll be led by a guide through Arikok National Park where towering cacti grow without constraint and Black Stone Beach where white-capped waves provide Instagram moments. You’ll travel along the coast to the natural stone bridge, weave through Aruban neighborhoods, visit the first Roman Catholic church on the island, which was built in 1750, and land at the California lighthouse, wearing an immense amount of dirt and mud, of course.
You’ll work up an appetite from your UTV adventure, so while you’re out, swing over to Linda’s Dutch Pancakes for lunch. Yes, pancakes for lunch. Trust us. Linda’s Dutch Pancakes is famous on the island for its fluffy yet thin, crunchy yet soft, Dutch-style pancakes. Think of an enormous, almost pizza-sized crepe for one, filled with any number of ingredients of your choice. For a savory selection, you can’t beat the brie, walnut and honey pancake. Add ham, and you’ve got a complete lunch that will keep you full until tonight’s dinner.
Now is when the true rest and relaxation begins. Head back to the resort and straight to your personal palapa. Palapas, with their palm roofs, fill the beaches in Aruba for good reason: They provide the perfect amount of sun and shade with direct access to the beach. Lean back and listen as the rustling leaves serenade you through a paradisiacal afternoon. Frosty beverages and snacks are available with the push of a button (literally), and your palapa is yours all day. Enjoy it!
For dinner, make a reservation at Atardi, an evening pop-up beach restaurant that replaces the daytime eatery, Waves. The restaurant is transformed into an experiential, romantic, toes-in-the-sand, live music spot. Leave your shoes at the gazebo before heading to your table. During the 6:30 p.m. seating, you’ll be treated to the spectacular Aruban sunset, which is said to be a different color every night. The menu at Atardi, meaning ‘late afternoon’ in Papiamento, is seafood-forward with spectacular creations from Chef Penacino. Specialties like lobster claw salad, featuring lump lobster meat, celery and apples, are presented alongside scallops with charred corn and bacon. The wine list is robust, the dessert menu is thoughtful, and the setting is magical.
Enjoy your last morning waking up to the beautiful Caribbean Sea before heading to breakfast on property at La Vista, which offers all three meals daily, but their breakfast and dinner buffets are the highlight. In fact, Thursday’s dinner buffet includes a live carnival show if you want to consider arriving one day early! While the buffets are tempting, La Vista also features a menu of traditional favorites. Their homemade granola seasoned with cinnamon is comforting and filling. Be leisurely at breakfast while taking in the beach views.
Before heading to the airport, enjoy one last Aruban experience: the Aruba Aloe Farm and Factory, the first aloe factory in the Caribbean. In fact, you might have even seen their products, like Harper+Ari sugar scrub cubes, in boutiques throughout the South. Tours are every 15 minutes and give visitors a peek behind the aloe curtain. See how to “filet” an aloe leaf and learn the history of the 50-acre farm and how aloe can cure just about any ailment.
Be sure to arrive back at the airport with plenty of time before your flight. In fact, three hours are recommended. The reason? U.S. border agents are employed at the airport, so you clear U.S. Customs before heading home. Global entry will help you avoid the line, but overall the process is a swift and efficient way to spend your last few hours on the happiest island in the Caribbean.
To learn more about vacationing in Aruba and to start your planning, check out visitaruba.com.
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