Aruba is better known as “one happy island” and I now know why! This picture speaks for itself. Matt and I decided to leave New York’s cold winter behind for a 5 day adult getaway. Having had to skip Matt’s award trip to Hawaii in October and the Bahamas in November due to our son’s emergency appendectomy, this trip was long overdue. Adult vacations don’t come easy or often in my house being we don’t have any family in New York. Luckily, my awesome parents are only a short plane ride away and are always up for hanging out with their grandkids and granddogs. In spite of crazy schedules, threats of inclement weather and the usual winter illnesses- we finally made it to the happy island of Aruba!
We narrowed our hotel choices down to three based on reviews and recommendations. The first one we considered was an adult only boutique style hotel called the Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort. This hotel is located in the low rise section of Eagle Beach, Aruba. It is well known for its impeccable service and very romantic, quiet atmosphere. Although this sounded amazing sans the kiddos, my husband requires a little liveliness when away so we crossed this one off the list. It is definitely a hotel I’d like to visit at some point but since it was our first vacation in a very long time we decided on a hotel with more action.
The second hotel we looked into was the Ritz Carlton on Palm Beach in the high rise hotel district of Noord. Although the Ritz comes with a 5 star reputation of top notch service, one major con of this particular Ritz was the location. It is located at the northern end of the town and required a taxi to and from most restaurants on the strip. After taking a stroll down to see the Ritz property I was surprised to see that the hotel looked rather outdated and lacked that Caribbean vibe.
Our third choice was the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa and Casino which was the one we decided on. This hotel was also located in the high rise hotel district and was exactly what we were looking for! The location was perfect as it was central to all of the shops and restaurants. Upon arrival, we were greeted with a macaron and a nice cold bottle of water. The resort was beautifully manicured with lavish gardens, beautiful natural stone walkways and the sounds of birds and nature. The resort had that tropical feel that made you immediately sigh and leave your worries behind.
Mornings in Aruba are so peaceful. The weather was consistently 80 degrees with a light, warm breeze. Our morning routine would consist of taking a walk on the path behind the hotels while we enjoyed our coffee. After our walk, we would stop by the Kadushi Juice Bar (located behind the Hyatt) for a refreshing Acai bowl. They were so delicious and even better under a palapa viewing the ocean.
Some resorts offer complimentary palapas to guests. The Hyatt does offer a row of complimentary palapas, however, we opted to reserve a palapa each day at an additional cost. They range anywhere from $10-$55 per day depending on the row and accommodate up to 4 guests. Thankfully, I joined a Facebook group called, “All Things Aruba” which gave great tips about what to know before you go. The biggest complaint about the Hyatt was the fact that they charge to reserve a palapa. However, I much prefer paying than the aggravation of fighting for one each day or worrying someone may move my belongings if I leave my chair. You can reserve the palapa of your choice for the following day at the concierge desk, however, once I understood the beach layout I preferred reserving my spot myself on the website hyattbeachservices.com. The site showed the available palapas but the earlier you reserve the better the location. On the site you can also reserve pool chairs (free of charge) at the adult and family pools. I suggest if you prefer to be poolside then you do this way ahead of time. We didn’t reserve chairs at the pool because we preferred to be on the beach. However, if our kids were with us we probably would have mixed it up.
At around 2 o’clock each day we would head to the pool bar for a cocktail and lunch. If I had to say one complaint it would be about the adult pool area. The adult pool area is a new addition to the Hyatt and is one of the reasons we booked it this hotel. Although I love kids, since mine weren’t coming, I was hoping to not see or hear one for the duration of my stay lol. So the pros of the adult pool area was that it had a nice infinity style pool with full service cabanas. The cons of the adult pool area was it was a wind tunnel, had no bar and the pool temperature was cooler than I was hoping. Oh and the music was awful! We were left no choice but to head to the family pool area because it had a swim up bar. As the week went on I realized that it all made sense. Parents needed the swim up bar more than the rest of us.
Although we didn’t eat breakfast or dinner at the resort, we did have lunch and drinks at the Palms restaurant or the Balashi Bar and Grill daily. The Spicy Tuna Bowl was Matt’s favorite and the Fiesta Shrimp Bowl was my go to. It was both fresh and super filling. On the days we didn’t have an Acai Bowl for breakfast, we ate on our walks. One day we grabbed egg sandwiches at a cute oceanfront shack (on the hotel path) called “The Bread Basket” and another day we went across the street to “Diana’s Pancake Place” for an authentic dutch pancake. Neither places disappointed and would be returned to on our next visit for sure.
Dinner was my favorite meal on the island. I love fresh fish and chose most of the restaurants based on reviews on the “All About Aruba” group. I reserved 3 restaurants prior to arriving and I’m glad we did because most were already booked solid during our stay. The first night we were supposed to have a romantic dinner in the sand during sunset but we didn’t want to leave our beach chairs so we canceled. We instead went to a local gem which is also a favorite tourist spot called, “Wacky Wahoo”. They didn’t take reservations so we had a bit of a wait but it was worth it. The cuisine was local favorites and we were informed that the owner catches all of the fish he serves. The vibe of the restaurant felt very much like the show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”, casual and upbeat.
But hands down our favorite meal was actually at Giannis. I know a New York girl (with an Italian family) thought Italian in Aruba was one of the best meals she has ever had- say what? It’s true. I ordered a fresh pasta special with shrimp and lobster and it was that good that we made a reservation for next night as well! The second night was just as delicious. We got a prosciutto and antipasto special and shared pasta cooked in a parmesan wheel. All I can say is WOW. Of course, we ended our meal with two gelatos at the Gelatissimo truck parked outside Giannis.