Aruba: Island Indulgence
This March, Aruba celebrates a youthful 64th birthday that commemorates the day when the Kingdom of Netherlands granted this tiny island in the southern Caribbean autonomous status. The pursuit of complete independence has been waylaid since the 1990s, but that doesn’t stop Arubans from embracing its centuries-old island culture.
A trip to Aruba feels like visiting a party buddy who lives at home with his parents. The island spirit abounds, whether it’s an afternoon on the beautifully maintained white-sand beaches, an evening feast of traditional foods like giambo (a gumbo-like fish soup), or dancing until the wee hours of the morning at one of the many nightclubs downtown or along the high-rise strip. At the same time, the Dutch influence can’t be missed as Aruba is a go-to resort destination for those seeking respite from the cold winters of northern Europe.
Landing in Paradise
I caught a direct flight on JetBlue from New York City to Oranjestad and in less than five hours I had left the concrete jungle behind for a Caribbean paradise. The island, approximately 75 square miles with a population that hovers around 100,000, is a far cry from my hometown of Manhattan, which is 23 square miles and home to more than 1.5 million residents.
While there are few guarantees in life, I had confidence that my weekend getaway would be picture perfect. The island lies on the southern fringes of the hurricane belt and receives a minimal annual rainfall of 16 inches. Temperatures comfortably nestle in the high 80’s and the occasional afternoon thunderstorm is Mother Nature’s reminder that you haven’t died and gone to heaven.
Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
While most of my weekend plans involved nothing more than strolling down to the beach to enjoy the calm waters and warm rays, I also wanted lodging that was modern and offered amenities to enhance my carefree getaway. The Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino was the perfect combination - indulgent without feeling ostentatious and a staff so friendly and accommodating I thought I was back at the summer camp of my youth (with the added bonus of ever-flowing frozen cocktails).
Located on Palm Beach and less than 10 miles from the airport, the Aruba Marriott underwent a $50 million renovation in 2009 and now exudes warmth amid the lobby atrium’s soaring ceilings and contemporary artwork. The property boasts some of the most spacious guest rooms on the island, many of which feature ocean view balconies. I didn’t plan on spending much time inside, though. I dropped off my bags, lathered up with SPF 30, and headed to the beach.
Whether you are content to lay under an umbrella with a Stieg Larsson novel or burn some calories as well as some skin under the searing Aruban sun, the options are endless. You can try paddle boarding or ocean yoga. How about sailing or snorkeling? Maybe you’d prefer to see the coastline while whipping through the wakes on an inner tube.
One-stop shopping for all of your recreation needs can be found through De Palm Tours. With more than 50 years serving Aruba’s tourism industry, this family-owned company runs the gamut from half-day adventures to excursions that will keep you on the move from morning until dusk.
I preferred low and slow and planted myself near Waves Beach Bar & Grill (one of the Marriott’s nine restaurant and lounge options), where I could wander over for a signature drink and light snack before nestling back into the sand for a few more chapters of Swedish suspense.