Where to Stay in Aruba for a Local Experience

The Boardwalk is a former coconut plantation set in lush, tropical gardens
The Boardwalk is a former coconut plantation set in lush, tropical gardens | Courtesy of Boardwalk Boutique Hotel Aruba / Expedia
Photo of Sara Darling
20 January 2021

Turquoise seas, golden beaches and four species of turtle that nest here – reasons enough to visit Aruba. But if you want to combine a Caribbean escape with urban culture, then the capital, Oranjestad, is for you, with its Dutch architecture and contemporary art galleries. To experience the island like a local, here’s our pick of where to stay.

Getting to this Dutch-Caribbean island from the UK involves a plane change in Amsterdam, while nonstop flights from the US are plentiful, making Aruba a value-for-money alternative to Barbados, the Dominican Republic and other destinations in the West Indies.

Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort

Resort
Map View
Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort
Courtesy of Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort / Expedia

This adults-only retreat, immersed in tropical fecundity on the stunning white sands of Eagle Beach, is catnip for romantics; the clue’s in the daybeds for two and the Instagram-sensuous infinity pool. The whole place is geared towards generating great memories, from the spa, with its locally sourced organic products, to the kitchen garden’s delicious fruits. Whether you are looking for a place to celebrate an anniversary or pop the question over a private candlelit meal, this little number is it.

Boardwalk Boutique Hotel Aruba

Boutique Hotel, Hotel
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Boardwalk Boutique Hotel Aruba
Courtesy of Boardwalk Boutique Hotel Aruba / Expedia

Who said the Dutch couldn’t deliver a 24-carat Caribbean experience? The proof is the Boardwalk Boutique Hotel Aruba – a slice of paradise from the moment you enter the driveway. Barefoot elegance is the sartorial code throughout this former coconut plantation, which pulls out the stops to satisfy all whims. With tropical gardens, 46 spacious casitas, a spa, two pools and the lazy possibilities of an overwater hammock, you’ll be forgiven for staying put. However, the inviting sands and sea at Palm Beach are footsteps away.

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Manchebo Beach Resort and Spa

Resort
Map View
Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa
Courtesy of Manchebo Beach Resort and Spa / Expedia

Something of a veteran, given its more than 50-year history, the 72-room Manchebo Beach Resort and Spa is a treasured institution on Aruba – an oceanfront oasis and holistic grail for wellness-conscious travelers. Check out the stunning Balinese-inflected spa, and chill further by taking complimentary pilates and yoga sessions. With four places to eat, foodies are in clover; don’t miss Aruban classics such as balchi di pisca (fishcakes made using the local catch) at Pega Pega Beach Bar & Grill before winding down with an open-air massage as the waves crash on the shore.

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Aruba Ocean Villas

Villa
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Aruba Ocean Villas
Courtesy of Aruba Ocean Villas / Expedia

In the sleepy fishermen’s village of Savaneta, Aruba Ocean Villas is so private that you feel as if you have the whole island to yourself. It’s home to the only overwater villas in Aruba – unique essays in extravagance, with flickering shoals your closest neighbors. Beach bungalows are also available, affording direct access to the white sands. Surrounded by the hypnotic transparency of the undulating Caribbean, this is a place to choose for some very special downtime with someone you love.

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  • Coconut Inn

    Inn, Hotel
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    The Coconut Inn
    Courtesy of Coconut Inn / Expedia

    Taking its name from the lush grounds of coconut palms, this little 40-room bed and breakfast is a two-story affair with Caribbean hints in the verandas. Don’t expect interior swank; loud-patterned bedspreads, easy-mop tile floors and showers with curtains typify the product. Still, the owners are friendly, and the mood is relaxed. There are in-room kitchen appliances, but with bars and restaurants on the threshold of this high-rise area, you’ll likely be stepping out more often than not. During the day, borrow a kayak and head to the calm waters at Palm Beach.

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    Turibana Plaza

    Apartment
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    Turibana Plaza
    Courtesy of Turibana Plaza / Expedia

    Dispel notions of Crusoe-esque isolation – the blue-painted hulk of Turibana Plaza is about as desert-island-looking as a retail park. But who cares if what you need is a super-cheap base for a week in a modern, low-rise resort? Lying in happening Noord, in northern Aruba, the Turibana comprises 19 self-contained studio apartments with all the requisite domestic appliances. There’s a large pool for those lengths of exercise first thing each morning. Prefer a sea dip? Palm Beach and the main drag are barely a 10-minute drive away.

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    Yoyita Suites

    Suite Hotel, Cottages
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    Yoyita Suites
    Courtesy of Yoyita Suites / Booking.com

    Looking for kid-free accommodation close to the heart of Palm Beach? Downhome, low-rise Yoyita Suites cuts the mustard, with its sedate whitewashed motel and bungalow looks and sun loungers surrounding a small blue outdoor pool (there’s an indoor one, too). While terraces aren’t entirely private, you can curtain yours off, and the interiors are cool oases of beige, soft furnishings, with smart little kitchens. You’re on the outskirts of town – a 15-minute walk to Palm Beach proper and a 25-minute stroll to Malmok Beach – but there’s plenty of parking space, which is a boon for car renters, coupled with the very affordable room rates.

    Palazzio Palm Beach

    Resort, Apartment
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    Palazzio Palm Beach
    Courtesy of Palazzio Palm Beach / Expedia

    The huge flamingo mural that welcomes you is a sign of the trendy vibe permeating the Palazzio Palm Beach resort. In the exclusive Bubali district of Noord, its self-contained apartments and studios belong to a local, new wave of casual accommodation for independent travelers needing only a no-frills base – you can stock up on groceries at the nearby Super Food Market Aruba. There’s a plunge pool, but the white sands and picture-postcard skyline of Eagle Beach are just a 20-minute walk from here.

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    Ladybugs Apartments

    Apartment
    Map View
    Ladybugs Apartments
    Courtesy of Ladybugs Apartments / Expedia

    While the suites may be functional, the outbreaks of red decor are as uplifting as the friendly owners who welcome you with chilled coconut water for a relaxing stay. Relaxing is the operative word, as you’re in a residential area of Bubali, devoid of any party vibe (there’s no pool either). But the chilled-out suites are about a 15-minute walk to Eagle Beach and its photo-perfect fofoti trees, twisted by the winds. You’re also just a short drive from the social whirl of the capital, Oranjestad. Alternatively, grab one of the handy bikes to explore the stunning coastline.

    These recommendations were updated on January 20, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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