Surrounded by expanses of aqua-blue sea, this tiny Dutch island draws devoted travelers with mile upon mile of white-sand beaches and year-round sunshine. Small wonder it is the most visited island in the southern Caribbean, made for hanging out on the beach, trying out new water sports and heading home with a tan. The hotel scene is booming – so if you want to make the most of your next vacation, consider these top luxury resorts in Aruba.
Slap bang in the high-rise zone, on tree-lined Palm Beach, the Riu Palace attracts everyone from honeymooners to families, all attracted by its spacious rooms, swimming pools (there are two, one with a swim-up bar), casino and spa. Its distinctive domes and turrets make it a landmark, and the exuberant character continues with crystal chandeliers, a stained-glass ceiling and zebra-print on the lobby’s soft furnishings. Buy an all-inclusive package, including meals, drinks, snacks and 24-hour room service – you’ll also have access to the gym, beach volleyball, paddle surfing, diving and kayaking, should you overdo it at the buffet.
Picture the epitome of tropical paradise, and you’ve got Aruba’s only overwater and beach villas at Aruba Ocean Villas, in the old historic capital of Savaneta. It’s a small town, so there isn’t much to do apart from sunbathe and admire the stunning Caribbean. Spacious thatch-roofed, wooden-decked bungalows defer to the secluded, tropical location, its romantic allure enhanced by hammocks, freestanding bathtubs and a spa. With a barefoot beachfront restaurant, Old Man and the Sea, doing the likes of lobster and shrimp scampi, there’s no need to leave. Nonetheless, should you so desire, activities can be organized by the concierge.
Couples and families who like their independence love the laid-back atmosphere at the Boardwalk Boutique Hotel, which is welcoming from the outset with its orange-and-turquoise color scheme. Family-run by Belgian twins (and their dog, Lola), the exclusive property covers the grounds of a former coconut plantation: a perfect place to switch off and sink into traditional, relaxed island living.The 46 spacious casitas all have a patio and hammock, and there’s a hot tub, pool and comfy loungers if you’re too chillaxed to make it to the beach. A proper hidden gem, this boutique hotel attracts easygoing travelers who don’t need a casino and swim-up bar: the weekly back-garden rum-punch party is all that’s required.
Much loved by couples, families and business travelers, the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino delights a diverse crowd with its adult-only pool, kids’ club and various places to eat and drink, including a Starbucks in the foyer. The atmosphere is less boisterous than at other resorts on the strip, so guests can really tune out by the lagoon-shaped pool or (even more private) the gated adults-only pool and swim-up bar. At Palm Beach, you can hire a front-row palapa for optimum exposure, or settle for the free loungers everywhere else.
This upscale all-inclusive has all the facilities the brand is celebrated for, and it’s lifted beyond ordinary beach-break territory through magical touches such as impeccably maintained tropical grounds, black swans, a huge koi pond and scarlet macaws. The architecture has a Spanish feel, with a full-service spa, casino and direct access to the white sands of Palm Beach, with well-spaced lounge chairs set under palapas. Top tip: take advantage of the option to reserve restaurant tables online, as they are popular hangouts.
Heading west, away from the main drag, you’ll reach the chilled Tropical Digs, at unassuming Eagle Beach. It’s a laid-back resort, with 11 roomy condos, situated within the Divi golf course – guests have full access to the Clubhouse and its four freshwater swimming pools. Perfect for independent travelers, it has fully furnished studios and one- or two-bedroom suites, many with expansive balconies backdropped by the picturesque fairways. Other perks include airport pick-up and drop-off, and a pool bar with happy hour. Just be aware that this place is not all-inclusive, so be prepared for a bill when you leave.
With direct access to a lively stretch of sandy Palm Beach, Barceló Aruba is an adults’ favorite for its large pool, around which to bronze while sipping free-flowing drinks, and its casino. Decor in the 373 large rooms borrows shades from the sea, and each has a (slim) balcony and a mini bar. Flash that wristband – there are more than a dozen restaurants and bars, including a Japanese joint, Zen, with its elegant indoor garden for amorous occasions. Just remember that tables for dinner throughout the resort must be booked in advance.
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