> Destinations > Aruba > Trip Reports > Trip Report
Visit Dates: April 15 - April 22, 2002
Occasion: 30th Anniversary - 1st trip to Aruba
Weather: 85 - 90° F during the day with a steady breeze (75° in late evening), rained one day
Total Cost for 2: $4500 (Airfare/Hotel was $3200)
This was our 1st trip to Aruba, and the majority of the information about Aruba I obtained from the Internet (especially from other's trip reports). This helped make our visit a wonderful time, and I decided to share our experiences with other people planning an Aruba vacation. Even though some of the travel agents found in the Internet offered slightly better deals, we decided to stay with a local agent in town to book our airfare & hotel. The airfare was significantly less to travel on Monday vs. the weekend, so we planned our week trip from Monday to Monday. After talking with other vacationers, I would not hesitate to use MCM Tours (www.aruba4u.com) for any future trips to Aruba.
We flew coach on AA via San Juan. We left Bradley (CT) airport at 7 am, and arrived in Aruba approx. 2:30 pm. Everything went well, no complaints. Recommend getting to airport 2 hours before departure (lines are long for both baggage & security check ins.) The return trip went as scheduled as well.
There are basically three places to stay in Aruba: in town (no beach, mostly harbor), in the low rise hotel area (Eagle Beach), and the high-rise hotel area (Palm Beach). After extensively researching the places to stay, we decided on the Radisson (high-rise area). They recently spent 50 M in a complete do over, and it's like a brand new hotel. The rooms are top notch (all marble bathrooms), and the grounds are gorgeous (like a topical paradise)! It was definitely the right choice.
We upgraded to the deluxe ocean/pool view room, and it was well worth the extra several hundred it cost us. We had requested a non-smoking, king size bed on the 7th floor. We were put in the Aruba tower, on the 4th floor (RM # 1414) in a non-smoking room with a king size bed. The view was still great, overlooking both the pool and ocean, with a great sunset! They only have two non-smoking floors in the Aruba Tower (4th & 7th), and if you're non-smokers like us, you definitely do not want a smoking room. The higher room number, the closer the ocean you will be (highest # was 1418 on our floor). Even rooms numbers provides the ocean/pool view.
Other places that I would consider staying at are the Hyatt, Playa Linda & maybe the Wyndham. I excluded Marriott, even though it's a very nice hotel, it is isolated (it's at the end of the high rise hotels and it's beach is not as nice as the hotels further south). This was a change for us because we usually stay at Marriott when traveling.
The first decision is whether to rent a car for the week, or rely on local transportation (cabs/buses) to get around the island. Since I wanted a vacation from driving as well, we chose not to rent a car. As far as I'm concerned, it was the right decision and less expensive as well. A lot of places are within walking distance in the high-rise area, we took cabs to go to restaurants at night ($9-10 one way), and local buses to go to town ($2 around trip pp) during the day. Most of the tour events will pick you up at your hotel. Many people rent a car/jeep for the day to tour the island on their own. The travel arrangements included transfers (bus) between hotel and airport, but we decided to take a cab ($17 one way) instead to avoid the all the stops on the way.
There are many things that you can do on the island, and difficult to do them all within one week. Therefore, I recommend you plan out your activities each day when you first get there, and adjust it as required. This will allow you to reserve them in advance. Highly recommend getting reservations as soon as you can (the hotel will do it for you), especially the restaurants, so that you're not closed out of them and you do them when you want to. Some of the activities we did and would recommend (besides the pool & beach) were:
"X Discover Aruba Bus tour (5 hrs-$38pp) - visited all the places of interest in Aruba, excellent tour guide
"X Mi Dushi snorkeling boat trip (3 hrs-$30pp) - Mi Dushi and Jolly Pirates almost identical adventures
"X CatPeople sailing trip to the coast of Venezuela (4 hrs-$65pp) - you'll get wet, not for those having weak stomachs
We enjoyed all of them a lot! Other activities that you can do include horse back riding, 4x4 or jeep tours, Banana/Kukoo Kunuku Bus evening tours that takes you to various drinking hang outs, Atlantis Submarine, scuba/snuba/Sea Trek diving, various dinner cruises, Palm Island, spas, numerous watersports. See your hotel activities people for addition information.
Some places offer all-inclusion and most offer breakfast for an additional charge. We chose neither, wanting to have a variety in our dining experiences. We usually ate a late breakfast and dinner at a different restaurant every day. There are many fine restaurants to choose from, and following are the ones we dined at:
Name Location Type Cost(2) Cab$ Grade Comments
In addition to these, the Flying Fishbone (seafood-south end of the Island), Valentino's (supposedly the best Italian in Aruba-East of High Rises) & the Ruinas del Mar (Continental-Hyatt) were highly spoken of as well. Dinner usually consisted of cocktails, appetizers, main course and coffee/cordials.
Sunset Grille Radisson Amer. 106 0 B Nice but others were better
Gilligan's Radisson Amer. 30 0 B Outdoors, great for a lighter meal
La Trattoria El Faro Blan. Lighthouse Italian 110 20 A- Good food, tremendous view
El Gaucho Town Agent. 80 20 A Best tenderloin I've ever had, a little noisy
Royal Palm Night Club Allegro Buffet 0 0 F Terrible, I'm glad it was free*
Madame Janette SE-HR Hotels Gern. 70 18 A+ Great tasting food && romantic atmosphere
Our evening usually consisted of dinner & casino, but we did go to two shows and went on the Tattoo party cruise. We saw the Don't Tell Mama at the Royal Cabana Casino, and the Las Vegas show at the Royal Palm Casino. Both were very entertaining. The Tattoo cruise provides dinner, dancing and an open bar. We had a great time (even though dinner was only fair), and would recommend the Thursday evening cruise that starts at 6 pm (the rest them start at 8 pm).
As usual, we over packed. I found myself wearing a swimsuit (sometimes shorts), tee shirt, hat, sunglasses & sandals most of the time during the day. For dinner, casual wear is the norm (pants/ss-shirt for the guys, and sun dress for the gals). I was disappointment in the number of people that wore shorts to these nice restaurants.
Happy Hour - Is a great way to start the evening off without paying an arm & a leg for drinks (half price). All of the hotels offer happy hour, usually from 5 - 7 pm, although the outside bar at the Playa Linda started at 3 pm.
Money - US dollars are accepted everywhere. We bought and used traveler's checks as well as cash.
Internet - Aruba does not recognize toll free numbers, and our hotel wanted $5/min to connect to your number. Needless to say, even though I brought my laptop, I didn't use it (probably a blessing in disguise).
Time Share Sales - You will probably be approached by people on the sidewalks inviting you to spend an hour hearing a sales pitch on buying a week of time-share at one of the several resorts. They offer you breakfast or lunch and $100 of gifts (mostly activities that you can use on the Island). We wanted to learn more about time-share vacation plans, so we did two of them, and the only thing it cost us was several hours of out time. We received free breakfast two days, admission to the two shows plus a buffet diner at one, and beach stuff. If you're interested in this topic and have the time, it's something to consider.
We really had a great time on this trip, and would highly recommend Aruba as a vacation place. Aruba is a desert Island, other than the resort areas, and it is very arid (reminds us of Tucson, Arizona with an ocean around it). Hopefully this report was informative to you, and you enjoy your vacation to Aruba as much as we did.
Thanks to Alan & Cindy for this trip report ...