Stephen and I were so looking forward to a relaxing getaway before the new year and we absolutely got that in Aruba! We had decided to do 5 nights / 6 days in the Oranjestad area of the island. Luckily, a friend recommended The Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino! After seeing that the Resort had a private beach with flamingos, I was easily sold.
The Resort is divided into two parts: the Marina and the Ocean. We stayed at the Marina resort – which is connected to a high-end mall and casino. We also had access to the Ocean resort which was a quick 5 minute walk away. The man-made beach at this resort was beautiful and the swim-up bar / restaurant combo was definitely a crowd pleaser. Both resorts have a dock that takes you to the resort’s best feature – the private island. However, the dock at the Marina resort is just right in the lobby which was pretty cool and super convenient.
The food at the Resort bar had a decent spread of bar food, but the cocktail list was stellar! I loved the Flowers of the Caribbean gin cocktail which is made with their homemade elderflower liquor. It was the perfect refreshing drink and the presentation was impressive too!
Our room was extremely spacious and bright. We had a view out onto the square in the back – which was lovely, although near the dumpster. It was advertised as ‘Marina View’ in case you want to inquire more specifically. Other than that, zero complaints! We loved that the bathroom had an extra supply of towels for the beach and the blackout curtain were a huge plus.
Hands down the best part about The Renaissance is the island. It is about a 10 – 15 minute boat ride and you swipe your room key to get on-board. The boat ride is such a fun touch to get to the beach. There are two sides of the island: the Family Side and the Adult Exclusive Flamingo Beach. Of course children were able to come check out and feed the animals, but other than that people stuck to it. While there is a bar on the adult side, the restaurant is located on family side. I fell in love with their Pineapple Grilled Chicken salad the first day and had that every time we went back for a snack! There is also a gift shop if you need anything from SPF to swimwear. Fresh towels are handed out when you arrive and there is also a kiosk to book snorkeling, paddle boarding, etc. The staff is so kind and helpful. There are also hammocks spread throughout the island and private cabanas that you can rent out for some extra shade and relaxation. Pretty much my definition of vacation!
Aruba is a Dutch territory and a tourist hotspot in the Caribbean so the food selection offered a great mix. One of our favorite meals was at a French cuisine restaurant off the beaten path – Amuse Sunset. It’s sits on a dock right off the bay. We JUST missed the sunset and were kicking ourselves all night – the view there was just incredible! We had this goat cheese, pear, and honey spread for a starter and it was to die for! I had a light, fresh Halibut and the most delicious risotto! Stephen went with the pork shank, which he says was delicious, but regrets not going with the catch of the day (probably after seeing my dish!). The service was exceptional lovely and the vibe was exactly what we were looking for on our getaway.
Another one of our favorite meals we decided to duplicate! Plus, it was right in our resort. L.G. Smith’s Steakhouse was such a treat. We were hooked after the pork belly appetizer. Great vibes, service, and has a smoking lounge that opens at 11pm for those cigar lovers out there – which is everywhere in Aruba FYI!
One of the more popular spots in the area is a restaurant called Freds. We were on the waitlist, but so wish we could have made it in! This is one of most popular restaurants on the island and it books up fast. Fred’s provides an intimate dining experience with a prix fixed menu that the chef switches up regularly. I recommend booking a reservation a few weeks in advance!
If you are looking for a quick bite, the Local Market (which is in between the Marina and Ocean resorts) has several restaurants. There a few souvenir and artist shops in this market as well!
We had no issues walking around to shops and restaurants, but for exploring other areas you will want to taxi. They only take cash, but you can get one pretty quickly and easily. We also quickly got a taxi at the airport, but it may be a good idea to book airport transportation.
We both love the ocean and Stephen fancies himself a fisherman so snorkeling was the perfect activity for us! We took the morning cruise at De Palm Tours Aruba. Food and an open bar were also included! The catamaran takes you to three different spots: Antilla Shipwreck, Arashi Reef and Boca Catalina. Each were unique and had a ton to see! If you are more interested in getting a tan or taking advantage of the bar, you won’t feel like an outsider not jumping in the ocean. The crew was also wonderful. I accidentally bumped my head and they were quick to give me some ice without making a big fuss. Would highly recommend!
Our trip was just a tad too short to fit all the activities in, but ATVing was the next thing on our list. If only we had one more day! While half of the island is on the beach, the other half has all the right desert vibes. Which is why ATVing is one of the most popular attractions. Many repeat-vacationers highly recommended taking advantage of this excursion!
We enjoyed a couples massage on a rainy afternoon at the Okeanos Spa. Again, nothing but great service! The massage itself wasn’t one of my favorites, but it was too relaxing not to enjoy! You choose your own oil which is a personal touch. That steam and shower combo afterwards though were worth the massage itself!
The California Lighthouse is a popular destination in the area and for good reason. We went by this location while boating and it was beautiful! If you are looking for a good view, I would highly recommend checking this spot out! The National Archaeological Museum Aruba is also a popular tourist destination.
If you are looking for high-end shopping, the mall at the Renaissance Marina resort is your place! The mall covers everything from Gucci to Nike and is centrally located in the Oranjestad area.
If you are looking for more souvenir shopping – you can check out the Royal Plaza and the surrounding strip. If you are also looking to bring back some new bling too, you are in luck. I’ve never seen so many local jewelry shops – there are multiple on every block! Some seemed legit, some not so much so you may want to do your homework if you are looking to #treatyoself.
There are also no shortages on casinos and cigars. Most resorts have a casino attached and if not I’ll bet there is one in walking distance. If there’s a rainy day check out the The Cinemas theatre in the Local Market. We hopped in there one night to see the opening of Star Wars (ha!).
Good to know: Aruba is a very Catholic area and most places are closed on Sundays. Also, there is free, decent wifi almost any place you go!
All in all, Aruba was magical! If you are planning on traveling to the Orjanstead area in Aruba and have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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