For my wife’s 30th birthday I surprised her with a trip to Aruba. We had a choice of several resorts on the island and tried two, this review is of the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba, a great option on one happy island.
Change of Pace
If you have read my blog over the last three years, I think you will notice a trend. I tend to review Hyatts in great locations and virtually nothing else. I travel for business outside of my assignments or vacations and as much as I would like to stay in Hyatts all the time (though I have two fairly bad reviews for Hyatts coming up) their coverage is sparse in certain places. For that, the Holiday Inn Aruba fits nicely as a change of pace.
There are less than 600 Hyatts in the world right now, compared to more than 4,500 Intercontinental Hotel Group properties (primarily in the United States and the Americas) and several thousand for Marriott and Hilton each as well. This means that I often find myself in Hampton Inns, and Holiday Inns, and Courtyards all across the Midwest, and I actually have status in both Hilton and IHG from work stays.
When taking my wife for her 30th birthday to Aruba, I shopped hotels and found that the Hyatt Regency Aruba seemed overly expensive (understatement) and I had difficulty justifying the points (the same as the Park Hyatt Maldives, a $1000/nt hotel). I was sitting on hundreds of thousands of IHG points and thought I would try the brand for a leisure stay. I selected the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba beach for 25,000 points per night, which seemed like an average value for their point system.
I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at the resort. The hotel lobby was well appointed and could have been any island resort, certainly not what you typically think of when Holiday Inn comes to mind. Check-in was quick and easy. The front desk handed me bottles of water, wi fi codes, a map of the resort, and about half a dozen other items that I struggled to hold on my way to the room. We were offered late check-out times but didn’t need to utilize it.
We parked the car close to the third tower added in just last few years and walked into the building. The decor was much more in line with the Holiday Inn brand I have been familiar with in the past. The exterior matched the previous two towers. They were designed and built in the 1950s and follow the traditional Holiday Inn model that hearkened back to palm trees and coastal hotels. It could have been a postcard with the Holiday Inn building in the background, the pool and ocean in sight, the only thing missing was a classic convertible with fins. There was something charming about that bit of American nostalgia.
As we are Platinum and they had space available (now Ambassador Spire), we were given a full ocean view room one of only 63 on the property. There are nine such that are also walkouts straight onto the beach and may add another element to your stay. Our room was updated and fine. It might have been about what to expect for a Holiday Inn on the beach. The design of the room is American hotel standard, rectangle leading from hallway to window with the bathroom on the right followed by two beds on the right and a desk or dresser with TV to the left.
The bathroom was a little nicer in that there was no shower over the tub, a huge pet peeve of mine and there was plenty of space. It wasn’t fancy, but it was clean and updated.
The room featured two double beds and was recently painted. However the TV while new, did not have one channel that came in clear. Why bother to install brand new LED HD TVs if you won’t hook the cable up, right? But you don’t come to paradise to watch TV so what about the view?
It was stunning. From just three floors above the sand, you are high enough to roll over in the morning and see nothing but beautiful turquoise Caribbean blue water. The ocean front balcony was safe for kids and offered a breath of the salt air without the sand of the beach. We were floored by what we saw.
It’s worth noting that the water was unbelievably calm despite otherwise windy conditions. The water is shallow for a considerable distance from the coastline and made it easy for nervous swimmers and our curious toddler to explore the beautiful, warm Caribbean.
Other Rooms, Other Views
We were staying on the property with friends and they had a separate room with a partial ocean view. While our room would be worth paying to upgrade if you are not a Platinum member or did not score that room by luck of the draw, the others give a decent view of the sea and of the grounds where you might find your kids playing in the pool below.
In the newest wing of the hotel (where we’d been placed) an adult-only pool was situated with chaise loungers and cabanas. If I could fault the hotel on anything with regard to recreational activities it would be the inability for guests to have the same poolside service and relaxation offerings in a more family-inclusive environment. Not every child wants to cannonball into the pool, and not every adult wants to make a choice between poolside service and privacy and their children’s enjoyment of the water facilities. There’s a balance that this hotel should endeavor to achieve that was lacking during our stay.
The property would be the ideal place to plan a wedding for its ease, cost, and stunning views at the last mile of Palm Beach.
Mall and Restaurants
Whether you are an adult couple, traveling alone for work, or with your family, the convenient restaurants and shops across the street make you feel like you have access to things without having to drive across the island or leave the area. The property offers a number of on-site restaurants and bars including the Breeze Restaurant right on the white sand beach, and across from the Aruba Beach resort casino. Kids eat free at the hotel restaurant according to the hotel’s website, though we didn’t test it because our daughter was too young at the time.
The mall offers basic shopping and American restaurants for its largest market, North America. Fogo De Chao, Hooter’s and other staples offered food and drink for any budget and setting. I would be remiss to not add that an escape from the drudgery of American life is what some, though not all, are seeking. Unfortunately, the approximation of expensive eyeglass retailers, and overpriced swimsuits reminds visitors that home is not far enough away.
Though not entirely devoid of local custom and culture, a Caribbean-themed culinary experience with local vendors would have enhanced our experience significantly. On future visits, we intend on exploring more of the original culture with a more epicurean curiosity.
I’ll have more in upcoming posts about the family options of the property and why I would return there over the Hyatt Regency Aruba.
Have you stayed in this hotel? Do you have a different, favorite resort in Aruba?