Aruba Trip Reports

Aruba Grand (Now Riu Palace) - La Cabana

April 14-21 / April 21-28, 2001 by ~Amy~® and Mike

Aruba 2001 Trip

We flew into Aruba from Minneapolis on Sun Country Airlines as we have every year (this is our 6th trip to Aruba) and, once again, Sun Country was right on time.

Hotel (week 1) - Aruba Grand

We arrived at the Grand with open arms from our two favorite doormen who actually remembered us from years past and said they missed us last year (last year we spent both of our weeks at La Cabana). It sure felt like we were "home" again! We got one of our favorite rooms in a lanai which is located on the other side of the pool area away from the main tower at the Grand. This year they had installed new balcony railings so you could see out your balcony better. In the past, they were dark wood but now they are dark green iron railings which are much more attractive. The room had everything we needed: electronic safe, mini-frig, bathrobes, and best of all, we were just steps from beautiful Palm Beach. The Grand also had a special rate that we booked this year called the "Bed and Breakfast" and we were able to have a free breakfast every morning. Never a problem getting a "hut" on the beach at the Grand throughout most of the day. The Grand is a smaller hotel but has a nice size beach and ample huts for everyone so there is no need to run down to the beach and "save" a hut at some ungodly hour of the morning.

Hotel (week 2) - La Cabana

We stayed in a timeshare unit at La Cabana for our second week and check-in was a breeze - we were in our room within minutes. This year we had a unit on the first floor which was very handy to the lobby, pool, and BBQ grills but, unfortunately, was in a high traffic area so we heard a lot of noise on occasion outside of our bedroom (we had a one-bedroom unit) - everything from the birds chirping at 5am to the sound of luggage being wheeled down the outdoor hall. But we soon got used to it and slept right through most of it by the end of the week. Check-out at La Cabana used to be a breeze with their Express Check-Out where they leave a bill in your mailbox the night before and if everything is right you just sign it, put it in the envelope with your keys and drop it in the "drop-box". But this year we did not receive a bill the night before check-out and had to wait in line with everyone else at the front desk in the morning. Many people we spoke with in line were very mad about not being able to use the Express Check-Out and we waited in line for about 45 minutes. Luckily, the couple behind us had a cold 6-pack of Coronas that they were trying to get rid of so we all stood in line and drank beer (helped pass the time anyway!)


We spent one week on Palm Beach and one week on Eagle Beach. It was very windy during this time of year (as opposed to when we have been there in the fall) and we had our fair share of "sand-blasting" on both beaches (ouch!) Some days we just gave up and decided to go to happy hour early!


We ate at out favorite, Gasparito's, twice and were welcomed with open arms from everyone that works there - I guess they're getting used to seeing us every year now! Mike had his usual Keshi Yena and I had the Wahoo - both were fabulous. We also ate at a few more favorites: Madam Janette's (they didn't have our reservation but still seated us within 15 minutes), the French Steakhouse (fantastic as always), the Mill (haven't eaten here in a couple of years and it was still very good), El Gaucho (haven't eaten here in a couple of years either due to bad service - they also had our reservation down for the wrong night but seated us within 30 minutes.) Also tried a few new ones for us: Avallone's (great Italian food), Que Pasa (excellent!! We went twice because it was so good and the prices very reasonable), the Aruba Grand's SeaWatch Restaurant (we had been "comped" a free dinner and bottle of wine and the food was great - would definitely return), Salt and Pepper (went there on two different occasions because it was conveniently located and it was a good cheap meal - their "tapas" are fun and they have a lot to choose from on their menu), Coco Beach (this is an outdoor restaurant located at Rodgers Beach - had great chicken sate).

Happy Hours

We mainly did happy hour at the Kokoa Pier Bar which was from 3pm-5pm every day. It's a great place to just relax and hang out. We also tried the Radisson's happy hour at Gilligan's which is from 5pm-7pm because they have free spicy french fries. Well, I can honestly say we will never go back there again! We sat right at the bar and had the WORST service I've ever encountered on the island. We were virtually ignored while waving money under the bartenders noses and the prices for beer were definitely not happy hour prices. We will definitely stick to the Kokoa from now on!


We stopped at a cute little bar/restaurant in San Nicholas on Main Street (just a few blocks from Charlie's Bar) called the Old Barber Shop Café. We met the two owners who were two young Dutch guys and they had just bought the bar six months ago. We had a great conversation with them while enjoying ice cold Amstel Brights at a very cheap price (I'd rather go here any day over the Radisson bar!) We also went to the restaurant at the lighthouse at sunset for a couple of glasses of wine and some calamari - just sat at the bar and enjoyed the sunset (have eaten dinner there in the past and, although good, thought it was over-priced.) Also stopped into 3 Little Birds for a nightcap one night and had fun talking to the owner there as well. Much to my excitement, we found the new dock area where the fishermen sell the fresh shrimp. Used to be able to buy it at the docks downtown but it had now been moved to the Barcadera which is on the other side of the airport as you are headed toward De Palm Island. I got some great directions from Judi on the Aruba bulletin board and we found the fishermen (and the shrimp!) within minutes. We made great shrimp cocktail and also had it with our pasta for dinner.


We rented a car for one week from Jansen Rent A Car and they were good about both dropping off the car for us at our hotel and picking up the car (good service!) With the car we drove all over - drove and hiked through Arikok Park, Boca Prins (huge white sand dunes), Dos Playa (two very deserted beaches), the Spanish Lagoon, Baby Beach, Rodger's Beach, snorkeled at Malmok and DePalm Island. I went horseback riding at Rancho Notorious one day with a friend (Mike sat this one out) and we had a great private tour with just the two of us and our guide, Suvee from Finland. The ride lasted about 3 ½ hours and we had great horses (Maverick and Pinto). We are both avid riders so Suvee let us run and run and run especially through the sand dunes and along the beach area near Malmok. Even though I love to ride, 3 ½ hours was a bit much and I was exhausted when we got back.

Siberian tiger at Seaport New this year: Downtown at Seaport MarketPlace they have replaced the 2 white tigers with one Siberian tiger named Tessa. Tessa is so tame that for $25 the trainers will let you into her cage and they will take a picture of you sitting next to Tessa. It was a great experience although I'm surprised at how nervous I suddenly became when I sat next to Tessa (we could pet her but were told not to go near her head - or her mouth!) We also got together one night at sunset on Eagle Beach with our friends, Sonny and Dotty, who we met last year. This was our second annual "Dom Perignon/shrimp cocktail/Gouda cheese sunset". They bring the champagne and we do the rest! It was a wonderful evening just relaxing with good friends - I just hope we can coordinate vacations again next year for Aruba!

The BEST Activity

This was the happy hour at the Amsterdam Manor and the sunset sail through Red Sail that Melvin (operator of put together for all of the Aruba Forum fans. The happy hour was great and I could finally meet all of the people who have been on the Forum. I also met Jurgen, the manager at the Amsterdam, and he showed us a couple of the rooms (think we may plan on staying there on our next trip - the rooms come with full kitchens and the resort just had the right "feel" for us.) The sunset sail was the best I've ever taken! Drinks, food, and a wonderful crew (not to mention all of the wonderful friends that we met!)

I would like to say a special thanks to Melvin and all of the wonderful people we met whose names are too numerous to mention (and I'm afraid I'd leave someone out!) It was another great trip to Aruba and I can hardly wait for trip #7 next year already!

Amy & Mike