Aruba Trip Reports

Aruba Villa Rentals

May 27-June 3, 2004 By Jill & John

Well, this was our first time in Aruba and we have never had such a wonderful time! We only got back last night and already I'm looking for deals online to go back maybe in the fall! Everything was perfect from start to finish...except that, I would definitely say that one week is not enough...we really wish we had stayed for atleast 10-14 days. But on to the details!

We arrived on a direct flight from Boston on the afternoon of the 27th on American Airlines. Flight was smooth and we did all carry on luggage, so we were in and out of the airport in a matter of 15 minutes. We took a Taxi to the Aruba Reservations office in Bakval (across the street from the Marriott) and checked in. We opted to rent a villa this time around, as it was much less expensive than the hotels. The place we stayed is a gated, condo community in the Palm Beach neighborhood called Palma Real. It was very lovely!

The complex was small and had immaculately kept grounds with beautiful gardens etc. There is also a swimming pool and clubhouse area with plenty of lounge chairs. We stayed in a two bedroom unit which was very well appointed and had a nice tiled back yard. The complex had a security guard and the townhouse had its own security system, so we felt very safe leaving out personal belongings etc. Especially my fiancé, who is Irish and has lots of complicated visa and immigration paperwork he is always paranoid about when we travel.

Once checked in, Aruba Reservations staff brought us to the townhouse and then to a bike rental shop in Eagle Beach. The company had agreed to rent 2 bikes for us for the week, as the original property we had rented was suddenly not available and we were not going to be close to the beach anymore. Initially I was very upset by this turn of events, as we were not renting a car, but it turned out it was only a 10 minute walk from Palma Real to the Radisson, but we're young, so we happily did the walk to work off all of those frozen drinks and juicy steaks! But a car would have been nice!

Overall I give Palma Real a thumbs up (as long as you have a car). If you don't mind being off the beach, it is really very reasonable and still close to all of the action. Our only complaint was with the BED!!! It was a two bedroom unit ( #9U) with both a King and a queen. The king in the masterbedroom was so hard! It felt like just a box spring! I can't imagine ANYONE would sleep on it! But, the Queen was fine. It just would have been nice to sleep in the master suite. Oh yeah, there were two full baths and a full kitchen, dining room/living room too! Lot's of space.

The first night we went to Gasparito for dinner, an old cunucu house and art gallery. It was excellent! I recommend sitting on the patio. You feel like you've been transported to a remote villa in Spain! The Aruba combo was excellent and features an assortment of Wahoo, Barracuda, Creole chicken, and beef! Staff was very friendly and attentive...atmosphere unbeatable!

The Friday we hopped the bus to Manchebo Beach (where we stayed most of our trip). I knew before we even arrived that this was going to be our kind of beach. We aren't really into the high rise, crowded beach Manchebo was perfect for us! We absolutely loved this area and hope to buy a time share at Costa Linda for our honeymoon next year!

Because it was off season, the Manchebo rented us chairs and a Palapas everyday we went down to their beach! It was so great, as I was worried we wouldn't be able to get a Palapas because we weren't staying in a hotel. But as I said it was never a problem! We also took full advantage of the Pega Pega bar and sampled many frozen and iced concoctions made by the Manchebo staff! We got into the habit of getting a couple of Amstel Brights and walking down to the Divi, refilling at their bar and then we'd float back in the water to our Palapas with beers in hand! It was so much fun! Went to the Sunset Grill at the Radisson. Very nice dinner, but a bit pricey. It was also a little weird that the menu has a disclaimer about the increase in their beef prices, which they attribute to the Atkins craze? I thought this was a little tacky? But it was a nice atmosphere and they have a very attentive staff.

Saturday, almost exactly the same thing as Friday! However, we had gotten a little too much sun that day and had one too many drinks on the beach, so we opted to stay in that night and got a pizza from good old Dominos!

Sunday was overcast. I feel guilty saying this now that I'd give anything to be back in Aruba, but we were sort of glad, as we still hadn't recovered from getting scorched on Saturday. I cannot believe how strong the sun is there! We were constantly reapplying 15-30 SPF and we still got fried! We took the bus into Oranjestad only to find that everything was closed. I think I knew that, but it was still fun to walk around and check it out. We had lunch at the Paddock, it was alright. We also played a few slots. The afternoon turned out to be beautiful and we rode our bikes up to the California Lighthouse. It was a lot of fun. We also booked a dinner reservation at the Trattoria there. We stopped off at Arashi beach on the way back to take a swim. We headed back to the Lighthouse (this time in a Taxi) for dinner which was wonderful!

We sat on the veranda which looks down onto the whole "lit up" Palm Beach area. It was beautiful and very romantic. I had vodka fettuccine with jumbo shrimp and the Grand Marnier strawberries for desert! If you haven't tried this place yet...please check it out! I have never noticed anyone mention it on this BB before, but it was well worth it!

Monday we did Manchebo beach again...another perfect day! We then headed to Chalet Suisse for dinner! EXCELLENT! One of the best meals we had...but I really like sitting outside for dinner. If only they converted some of those lovely verandas into outdoor seating! I had the surf and turf and John had the biggest steak I have ever seen in my life! We hit the casinos late night and won a little on the slots! Finished the night at Salt and Peppers, which became our favorite late night hangout!

Tuesday was the highlight of the trip! We did the all day sail and snorkel on the Tranquilo with the wonderful Captain Anthony! It was a great time! This was our first snorkeling experience as well. First we did the waste deep snorkeling and then we bit the bullet and did the deep, drift snorkel. We were both a little apprehensive, but we are so glad we did, as this was our favorite thing! Of course the salmon sandwiches, Dutch pea soup and rum punch all made this a great day too! A huge thanks to Capt. Anthony and his first mate Roy! We will definitely be back! Tuesday night we went back to Gasparito for dinner and had an early night so we could maximize our last full day.

Wednesday morning we went on the ABC jeep tour's Extreme Safari tour. It was a lot of fun and we had a chance to see all of the North coast sights in one go. The stops include, the ostrich farm, the natural bridge, twin bridges, black stone beach, the eyes of God, a four wheeling adventure through Arikok and of course, snorkeling in the Natural pool...awesome! The only qualm we had with ABC...we didn't have a driver for our jeep! After we had paid and signed a liability waiver, the tour guide randomly selected one of the people in our group and asked him to drive the second vehicle. I have to say that those of us who ended up with the novice driver were not happy. It was really hard to relax and enjoy the trip when you don't know if the person driving is capable, especially when you're doing a lot of off roading. Luckily, our driver was great. He did a great job and we had fun. But, I would not be happy if this was the case again. I will definitely verify the driver status before I sign a liability waiver and pay $55/person. I specifically pointed out to them that there advertisement clearly states "professional drivers", but no one seemed to care? Slightly off putting, but as I said, it was a great day. After the tour we hit the beach at Manchebo...again and spent the rest of the afternoon swimming. At sunset we pulled our beach chairs out from under our Palapas and had a bottle of Champagne on the beach to toast our wonderful vacation. It was very romantic and a great way to start off our last night. We went to Amazonia for dinner...very good, but I needed a forklift to get home.

Thursday, our last day, we rode down to Eagle Beach to return the bikes and enjoy the sights of the sea one last time. Stopped off for breakfast at Salt and Peppers and then, sadly, we were on our way to the Airport.

Well, we're hooked! It was a peaceful, relaxing and romantic week and we can't wait to get back!