Aruba Trip Reports

Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort Aruba

May 1 - May 8, 2004 by Paul

One word can sum up our trip to Aruba: it was "wonderful"!
I love the island, we had a fabulous time, and we hated to leave!
This working for a living stuff is for the birds!!

Anyway, it was our (my wife and I) first trip to Aruba. We arrived May 1st by chartered flight with Vacation Express at around 1:30 p.m. Made it through customs with no problems, got our luggage, and caught a cab to our hotel: the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort. We had transfer services to and from the hotel pre-arranged in our vacation package, but we opted to take a taxi instead in order to save time: $20 cab fare, not bad, and in my opinion worth it. As I understand it, the DePalm tour bus that was to provide our service would stop at just about every resort along the way, and as the Holiday Inn is one of the last on the strip, getting a taxi is definitely the way to go! We were checked in and on the beach by 3:30!

As it has been over a week since we returned, everything is kind of hazy right now, so I won't be giving a day-by-day blow but will touch on the important things: lodging, dining, and activities.

The Holiday Inn

I must admit, I was a little concerned about staying at the Holiday Inn when there were other more up-scale resorts such as the Marriott and the Wyndham nearby. However, as it turned out, the Holiday Inn was an excellent choice - my wife and I were very pleased. The staff was very friendly and eager to please. The accommodations very clean and comfortable - well appointed. The amenities on the property are very nice as well: 4 good restaurants, nice shops including a convenience store that even sells liquor, a nice casino, a very nice exercise room and day spa, and a nice swimming pool (although I can't imagine why anyone would care about a pool when you have that beautiful ocean right there! Then again, I guess if you are traveling with kids, the pool could be a good thing).

Most of all, I think the Holiday Inn has the best beach of any of the resorts in the high-rise district! I can't speak for the low-rise district because I never got over there to check out their resorts/beaches. But, I did walk up and down the beach in the high-rise area to check out the other resorts and I can honestly say the Holiday Inn has the best beach. The sand is nice and white and the beach is deep - plenty of room. The other resorts had shallow beaches and looked crowded - they seemed to have more of the "chickee" huts (grass huts) than did the Holiday Inn but to me the effect of that is twofold: (1) it makes the beach seem crowded; and (2) all those huts obstruct the sight lines. Some of the beaches, especially the Marriott, were rocky - lots of pebbles, almost like walking on crushed gravel. So the Holiday Inn, in my opinion, has the best beach!

What's more, I really have to take my hat off to the staff: they really try hard to entertain and ensure that you have a good time. They have lots of programs for the kids to help keep them occupied and entertained. They have a theme night every night with entertainment - not great entertainment mind you (I mean, this isn't Vegas!). But, I give them a lot of credit for the effort they put forth to try and make your stay enjoyable.

We did not do the all-inclusive thing, as there are so many good restaurants in Aruba, but I did get a look at the buffets and they looked pretty good (I am not big on buffets, but they did look good). We did eat a number of lunches at the Seabreezes restaurant on the resort and the food was good - no complaints.

When we arrived we upgraded our room to Ocean front and it was worth every penny - the view from the balcony is mesmerizing and man-oh-man the sunsets were fantastic! I would highly recommend upgrading - you won't regret it!

So, in summary, if you require a really ritzy resort then the Marriott or the Wyndham (perhaps the nicest resort) are probably for you - but you will pay for it and their beaches are not as nice. All we really require in a hotel is that the rooms are clean and comfortable. We were very pleased with the Holiday Inn and, for the money, you can't beat it!

If you want to secure yourself a grass hut for the day, you need to get out to the beach very early to do so (5:30-6:00 a.m.) or they will all be gone. My wife and I are both fair skinned people and we really need the shade, so it was important to me that we got a hut each day. On the first morning I arose at 7:00 to get a hut and when I got out to the beach, there were only 1 or 2 left. The next morning I got out to the beach around 6:30 and there were maybe 3 or 4 left. The rest of the week, I got out to the beach between 5:30 and 6:00 and had no problems. You can secure a hut simply by hanging your beach towels (supplied by the hotel) up on the hut's structure - the really cool thing is that people honor it and they won't mess with your stuff! There is also a member of the hotel staff (Smitty, very nice guy) who is on the beach every morning (7:00) to set up the beach chairs (or chase lounges) and he will place a chair out for each towel you have laid out. It is really peaceful and very pretty on the beach early in the morning, which makes it worth dragging your butt out of bed that early!


Before we left for Aruba, I had done a lot of research on the internet and I knew there were a lot of good restaurants - way too many to be able to do in one week - but I had a few in mind that I definitely wanted to try: Blossoms, Amazonia, and Rumba.


is an excellent restaurant - one of the best, if not the best, meals of the week! The restaurant is located in the Wyndham, an easy walk from the Holiday Inn. It is divided into two parts: one half Chinese and the other half Japanese. We ate on the Japanese side and it was great - we will have to try the Chinese side the next time! The food is excellent, the staff very attentive, and the chefs are very entertaining - really a lot of fun! My wife and I had the special: sirloin, chicken, and shrimp ($33) which of course comes with a salad, fried rice, and veggies - all cooked right in front of you and as I said, the chefs are great, they get a lot of laughs and they really put on a show. I had a couple of Jack Daniels, a beer with my meal, and my wife had a cocktail. Our bill, with tip, came to $103.00 and it was worth every penny! I highly recommend Blossoms!!


another excellent restaurant! If Blossoms wasn't the best, than Amazonia definitely was the best meal of the week! It is an Argentinean steak house that offers a fixed price meal ($33.50) which consists of an amazing salad bar and all the meat you can eat! I have never seen a salad bar like this - fresh asparagus, sautéed Portobello mushrooms, sushi (well, California roll anyway), beef stroganoff, fried rice - just all kinds of things that I have never seen on a salad bar before! Then there is the meat, man was it good! The servers come around with these large skewers of filet, lamb chops, sirloin, sausage, pork loin - I mean it's just unbelievable - and they keep coming until you can't eat anymore! Our bill with drinks and tip came to $100 and it was definitely worth it! You just have to try this place - an easy walk from all the high-rise resorts.


is a nice quaint little restaurant located in downtown Oranjestad - kind of small, nothing fancy, but very nice. The food was excellent, the service very good, and the prices very reasonable. I had a bowl of the fisherman's soup (very good) and the special of the day: a seafood pasta which was excellent! My wife had a lobster pasta which was also very good. The bill with drinks and tip was around $70.00

Aqua Grill

is an easy walk from all the high-rise resorts - right next door to Amazonia. I must say that I was very disappointed with this restaurant and would not recommend it, which is too bad because it looks very nice and the menu gives the impression that the food would be good. However, the service was terrible; the food was not that good and it is way over priced! I had this restaurant on my list before we left for Aruba but I could not recommend it to anyone after having dined there - a major disappointment!

Pelicans Nest

is very nice, located on the water between the Holiday Inn and the Playa Linda resorts. The food was very good, the service attentive, and the prices were very reasonable. I would definitely recommend this restaurant.


is located on the beach between the Holiday Inn and the Marriott. The food was good, the service was good, and the prices were very reasonable. I would have no problem recommending this restaurant.


This trip was a little get away from the kids for my wife and me to celebrate our twentieth anniversary. And given that in 13 years of children we had never been away from our kids for more than a couple of days at a time, a week away - a whole 7 nights and 8 days, alone together in Aruba, was very, very special. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we wanted to make the most of it - and we did!

First and foremost we just wanted to relax on the beach - which was wonderful! We spent most of the week on the beach relaxing, just taking in the beauty of the Island, the Caribbean, the pelicans, and just everything - it truly is beautiful! We had to pinch ourselves a couple of times a day just to make sure we weren't dreaming, that it was real!

Before we left home we had booked a horseback riding tour with Rancho Notorious - this we knew we wanted to do, so it was the only thing we booked online beforehand. It was a great time - we got to see the northern coast, the Cunucu, the Lighthouse, and ride on three different beaches. It was a great time and we really got to see the beauty of the Island.

There are plenty of water sports vendors up and down the beach, so finding jet skis, parasailing, snorkeling, and other such activities is not hard and for the most part all are reasonably priced. We went parasailing ($40 pp) and had a great time - it was really nice to look over the Island from way up there - a really great way to take in the beauty of Aruba!

We also took the sunset happy hour cruise on the Jolly Pirate! That was a lot of fun and a great way to end the week! The crew does a great job and they are really a lot of fun, the drinks were good - not watered down, and the rope swing was a blast! I must have gone off that thing about 15 times! I would highly recommend this cruise!

There is so much to do and see in Aruba - for all age groups! You really need two weeks, at least! It is definitely "One Happy Island"!!

All I know is that I hated to have to leave and come back to the real world! But we had a wonderful time and will most definitely be coming back! I just hope it's not in the too distant future!