Aruba Palm Beach Vacation: Part 1
In the past I never wanted to travel to Aruba. All I've heard was that it is very commercialized and Americanized. My husband Brian and I love going to places with a distinct local culture. For many years we spent our beach vacations in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We love Mexican culture, as well as the people and food in the Yucatan. It was also amazing to be able to explore Mayan ruins and pyramids within a reasonable proximity to the beach. When we lived in Russia we loved going to Koh Samui, Thailand, for the same mixture of great beaches, food and culture.
For the past several years we have been going to Saint Martin. My parents-in-law have a timeshare there and have been very kind and gracious inviting us to join them many times.
At first I didn't like Saint Martin at all. I didn't like the fact that you need a car to easily get around. There is no convenience of 5th, 10th, 15th avenues and other areas of Playa del Carmen where you can walk to the great variety of restaurants, bars, shops from your beach hotel.
Even so, slowly and surely Saint Martin grew on me. Brian and I relish the topographical beauty of Saint Martin with it's many bays and hills, the variety of beaches and french influences in food. Our best breakfasts aside from France are in Saint Martin with amazing baguettes and croissants, fresh truffle ham and many types of cheese and french brand yogurts. It is also very nice to be able to spend time with family.
The first time we went to Aruba was in 2016. We needed to go to a beach destination at the end of June. We don't like risking any days of our tropical vacation being ruined by rain or let alone a hurricane. After discovering that Aruba is bellow the hurricane belt we decided to venture there. I researched the calmest beach with no or small waves because that is the only type of a beach I like and Palm beach was our choice for that reason.
Our first impressions of Aruba were not very favorable. The drive from the airport to our hotel in Palm beach was a bit shocking. Everything looked so flat and desert like and not pretty compared to Saint Martin. We were realizing how much we were attached to Saint Martin.
We also expected the Palm beach restaurant/shopping area to have glitz and glamor almost akin to Las Vegas because the area was described as too "commercialized" by many. We were sorely disappointed there too. Paseo Herencia and the surrounding area is lovely but doesn't have the scale and grandeur of what we expected.
As the day progressed the more time we spent on the wonderful beach where the water is guaranteed to be nice, calm and shallow, we liked Aruba more and more. We are beach people. We spend around 7 hours on the beach every single day of our beach vacation. The time flies by swimming, reading, tanning, walking and eating.
I have to say that the quality of a beach is of the utmost importance to me. If I was given a choice of staying in a top notch expensive hotel on a rough beach with big waves or a very inexpensive outdated hotel on a calm shallow beach, I'd pick the latter every time.
Palm beach was perfect for us. Every day it put a smile on my face seeing such perfectly calm water. It makes me so happy to be able to stay in the water, swim or do water aerobics without worrying about water getting in my nose, eyes and hair or being knocked down by a wave.
Beaches in Playa del Carmen have more waves and seaweed and in Saint Martin we found only one beach with guaranteed calm water- Le Galion beach.
Last winter we were supposed to go to Saint Martin for our almost annual vacation there. Brian and I were devastated and saddened with all the damage that Saint Martin and other Carribbean islands suffered from hurricane Irma. Almost daily I read a travel forum about the progress the island is making and hoping and wishing it will recover soon.
This year, our beach vacation could happen only in May. We considered going to Saint Martin but reading about the amount of rainfall during the month of May and the lack of direct flights and fearing that it would be too sad to see our favorite island in such a state we decided to go elsewhere.
The answer was Aruba. As I noted earlier we didn't want even one day ruined by rain and we thought only Aruba could provide that. Also, on our first trip to Aruba we had such a good time on the beach that we thought returning to Aruba was a possibility in the future. So, we booked our flight and hotel and off we were for 10 days.
We stayed at the same hotel as last time - Holiday Inn. I believe it's the most reasonably priced hotel on Palm beach and it has a great location. Rooms have very comfortable beds and everything else we need. Frankly speaking, since we only spend nights in our hotel room it doesn't matter to us how nice our room is. We'd rather spend more days in a cheaper hotel than afford fewer days in a more expensive one.
A cheerful front of Holiday Inn Resort Aruba welcomes you as you arrive at the hotel. As you step into the lobby you can see the beach from there.
A short walkway leads to the beach.
The hotel grounds have nice tropical vegetation, cozy gazebos and relaxing hammocks.
Even standard rooms have a sea view if you get a room on a higher floor. We loved to walk onto our balcony the first thing in the morning and also enjoyed many sunsets before heading out for dinner.
Every morning we liked to walk on the beach to our breakfast spot - Moomba beach bar & restaurant which is near this boat dock and a nice area with trees.
It's so nice to see the beach in the morning with very few people around and that morning fresh feeling is so wonderful! At this point we are not covered in sunblock head to toe so we use this opportunity to snap a couple of photos of each other.
This short video shows the beach in the morning.
After our breakfast on the beach we get back to our room for a little bit to change and grab books, towels and sunblock and go to our pre-assigned palapa and lounge chairs which we had to stay in line for the previous day but we are used to this by now.
The sun is strong in Aruba but it's easy to spend the whole day on the beach because winds provide a cooling action. That's the best in my book - when winds help you to endure the hot environment but don't cause waves :) Most of the time we hide under the palapa to avoid excessive sun exposure.
After little bit of tanning and reading it's time for our first swim of the day. It's such a tremendous joy to get into water that is nice like this. I love the fact that it's pretty shallow. I prefer not to swim where I cannot stand because I don't have a correct swimming technique and tire easily. Palm beach is pretty crowded even in May. If the shallow strip along the edge of the water was narrow we would have to swim in the crowded area as there are many people standing in the water enjoying their drinks and conversation. In Palm Beach you can walk further into the water where there are much less people and more space to swim and still be able to stand on the bottom anytime you want.
After swimming which lasts usually around 40 minutes it's time to walk and dry out our swimming suits before going to lunch to a restaurant on the beach.
On the way to the south end of the beach we pass by a couple of piers with restaurants and bars.
Near Playa Linda beach resort.
The sun is strong and even Brian wears a hat though he is not a big hat wearer.
Shallow calm water is great for small kids.
Towards the south end of the beach the sea turns this beautiful turquoise greenish color at least in the month of May when we were there.
For those who want to have fun parasailing or jet skiing there are plenty of options around.
In this short video the sky towards the south is overcast with grey clouds. Almost every day the sky looked like that. It looked like it could rain but it never did.
Near Divi Aruba Phoenix beach resort there is a small pier. You can walk to the end of it and look back at the beach in both directions and take in all the beauty.
Riu Palace Hotel in the distance.
The walk from Holiday Inn area in the opposite direction to the north end of Palm beach is pleasant as well. It's interesting to see fishermen and other locals going by their daily activities.
A few times we went to the Marriott hotel beach to have lunch at Waves Beach Bar and Grill.
As you get towards the north end of Palm Beach near the Ritz Carlton hotel it gets quieter and less crowded.
We like walking to the area and watching kite surfers.
Due to Aruba being near the equator and the high possibility of sunburn we bought rashguard shirts this time.
I always wear hats on a beach to protect my face. In Aruba once in a while we had to hold on to our hats as it was windy. Once my hat rolled out into the sand and sea before being caught by Brian. It was a hat I really liked and luckily after washing all the sand and water off in the sink and then drying it out in a strong wind attached to a lounge chair on the beach I was able to restore it to it's almost original state.
After our lunch we usually spend more time under our palapa reading and then go for our second long swim at around 4 pm. Then a little bit of walking again. At around 5pm with a great sense of well-being we return to our room to take showers and relax before going out for dinner.
Most of the time we had dinners along J.E. Irausquin Blvd but a couple of times we marveled at the beautiful sunset on the beach while savoring our delicious dinner in Atardi restaurant. (more about our favorite meals in Palm Beach in Part 2 of my Aruba blog post)
We had early reservations at 6:30 pm and both times were lucky to be seated right next to the water. The sun is still shining at this time but the beach starts to have a more mellow pleasing vibe.
Soon the sunset comes and it feels so romantic to be on the beach sharing this beautiful moment with your best friend and love of your life!
Our vacation in Aruba will leave us with many warm and wonderful memories!
Being in Aruba and other tropical destinations with bright beautiful colors is very inspiring for me as an artist. This seascape boat series was painted right after our trip.
Little Caribbean Fishing Boat, oil on canvas 30" x 24" (76 cm x 61 cm)
Caribbean Serenity, oil on canvas 24" x 30" (61 cm x 76 cm)