What Makes Aruba So Dreamy, According to a Travel Expert
It’s not just one thing that attracts two million in-the-know travelers to Aruba each year, says longtime resident Louella Brezovar of The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba. From amazing beaches, fabulous weather, butterflies and caves to beach shacks and sushi, here are her recommendations for the “one happy island.”
“Bon dia!” Louella Brezovar says in greeting, which mean “Good Day!” in Papiamento, Aruba’s native language. Brezovar grew up in Aruba before setting out on an international career in hospitality (now in its impressive 34th year) that eventually brought her back to her homeland. She joined The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba team seven years ago as the Casino General Manager, quickly earning a promotion to become the hotel’s manager, a job she executes with style worthy of the resort itself.
More than half of Aruba’s visitors are frequently visitors and she knows why. This 21-mile-long island, one of four countries that comprise the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is nothing less than a sublime place to vacation.
“We have a combination of irresistible factors including a year-round, reliable climate of between 74 and 84 degrees, always-comfortable trade winds, and we’re outside of the Caribbean’s ‘hurricane alley,’” says Brezovar. “There are more flights to and from Aruba than other Caribbean islands, and U.S. or local currency works for payment.”
Smile on the “one happy island”
“We’re all friendly and hospitable by nature, on what’s called ‘one happy island,’” Brezovar says. “Need help on the side of the road? Someone will stop. Plus, the caring and anticipatory ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ of The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba, simply cannot do enough to ensure this is one of the most memorable and exclusive stays of your life.”
The island’s only luxury resort, features 320 rooms, each with an oversize private balcony. The hotel offers a Club Level lounge, two swimming pools, a 15,000-square-foot spa, fitness center, and 15,000-square-foot casino that defies expectations—what Brezovar describes as “subtle yet classy.” Seven “always-relevant” world-class food and beverage venues serve up something for every gourmet’s sophisticated taste, she says.
Experience Aruba’s richness your way
“Everyone wants something different when they come to paradise,” Brezovar says. You can explore the island’s influences of Dutch, Spanish, French, and English, while maximizing time at the hotel and off-property with these tips and recommendations she shared with AFAR. Plus, the hotel’s skilled concierge will handle nearly any arrangements for you. If you didn’t rent a car at the airport, you can have one delivered to the hotel to go further afield.
Outdoor and active fun for all
You awake to the sound of waves gently breaking on Palm Beach, in a serene location devoid of foot traffic at the “end” of this secluded strand. Whether the nearby ocean beckons, or you want to venture out on the island, Brezovar has a long list of awe-inspiring sites to check out and things to do. On a family trip? The kids can stay with entertainment counselors for a robust activity program, or you can enjoy bonding over group experiences.
Keep things simple with a swim in either of the hotel’s two pools or the ocean on your doorstep. Hop on a paddleboard or into a pedal boat. Other aquatic adventures on offer include windsurfing, kitesurfing, or Hobie Cat sailing to feel the joy of skimming exuberantly across glassy Caribbean waters. Go deeper with snorkeling and diving or do a SNUBA® outing that combines snorkeling and scuba. Not too far away, you can kayak blissfully in the shallower mangrove lagoons. “Anything like that is fabulous,” she recommends.
Partner up for hotel beach volleyball on a small, sand court. Golfers can tee off at Tierra del Sol course less than 10 minutes away driving. Head to expansive Arikok National Park, about 11 miles southeast on the island’s “other side,” to see more rugged scenery with diverse plant life and the chance to spot the adorable shoco, an Aruban burrowing owl, or Aruban parakeet, called prikichi. Roll in an open-air jeep and see Guadirikiri Caves, Andicuri Beach, and Natural Bridge. Mount up for a horseback ride, beginners welcome, at the Gold Mine Ranch Aruba.
Navigate Aruba in nature
For a more lowkey way to immerse yourself in nature, wing your way to the Butterfly Farm to comingle with hundreds of exotic international butterflies, suggests Brezovar. Another laidback animal encounter is cuddling one of more than 130 darling donkeys or doing daily caretaker chores at the Donkey Sanctuary Aruba. This year the sanctuary is celebrating its 25th anniversary of providing a safe haven for donkeys, who have lived on the island for some 500 years.
Sample Aruban history and art
As beautiful as the Aruban landscape is, you can get a deeper sense of place indoors too. Make the most of an enriching museum day in Aruba’s capital, Oranjestad, at the Archeological Museum, Aruba Aloe Factory and Museum, and Historical Museum. You can also visit San Nicolas to marvel at more than 40 vibrant, colorful murals and the visitors’ center nearby. Or, the Museum of Industry is housed in a massive former water tower, an Art Deco building that’s an architectural feat of adaptive reuse itself.
What better way is there to top off a day of stimulation for the mind than with a treat for the body? Head back to the resort for an Aruba Divi-Divi massage and local coffee scrub at the from the hotel spa’s “amazing therapists,” as Brezovar describes them.
Dine well on delicious cuisine
Few starts to a vacation day are better than a well-executed hotel breakfast and Brezovar nominates Solanio’s Breakfast Buffet with charcuterie and cheese, homemade bread, and fresh-squeezed orange juice and lots of exotic fruit. Or head to Ritual Coffee Culture for a made-to-order caramel macchiato with Lavazza espresso, a hand-crafted Oreo muffin, or cheese on brioche. Prefer to stay within the comfort of your room? Phone for a romantic room-service breakfast on your “gull’s-eye” view balcony.
Onsite for lunch, the mahi-mahi fish tacos at Madero Pool & Beach Grill win raves, as does the legendary Aruban-made, tangy pica de papaya sauce. In Palm Beach, Brezovar likes Eduardo’s Beach Shack for lunch and an ahi tuna poke bowl or tasty vegan tacos.
Hotel dinner for carnivores should be certified Black Angus beef, USDA prime and 100-percent naturally raised, at BLT Steak. Oceanfront Divi Sushi Bar & Lounge beckons with the formidable Ritz-Carlton Roll, built with king crab and shrimp tempura, among several other delectable ingredients. Pour a Tyku Sake to accompany the rich flavors and toast to your dreamy vacation.
Aruba channels the universal appeal of Italy in the hotel’s Casa Nonna New York Restaurant when dining on Pici Alla Toscana, twisted pasta strands with Tuscan beef-pork ragu. Brezovar especially likes the Pansotti Di Zucca, pumpkin ravioli, and glorious spinach salad, along with craft beverage fixings from the tableside bar cart.
For entertainment after your meal or anytime during your stay, she promises an unpretentious good time in the hotel’s non-smoking, boutique casino with 215 slot machines and 15 table games.
And if you didn’t see and do everything you planned? The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba can’t wait to welcome you back time and time again.