This was my first time in Aruba! I am breaking down everything from where to stay, what to do, and what to pack! *bonus* some helpful tips for leaving Aruba and the airport situation!
Where we stayed /
Riu Palace Aruba: This is an all inclusive hotel – and my first time staying at one. Basically what that means is that all food and drinks during the stay are included in the rate you pay. What I found this to also mean, is that sometimes the quality of some of these things can go down. Here is my review of the hotel:
- Sleeping/Beds: The beds are very large, literally two full beds put together. My fiancé was actually sick for the beginning part of our trip, so the big beds made it easy for me to sleep far away from him at night. The beds were comfy, however I felt like there wasn’t enough blankets as there was only a sheet. There is another blanket in the closet that we used, but it was kind of shabby.
- Breakfast: All food and drinks are included in the room rate. There is basically no room service, so don’t even bother. The best part about the food was the breakfast buffet hands down. There were SO many options, they literally have everything (omelet station, potatoes, pancakes/french toast, fruit, green juice). *tip: get the hash browns* It was so nice to be able to just go downstairs and grab breakfast. The service isn’t great and neither is the coffee (big coffee snob here). However, they can make an espresso and bring that for breakfast for you.
- Lunch: This was also super convenient, because we could just roll up, throw on a cover up over our swim suits, and get the lunch buffet. The food is really similar to the breakfast food, with a few lunch-centric exceptions (pizza, burgers, chicken fingers). It’s nice not to have to think about where to go, look at reviews, etc just to grab a quick lunch meal.
- Drinks: The drinks are small and they are lots of sugar-y drinks. Also, there isn’t much alcohol in them. I don’t think we got drunk from any of the free drinks at the hotel tbh and I think the liquor is watered down. *tip: you can request premium liquor when ordering drinks* My fave drink was the Miami Vice or a sugar-free mojito!
- Area: This hotel is right on the beach! It is also right on a strip of a bunch of other hotels. You can visit the other hotels, too! We went to a casino in one of them and I think I may have seen a better coffee shop at one. It is walking distance (~5 min walk) to a block of bars and restaurants. We would typically eat dinner out on this strip. I recommend Gianni’s!
What to do /
There is so much to do! At the hotel, you can hang out by the pool, get a massage (they were mediocre and overpriced), go the casino (we went 3x a day?), hang at the beach, play beach volleyball (actually SO fun), or play corn hole (my absolute FAVE game – this is located at the sister hotel next door, which you also have access to: Hotel Riu Palace Antillas).
There are also SO many activities that you can sign-up for (at an extra cost per activity). You can do an ATV tour (which we did and was AMAZING), jet skiing, tubing (we also did- very quick, $20/20 min), parasailing (some people got motion sickness – but said it was worth it), scuba diving lessons, use a sea scooter (basically an underwater jet ski, also heard amazing things). You can sign up for most, if not all of these activities, right at the beach. They make it SO convenient.
Other things to note/
Make sure to bring cash. We paid for our activities in cash, unsure if they accept cards or not. While all the food and drinks were included in the room rate, we still tipped everyone for everything. Be prepared with smaller bills. There are ATMs in the hotel and the casino, as well.
Airport situation /
OK – so this one is important. We accidentally messed it up and almost had the fear of missing my flight. Thank goodness everyone is SO nice at the airport (with the exception of one Karen). Here is the process you can except when leaving Aruba:
- Make sure you have your boarding pass (printed or mobile). I know this sounds redundant, but for some reason it wouldn’t let us get a mobile boarding pass? If you don’t one, have one person in your party stand on the “bag drop off” line and the other person get the boarding passes and pay for any check bags at the self-service kiosk (it may not look like your airline has one, but they service multiple airlines). *this is important because the lines are pretty long*
- After going through the “bag drop off” line, you wait on another line (that is outdoors) and wait to show your passports to an attendant (this is the Aruba customs portion).
- Next, you go through security (decent size-d line).
- After, there is a break area where is there is food and bathrooms, etc. Don’t be fooled – you are NOT done. You will have to go through security again so don’t get drinks for the flight. *we thought we were done and almost missed our flight*
- Next, you go through a big door and pick back up your checked bag (no idea why?) and walk to the next room.
- You will then go through US Customs at the Aruba airport which is nice because when you land, it will be like a domestic flight. However, this is a MASSIVE US customs line (unless of course you have Global Entry) *highly recommend Global Entry*
- Go through security (again). For me, this was a super quick process and there wasn’t really a line.
- After, there are more food and drink options where the gates and the terminals are for your flight. *you are now DONE*
From start-to-finish, this process takes about 2 hours. So definitely give yourself enough time to get to the airport (~15 min from our hotel), go through the above process, and get food.
What to pack /
Swimsuits! I personally like to overpack swimsuits in case I want to change suits during the day, or my suits aren’t dry/dirty from the day before.
Coverups! You spend the majority of time in a swimsuit or a coverup. So stock up!
Beach tote! Great to carry all your beach/pool essentials: sunscreen, sunnies, a book, sandals, hat, phone, etc.
Dinner outfits! Something cute! It’s pretty much the same temperature all day, getting only a little cooler at night.