Where to Stay:
Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
"Our room has a view of the free-form pool with its swim-up bar and the expansive sea dotted with sailboats and a distant cruise ship."
When the average temperature is 82 degrees and the breeze is rustling the leaves on the Divi Divi trees, it is hard not to call Aruba, “One happy island.” From its turquoise waters with practically no surf to the friendly demeanor of Arubans, everything about this island is relaxing. Don’t stress about the weather; Aruba is outside the hurricane belt, so it rains infrequently and only in short drizzles. In the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, we are greeted with the hotel’s signature ruby red fruit cocktail with traces of papaya, tropical citrus fruits, and aloe, Aruba’s main export. Sipping our drinks, we were enthralled by the pristine beach just 50 feet from the glass doors.
The Aruba Marriott is one of the many hotels participating in the “One happy honeymoon” program, when newlyweds receive an amenity at check-in, such as champagne, and a free night on their anniversary return trip. Our room has a view of the free-form pool with its swim-up bar and the expansive sea dotted with sailboats and a distant cruise ship. H2Oasis, the new adults-only pool is outfitted with plush couches and private cabanas for a romantic afternoon.
Each floor of the Marriott has a large honeymoon suite, but for the ultimate luxury, check out the adults-only Tradewinds Club, “a hotel within a hotel.” Featuring 49 deluxe rooms with outstanding views, it also has a private lounge serving a continental breakfast and hors d’oeuvres in the afternoon.You can relax right away with an unpacking and packing service and sleep soundly with the perfect pillow from the “pillow menu.”
In addition to Aruba’s beautiful beaches, the island boasts many events throughout the year. The annual, “Aruba In Style Fashion Week” showcases fashions from couture to swimwear to bridal wear. Even fashionistas will find the many outdoor show venues refreshing.
We get to know the island on a Kukoo Kunuku open-air bus tour while rocking out to festive tunes with maracas. We stop at the California Lighthouse on the northwestern tip of the island, which offers the best view of the rosy pink sunset slipping beneath the turquoise Caribbean Sea. The lighthouse keeper’s home has been turned into Aruba’s premier Italian restaurant, La Trattoria el Faro Blanco. The breathtaking view from the patio distracts us, but just momentarily, from the rich flavors of our meal.
Next, from the Alto Vista Chapel, we see the crashing waves on the northern coast and the desert terrain of Arikok National Park. The bright yellow chapel with a red-tiled roof seats about 20 people and rests on the foundation of the original 1750 chapel. At the Bushiribana gold mill ruins I notice hundreds of stacks of stones unnaturally crowding the beach. Local lore says that if you stack five rocks on top of each other without disturbing the other piles and wish three wishes, they will come true -- if your stack is still standing in three months. Good luck!
Off the beaten path in the national park is the secluded Natural Pool, where couples can bask in the cool waters while enjoying breathtaking views of the sea. For lunch at Papiamento Restaurant, the Ellis family literally welcomes us into their 175 year-old family home. We dine on traditional Aruban fare such as gouda-glazed keshi yena, a ground beef casserole in a spicy tomato sauce with dates, olives, and peppers. The restaurant also features a “Sweetheart Room” inside the house, where a couple can dine in private comfort.
Our Red Sail Sports catamaran “Antilla Snorkel Sail” has something for everyone. The crew indulges us with an open bar including the signature Aruba Ariba cocktail, a blend of cranberry, pineapple, and orange juices with Coecoei, Aruba’s native agave liquor. We snack on pastechis, a fried bread with melted Gouda in the middle.
A few hundred yards off the coast, we stop at a reef where snorkelers spot colorful clownfish and turtles. The crewmembers entertain several of us lounging on the sunny deck, telling us about courtship in Aruba. We learn that Arubans often get married in their 30’s after dating three or four years. They tell us that in the native language of Papiamento, “mi dushi” translates to “my sweetheart.”
Since I never want to leave the island, I ask where Arubans take their honeymoons. They explain that many couples do want to stay on the island, renting a room in one of the luxury hotels. Your love will grow too on this “One happy island,” and you will be sure to warm your hearts and your toes on, “One happy honeymoon.” —Jessica Crenshaw