Thursday, October 16, 2014

Checking In: Renaissance Aruba Ocean Suites

When hubby and I decided it was finally time to take a family vacation with our 5 year old daughter, I was little concerned about his insistence that we go in September. Sure, we had a pretty non-existent summer and it would be nice to celebrate our 8th anniversary in a tropical destination but booking Caribbean destinations late summer / early fall can be a little tricky if you're looking to avoid hurricanes or the rainy season in general, unless you head way south to the charming island of Aruba. Situated just below the hurricane belt and approximately 25 kilometers north of Venezuela, Aruba has a consistently dry climate that's lined with spectacular white sand beaches and shallow turquoise waters. Aruba's capital, Oranjestad, is home to Queen Beatrix International Airport and a wide selection of hotels, all-inclusive resorts and rental properties. After much research we happily settled on the family-friendly, Renaissance Aruba Ocean Suites (Ren Aruba) and loved our stay. 

The Location: A short 10 minute taxi ride from the airport that cost $21 USD, Ren Aruba is located right downtown Oranjestad in an entertainment complex that includes a wide variety of restaurants, 2 casinos, a move theatre, a marketplace and a luxury shopping mall. Exploring the island is easy via bus and the terminal is about a 7 minute walk from the hotel. 

Image Credit: Renaissance Aruba

The Rooms:  We chose an Ocean Suite which was perfect for our family with a separate king bedroom, living room with a pull out couch, flat screen TVs in each of the spaces, high speed internet and a little kitchenette. Our balcony overlooked the pool area with a view to the ocean which was beautiful. The accommodations are spacious but we weren't lucky enough to enjoy a renovated room so the decor was worn but the updated look promises to be be airy and modern when the work is complete before the high season hits next year. 

The Beach: Fancy a dip on the shores of your own private beach? Nope. I'm not kidding. Guests have exclusive access to a private beach a short 7 minute boat ride away from the hotel. Renaissance Island has clear, shallow waters and that are perfect for snorkelling in. Adult guests can choose to enjoy a child-free experience on the "Flamingo" side while families have easy access to the restaurant and restrooms on the "Iguana" side. Each aptly named as actual flamingos and iguanas roam on their respective sides. Boat shuttles to and from the island are complimentary and run every 15 minutes starting at 7 AM through til 7 PM. Simply hop aboard from a dock about a 3 minute walk from the Ocean Suites or from right inside Renaissance Mall after grabbing your morning Starbucks. The Ocean Suites also have a small inlet just behind the pool area that's perfect for lazy days or a quick dip before you head off for other activities.

Where To Eat: The Ren Aruba offers 4 restaurants and 3 bar lounges on property. The Ocean Suites are home to Captain's Corner and Sole, across the street at the Marina Suites you'll find Aquarius, LG Smith's Steak & Chop House, Blue and The Lounge Midnight Grill and Renaissance Island is home to Papagayo Grill. We chose the  all-inclusive option which fed us a la carte and buffet options at any of the on property restos and I'm sure saved us in the long run as meals for our family of 3 would've averaged at least $300 USD per day, not including the automatic 15% service charge, drinks or snacks between meals. Most importantly, the food was far better than a typical all-inclusive and included lots of salads and fresh seafood.  

Gastro highlights include Aquarius' amazing seafood buffet for dinner featuring grilled to order lobster tails, crab legs, shrimps, scallops and various catches of the day and Papagayo's wood oven fired pizzas and the Fisherman's Catch sandwich were among the best I've tasted on a Caribbean island plus they went perfectly with an ice cold Chill, Aruba's home brew. Around the Renaissance entertainment complex and in the downtown area you'll find a mix of typical North American food chains like Starbucks and Subway mixed in with local independent restaurants offering everything from Cuban to traditional Dutch fare. 

Where to Play: We spent quite a bit of time lazing on the beach at our little mermaid's request but there are plenty of ways to entertain yourself at Ren Aruba and all over the island from Okeanos spa right on site to water sports to adventure tours. I couldn't resist the shopping (even if it's just the window variety) and inside Renaissance Mall is a fashion lover's paradise with the likes of Gucci and Louis Vuitton though you'll also find more affordable labels like Michael Kors and Guess.

Do check out Aruba Aloe to stock up on skin care featuring Aruba's famous blue aloe and if you're in the market for a few new baubles the downtown area is lined with jewellers and the prices were very attractive. We also took a short bus ride to check out The Butterfly Farm, home to exotic butterflies species from all over the world. 

Our family loved the island of Aruba and I'd highly recommend the Renaissance Aruba Ocean Suites if you're travelling with mini me... though I have to say the grown-ups staying in the adults-only Marina Suites appeared to be having an equally amazing vacation. Maybe next time!

Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino 
L. G. Smith Boulevard 82 
Oranjestad, Aruba 
(297) 583-6000 

~ Tamika Auwai is our resident Style Editor, Shopping Enthusiast and Wardrobe Expert.

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