Like so many of us, I grew up on the Holiday Inn brand — not surprising since the first Holiday Inn opened its doors in 1952. It was the hotel of family road trips and visits to grandma. Reliable and clean but, well, I wouldn’t call them resorts. So when I received a call last summer inviting me to visit the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba, I confess, I was a little skeptical. Holiday Inn? Resort? On a Caribbean beach? I had trouble picturing it, but I didn’t say anything, 'cause I’m polite like that. Perhaps the silence went on a bit long ...
“They are part of the Holiday Inn family but Holiday Inn Resorts are different than the hotels you are familiar with in the US,” their PR rep explained. “They are true, full-service resorts that are great for families.”
Really? I thought.
I’d never been to Aruba and I was intrigued to explore the other face of a brand I thought I knew well. So a few weeks later, I boarded a Jet Blue flight — always a pleasure — and flew direct from New York to Aruba. What I discovered is an island that is simultaneously island-flavored but readily accessible with beautiful beaches, warm people, great shopping and glorious weather. How glorious? Aruba lies outside of the hurricane belt and delivers its visitors year-round sunshine, an average temperature of 82 degrees and gently blowing trade winds.
And I discovered a Holiday Inn Resort that is, as promised, a full-service resort perfect for families.
As one of the first resorts on the island, Holiday Inn claimed an ideal location on a long stretch of beach right across the street from great shopping and restaurants. The resort is loosely divided into three “zones,” each with its own pool; “Peace & Harmony” for those looking to relax; “Action & Play” where you’ll find families at play and “Chill & Mingle” — think cocktails and conversation. The close proximity of the “Action & Play” pool to the beach lets parents set up base camp right in between the two while the kids spend the day running from the beach to the pool and back again.
Just steps down the beach you can find a variety of water sports (at additional charge) with everything from snorkeling to stand up paddle boarding and water jet-packs, which this guy made look so easy, I was seriously tempted to try it:
All that sunshine and swimming and fun builds up an appetite!
Not to worry! Four on-property restaurants offer a variety of options. I love a huge buffet breakfast so Corals was the place for me with everything you could wish for from fresh fruit, extensive baked goods and made-to-order omelets. Sea Breeze offers an open feeling and excellent food with views of the sunset, burgers can be had beach-side at Oceanside Bar & Grill, and if you are craving Italian, Da Vinci Ristorante is the way to go. Feeding the kids can be a challenge on vacation and the Resort offers three options to help make it easy. First, kids under 12 eat free at all Holiday Inn Resorts when with an adult. Second, the Holiday Inn Aruba has a fantastic all-inclusive dining option that you can add to any number of days of your stay, you need not commit for a week of “all-inclusive,” just select the days you want to relax at the resort. Finally, mini-fridges in the room enable you to stock some snacks for the inevitable 3:00 pm cry of “I’m hungry.” Yup, it is easy breezy in Aruba.
When you are ready to venture out to explore some local restaurants, don't miss Azia for upscale Asian-inspired deliciousness, Papiamento for dinner and a peek inside Aruba’s fascinating history, and Matthew’s Beachside Restaurant which flanks a magnificent beach — seriously, bring your bathing suit to lunch.
With so much to do on property, you might not want to leave the resort. But you should. Aruba is a safe, small island that you can easily explore yourself or with a guide. We had the good fortune of spending a day being introduced to the island by Marcantonio Wix of Wix Tours.
We explored much of the island that day and here are six Aruba bucket-list items — but there is lots more to do on this perfect little island:
- Visit the California Lighthouse. Located high above the island, the lighthouse grounds offer incredible view from all sides, fresh coconut juice and La Trattoria El Faro Blanco Restaurant.
- Head out to sea on a catamaran cruise. A brief stroll down the beach from the Holiday Inn will take you to the Pelican Adventures Pier, where you can board a catamaran for a sunset cruise, an afternoon of snorkeling, or dinner on the pier at the Pelican Nest Restaurant.
- Stop by Aruba Aloe. Here you can check out the aloe field, take a brief tour of the factory and museum, and pick up some products to take home.
- Explore the largest shipwreck in the Caribbean without ever getting wet. You’ll board the Seaworld Explorer with the team from De Palm Tours and head below decks, where a wall of windows gives you a fish-eye view and a storytelling tour guide will share the incredible story of the sunken German freighter Antilla, the largest shipwreck in the Caribbean.
- Shop 'til you drop. There is shopping (and Starbucks) to be had just across the street from the Holiday Inn, or head “downtown” to Oranjestad, where high-end shops including the likes of Ralph Lauren Polo and David Yurman offer duty free pricing.
- And if you can’t bear to skip your workout for the week, drop in for a class (or two) at CrossFit A297. Tell Leroy Joyce from Macaroni Kid said hey.
Why Holiday Inn Aruba Resort? I think the man I met poolside summed it up best. “We’ve been coming here for seven years in a row and stay for 10 days every year.” I asked why and he said, “Everything is good here. Sure, we could spend an extra $3,000 to go someplace else but why?”
This article was originally featured on Macaroni Kid