Just returned from another week in paradise to the ice and snow so we've been in a bit of shock but here goes...
Left the house at 5am on December 1st with our two girls ages 6 and 4 (still half asleep) for the airport in Hartford, CT. No problem going through security and the American Airlines flight left on time around 7:30 am. We connected through Puerto Rico with a 1.5 hour layover and arrived in Aruba around 3:30 pm. If you're taking children on a flight this long, one thing you must have is a portable dvd player (and an extra battery pack). The kids watched their favorite dvds all day and we didn't hear any "are we there yet", or "how much longer."
We took a taxi to the Tamarijn (about $22) rather than the DePalm transfer bus to beat the crowd of people to check in. This worked as there was no line when we arrived at the Tam. There was a glitch at check-in as the hotel had not received the travel agent's request that our room be on the first floor in the 1100 block of rooms. We ended up on the 2nd floor in the 1300 block as there were no rooms available on the first floor on the entire property. I spoke with a manager as we only booked at the Tam so that the kids could walk out of the first floor room onto the beach. We were told there was nothing they could do. Although we were upset - we were not going to let anything ruin our vacation and we checked into the room. We did a quick change into our bathing suits and walked over the the Pizza Per Tutti bar/snack bar next to the Tam pool. My wife and I had a drink, the kids each had an ice cream and we went directly into the ocean for our first swim. The 85 degree water didn't take any getting used to and we went right in. We watched the sun set around 6:20 pm as we swam in the beautiful water. I instantly remembered why Aruba is one of my favorite places.
After our swim we showered and went to the buffet restaurant at the Tamarijn for dinner. The selection was somewhat limited and most of the food in the bins was cold. There was a chef cooking beef, shrimp or chicken fajitas to order which were fantastic. There was also a cook to order pasta station at each buffet dinner which my wife enjoyed. We listened to the Mariachi (sp?) band playing after dinner and then went to bed after a long day (the kids were asleep about 30 seconds after we turned out the lights).
On Sunday, we woke up and had breakfast at the buffet at the Tam. The food was pretty good with made to order omellettes, potatos, bacon, sausage, cereal, pancakes, french toast, bagels, toast, fresh baked croissants, danish. The buffet at the Tam is open air and there is no air-conditioning. Sunday was very warm as there was absolutely no breeze. We figured with the lack of wind and waves that the snorkeling would be good and we picked up some snorkeling equipment from the sports desk and took a taxi to Baby Beach. The taxi was $84 round trip (with the $6 Sunday surcharge) which was quite a bit more than on our last trip to Aruba. The kids snorkeled with us near and even on the other side of the opening in the rocks and the sights were fantastic. We must have seen over 20 different types of fish from an inch long to a five foot barracuda. Due to the lack of wind and current, the visibility was excellent. We stayed at Baby Beach for almost 6 hours and then returned to the Tam. We took a dip in the pool and had some food at the Pizza Per Tutti snack bar. The thin crust pizza was good, as were the fries, onion rings, chicken nuggets, and garlic bread. The bartenders were all great, making the kids virgin banana daquiris and frozen lemonades.
After our snack, we took the golf cart ride from the Tam to the Divi Links pool across the street. The pool was fantastic. There are areas you can enter the pool on a slight incline with no steps, a swim up bar (not included in the all-inclusive), an infinity edge overlooking the golf course, an island with lounge chairs, a basketball hoop, a volleyball net, a hot tub which could probably accomodate 20 people and an incredible water slide. The kids must have gone down the waterslide over 50 times before we left for the day and my wife was not far behind them. This is a must do for anyone at the Tam or Divi resorts with kids. We had dinner outside at the Red Parrot. Perhaps we just didn't luck out but our steaks were overcooked and the servce was not good. Nobody came over to check on us after our dinners were delivered for over 20 minutes. We finally left and had dinner in the buffet restaurant at the Divi (one advantage of the all inclusive - if dinner is no good, try somewhere else). Dinner at the buffet was good and we ate indoors where it was air conditioned (which was nice as there still was no wind).
As the days after the first two all seemed to blend together, here are some of the highlights and tips:
Regarding the state of the beach at the Tamarijn, there are still significant rocks. From the 1100 block, there are a few rocks, pretty good beach access, and you are closest to the water sports area, the rock wall, the fitness club, and the beach between the Tam and the Divi (which was the best beach area). The 1200 and 1300 blocks were mostly rocky with small paths to access the water (not much beach). The 1300 and 1400 blocks are closest to the swimming pool, lobby, snack bar, two bars, and the restaurants. We stayed in the 1300 block and did not hear much noise from the bars or restaurants at night. The 1400 block is closest to the towel and float hut and the beach has some rocks but good access. The 1500 to 1800 blocks are completely rocky and the ocean is not easily accessible. The 1900 block is closest to the Bunker Bar which is open from 11 am to 7 pm. The beach becomes less rocky as you go from the 1900 to the 2500 blocks. There is more beach and this area is quieter as you are farther from the amenities (other than the Bunker Bar). I would recommend the 1100 to 1200 blocks for families with small children or people who don't want to walk a lot. The 1900 to 2500 blocks and especially the 2200 to 2500 blocks would be nice for honeymooners or people who want privacy and don't mind a little walk to dinner, the pool or the golf cart shuttles.
Went deep sea fishing on Wednesday on the Driftwood (associated with the Driftwood restaurant). I have been on other fishing trips in Aruba in the past and I would not recommend the Driftwood. We caught only two small tuna whereas most of the other boats caught 20-30 fish. The captain and crew of the Driftwood did not make any effort to change locations, change baits to lures, or even seem to care whether or not we caught fish. Did see an incredible rainbow at sea and we were out far enough to see the coast of Venezuala (sp?).
My older daughter and I took out a sunfish sailboat one day and we had a great time. Another day we snorkeled around the old pier and saw some fish and many shells and sand dollars. We ate twice at the restaurant where you cook your own food at the table and the kids and I really enjoyed that experience (and the cream puffs for dessert are delicious). The kids were excited about many of the posted kids club activities during the week but most were cancelled for lack of interest (as there were not many children staying at the Tam). The activities involving crafts did take place and the children made tie-dye t-shirts, lizards and bracelets made out of beads, picture frames, and there was a clown disco one night which they enjoyed. The nightly entertainment (from 9 pm to 10 pm) was pretty good and ranges from the Mariachi Band to Carnival Costumed Dancers, Salsamerengue show, etc. There was a different show at the Tam and the Divi each night and these rotated so you had some selection.
The rooms at the Tam are adequate, not luxurious by any stretch but you are paying for location on the beach. The tile grout in our bathroom was not in great shape and the television barely came in. We were only in the room to shower or sleep and there was plenty of room for the four of us. Note that the room safe is under the sink in the bathroom and a little hard to get to. There were no safety issues during our week at the Tamarijn.
We took the bus downtown one day to go shopping ($1.30 per person each way) and we found the best deals to be in the shops behind the Renaissance Hotel, next to the supermarket (to the left if facing the market). The kids wanted souveneir necklaces and other trinkets and these were far less expensive in these shops than in the ones by the water. Keep in mind that you can definitely negotiate the prices. We bought the girls necklaces marked $20 each for $8 each. We had a relaxing dinner at Iguana Joe's which is a great place to people watch. The kids had the mac & cheese which was awesome, as were the cheese fries, the mahi sandwich, the drinks (the Pink Iguana) and the desserts.
It rained quite a bit over the last two days of the vacation (very unusual for Aruba) but that didn't slow us down. When we were swimming, we continued to swim which was actually quite fun. Other times we huddles up with others at the bar for drinks and snacks as we waited for the sun to return. The kids got there hair braided by Tammy right at the Tam on the last day and she did a great job (about $1.50 per braid).
Overall, our experience at the Tamarijn was good but not great. The location on Druif Beach is fantastic, as was the beach between the Tam and the Divi. It was nice to have the option of using all of the Divi and Tam facilities and restaurants. Having been to Aruba many times, I felt like we missed out on many great restaurants for just adequate food at the Tam. That being said, it was a nice option for the kids, who enjoyed the food, loved the drinks and attention from the attentive bartenders, and loved the ocean and the pools (and waterslide). The price of the vacation was extremely reasonable as kids under 18 are free (other than the flights) and it was nice not having to carry money around each day (as we tipped the staff on our last day).
If anyone has any questions about the Tamarijn, please feel free to ask. Also, what is the best way to post some pictures online? I will try to share the pictures soon. Time to plan the next trip to Aruba (maybe without the kids...hmmmm).
Thanks for a great report and the wonderful pics. I loved the one with the rainbow! We are staying at the Tam in Feb. First Aruba trip. I love reading all the posts, especially about the Tam. All those rocks in your pics, can you tell me what bldg. they were in front of? And do you have any pics of the room?
The rocks in the picture were in front of the 1300 block where we stayed. Not much beach there and many rocks but you could safely access the ocean. Once in the ocean, the rocks were not an issue. On windy days (which occur most of the time), there were some waves and there was some coral and rocks you had to cross over as you entered the water. By the time you were waist deep, you were past this area. Many readers had suggested water shoes in the past which is probably not a bad idea.
I didn't take pictures of the room but it was reasonably sized with two queen beds, a night stand, two chairs, a round table, plenty of closet space and a bathroom with a tub/shower. The floor is tile throughout the room and all rooms have a sliding door on the ocean side of the room leading out to a patio (ground floor) or a balcony (2nd floor). The balconies have two sitting chairs and a table and the patios have two lounge chairs and a table.
Some good suggestions from other members of the forum which we used were bringing clothespins to clip clothes and towels to the beach chairs to dry in the wind; bringing a large cup or thermos that the bartender can fill instead of having to return often to the bar; bringing bug spray for the evenings as the bugs seem to be worse than usual; and bringing a lot of sunscreen. We brought three huge bottles and still ran out and had to pay a lot for more.
DaveNJodie, Thanks for all the info! I think I better buy more sunscreen! I only have 2 large bottles. I like the idea of bringing a large cup. I didn't think you would be allowed to do that. I know we will have a great time! I'll post a report when we return. Going Feb. 20-27. Thanks again Cathy