Gliding through the waters aboard a catamaran watching the golds and oranges fill the sky is about as perfect an ending to a day in Aruba as one can experience.
The heat gives way to a cool sundown breeze and the lights in the hotels along Palm Beach and Eagle Beach twinkle against the dusk sky. Clouds turn pink and yellow, matching the rum punch in your hand.
As the catamaran gently cuts through the water, the romance and relaxation of an evening at sea quietly encapsulate the boat as the day’s rays slowly disappear on the horizon.
Red Sail Sports Aruba Sunset Sail
If I were to advise someone headed to Aruba on one not-to-be-missed activity to experience, it would be a sunset sail.
Always a fan of a boat ride with an open bar, watching the day wind down on a sunset cruise is both a beautiful and fun experience. And, our Aruban adventure outfitter of choice has long been Red Sail Sports Aruba.
Our typical Red Sail Sports Aruba Sunset Sail begins with a happy hour drink on the pier near the Hyatt where the boat departs.
Even if you aren’t sailing, this is a great spot to enjoy a happy hour beverage and watch the dive boats return and the crew set up the catamaran for the evening sail.
When it was time to sail, we boarded the boat with the assistance of the crew. Our hosts for the evening were Firstmates Randy Commenencia and Gerald Nicolaas.
After some boat safety instructions, the bar opened, and Captain Darcy expertly maneuvered the catamaran away from the pier.
The sails went up and off we went over the waters toward the waning sun.
One of the nicest parts of choosing a provider with a large catamaran is that there’s plenty of room for couples and small groups to find a spot on the boat and enjoy the stunning views.
In addition to pouring tasty libations, Firstmate Gerald periodically distributed an assortment of appetizers, stopping to chat with passengers as he did so.
As we reached the end of Eagle Beach, the sun was beginning to mellow.
By the time we neared the Aruba cruise port, it was nearly gone.
Under a moonlit sky, we turned to head back.
As darkness surrounded us and we sailed back to the pier, the music cranked up, the drinks continued to pour, and the dancing began, where Firstmate Randy showed us some of his moves on the dance floor.
The entire two-hour sail was perfect thanks to the beautiful surroundings, the large, clean Red Sail Sports catamaran, and the excellent crew.
Sunset Sails last 2 hours and are available on Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm.
Red Sail Sports Aruba
Having provided water and land-based adventures to thousands of visitors for over 25 years, Red Sail Sports is the most experienced tour company on the island, with a wide selection of activities available from the adventurous to the relaxing.
In addition to the Sunset Sail, Red Sail Aruba offers…
Dive excursions for all skill levels, from beginner to expert, that provide opportunities to explore Aruba’s best dive locations. Red Sail Sports Aruba is a PADI 5 Star Dive Resort and operates dive programs aboard three custom-designed dive boats and, in addition to diving excursions, offers diving courses and night drives.
Catamaran sailing options that include snorkeling and dinner sails along Aruba’s beautiful coastline. Sails include hors-d’oeuvres, beverages and snorkeling equipment, where applicable.
Hoverboard – a surf board that is attached to a jetski that propels the hoverboard above the water’s surface. Operated by Red Sail Sports’ Hoverboard Certified Instructors, who communicate with hoverboard riders from the jetski during their ride. Some participant restrictions apply.
JETLEV – a water-propelled Jetpack, enabling riders to fly over the ocean up to 30 feet above the water. A flight assistant accompanies each JETLEV participant and some restrictions apply.
ATV Tours that explore Aruba’s north coast off-road in the open air with numerous stops on the rugged back roads.
Beach Tennis combines tennis, badminton and beach volleyball with players using purposely built paddles and a slightly depressurized tennis ball. Both court reservations and lessons are available through Red Sail Sports.
A variety of Jeep Safaris are offered in four-wheel drive Land Rovers to various points around the island.
Tour Fofoti and Tour Kini Kini each provide an opportunity to explore Aruba in the comfort of an air-conditioned tour bus. Tour Kini Kini runs daily and Tour Fofoti is offered on Fridays.
Deep Sea Fishing excursions provide those wanting a chance to catch Tuna, Blue Marlin, Wahoo, Barracuda, Shark and Sail Fish a perfect day of fishing on the beautiful Aruba waters with a captain who knows where to find the biggest catches.
Learn Kite Surfing or Windsurfing in one of the best spots in the world. Aruba’s winds combined with the flat waters at Fisherman’s Huts. Swimming capability is required.
Hop on the Kukoo Kunuku buses for a pub crawl or dinner and nightlife tour aboard the colorful party buses.
Mountain Biking in Aruba aboard Trek aluminum frame mountain bikes with front shock suspension. Helmet, non-alcoholic beverages and light snacks are included with the tour.
Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Red Sail Sports for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.
We love boutique hotels done well. The seclusion, the personality, the charm – a great boutique hotel turns a hotel stay into a unique experience.
But, it’s funny, we haven’t found many good boutique hotels in the islands. We’ve found them in the French countryside, in small towns in Belgium, in ocean side getaways in California – but not in the Caribbean.
That changed recently when we arrived at the Boardwalk Small Hotel in Aruba – a boutique hotel that gets it so right. We’ve been to Aruba countless times and have stayed in most of the high-rises along Palm Beach. They are very nice, and Palm Beach in Aruba is one of the prettiest beaches on the planet, but it can be so touristy and busy.
The last time we came to Aruba we rented a private house. With a pool, palapas, and tons of room – it was pleasant but very isolated. This time we were looking for something secluded and relaxing – but still close to the beach, the restaurants, and the casinos. So, when Boardwalk Aruba asked us to stay with them, we decided it sounded just like what we were looking for and – it exceeded our expectations. Here’s why…
A boutique hotel with a fabulous location in Aruba
Located across the street from the Ritz Carlton, the Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba is tucked away on a former coconut plantation that is lush, quiet and casual and only a three-minute walk to the beach.
An oasis in the midst of the most desirable area of Aruba, we were instantly in love with the little jewel. As the wind rustled through the trees, the bright play of tropical colors served as a cheerful invitation to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings at the Boardwalk.
With 14 studio, one or two bedroom casitas, or apartments, the hotel is small enough to be charming but large enough to support hotel features – like maid service, breakfast delivered to your room, and a pool.
Our tropical casita
Upon entering our one bedroom casita, we both said the same thing – “It’s immaculate!” As 100+ nighters per year in hotels, we’ve seen the gamut of cleanliness from good to, well not so much, and the Boardwalk was the most pristine of them all.
A beautiful combination of bright whites and warm colors, the decor is the definition of a tropical oasis. From the comfy, rattan couches to the plush, white bed linens on the cushy bed, every inch of the casita was well-thought out. The fully equipped kitchen included a microwave oven, blender, toaster, coffeemaker, and, inside the fridge was the most amazing iced tea.
The bath was quite large with a walk-in rain shower, vessel sink, Aruba Aloe toiletries, and tons of storage.
It’s in the details
As we continued to explore and discover, we found a cooler to take to the beach – and if we wanted, the hotel had snorkeling gear and beach chairs we could borrow. Additionally, fresh beach towels are delivered daily to your casita.
If heading to Palm Beach, Boardwalk Aruba hotel guests have free access to Moomba Beach Club, which includes the use of lounge chairs and discounts on the restaurant’s food offerings.
Then there’s the Treasure Box.
Filled with suggestions for the best things to do in Aruba, the Treasure Box highlights activities and dining recommendations on the island. Each tip described in detail on laminated cards ranging from restaurants to yoga to beach tips.
With a bottle of wine in hand and a couple of glasses from the kitchen, we next headed outside to our private patio with a hammock and teak patio furniture.
One of the Boardwalk’s cats came by to say hello and, as we enjoyed the setting sun, the smoky fragrance of our neighbor’s barbecue was quite enticing. In addition to the full kitchen, each casita is equipped with a charcoal BBQ but we decided to just head across the street and enjoy a dinner at the Marriott, located next to the Ritz.
Arriving back at the hotel, we took a last stroll by the pool before turning in for the night.
The best breakfast in Aruba
After a fabulous night’s rest, we awoke to enjoy breakfast delivered to our patio. From the multiple selections offered, we chose the local breakfast, which included a cappuccino, fruit smoothie of the day, pastries, home-made arepa (corn-based bread) with cheese, jam, butter and, since we don’t eat eggs, they substituted fruit and yogurt with granola. The entire breakfast was fresh and delicious – the yogurt was divine.
A quiet morning by the pool
After breakfast, we spent some time wandering around the hotel grounds. Nestled amongst the tropical gardens are a quiet swimming pool and Jacuzzi with lounge chairs for those seeking a quiet spot to relax.
Near the pool is a common area with couches and a hammock – it would be a great place for larger groups to gather and share the events of the day or just to spend some quiet time reading.
Stopping by the lobby, which is open daily from 9am to 5pm, except on Sundays, we found Kimberly and Stephanie, the Aruban-born sisters who discovered the property in 2008. Following a major renovation that transformed the hotel into the tropical oasis it now is, Kimberly, Stephanie, and their staff now manage the property and are on hand to dispense advice and suggestions on how to get the most out of a visit to the island.
The two have truly created an exceptional boutique hotel. It’s no surprise they’ve been recognized by the New York Times and have also received TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Award as a 2015 Top 25 hotels in the Caribbean for service as well as the Certificate of Excellence from 2011-2015.
Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Boardwalk Aruba for hosting us as their guest. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.
As more alternatives to traditional hotels have emerged over the last few years, travelers have more opportunities to design the type of vacation that suits their style – even for a beach vacation to Aruba. If a quiet, comfortable setting near the beach with more independence and space than a hotel room offers is what you are seeking, Bubali Bliss Studios delivers just that.
Located in a what was formerly a large, private villa, Bubali Bliss Studios has 10 apartments ranging in size from studios to one bedroom, each unique in design and layout.
With a focus on providing an Aruban vacation stay in an excellent location, with the best value for the money, and in apartments with modern comforts and design, the Bubali Bliss Studios concept offers those travelers less dependent on full-service hotels a pleasant, spacious accommodation with a full kitchen and housekeeping every third day.
Bubali Bliss Studios: Hotel & self-check-in
Centrally located on the island of Aruba, the Bubali Bliss Studios apartments are tucked away in a laid-back, tropical setting just steps away from a grocery and shops and about 650 meters (under a half of a mile) from Eagle Beach.
On a short street behind the Superfood Supermarket, the apartments sit behind a bright yellow, keyless entry gate. Bubali Bliss’ self-check-in provides flexibility and privacy, with the gate code, apartment door code, and a map of the property sent prior to arrival, making check-in easy and available at any time of arrival.
As guests arrive inside the gate, directions to the apartments are provided amidst the tropical greenery and landscaping.
Marcel, the manager of Bubali Bliss, is very helpful and on-site at the property Monday – Saturday from 9 am-11 am. A phone number is provided to guests for questions and emergencies at other times.
Bubali Bliss Studios: The studios and apartments
Each apartment at Bubali Bliss Studios has a full-size kitchen, updated bathrooms, a safe, and an air-conditioned bedroom.
Decorated in white with bright color accents, the apartments are fresh and clean with a tropical flair.
The kitchen is ready-to-go for cooking with a refrigerator, coffee maker, microwave, 4-burner stove, sink, dishes, pots and pans, towels, knives, and utensils.
The bathrooms are modern and furnished with Aruba Aloe Toiletries and plenty of plush towels.
Deluxe studios have a living area separated from the bedroom area by a dividing wall and the one bedroom apartments have a living area with a sleeper sofa, flat screen TV, and dining area.
Studios deluxe and one-bedroom apartments open to a patio with an outdoor dining set via french doors.
While at Bubali Bliss, we stayed in a one bedroom apartment. The property was very quiet and peaceful. A walk across the street to the grocery yielded the ingredients for early evening refreshments that we enjoyed before heading out for an evening sail.
Returning later in the evening, we relaxed near the pool, taking in the Aruban sky as the wind gently rustled the trees.
Rooms: 10 studio, studio deluxe and one-bedroom apartments. Each room is unique in size and layout, so check the hotel website and/or give Marcel a call to discuss your needs prior to booking.
Facilities and amenities: Pool, fully furnished kitchen, housekeeping every third day, beach towels replaced every third day, air-conditioned bedroom, self-check-in, property secured with keyless entry, some units have patios shared with common area
WiFi and parking: Free
Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Bubali Bliss for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.
We’ve visited Aruba dozens of times over the years. Located 15 miles north of Venezuela, the little Dutch island that is part of the “ABC islands” of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, is known for constant sunshine, strong east trade winds, and rugged island terrain.
What’s brought us back to Aruba so many times?
Aruba: One Happy Island
According to the Aruba tourism authority, Aruba is the most re-visited destination in the Caribbean, with more than half of all visitors returning for another visit.
Strike up a conversation with most anyone along Palm or Eagle Beach and most will tell you how many times they have returned to the island – some of them visiting annually for decades. So, what brings them (and us) coming back?
Aruba has beautiful beaches, lots of things to do, casinos and great food, but, in all honesty, so do many islands. What’s the draw?
Aruba has some of the friendliest people you’ll meet. 108,000 people from over 90 nationalities call Aruba home and they always seem to have smiles on their faces and are ready to assist if possible. The island has had the motto “One Happy Island” as far as I can remember, and, while I am generally not a fan of slogans, it is a spot-on description of the culture.
Aruba’s beautiful beaches
We’ve dipped our toes into the sand on more than a few beaches around the world, but some of the prettiest can be found on Aruba. With 18 beaches to choose from, a week on the island could be spent just visiting different beaches, but if you are going to narrow it down to three, here are our picks: Consistently named to numerous “top 10 beaches of the world lists,” Palm Beach is 2 miles of gorgeous white sand and the location of many of the large chain-brand, high-rise resorts.
Palm Beach. Consistently named to numerous “top 10 beaches of the world lists,” Palm Beach is 2 miles of gorgeous white sand and the location of many of the large chain-brand, high-rise resorts.
Eagle Beach is a delightfully wide expanse of soft, white sand, with a scattering of low-rise resorts lining the beach, plenty of parking, and some shaded picnic areas. Laid-back and with ample room to roam, Eagle Beach offers calm waters and a quieter, less crowded beach experience than its neighbor to the north, Palm Beach.
Known for its calm, clear water and vast reefs, Baby Beach is a preferred snorkeling spot on the island. A popular spot for families and locals, Baby Beach is located on the opposite side of the island from Palm Beach and has cabanas, picnic areas, and pristine, white sand.
Aruba hotels: Where to stay
We’ve stayed at many of the large hotels along Palm Beach in Aruba over the years. Large and glitzy, they are a hub of activity with casinos, restaurants and swim up bars. We have also rented a private house. Spacious, with a large private pool, the house was a nice but a bit too isolated.
For this trip, we sought accommodations somewhere in the middle of the two – peaceful, but close to the action, and we found a relaxing, tranquil environment, with spacious and inviting rooms in a tropical setting, that was close to a beach.
Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba
A hidden treasure steps away from Palm Beach, Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba has 14 casitas, or vacation houses, each with fully equipped kitchens, modern baths, private patios and a swimming pool. Owned and operated by locals, it has the Aruban influence that caused us to fall in love with the island so long ago, while also delivering the comforts of a trendy, boutique hotel.
Aruba: Things to do on the water
It doesn’t take too long gazing at the beautiful water from the beach before you want to get out there and play in the Caribbean.
As the windsurfing capital of the world, the waters near the shoreline are dotted with brightly colored wind and kite surfers sailing along in the ever-present trade winds.
The clear, pleasant Aruban waters also provide for a perfect snorkeling environment and a chance to discover the underwater world of the Caribbean. Popular snorkeling spots include the fish-filled waters of Catalina Bay and the shipwreck of the Antilla, a 400’ sunken German freighter that rests 400 feet below the sea, just north of Palm Beach.
For those wanting to explore the depths of the sea, Aruba is a diving paradise with more than 20 dive spots around the island, including the Antilla and the SS Pedernales, a tanker that was sunk by a German U-boat torpedo during World War II and now lies 25 feet below sea level off the shore near Palm Beach.
Looking for something a bit more casual on the water? Take a sail on a catamaran. Whether on a luncheon or dinner sail, a snorkel trip sail, or a sunset sail, gliding along the scenic Aruban coastline with a tropical drink in hand always makes for a memorable, relaxing experience.
While there are a multitude of water sports provider options in Aruba, we’ve always used Red Sail Sports for our fun on the water. Departing from a pier near the Hyatt on Palm Beach, Red Sail Sports offers diving excursions, diving courses for first-timers to advanced, deep-sea fishing tours, a variety of sailing options, and two of the newest watersports, hoverboard and JETLEV, which has you literally flying over the ocean, soaring up to 30 feet in the air.
Aruba: Things to do on land
Aruba is just 19.6 miles long and 6 miles across at its widest point, but despite its small size, it has a wide assortment of activities and things to do on the island.
On the northwestern tip of the island, the California Lighthouse is located in an area known as Hudishibana. Named after the S.S. California, which sunk in 1910, the California Lighthouse was originally built to warn ships as they approached Aruba’s rocky, coastline. Now a popular tourist attraction, the lighthouse provides great views of the island and Palm Beach.
While exploring the island, be sure and stop to chat with locals and try some fresh coconut water.
Near the California Lighthouse is Tierra del Sol Resort and Country Club, home of the Robert Trent Jones II designed 18 hole course and a driving range, putting greens, chipping areas, and a golf shop. The resort’s restaurant, Ventanas del Mar, is a beautiful location for dinner with both air-conditioned and outdoor dining options with panoramic views of the golf course and the ocean.
The island’s first Roman Catholic Church, Chapel of Alto Vista, is a charming, little yellow church, originally built in 1750 and reconstructed in 1953.
White crosses line the road to the church, which sits on a hill above the northern shore, northeast of the town of Noord. Mass is held on Tuesdays at 5 pm but the chapel is open to visitors daily.
Philips’ Animal Garden is a sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals with over 50 species of exotic animals from around the world. A great place to bring children, educational tours are offered daily with up-close interactions throughout the shelter and rehabilitation center.
Much of the east side of the island can only be reached off-road. One of the many ATV or jeep tours available is a great way to visit the attractions and have some fun exploring the rugged coastline.
Donkeys, iguanas, and goats roam freely on the island so stay alert when driving and keep your speed low.
Sadly, what was once one of the most popular destinations on the island, the Natural Bridge, collapsed in 2005. Created by crashing waves battering the limestone cliffs over thousands of years, several natural bridges still exist on the windward side of the island, including Baby Bridge near the remains of the Natural Bridge.
Aruban tradition says that stacking loose stones can make your wishes come true. While stacks of stones can be spotted all around the island, hundreds of stacks are located near Natural Bridge / Baby Bridge.
Simply find a few stones and make a wish as you place each rock on the stack.
In 1824, a 12-year-old boy named Willem Rasmijn found gold on the island while herding his father’s sheep near Rooi Fluit. The discovery launched gold fever. In 1874, Aruba Island Gold Mining Company of London built the Bushiribana Gold Mill, which operated until World War I. The ruins are now a popular stop on the jeep routes, near the Natural Bridge.
Nearly 90 donkeys have found a place to call home at the Aruba Donkey Sanctuary.
Founded in 1997, the Aruba Donkey Sanctuary is a non-profit facility completely run by volunteers committed to saving the donkeys. Families are invited to bring their children to learn about and participate in the care and feeding of the donkeys.
Seemingly out of place against the flat desert, the Ayo Rock Formations are a group of boulders located near the village of Ayo. A sacred site by the island’s early inhabitants, the formation is the site of petroglyphs, or rock drawings, dating back thousands of years.
Heading back to the opposite of the island, be sure to take time for a visit to the charming capital of Aruba, Oranjestad.
A colorful village built in the traditional style of Dutch colonial architecture, Oranjestad is home to numerous restaurants, bars, casinos and a vast array of shops with offerings ranging from designer clothing to jewelry to souvenirs.
As evening rolls around, check out the Kukoo Kunuku – a bus offering several tours, including the popular Dinner & Nightlife Tour and the Caribbean Pub Crawl.
Aruba: Know before you go
Language: The official language is Dutch, the local language is Papiamento, and most Arubans speak English and Spanish as well.
Climate: While the trade wind breezes and average daytime temperatures of 82 degrees keep even the sunniest of days pleasant, Aruba is located very close to the equator and the sun is very strong. A high SPF sunscreen is recommended and should be reapplied often.
Driving: While driving is on the right side of the road, Aruban road signs are different than in U.S. Additionally, roads can be quite slick following the occasional rain shower, so use caution.
Car rental: Numerous car company choices are available at the Aruba airport and also at many hotels if you just want a car for the day. We used Budget at the airport – which I would not recommend. Upon arrival, the wait for a car was over an hour. We drove 10 miles to our hotel, parked the car overnight, and came out to two flat tires the next morning. We called Budget and they charged us $20 to have someone bring a new tire and change the spare.
Currency: The official currency is the Aruban Florin but the US Dollar is widely accepted in stores and resorts.
Drinking: The water in Aruba is produced by a desalination plant located in Balashi and meets the highest quality of the World Health Organization, so drink up and stay hydrated. As far as those tropical cocktails, the legal drinking age in Aruba is 18.
Casinos: Casinos are located at many resorts and throughout the island. The legal gambling age is 18.
Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.