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How are you going to pick the resort that suits you best out of all the great resorts in Aruba?

This page contains totally personal opinions that I have gathered from my trip and through photos of the various resorts. Everyone has vastly different needs, however, and what one person loves another dislikes, so take what you may from this with a grain of salt. My biases included: a high need for luxury (although I'm not from a high-income bracket), I feel why settle for less on a once-in a lifetime trip? If you're a repeat traveller, by all means try a different resort each time. I like to be up high with a great view. I like a sense of anonymity, so I don't look for partying resorts. I like to people-watch, so I prefer Palm Beach. Also, I like a large, elaborate pool area and a good beach with little surf. Marriott suited me the best. Know what your needs are before you book a resort. With these biases in mind, here's some thoughts on the resorts:

Resort Ratings from TNT travel

Rating of 6 (exceptional)
Marriott and Hyatt

Rating of 5 (excellent hotel)

Rating of 4 (superior hotel)
Wyndham, Allegro, Sonesta, Tamarijn, Divi Aruba

Rating of 3 (dependable comfortable hotel)
Manchebo, Bucuti, Holiday Inn, Divi Village

Rating of 2 (moderate hotel)
Bushiri, Dutch Village, The Mill

Rating of 1 (simple budget hotel)

TNT only rates hotels it uses.

Try my completely non-scientific (you might say goofy) resort-picking strategy. I'm not gonna promise it'll help - it may even be way off base.

Have you ever heard those "If you were a tree...what kind of tree would you be" questions? Well, here's a few to try. Let's say you're at some big cottage weekend get-together with a ton of people. There's a party going on - where are you? the thick of things in the living room?

  • go to La Cabana, this is a lively, people-packed area full of families, offering lots of activity
  • Sonesta Resort/Suites, downtown, lots of people around a quiet corner of the living room contentedly watching others?

  • try the Marriott, you're still near the action in a plush environment, but it's quieter
  • same with the Wyndham and Aruba Grand/APB
  • you want luxury of the hi-rises, but with some level of peace and quiet, and without the claustrophobic feeling of being in the middle of the resort strip

...sitting in the den around the fireplace looking at the cool brickwork and exotic souvenirs?

  • you want the Hyatt, it's subdued, interestingly decorated, a little refined, you feel like you should be in a lounging jacket sipping a martini
  • Costa Linda and Playa Linda have a subdued manner also
  • these resorts have varying degrees of high luxury with a degree of peace and quiet associated with a mostly-adults, non-partying environment

...out in the backyard partying with people who look like they're about to break out the BBQ at any moment?

  • try the Tamarijm, it has a deck pool area that looks like a BBQ waiting to happen
  • try the Tam's sister Divi Resort
  • you might also like the Bushiri
  • these resorts are for people who are not concerned about luxury surroundings as long as there's cleanliness and quality and they're having a good time
  • these resorts are also for people who feel that it doesn't matter where you stay because you don't spend much time in your room, so why pay more?

...out on the deck with a small group sitting under the patio lanterns?

  • try the Bucuti or the Manchebo Best Western, they've got that sipping-a-beer-on-the-patio, quiet, intimate feeling

...sitting on the end of the backyard pier watching the neigbouring watercraft zipping around?

  • you probably would like to be in the middle of Palm Beach where the most watersport action is; consider the Allegro or Holiday Inn
  • Sonesta Resort/Suites, can't get any closer to the pier action than this
  • good resorts for people-watching, feeling in the middle of the action

Let's try another one - "If this resort was a geographic location, what would it be?
(Please e-mail me to contribute your own comparison)

  • Marriott - cool California
  • Holiday Inn - Elvis Live From Hawaii (think 1970's)
  • Playa Linda -
  • Hyatt - Rome/Italy/Morocco
  • Allegro -
  • Radisson - Magnum P.I.'s Hawaii (lots of lush tropical greenery)
  • Aruba Grand -
  • Wyndham - Acapulco (towering hotel, big pool, on a hotel-strip beach)
  • La Cabana - Orlando (kids, kids, and a big sprawling place)
  • Costa Linda -
  • Bucuti -
  • Manchebo BW - a Sahara-like oasis (sand, sand and more sand)
  • Tamarijn - Gilligan's Island (desert island decor)
  • Bushiri -
  • Sonesta -

Other Thoughts:

The Marriott and the Hyatt are my two top choices: they're the most luxurious, the most expensive, and they deliver the goods without fail. There is rarely a negative comment about either of these resorts. If you're looking for a smaller, less expensive resort, the Bucuti and Manchebo resorts are also well praised.

One thing I want to repeat for anyone on a honeymoon or who will not get a chance to return to Aruba: spend a little extra money and get the best resort you can afford. People may say "you won't be in your room much anyway, go with the cheapest", but I say be greedy and go for that gorgeous room, the big freeform pool with swim-up bar. Be right on the beach, not "minutes from the beach". Scrimp a little on your meals or souveniers and get a resort that makes you say "WOW" instead of "oh well". Don't settle for a resort that doesn't fulfill your needs.

Do you really need a suite?
People advise suites because you can cook and save a lot of money on meals. You probably don't really want to be cooking on your vacation, however , so kitchenettes might not be a big draw. If you want to save money, eat at Wendy's or McDonalds.

What do you need in a balcony?
Get the resort with the best balcony - biggest footage and openness. I think balconies with open rungs give you the best view when seated. This is especially true if you're taking children or other people with you - you'll want to be able to seat as many as you can on the balcony and give everyone a great view (small kids included). Marriott has a great balcony, each one is angled towards the ocean; Manchebo's are fairly good; worst balconies are the Hyatt's and Aruba Grand's (smallest), La Cabana (too far from the beach); Wyndham's are spacious but concrete enclosed;

A good view of the ocean?
You'll want an unobstructed view of the ocean

Please keep in mind that these are opinions only, drawn from photos and Bulletin Board responses from others.

Best Balconies

Balconies with largest footage and sense of openness:
Costa Linda

Best Beaches

Beaches with widest area, best shade coverage, less crowds, less watercraft noise, etc.
Manchebo - undoubtedly the widest beach with good palm coverage
Marriott - largest number of huts & palm trees, plus no resort to the north
Costa Linda - clearest, most open beach, not as much coverage, but a hi-rise feel without the crowds

Best Service


Best Pools

Pools with most creative shapes, little coves for couples, landscaping, swim-up bar, etc.
Free-form pools:
Playa Linda
La Cabana
Costa Linda

Square pools:
Holiday Inn
Hyatt (multi-level)
Radisson (not exactly square but close enough)
Aruba Grand
Divi Resort

General Opinions

I love the Marriott! It's where I stayed in Aruba and it's my number one choice in all areas except employee service and nearby ammenities. I found the staff did not always agree on activity info (see my trip report), but maid service was excellent. The pool was one of my top 3 (Marriott, Wyndham, and Costa Linda), and had a waterfall, swim-up bar, lots of shade areas over the pool, and little coves for couples to snuggle in. There were tons of beach huts (over 60) and a great beach bar & grill. The balconies were huge and very open, but with shade; all balconies are angled toward the ocean, so all views are equally good. There is no resort to the north, so the beach is less crowded than other resorts. While it is not a far walk to other resorts and businesses, it does not directly adjoin anything so if you want an ATM machine, fast food, etc., you have to walk 5 - 10 minutes up to another resort (like the Playa Linda/Hyatt area, which has a business area a few blocks behind it).

Holiday Inn
I do not give the Holiday Inn very high points. It is not very attractive - it reminds me of a '70s Hawaii crossed with municipality buildings (very squat & concrete-looking). The resort is spread out in 3 low towers that share one square pool. There is no shade over the pool and it is a fairly plain pool. It has a pier waterfront (Pelican Sports, I believe) so it is a noisy watercraft area. It does have the tallest, most stately palm trees I saw, however.

Playa Linda
It has a freeform pool with waterfall, but a little smallish; has a mini-market; employees stringently guard the beach lounge chairs from non-resort visitors;

This is the most beautifully decorative resort; its restaurant Ruinas Del Mar is well-known as one of the most romantic dinner spots in Aruba; lagoon around restaurant containing black swans, tropical fish, turtles; caged parrots on grounds; multi-level squarish pool; casino on location; very small balconies, stand up only.

It has a freeform pool with waterfall and shaded areas over pool; swim-up bar.

The Radisson is under renovations so opinions would be outdated upon reopening.

Aruba Grand
It has a square pool; casino on location; fairly small balconies; cozy-feeling for a Palm Beach resort.

This has a beautiful freeform pool with waterfall and shade over pool; casino on location; swimming platform in the water off the beach; large balconies; highest resort so has great views.

La Cabana
La Cabana has a lot of pluses: it is the biggest resort, so it has the most ammenities as far as multiple pools, very large pool decks, swim-up bars, stores, restaurants/snack bars. For me, however, its minuses far outway its pluses: the beach is across the road (small, light-trafficed road) and not directly off the pool deck, a high concentration of children and activity, and some of the suites at the back part of the resort are very far back from the beach and have little or no ocean view. I would certainly recommend the front part of the resort and not the back, if you choose to stay there.

Costa Linda
The Costa Linda has one of the best pool deck areas on the island. It has a beautiful freeform pool with little coves, and has a very spacious feeling, plus a great view out to the sea. It has a good location also - it has the wide Manchebo Beach to it's south, and the long expanse of Eagle Beach to the north, with no other resort sharing the Eagle Beach side until you get up to the La Cabana area.

I think the Bucuti is a sweet little resort - perfect for a quiet getaway. It's on a great beach and has a reputation for excellent service; it's only drawback, for me, is the location of the pool - the Pirate's Nest galleon blocks any good ocean view from the pool.

Without a doubt, the best resort for attention to customer service. While building this website, I contacted various resorts for info, and while some did respond briefly (some did not respond to questions at all), Manchebo's management went above and beyond my expectations to help me in every way. Many of their answers displayed a desire to please guests rather than be a stickler for rules and policies. It's other main draw - the widest beach on the island.

The Tamarijn is like an old Chevy. You love it, feel real comfortable in it, and even though it's not the best it's where you feel at ease. Also tends to be the resort to go to for partying and meeting others.

The Bushiri has extreme mixed reactions - love it or leave it. I fall into the latter group for various reasons - location and neighboring containment terminal being two of them. For every person that puts it down, there is another defending it, and vice versa - a 50-50 split.

Sonesta Suites and the Sonesta Resort are great hotels to stay at if you want to be right downtown near all shops and ammenities. I personally, would not choose to visit a Caribbean island and then make reservations to stay in an urban setting. If you do want to be downtown, I think the Suites is a better setting as it has a better pool, plus a manmade beach and waterfront setting. The pool at the Resort overlooks traffic on the main thoroughfare road. The Resort, on the other hand, has direct access to the Crystal Casino and the Seaport Mall.

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This site went online 1999.
Photos by Patti MacK copyrighted 1999 and may not be used without permission.


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