Sonesta Island is owned by The Sonesta Resort and Sonesta Suites properties, however non-guests may use the property for a daily fee of $25. The island is offshore of the Seaport Marina in Oranjestad and is accessed by a shuttle boat which leaves the Resort and stops at the Suites on the way. It runs every 15 to 20 minutes until the island closes at 6 pm, and is about a 7 - 10 minute ride. Be sure to sit close to the front of the boat, as it kicks up a lot of spray. The $25 fee for non-guests includes the price of the shuttle, a lunch and a drink.
There are 6 beaches total, but most of these are small coves. The two main beaches are the "adult" beach and the "family" beach next to the boat dock. When you get off the boat the "adult" beach (topless sunbathing allowed) is to the right, and the family beach is to the left. The family beach is the one that has the restaurant, washrooms, towel hut, and Red Sail Sports shop where you can rent floats for $5, as well as snorkel gear and other watersport items. Waiters do work the adult beach, however, so you don't have to walk to the family beach for a cold drink. There are plenty of beach chairs, hammocks, and lots of palm trees for shade on both beaches. You can walk around the island and see natural habitats and birds (although there is little shade on the path and it can get very hot). The island is right near the airport, however, so some people are disturbed by the noise and some claim you can smell airplane fuel. Others feel that sitting under a palm tree with a fruity drink in your hand, watching the planes take off and land is quite nice. Your call.
Each beach is enclosed by a breakwater, and there is lots of good snorkeling around the breakwater areas, just be careful of the waves - they can be strong some days, and beware the small crabs on the rocks. Off the adult beach, about halfway out and to the left lives a school of fish that will let you swim with them, as long as you don't make too many sudden movements. This is well worth the whole price of your trip - trust me. A short swim outside the breakwater on the family beach is a popular dive and snorkel site, the Sonesta plane.
The Seabreeze bar/grill on the family side is a nice place for an open-air lunch; the food is great and the staff is very friendly. They let us order food close to closing time, even though they were starting to close up the grill, and offered to take our picture for us.
Towels are provided on the island and the towel hut will let you sign out Sonesta towels even if you're from another resort.
The adult beach also has a "Honeymoon Cove" for couples to rent. This is a secluded area with a "Gilligan's Island" feeling. It has a separate entrance with a door for privacy, a little curtained hut for an afternoon nap (or whatever), a picnic table, and a hammock for two. It is built on a decked area close to the breakwaters, with views of the family beach and offshore waters. It does not have its own beach area, however, as it's built up over the water.
The island has a very tropical feel - more so than any other location in Aruba, in my opinion. There is wildlife everywhere you go - huge iguanas near the docks which are fed by the staff, brightly colored parrots near the restaurant, flamingos which live in a pen and roam free on the adult beach, pelicans that dive for fish out near the breakwater, and many small tropical fish in the lagoons. Don't go home without a day here.
This site went online 1999.