As we pulled upto our hotel, the Renaissance Resort in Oranjestad, Aruba the utter disappointment I felt was hard to cloak! I wanted the Caribbean dream: a resort on a white sandy beach with turquoise waters.
Even as the lovely Rose-Ann was checking me in telling me about the lovely room I had and the facilities of the hotel, I was slightly phased out. All I could think was: I’m in a city hotel, with no direct beach access to the Caribbean waters! Clearly, I hadn’t done my research, so had no idea of what to expect at this resort.
Sure there was a fabulous pool and there was a boat that took you to the beach directly from inside the hotel’s lower lobby! …It all washed over me in those first, jetlagged and tired moments.
But oh how wrong those first impressions were!
As the days passed I discovered that we were staying in probably the best place on Aruba!
The Renaissance Resort Aruba offers what other resorts, most based out of town along Eagle Beach and Palm Beach, don’t: an easy access to the quaint town of Oranjestad, it’s museums and activities. If you are like me, and can only do so much of sunbathing and cocktail sipping, then this is a great bonus.
The Renaissance Resort Aruba offers two resorts: The Marina Hotel, an adult-only resort and The Renaissance Ocean Suites, a family-friendly resort, with adult guests having access to facilities at both. The facilities include a casino, 5 distinct restaurants, a luxury shopping mall, 3 different pools and a swimming lagoon with white sandy beach and tropical fish.
The Renaissance Resort Aruba offers a most special treat, that you only appreciates once you don your swimmers, pack sunscreen and a book and jump into the power boat in the lobby of the Marina hotel to take you to The Island.
Not only do you get a free, fun power boat ride, but you land on the most gorgeous little patch of paradise, The Renaissance Island.
The Island, just like the resort, has two sides: an adults-only lagoon and a family-friendly lagoon. Both have plenty of loungers, hammocks, free beach towels, a bar each and share a restaurant. There is snorkelling and the opportunity to rent kayaks and SUPs.
The adults-only beach is called Flamingo Beach for a reason: there are 7 flamingos living here. These cheeky birds definitely steal the show. Guests can buy food to feed them and they will eat from your hand and, as my fellow traveller, Zoe, aka Quirky traveller discovered, they will pillage the cocktails left around by guests for the cherries and other fruits. So funny!
The family-friendly side is called Iguana Beach for the abundance of iguanas sunning themselves.
The island also has a secluded corner, where even naturalist can let it all hang out.
I just loved The Renaissance Island! It never felt crowded and gave a really luxurious twist to my stay.
Room 1645 in the Renaissance Marina Hotel is an East-facing room on the top floor, looking out towards the airport in the distance. Unlike most rooms at the hotel it has a little balcony. (Though no chairs to sit out on to enjoy the glorious sunrise or the golden hour as the sun sets in the evening)
The entrance hall has a large wardrobe and safe to one side. I didn’t use the safe, because it was above my eye level and I was concerned I’d forget something in there if I filled it.
There are bathrobes for use during your stay.
To the other side is the simple, clean shower room. The walk-in shower had good pressure for refreshing showers to wash away the salt and sunscreen after each day.
The room is slightly smaller than I expected, but comfortable for two. It has the most comfy bed and pillows I’ve slept on for a while.
There is a fridge, coffee and tea making facilities, a large TV (in case you do want to catch up with the real world).
The air conditioning is well controlled by the room controller.
The whole hotel has decent, free WiFi, including access from within the rooms.
The bedside table on both sides has a socket to charge gadgets and phones overnight (…my pet hate, when hotels don’t have these)
As a family travel writer I couldn’t resist checking out a suite at the Renaissance Suites, the family-friendly site, just a couple of hundred meters away.
The suites come with a inner, spacious double bedroom. My three kids could happily share that bed, but the room would fit a spare bed too. The shower room is more spacious, with his and hers sinks and a large walk-in shower. My suite had kitchenette with a microwave and coffee making facilities, but no cutlery or crockery.
The lounge had a pull-out sofa bed, that I didn’t try, a little table and chair. There was also a good sized balcony with chairs and a table where I can easily envisage enjoying an evening meal and sipping a cocktail or two once the kids have gone to bed!
Again there were sockets by the bed and decent WiFi in the room.
The breakfast is served in the Aquarius restaurant in the main hotel and in the outdoor Captain’s Corner in the family resort. The offering is the same, just differently presented; The spread well catering for most tastes, including gluten and lactose free.
My favourites were the omelette station, where I got my omelette made to my wishes every morning, the fresh waffles and the bagel station- which had a couple of different bagels and 9-12 toppings.
Coffee was good, served hot and left on the table in little thermos flasks. There was always the offer of fresh juices to compliment the warm drinks.
The air-conditioned Aquarius is more elegant, but I loved the open-air dining at the Captains Corner, where despite netting around the sides, little sugar craving birds sneak in and prove highly entertaining as they find any unattended fruit juice.
On the night of our arrival we had the pleasure to eat at L.G. Smith’s Steak & Chop House. Being in a steakhouse on an island, I felt a surf and turf, The Big Oscar, had to be ordered and was not disappointed with my choice.
Aruba is an arid island with very little local produce. The food is mostly imported and the Aruban reckon they might as well import the best if it has to travel anyway. This was evident from the succulent cuts we had.
The Caribbean is synonymous with colourful, tasty cocktails. The bars at the Renaissance do not dsappoint: they have a good selection of cocktails and are happy to tweak according to taste. The bar at the main hotel in the lobby serves the lounge and the pool area. I enjoyed my first cocktail here while soaking in the evening sunset in the pool- a white Russian.
The bar on the private Island serves a slightly different range. Here I was suggested the Aruba Ariba- Vodka, Triple Sec, Coecoei and Crème de banana- a deliciously refreshing burst of sunset in a glass, perfectly complimenting the pink of the flamingos.
I loved my 5 night stay at the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino! As disappointed as I was on first impression, I very quickly realised what treasure this resort is.
I’d love to come back with the whole family and stay in one of the suites, enjoying sunset drinks on the balcony, while kids, exhausted from a day of swimming and snorkelling, dream sweet dreams of Finding Dory!
During my stay I was a guest of Aruba tourism. Thomson Holidays offers 7 nights at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino from £942 per person including breakfast. Price includes return flights in economy from London Gatwick and transfers.
KLM is the most frequent flight to Aruba and offers flights from Heathrow along with 16 other regional airports via Amsterdam starting from £599 in economy class. However, I have not had a good expereince flying with them, so would suggest finding alternative carrier.