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One thing I learned on my recent trip to Aruba is that the tourism board’s slogan of “One Happy Island” is absolutely appropriate. With the congenial smiles and flurry of “bon bini” greetings welcoming travelers, it’s no wonder this tiny Caribbean island located just north of Venezuela has a high rate of return visitors.
The trademark Aruban friendliness abounds at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, where I stayed. The hotel’s recent $50 million renovation resulted in new facilities and an upgrade of the decor, amenities and overall ambience. While I admittedly enjoyed relaxing in H2Oasis, the newly built adults-only pool, it was the myriad activities offered by the hotel that made my stay memorable.
Here are some highlights of the activities available to guests.
Water Sports I don’t get jealous too easily. In fact, I rarely do. But when I saw a fellow traveler shoot up out of the water via a water-propelled jetpack like some action hero from a blockbuster movie, my mouth dropped open. The JetLev — as it’s referenced by Red Sail Sports, the company that rents out these packs, can shoot daring souls up to 30 feet out of the water.
For those whose fantasies do not include flying out of the water, Red Sail Sports has a variety of other water-related activities. The company has a storefront located on Aruba Marriott’s beachfront, where dive operators take certified scuba divers to nearby shipwrecks and coral formations, and snorkelers can see marine life.
Paddleboard YogaPaddleboard yoga, the newest craze in water activities, is fun but challenging. It combines the tranquil nature of yoga with the power and coordination needed to balance atop a stand-up paddleboard while floating on the water. It’s said that paddleboard yoga had it origins with instructor Rachel Brathen, a Swedish expat who holds classes for all levels at Aruba Marriott. She makes it look easy, but I speak from experience: It’s not. If you think holding a Warrior 1 pose is hard enough on land, try doing it on water!
The Mandara SpaIf vacationing in friendly Aruba wasn’t enough, Aruba Marriott put icing on my cake with its Mandara Spa. The 6,500-square-foot Bali-inspired spa has a variety of menu options, from body treatments and massage to hair and nail services. I opted for the Massage de la Aruba treatment, a relaxation massage that uses traditional Aruban massage techniques.
Stellaris CasinoThe island’s largest casino, Aruba Marriott’s Stellaris Casino covers more than 15,000 square feet and was recently expanded to 500-plus slot machines and 32 gaming tables. If gambling isn’t your thing, frequent live music performances are held at the casino, as well as sports viewing on the casino’s giant projection television.
Sunset CruiseWhat Caribbean vacation would be complete without a sunset cruise on a catamaran? Aruba Marriott partners with De Palm Tours Aruba to offer a sunset cruise and dinner package. You depart for a sunset cruise on one of De Palm’s catamarans and return to a three-course dinner at Aruba Marriott’s Simply Fish, a pop-up restaurant that literally has your toes dipping in the sand.
Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casinowww.marriott.com
Red Sail Sportswww.redsailaruba.com
De Palm Tours Arubawww.depalmtours.com