Just returned from a fantastic 7 night stay at the Holiday Inn. We were lucky to get a Renovation deal and pay for only 5 out of 7 nights. Renovation is due to be completed by end of this December with a much modern-looking Holiday Inn.
First of all, let's set the stage: this was a family trip: 2 baby monsters(4 and6), 2 baby boomers (my perents) and 2 of us. We got 2 adjacent rooms (both rooms had a fantstic ocean view, though were not ocean front. In case you are wondering rooms were on 4th floor 421 and 423). Both rooms had a balcony and overlooked one of the pool areas.
GOOD: LOCATION !---by far the best on Palm beach. It's located between Mariott's expanding hotels and Divi LaPlaya time shares, immediatelly to the right of the Sea tower (where we stayed) was Mumbo Beach restaurant with good food and music and some rudementary kid slides (odly enough my kids were kept busy, while we had a civilized dinner)
To the left of this tower (one of 3 towers for this hotel) was pool, strip of hotel's restaurants, another pool, beach, etc... Immedicatelly in the back (accross LG Smith BLVD--no this is not a highway :)) is a huge New (last 5 yrs) plaza, mall, entertaiment complex with ....god: arcades, bowling, singing water fountants, bouncy house, minimarket and so much more not to forget my favorits: Dunkin and Starbuks. I could discuss location forever; trust me Holiday Inn has a great spot! Good beach and nice pools (x 3 of them). So, if it's your 1st time on the island, I DO NOT recommend you stay anywhere other than Palm beach--you'll miss out. The island has tons of timeshare and smaller resorts as well as inland rental properties, but being on the beach affords you convenience, views, luxury, and just a very different feel. Now having said that, as I return to Aruba for my 4th time next year (hopefully), I may try a small house inland or 3 bdr apt inland to get more of the Arubian flare.
ROOMS: Decent size, nice views, have a minirefrigirator, no microwave in the room (this is one of the big minuses for me--will explain later). Double beds are comfy. Room with King bed has a nice sofa.
KIDS CLUB: there is a room full of BEACH TOYS, paper and crayons, video games, air hockey, etc... I believe, you can actually get a swimming noodle there as well, as well as all kinds of balls (basket, soccer, football). Those of you without kids-don't share my excitement, so just trust me--this was a great addition to beach -breaks for kids. So don't pack your sand toys! AND you can "rent" for free adult and kid bikes (they also have helmets).
There is more, but I will run out of room.
NECESSITIES: these guys offer a complimenary toiletery packet that includes a rasor, etc..in case you forget yours.
Bad: Despite reno, carpets are stained. No microwave (we went grocery shopping to have breakfast and lunch in the hotel room, but heating up oatmeal wasn't an option here). I don't like all inclusive packages to begin with (in areas such as this at least, I have never been to Mexico, DR, Jamaica, etc...), but from what I heard all -inclusive in this hotel is boring.
My recommendations: Bring a large beach tote with you as well as plastic bags for wet stuff. Women bring your best hair conditioner and moisturizer-a lot of it!. Reserve your shaded spot on the beach by 4 pm day prior. Remember sunrise/sunse is ALWAYS at the same time (you are very close to the equator), so don't miss it around 6:15pm.
ARUBA is fantasitc--no hurracanes (it's below the hurracane belt). Weather is awesome: though it sounds hot, there is ALWAYS a wind that makes it very pleasant. Rent a car for at least a day: VISIT the lighthouse, Valero oil refinery (just go to Baby beach and you will pass it on your left), driftwood restaurant for wild caught fish of the day (service sucked, but food was great, keep in mind, you'll pay $25-30/seafood dish), local fleamarket. They have a ton of supermarkets, but KEEP in mind: delivery of food is Tuesday, so by end of the week you will have slim picking. Taking a cab from airport will cost u a standard $25 (for up to 5 people, no exceptions), so if you have 6people (as we did) and don't feel like shelling out 50$ for both cars---I suggest call someone in advance ( I got couple of business cards while were there) and have them meet you around the corner for a deal.
If you love snorkeling don't come here :), go to Grand Cayman Islands instead...well not completely true. In Aruba, the sea is not clear, like on the GC, so you have to go out to a less private beach or with a tour to snorkel. GC you can snorkel 5 feet from the beach and see a mirage of sealife. If you like jewlery, consier bying. My birth stone: yellow topaz is 10x cheaper on the island than in US.
All inclusive or not: I recommend NOT. Aruba has a TON of awesome eateries, don't lock yourself in. Buy your Cavit wine for 5-7$ at the store, vodka, etc.. and eat out. RIght behind Holiday in you will find 20+ restaurants and caffes. If you like European-like atmosphere-you will like to walk the LG BLVD at night (another reason not to stay far away from Palm beach). AMazonia and Texas de Brazil are recommned if you like meat. DRIFTWOOD (downtown) for good wildcaught fish--service is not great, but food is worth the torture.
Recent News in Aruba: King and Queen visited--saw them, they are beautiful! Ritz opened up to the left of marriott. RIU is finishing their resort 2 blocks from Holiday Inn and abou5t 1000 other new constructions and flipped homes are being re-done. TROLLEY tracks (yes like San Fran trolley) are being finished in downtown, so there is terrible traffic. This place is booming! 1%unemployment here and people are HAPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.
I would love to return to Holiday Inn and Aruba in general: anyone wants to donate a condo or a good deal on a hotel :)
If you are traveling with kids and noise may be an issue, I would avoid 1st floor and 2nd floor, esp...
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