My husband and I got married five years ago in Cozumel, Mexico. We had 36 guests join us and we all had a blast. After that, we decided to arrange a group Caribbean trip every five years. What better way to commemorate an anniversary than bringing a bunch of friends and family to a tropical paradise? To celebrate our recent five year anniversary, 13 of us stayed at the RIU Palace in Aruba. My husband and I have been to Aruba a couple of times already, but some of our group had never been. Beforehand, we had polled our group on destination ideas and Aruba rose to the top of the list!
Usually I give a day-by-day trip report, but honestly, we mainly hung out at the hotel, so I’ll just provide the highlights. Our first impression of the Riu wasn’t that great, but fortunately, it got much better. I should also mention that my husband and I aren’t fans of large and/or all-inclusive hotels, but we chose an all-inclusive because of its convenience for our group. Also, we went with the Riu based on the good Trip Advisor reviews.
RIU: When we first got to the hotel, the lobby smelled a little like cigarettes, which was a bit of a turn-off; however, we got to our room and were happy with it. We had an ocean-view room, which was spacious and very clean. When we first got to the pool area, we were reluctant. Don’t get me wrong – we were on vacation with a great group of family and friends, and were going to have a fantastic time regardless. The problem was, there were cups, straws and drink remnants floating in the pool, surrounded by a very rowdy group. Not a great first impression. Fortunately, that group and the litter were nowhere to be found after that first day. I should also add that the bartenders at the swim-up bar were great and made fantastic drinks.
BEACH: The beach area was great. I love the assorted colors of blues and greens in the water on Palm Beach and that you can talk long walks on the beach. Of course, I’ll have to mention the always-talked-about palapa situation. Yes, it was difficult getting a palapa and many people would reserve them with their things the night before or early morning and then never used them until noon or early afternoon. It’s a bit annoying, but you’re on vacation, so it’s not worth stressing over. Many pool chairs were also snatched up early.
RESTAURANTS: We were pleasantly surprised at how good the buffet was for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There were many great, fresh options. The specialty restaurants were just okay, but we liked the Italian restaurant the best. Also, please note, they are serious with their “pants policy.” One guy in our group tried to get into Krystal while wearing a nice pair of shorts and the host wouldn’t let him in. As for off-site restaurants, my husband and I went to Madame Janette for dinner. We’ve been there before and had another great experience. The place was very busy, so service was a little slow, but overall, we loved it. Another couple from our group went there a different night and loved it. Some of us also went to Senor Frogs for lunch, which was a bad experience. The service was awful and the drinks were watered-down. Other good restaurants our group visited as couples or smaller groups were Salt and Pepper, El Gaucho, and the Flying Fishbone.
EXCURSIONS/ACTIVITIES: Many of use rented jeeps from Top Drive at the hotel and toured the island. We did the typical sights – lighthouse, natural bridge ruins, chapel, etc. We had a great time. We also took on Big Mable by the hotel. It was definitely worth the $20 a person. We had a blast and all laughed the entire time we were being tossed around!
The night of mine and my husband’s fifth wedding anniversary was our favorite activity. Get your minds out of the gutter… we took our group on a sunset sail with The Tranquilo. Our group knew we were doing an activity that night, but had no details. That afternoon, we all met in the lobby and simply had them follow us to the bus stop. We took the bus to the downtown area and first had a drink at the outside bar at the bus stop. We then walked over to The Paddock, on the water, for more drinks. Our group then thought we had arranged a bar crawl. After a few rounds of drinks and a lot of laughter, we took everyone to the dock to pick up our boat. The crew was very nice and kept us thoroughly hydrated (lol), we had a great sail, and saw a beautiful sunset. I would recommend The Tranquilo.
One thing I will mention is the insanity at the Aruba airport on our way home that Saturday. I don’t remember it being so hectic the last times we flew out of Aruba, but maybe we didn’t fly home on a Saturday. If you are flying home on a Saturday, you may want to rethink your day. It took us 2 ½ hours to get through the airport. Some of our friends who flew home the next day had no issues.
Overall, we had a great time in Aruba. I know many (and I agree with them) prefer non all-inclusives over the all-inclusives in Aruba; however, if you do go the AI route, I would recommend the Riu.
Now, onto planning our 10 year anniversary group trip…