Breezy Island Escape
Aruba, Boardwalk Small Hotel
Aruba is known for its wall of high-rise hotels (think Marriott) that line beautiful Palm Beach, just northwest of the capital city of Oranjestad. If you want hustle, bustle, casinos, and breakfast buffets, check right in. But if you want easy access to all the action while enjoying a more authentic Aruban experience, opt for the Boardwalk Small Hotel. Located just a four-minute walk from Palm Beach, this amazing, lush oasis on the grounds of a former coconut plantation offers 14 colorful casitas, all centered around a pretty little pool that’s open 24/7. “Many times I’ll walk by at night, and there will be a couple in the pool, enjoying themselves with a glass of wine,” says Kimberly Rooijakkers, one of the almost impossibly cute Belgian twin sisters who own the hotel. Each casita comes with a private porch, hammock, and a charcoal barbecue. The oversized honeymoon casita has a hidden patio and a double hammock.
It’s the personal touches that have helped the twins build a booming business. With 24-hours’ notice, a full breakfast, including fresh fruit smoothies and local treats (honeymooners get Champagne), will be delivered to your casita. Guests rave about the in-room “treasure boxes,” which are stuffed with tips and recommendations by locals for finding hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path activities. “The most romantic thing ever,” says Rooijakkers: “Rent a chef on a remote beach who will serve dinner to you.” The hotel is will undergo a major expansion beginning in May to add 30 new casitas on an adjacent plot. “But the feel and the vibe that we have,” says Rooijakkers, “is not going to change.”
This small Caribbean island is popular year-round due to its consistently good weather (82 degrees) and because it is well south of the hurricane belt. Still, the ever-present trade winds take a break in September and October; if you can stand the heat, you can nab a great hotel deal.
Aruba’s dining scene is diverse: You can chow down at steakhouses, a growing-number of toes-in-the-sand outlets, or at an American fast-food joint. For a romantic experience that includes an amazing sunset, sit on the panoramic porch overlooking a pretty lagoon at the slightly out-of-the-way Arubaville. The relaxed setting may call Jimmy Buffet to mind, but the seafood is seriously top-notch.
Walk hand-in-hand along the soft, white sand of the quiet, world-famous Eagle Beach at sunset. Take a selfie as you cuddle up into the curved trunk of the oft-photographed Divi-Divi tree. This symbol of the island stands only about a dozen feet tall and is permanently bent from the wind. Stick your feet in the sand and grab a locally brewed Balashi beer at the Moomba Beach Bar & Restaurant.
Take a jeep or ATV safari to the remote and rugged windward (eastern) side of the island. Enjoy the desert terrain in the Arikok National Park, which is populated with interesting cacti, caves, and wildlife. The dramatic coastline will leave you breathless, but the waters are too rocky for swimming. You may swim in the natural pool—a unique basin surrounded by stunning volcanic rocks.
Get a couples’ massage on the beach at the Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa—newlyweds can lie side-by-side in a rustic beachside cabana and listen to the breaking surf and the songs of exotic birds.
With the ever-present trade winds, wind- and kite-surfing are popular pastimes on the island. But if you’d like a calmer water-based activity, head to Boca Catalina, just south of the capital city. The calm, clear waters make it an ideal snorkeling spot, and, if you are lucky, you may spot a sea turtle.
Rates start at $210 a night. www.boardwalkaruba.com