This past October, my boyfriend, Johnny and I had a little staycation at the Inn at Whitewing Farm, and while we were there we did a little scheming… for most of the spring and summer Johnny had been traveling each week for work in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (see my highlight of our my trip to visit him there here) and had racked up quite a few Starwood Preferred Guest and Delta points.
On our staycation at Whitewing, he was explaining to me just how many points he had accumulated (a lot) and how he wanted to use them all up before they expired. Which, I in turn took as my signal to plan an entire trip to Aruba. 😉 Kidding, kidding (slightly). We ended up researching which hotels in the world were considered the “best” to use your SPG points on, and all of Delta’s direct flights to somewhere warm. That’s how we ended up with deciding to flight directly to Aruba on Delta and stay at the Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino! They were also doing a special where you received the fifth night free, which was a major perk.
After our trip there, I would recommend going to Aruba, as opposed to any other Caribbean island, if you’re looking for guaranteed gorgeous weather (it’s a desert island that experiences VERY little rain) and the happiest, friendliest people around.
Where We Stayed
Now, after our stay there, we honestly couldn’t recommend the Marriott Stellaris more. You can see more profesh images of it here. It seemed to be the nicest of the Marriott resorts on the island (they all sit in a row on the beach) and was extremely clean with wonderful service!
What we especially loved about the resort was the cleanliness, the service, and all that they had going on at the resort. It’s located on Palm Beach, which is a public beach where all of the major resorts are located on the island, so there is definitely a LOT of activity going on at all times. The ocean is ideal for water sports, swimming, and floating, and there are a ton of lounge chairs and palapas (that you have to reserve at the hut on the beach the day before you want one). It was the perfect combination of an elevated resort, but with lots to do, for us!
We also explored the Ritz Carlton, which is right next to the Marriott and the last resort along Palm Beach, and although it was gorgeous, it was much quieter than the Marriott Stellaris. Johnny and I really enjoyed having a live band play at the pool every day at the Marriott and all of the activity and liveliness that came with the resort. I would recommend the Marriott Stellaris if you’re in your 20s or have kids, and the Ritz if you want a more relaxed, honeymoon type of feel!
We opted to stay in the Tradewinds Club of the Marriott Stellaris, which is their club level. It was SUCH a good decision for us. All of the Tradewinds rooms are on the top floor (the eighth) of the resort, so they’re the highest up and have the best views. We stayed in the “Tradewinds Ocean View Guest Room.” You receive a card that gives you access to the Tradewinds lounge, which is a room on the first floor that has its own concierge, many tables, and a nice lounge area with TVs. This room serves food throughout the day, so we ate breakfast, lunch, and snacks in there every day of our stay. It was all included with our package so we didn’t have to pay outright each time we ate, which made it feel like an all-inclusive experience. They had beer available all day, and wine on tap (!!) so we ended up buying the expensive cocktails from the pool bar only a handful of times. They also had a chilled bottle of champagne ready and available every time you walked in, so you could help yourself to a glass as you pleased (#thedream). From 6-9 every night they had a serve-yourself open bar as well, stocked with almost any alcohol you could want and more options for wine and beer. So Johnny would usually go down and make a cocktail for himself and bring me up a Pino Grigio while I was getting ready for dinner! Being on the Tradewinds level made our stay so much more relaxing and we know that it ended up saving us money in the long run.
What We Did
When planning this trip, I booked one “activity” every day, along with one dinner reservation. That way, we always had at least one formal activity to do and one option for a dinner spot. It took some of the pressure off of deciding what to do while we were there, but didn’t feel like we were booked too much and still had a lot of time to relax and rest.
Kini Kini ATV Tour— On the morning of our fist full day we did the four hour Kini Kini Tours ATV tour. Let me tell you— they are the friendliest, most awesome tour group and this was the BEST way to get a tour of the island and learn about it. I’m a sucker for tours, whereas Johnny tends to roll his eyes at them, so this was the perfect compromise. He drove the ATV and I sat in the back, which was comfortable for the most part, until we were off-roading in the desert and I was clinging on for dear life ha! I probably would have done a UTV tour with Kini Kini Tours if I had gone with my family (which is like an ATV but with actual seats and a roof), but the ATV option was so perfect for Johnny and me. We had the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guides, who toured us around and taught us about three different stops, that need up with a dip in a natural pool alongside the beach. So. Cool. It was so out of my comfort zone but we loved every second!
Sailaway Tours Snorkel Excursion— We did a lot of research on which snorkel excursion we wanted to take, and were SO happy that we landed on Sailaway Tour’s “Morning Sail and Snorkel.” You met before the cruise on Moomba Beach and they took you on a little dinghy out to a giant sailboat. On the boat you were greeted by the captain, crew, snorkel gear, and an open bar. Heaven. There were only about ten people on our excursion, which was intimate and perfect for us. We saw other snorkel boats, of a similar size, out on the water that day as well and they at at least 50 people on their boat– which looked cramped! The boat sailed and anchored at three different snorkel spots throughout the morning– including the largest shipwreck in the Caribbean. They also showed us how to swing off the boat via a rope swing (in true pirate form ;)). The trip ended with a fresh lunch of fish, chicken, salad, and more rum punches. It was a MAJOR highlight of our trip and comes highly recommended by me (for the sunbathing in the net on the front of the ship) and by Johnny (for the snorkel opportunities).
Snorkeling— Johnny absolutely loves to snorkel, like it’s one of his favorite things to do just about ever. In fact, he would actually be scuba diving if it was up to him, but it didn’t work out with our flight schedule so we opted to snorkel a bunch instead. On one afternoon we took a taxi from our resort to Catalina Cove, where Johnny was able to snorkel and I sat under one of the palapas that are there and edit photos (my happy place 🙂 ). It was about a five minute cab ride from the resort. Make sure you always have cash on you as well for the taxis. We had to get cash out once at the casino at the resort.
Massages— Johnny and I got massages at the Mandara Spa, which was at the Marriott Surf Club, located right next to the Marriott Stellaris. It was a beautiful spa, equip with a sauna, showers, lounge room, etc. We loved our massages so much and would definitely recommend the spa!
Eagle Beach— On our last morning on the island we still hadn’t made it to the famous Eagle Beach. It’s been rated one of the best beaches in the world and it lived up to the hype. It was truly one of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever been on (possibly second best to Trunk Bay on John’s Island which is my family’s favorite beach of all time). It’s a public beach, but not nearly as crowded as Palm Beach, with what seems like miles of shoreline along the calm, turquoise ocean. We had the most tranquil morning there (we were there and back to our resort by 9:30 am) and wish we had spent more time there. We also heard that Baby Beach was gorgeous and unspoiled, and that Renaissance Island was awesome too! I had always planned of going to Renaissance Island as well to see the wild flamingos that are there, but the day we were supposed to go was after my photoshoot with Steve Francees, and I was wiped and we just wanted to lay on the beach, so we never made it there! We’ll just have to go back in the future ;).
Where We Ate
We were blown away by how delicious all of the food was on the island! It was fresh, there was a ton of variety, and we didn’t find it to be too expensive (but then again we are used to New York pricing).
Room Service— On the first day there we were WIPED from traveling and just loaded up on snacks from Tradewinds and ended up going to sleep early. On our second to last night there we ordered room service and enjoyed a steak salad and chicken fingers (for me :)), which were delicious and just what we needed! We also ordered lunch from the beach one day and got a Caesar salad with grilled shrimp and a chicken quesadilla. Both of which were fresh and yummy.
Tradewinds— Like I mentioned above, we ate all of our breakfasts and most of our lunches at the Tradewinds club room. Their food was ok— the breakfast was the best, when they served things like eggs, pancakes, sausage, bacon, fresh fruit, fresh juice, etc., and their afternoon snacks were yummy too— with things like snack mix, mini tomato mozzarella sandwiches, and mini key lime tarts.
Faro Blanco Restaurant— Think Italy meets Aruba. This spot is located right next to the island’s lighthouse, which is a gorgeous sight in itself. The restaurant sits on top of a tall hill, so you can one of the best views of the sunset each evening. We had a 6:30 reservation so we could catch the sunset. It’s pretty good Italian food with better views. Get the gnocchi because they make it fresh!
Gianni’s Ristorante— This was my favorite meal of the trip. It’s a huge Italian restaurant located in the heart of a touristy part of town not far from our resort. I would never have thought to go there, but I had a few reliable sources tell me that I just HAD to try the pasta that they make in the parmesan cheese wheel. Sold. Johnny and I walked along the beach to the restaurant (it’s very walkable from the Marriott!), but then had to get a cab home because we were so. damn. stuffed. Such a fun family-oriented spot!!
Atardi— Okay, maybe THIS was actually my favorite meal of the trip!! It’s the Marriott Stellaris’s best restaurant and one that is known as being a top spot for “dining in the sand.” The dinner tables are literally in the sand, steps away from the ocean. There’s a little cubby where you put your shoes before you sit down. Barefoot dinner al fresco in the sand is my kind of happy place. We were completely spoiled by the sweet chef, Kelvyn, who we got to meet and was thrilled when we told him that we loved seafood. 🙂 We had crab salad, octopus, grilled shrimp, halibut, blackened mahi mahi, peanut ice cream over a molten lava cake, and matcha ice cream over a sugar matcha cookie. I know I’m probably describing all of that wrong and not doing it justice at ALL (I’m not a foodie!), but I’m telling you it was divine. It’s a quintessential Aruba spot and a can’t-miss dinner restaurant if you’re on the island. The sunset turns to stars and it’s an absolute dream!
Moomba Beach— I got SO many recommendations to go to the Moomba Beach restaurant/bar. We really should have gone at night for drinks, but we spontaneously went one day for lunch and didn’t regret it in the slightest. I would say it’s one of the least expensive places to eat, but just as delicious as everywhere else. Johnny got a grilled fish sandwich and I got the tuna poke bowel and both were great. We got painkiller cocktails as well, which you know is my favorite tropical cocktail, so that made my DAY. They do a fun moonlight party on Sunday evenings as well, just as an FYI 😉
The Lobby— We had fancy cocktails at The Lobby, which is the bar in the Marriott Stellaris’s lobby. It’s one of their more elevated restaurants that has a sushi menu (we heard the sushi was the best on the island) and a fun cocktail menu. We got cocktails one evening after dinner and listened to the live performer they had, who was a phenomenal singer!
At the end we were sunkissed, refreshed, and left with full, happy hearts (and bellies, omg!). It was the perfect escape for us, and one that we will always hold close!
p.s. you can find everything I packed/wore on the trip in my “Aruba Packing List” post! xx