I wanted dedicate this post specifically to the Renaissance Island that is a perk of staying at the Marina hotel and/or the Ocean Suites. Both of these are Renaissance Hotels. The Marina Hotel is Adults only and the Ocean hotel is family friendly. We stayed at the Marina Hotel – the room was small – but we really just used it to change – shower and sleep. The two nights we stayed were comfortable and quiet. It was well worth the cost of the room to have access to the the private island. If locals, cruise guests visiting Oranjestad or even locals want to visit the island there is a $100 per person charge for a day pass.
We had heard that the boat picks guests up at the Marina hotel on the lower lobby level, but when we actually saw the boat heading in to the hotel it was quite thrilling to watch. The boat captains are quite skilled in bringing the boat up to the dock that sits just below the Starbucks terrace.
They then start loading the passengers after each person slides their own room key in to the electronic reader and confirm that they are an actual hotel guest. If there are 2 guests in a room than each person must have a key to present to the captain. After all have boarded (usually 4-10 people per pick up) the boat does a 180 degree turn in a very small space and heads back out the channel and into the open harbor. The captain did say that there are times they can not come in to the lobby if low water conditions prevent it. When this happens there is a public dock where guests are picked up just across the street from the hotel. After a stop repeating the check in process at a dock for the Ocean suites guests the boat heads out for the 10 min ride over to the island.
Upon arrival the boat pulls up to a dock at the center of the island. There is usually a greeter that explains the layout of the island, where to rent floats and check out towels, and the logistics around the separate family and adult sides to the island. The adult side is where there are a group of pink flamingos that roam freely. On the family side there are a few varieties of Iguana roaming around. One of them is unique to Aruba and is colored a beautiful Caribbean blue, and beautiful sight.
We decided to go to the adult side on our afternoon visit, and on our trip back the next day we started out on the family side by having breakfast in the restaurant. The breakfast was one of our favorite meals. It is about $20-$25 per person, but includes a full fruit plate, basket of assorted island breads, croissants and pastry and the entrée you chose – Omelet, Eggs, waffles, bacon, sausage etc. And your choice of juice and coffee or tea. It is an unhurried and not crowded setting. We watched the beach wake up a little more at fifteen minute intervals, about the amount of time it took for the boats to ferry the next group of guests.
There are an ample amount of chairs, tables and umbrellas to choose from. In addition there are double lounging beds and other places to relax in the sun or the shade. Both beaches have breakwaters that have been created with boulders and large rocks. This keeps the water calm, but still provides the sound of the waves as they hit the rocks in the distance. These “lagoons” are peaceful places to swim, or rent one of the floats ($6 for the day) and just stay cool while floating along without a care.
Both sides of the island were unique and offered many parts to explore and delightful creatures to photograph. The family side has the restaurant, a larger beach with shade from palms as well as chairs with umbrellas, there is a park for children, a small health club set back beyond the restaurant with 2 -4 pieces of cardio equipment (stationary bikes, elliptical and treadmills) as well as a few weights. There is also 2 sand tennis courts behind the building. If you are an aviation geek, the afternoons get busy with planes landing and taking off. The airport is directly across and behind the island – so it can be a little bit loud once they start taking off. It is not constant but about every 15 minutes or so you will see one land and then one will take off.
The adult side has a smaller beach and lots of shaded lounging areas. There are some women that are comfortable lounging without their tops, but it is done in a discreet way and unless one is looking for it you may not even notice. There is also a nature walk beyond the adult beach. There are many birds, some iguanas and lizards and lots of mosquitos. So if you are planning on walking this than bring some bug spray for added protection.
Both sides had very nice cabana huts that could be rented for the day. We did not rent one this trip, but it could be well worth it. Some had over the water hammocks, or swinging chairs and one even had a slide that went out from the deck and in to the water. There were staff dedicated to the cabanas and all had ample shade and enough lounge chairs and seating areas to get very comfy and relaxed.
One hint to experience it would be – book the hotel for a one night stay (one guest mentioned that they were able to get a last minute rate of $150 per night) – Arrive early on day one and even if your room is not ready you can store your bags with the bellman, change in to your beach wear and hop on the boat that arrives in the lower level of the hotel lobby and out to the island for the afternoon. Returning to your room to clean up – have a wonderful dinner at one of the downtown restaurants and head back out for the day the next morning for a quiet, restful and amazing breakfast.. Even if you need to check out at noon the bell man will hold your bags and there are showers on the island that can be used before departing on the boat back to the hotel to gather your bags