I had pictured a different arrival into Aruba. I envisioned looking out of the airplane’s window to miles of ubiquitous ocean spanning below me before a mere 70-mile strip of land would appear glowing from the sun. But after departing from South Florida in the late afternoon, a dark sky welcomed me instead.
There were no obvious signs I landed somewhere foreign—that was until I began to encounter the locals. My driver, Kevin, gave me a quick tour of the island and a brief language lesson (the natives speak Papiamento) before dropping me off at my “home” for the next three days—the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino. From there, the hotel attendant showed me to my room and chatted with me about what was in store. Before he left me to explore, he offered an important tip: apply sunscreen—often. Sure, South Florida is hot, but nothing beats the island’s sweltering sun.
I stood on the balcony of my master suite the next morning, taking in a breath of freshness and looking out to the long stretch of turquoise waters meeting the white-sand beaches. It was then that I caught my first glimpse of the island in daylight and thought, “Now this is paradise.” Palm trees swayed in the wind and Zen music played over loudspeakers where guests were practicing yoga by the pool. I couldn’t wait to start the “Beach, Body and Mind” package, which focuses on wellness, health and active experiences.
Aruba calls itself “One Happy Island,” and in less than a day of being on land, I understood why. Arubans live in a world of simplicity and quality—and they never skimp out on the fun.
I began my first day enjoying a relaxing massage with tranquility oils at the Mandara Spa. Post spa treatment, my skin was radiant—and it was only 11 a.m. We then met with Aruba Marriott’s complex executive sous chef Miguel Garcia who taught us how to make delicious snapper and salmon served atop a quinoa salad during a private cooking lesson. The meal was followed by a dessert of fresh kiwi gelato, white chocolate mousse, gluten-free pecan ice cream, strawberries and white chocolate flowers.
Every detail at each of the Aruba Marriott’s eateries guarantees freshness and mindful eating. Guests who plan a trip are able to work with the staff before their arrival to create a personalized menu for their dietary restrictions or gluten allergies.
Relaxation is done at the resort with a private H2Oasis adult pool separate from the larger resort pool. Plus, there’s a hammock garden in the “Happy Zone.” But it’s also necessary to incorporate a little outdoor adventure. Activities range from kayaking and sailing to snorkeling and surfing. I played beach tennis (imagine a sandy court with massive pingpong paddles and a barrier similar to a volleyball net) with the island professionals just steps away from the hotel before digging into a huge acai bowl by the beach.
Next it was time to hit the Caribbean Sea for a SUP (stand up paddleboarding) yoga class. It took a certain skill to balance on a floating board with enough strength to paddle through the water and a whole other mindset to stand up and become a yogi. I couldn’t master my warrior one position, but there was nothing quite like practicing yoga in such a pure setting. Ending in savasana with the sun setting on the horizon and the water rocking below my board became the ultimate calming experience delivering that mind, body and soul promise.
During the last night, complex executive chef Romeo Penacino and the Marriott’s team hosted us for a private farewell dinner by the ocean. We indulged on delicious Octopus Anticucho, scallops and roasted lamb, and ended on a sweet note with a truly Aruban dessert—Tantalaria de Pinda (peanut butter cookies, dulce de leche and chocolate sauce with berries and mint).
When my alarm went off on the last day of the trip, I looked out at the same view I found during the first morning. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and understood that true feeling of serenity. This is Aruba. You feel it in the air and all around you. Happiness isn’t just an emotion—it’s a way of life on the island, and the Aruba Marriott does it oh so well.
Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino; L.G. Smith Blvd., Palm Beach, Aruba / 297.5.869000 / arubamarriott.com