Aruba Marriott Resort - L.G. Smith Blvd. 101, Palm Beach, Aruba – 800/223-6388.
This is located 7 miles southeast of the Queen Beatrix Airport and is about a $20 cab ride. It is much nicer then most people give it credit for – it is usually the second choice for people traveling here, second only to the Hyatt (although I can’t figure out why). Featuring over 400 rooms, 20 suites, 4 restaurants, 2 tennis courts, an 18-hole championship golf course, spa, salon, health club, dive shop, casino, and so much more, this is the place to stay while in Aruba. With an ideal beachfront location, but towards the end of the hotel "strip," this hotel offers immaculate surroundings and more privacy than any of the other resorts around. In fact, it is so far along the strip that cruise people (people who sail into Aruba on a cruise and have no business being at your hotel’s pool or beach) take cabs to the Hyatt to spend the day there – not the Marriott. It is also important to mention that the pristine, white beach is wider then the rest of the other hotels because of the location.
An eight-story, u-shaped building that is set next to Marriott’s huge timeshare property, the Surf & Ocean Club, has tons of palm trees, a waterfall, swim-up pool bars, and iguanas walking around like they are a guest’s pet. Of the four restaurants, there is the island’s best Italian one – Tuscany. The lobby has lots of trees, a mini "bridge" over a small pond, shops, and several large seating areas. There is a bar in the lobby done in all wood that almost looks like a large gazebo. The lobby was packed from morning until night during our entire trip. I’m sure some of that had to do with the fact that the casino is right off the lobby. The casino consists of mostly slot machines with a few card tables mixed in. It is always packed and convenient if you are staying in the hotel and want to gamble.
The Marriott has the most spacious rooms in all of Aruba, with huge bathrooms and 100-square-foot balconies. Rooms include all standard amenities, like a hair dryer, iron, coffeemaker, safes, and minibar, and they also offer bathrobes, a separate tub and shower, double sinks, and satellite television. Housekeeping was excellent, with unsolicited turn-down service, and all rooms had Internet access.
The spa was my only complaint with this hotel. They screwed up my reservation, and when I didn’t show for the wrong time, they charged me. When I went in for the time I booked, not only did they start a fight about it and refuse to try and accommodate me at that point or for another day, but they still refused to refund that charge. After a lengthy argument with the hotel’s general manager, the charge was refunded, but come on… for $100. Needless to say, I never went back for a massage, but I can say the staff was not very competent.
If you choose to take the Surf & Ocean Club’s timeshare tour, the Marriott will offer you $100 in gift certificates. These certificates can be used at almost every restaurant on the island, as well as towards any Marriott Hotel activity. The presentation included juices and pastries and only lasted 1 hour. Out of all of the timeshare presentations we have done, this "prize" was definitely the most flexible and the presentation was the easiest to get out of quickly.
The concierge was always busy but managed to be helpful and took care of all of our reservations for us. The pool area was spacious and filled with palm trees, bananas trees, (huge) iguanas, and a very friendly staff. Spots in the sun were obviously taken early in the day, so I would head out first thing to get yourself a good seat. We would go there before breakfast and drop our stuff (which I know is annoying, but if everyone else is doing it…).
If you are interested in a beach hut, it’s first come, first serve for free, or you can reserve in advance for a full day charge of $15. The hotel splits the huts in half (half for prepaying guests and half for people looking to get them free), and I can tell you that all of the free huts are gone by 7:35am (the desk opens at 7:30am). So if your idea of a fun day is sitting on the beach, you might consider booking in advance and taking your time to get there. There is an activities desk on the beach, and they offer every possible water sport you could look for. I would also like to mention that, unlike most other Caribbean and Mexican destinations, there are no vendors on this beach, so you can relax in peace.
The breakfast buffet at La Vista restaurant was $17 a person; of course everyone but us had the meal plan where breakfast was included. I will say that the buffet was extensive, and the restaurant had nice indoor ocean views. To me, $17 is a lot for breakfast but often we weren’t hungry come lunchtime. Plus, I find it interesting that we just came back from Cabo, where the breakfast was almost $30 a person!!!! There is a beach bar just past the pool that serves a nice lunch (average resort prices) with a fun crowd. At night that area turns into a romantic restaurant with live music – definitely a must-stop if for nothing else than a drink. This is highly recommended.