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The ahhhh starts the minute you walk into the open-air lobby of the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino. The warm Caribbean breeze blows your hair gently as you approach the friendly check-in clerks. And it just keeps getting better as you move through the days.
Whether you’re visiting Aruba on a workcation and spending your getaway at one of the “power palapas” on the beach (more on that in a minute) or you’re all about the vacation, the Hilton Aruba aims to please.
After all, this charming property was the first hotel built on Aruba’s beautiful Palm Beach. That means the hotel, opened in 1959, has the largest beachfront, the most palapas and a staff that works to make this “one happy hotel” on the Caribbean’s “one happy island.”
This AAA Four-Diamond Aruba resort sits on 15 acres among several of the all-inclusive resorts that line Aruba’s popular Palm Beach area. But it is not an all-inclusive. Rather, it is a luxury resort with dining and entertainment options.
Even better, it sits across the street from a dining and entertainment area with several restaurant and food truck options and live music. I highly recommend Gianni’s Italian restaurant directly across the street.
When I visited in early November 2022, the hotel was 90 percent full, but I would have sworn it was 90 percent empty. There were no lines – not at check-in, not at the restaurants, not on the beach. And there was always a smiling, attentive staff member ready to help me with whatever I needed.
The Guest Rooms
I stayed on the sixth floor of the Aruba Tower. The rooms there are large, the bathrooms are recently remodeled and the balconies offer a feeling of privacy as you wait for another breathtaking Aruban sunset.
My room had plenty of closet and drawer space, a comfy king bed with a puffy duvet, a minifridge, iron and hairdryer, desk and 50-inch TV.
Despite my location looking out over the Mira Solo Bar, where a singer crooned nightly, closing my sliding balcony doors muted the sound enough that it was easy to sleep. (If you’re a light sleeper, you can be comforted to know that the music ends at 10pm.)
Weirdly, the outlet in the space where the coffee maker was kept could not accommodate the three-pronged coffee pot plug. So I had to carry it into the bathroom to heat the water for my tea each morning. Hardly an onerous task, but it seemed odd that they didn’t upgrade the outlet. (Leave your power adapter at home; the outlets fit American plugs.)
There are 357 guest rooms and suites. On the eighth floor of the Aruba Tower is the Palm Beach Club. It operates like a concierge floor with a private lounge and additional exclusive amenities.
The Curacao Tower rooms are slightly smaller.
A penthouse suite with three bedrooms and bathrooms and a large rooftop patio with panoramic views of the island and Caribbean Sea takes up the entire top floor of the Aruba Tower.
The hotel designer did a superb job of staggering the balconies in a way that offers a real sense of privacy. And the hotel is set on the property in a way that gives most guests at least a partial ocean view, although the lower floors get a “garden view” thanks to the lush tropical landscaping on site.
If you want to see the sea, choose a higher floor. My sixth-floor balcony gave me a front-row seat to the gorgeous sunset each night.
Hilton Aruba Amenities
The beach is the true star of this show. It’s clean, safe and the widest and longest beach section of Palm Beach. The sand is soft and the staff works hard to keep the beach clean and the sand groomed.
The hotel has two large zero-entry swimming pools, daily organized activities such as yoga on the beach and water aerobics, bikes that can be borrowed for free and a wide range of watersports options, from parasailing to scuba diving, snorkeling to jet skis. The hotel gift shop also sells some really cool oversized floats for chilling on the sea.
The shop onsite sells bathing suits, souvenirs, toiletries, sunhats and sunscreen. Considering that everything is imported to the island, I was pleasantly surprised that, while the prices are not cheap, they are not resort-outrageous either.
If you’re visiting with kids, know that the kids club closed during the pandemic and has not reopened. However, the hotel offers babysitting services.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Bring flip flops or water shoes. The pool deck gets very warm in the sunshine.
Around the pool, there are the typical canvas cabanas you can find at most high-end resorts. But on the beach, they are thatched-roof umbrellas big enough to shade two beach lounge chairs and let you get out of the intense Aruban sun.
When the pandemic resulted in workcations for people lucky enough to have jobs they could do from anywhere, the Hilton jumped on the trend and installed power outlets in the beach palapas. The power palapas come with an ice bucket filled with snacks and chilled bottled water. There also are computer cooling pads available.
I settled into my lounge chair, plugged in my computer and logged onto the hotel’s free wifi, only to find that the internet access on the beach was not strong enough to speed my way online. One day, I used my phone’s hotspot, which worked just fine (there is terrific Verizon reception all over the island). The next, I noticed another wifi service pop up and I logged on. I figured I wasn’t doing my banking or anything sensitive, so I was safe enough. That wifi was plenty strong.
The palapas rent by the day. I recommend reserving them in advance if you simply must have access to an outlet while you’re drying off from a dip in the clear, blue Caribbean Sea.
Dining at the Hilton Aruba
There are three onsite restaurants and room service is available. Note that your bill will include a “service charge.” That is shared among all of the staff. If you are so inclined, you can add a tip to the bill; that money will go directly to your server.
This is the breakfast spot. You can order from the menu or graze along the buffet. I chose the buffet, which is chock full of fresh fruit, breads, eggs, waffles, pancakes, oatmeal, juices and more. There’s also a made-to-order omelet station where I ordered scrambled eggs with ham, spinach and onions.
Breakfast includes endless mimosas, a real vacation treat.
Gilligan’s Seafood Shack
This is the lunch spot. You can sit on the open air patio and look out over the palapas to the clear Caribbean water. Or you can find a spot on the beach and order your lunch delivered to your lounge chair by one of the roving waiters.
I ate there daily and highly recommend the grouper tacos and the poke bowls.
The local specialty is johnnycakes and pork belly, yuca fries and barbecue sauce. The yuca root is cut and boiled so it’s fully cooked when it’s flash fried. The fried coating is very light and the texture is very dense.
The barbecued pork is tangy and tasty. The fresh-made cornmeal johnnycakes are the bun. They add a touch of sweetness to the sandwich.
It’s very filling. My lunch came with two barbecue beef sandwiches on johnnycakes and a pile of yuca fries. I was able to eat about half.
This fine dining establishment is the place for a lovely dinner. Famous for its steaks, the restaurant also offers a daily catch provided by one of the waiters who operates two fishing boats as a side hustle.
I ordered the surf and turf filet with lobster. It was delectable. My dining partners who ordered the sea bass raved about it.
Mira Solo Bar
This is the place for happy hour. Order and sip an Aruba original, the Aruba Ariba. The signature drink of the island, it was invented at the Hilton Aruba and is still served daily. I recommend ordering it at several bars up and down the street. I had three during my five-day stay on the island and each one tasted a little different.
The secret ingredient is an Aruban liquor called cacouie.
Tucked behind Gilligan’s, this is the bar that serves the pool and beachgoers. There’s a daily happy hour and a bar menu available for delivery to your lounge chair.
This lobby spot serves Lavazza coffee and espresso, and a variety of grab-and-go breakfast items, sandwiches, salads and ice cream.
Specialty Dinners on the Beach
For an extra special treat, book an exclusive dinner on the beach. The Sunset Concierge Private Dining Experience is a five-course sunset meal at a table set up on Palm Beach with a true front-row seat for the sunset.
The newest culinary adventure is the Pirate Dinner. Set up near Gilligan’s, the chef cooks a full meal with a stunning assortment of food over a grill while you sip wine from a pirate cup and chat around the pirate’s table. The meal included a wide assortment of vegetables, all grilled; the fresh pumpkin was a delicious first for me. There also was steak, seafood and chicken, all cooked perfectly and served by a waiter clad in pirate garb.
The eforea Spa
My idea of a great vacation almost always includes a great massage. This visit to the Hilton Aruba was no exception. My coconut oil massage was one of the best I’ve had.
There’s also a fitness center, sauna and steam room.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Ask for the stretchy robe. It’s softer and more comfortable. Even if you don’t need the extra bigger size, no one wants to be uncomfortable in a spa robe.
The hotel also features a 16,000-square-foot casino. It’s a nighttime hotspot, but I did not have time to check it out. I’m not much of a gambler, so it wasn’t a big draw for me. Besides, smoking is allowed in designated areas in the casino.
The hotel is located at J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 81, Noord, Aruba. It’s a 15-minute drive from the airport. Transfers are available via taxis or the De Palm Tours buses. I took the air conditioned bus. It was quick and the service was courteous.
If you want to explore the island, you may want to rent a car. We didn’t. Instead, we walked to nearby restaurants and bars and took a Jeep tour of the Arikok National Park that picked us up at the hotel. On another day, we took taxis to the park for a ranger-led educational hike and arranged for a return pickup at a specified time. If you do rent a car, there’s free parking at the resort.
This is a Hilton resort property, so many of the guests book with reward points. But, the staff is quick to point out, paying has its rewards too. Paying to stay at the Hilton Aruba can mean earning double the reward points.
FAQs about Aruba
Is Aruba safe?
Yes. It is one of the safest Caribbean islands. I never felt unsafe, even walking alone well after dark.
Is it safe to drink the water in Aruba?
Yes! It’s safe and tastes good. There’s no need to buy bottled water or even drink the bottled water you’ll find in your room every day. Just bring a refillable water bottle and drink up!
The hotel offers ice and water machines on the hotel floors (although the water came out very warm). There’s also a chilled water station near the pools, across from the hut where you pick up your beach towels. It is one of the hotel’s eco-efforts, along with paper straws in the drinks. So bring your own refillable water bottle, or buy one in the gift shop.
How big is Aruba?
The island is approximately 20 miles long and six miles wide.
Do I need to rent a car to visit Aruba?
Only if you want to spend your days exploring the island. If you will spend most of your time at a resort, it’s easy to get transportation to and from the airport in the capital city, Oranjestad. And there are plenty of cabs as well as tour options to visit areas of the island such as Arikok National Park.
Is it easy to find someone who speaks English in Aruba?
Yes! Arubans are an impressively multi-lingual bunch. By the time they are 10, kids are expected to know four languages: English, Spanish, Dutch and the local language, Papiamento. (Aruba is a Dutch island.)
Do I need to change money to spend in Aruba?
Not if you bring American money. Arubans happily take US dollars, post prices in US dollars and even give change in USD.
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