Updated: Jul 13
I admit - the beautiful images of wild flamingos on a tropical island are really what sold me on going to Aruba. It's a hard scene to beat. Since we've gone to the beloved private island and stayed a week at the resort, I thought I'd write about our experience there; what we loved and what we could do without.
(Our go-to's for vacation bookings are booking.com, Kayak, Expedia, Priceline, or Travelocity. I'm a bargain shopper always so check them all and find the best deal for you. We booked this vacation package through CheapCaribbean.com )
First - we chose to do the all-inclusive package. I wasn't sure how easy Aruba would be to navigate and find food and drinks on our own, so it seemed to be a less stressful option on our first visit. It turns out, Aruba is very easy to navigate and if you are up for exploring frequently, I'd probably recommend ditching the all-inclusive option. The food at the resort was pretty good, but nothing extraordinary. LG Smith's steak house at the Renaissance Resort was by far the best of the dining options. We ate there three times for dinner. The food was always delicious and the service was impeccable. The other dining choices (Aquarius, the lobby bar, and Papagayo) were decent. I think our main complaint about the all-inclusive meal plan was the drinks. We love to enjoy a tropical drink while lounging next to crystal clear water - who doesn't?! But we noticed about mid-week that the drinks were extremely weak. They were tasty but definitely watered down.
Second - the staff. Oh my goodness, were we impressed! The people of Aruba are lovely. The staff at Renaissance was superb. I'm not sure I've ever been so impressed by staff during any vacation. There was not a single need of ours that wasn't met and met quickly. One evening around 5pm, there was an island-wide power outage that lasted for 5.5 hours. That meant no air conditioning in July and no power to make food. Anywhere. The staff at Renaissance worked so hard to make sure the guests had something to eat that evening. I'm not sure how they did it, but wow.
Third - the private island. I was a bit skeptical whether the price of the resort and the all-inclusive package would be worth the hype of the famous flamingo beach. It was the most beautiful place I've ever been, extremely clean, two bars, a restaurant, water sport rentals, you name it. I absolutely think it is worth the price to have the experience. Since we stayed at Renaissance, we had access to the private island any time we wanted. The boat at the resort runs every 15 minutes and takes you on a short 8-minute boat ride from the lobby to the island. We went three separate times and enjoyed it just as much each time. My only complaint, if I had to come up with one, is that it is a little tourist-y and FULL of Instagram models. The beach and flamingos can be crowded with incessant picture taking and posing but other than that, it's a serene relaxing environment. Sometimes it was nearly impossible to find a spot in the shade too. There are private cabanas, but they must be reserved well in advance and come with a steep price tag. If you choose to do some resort hopping while in Aruba, make sure you stay at least a night at the Renaissance to get access to the island. It's a can't miss experience.
Lastly - the resort itself. The resort was extremely clean and beautiful. We did find it a bit confusing though. The resort was spread out throughout downtown Oranjestad. We stayed on the marina adult only side. There was club music playing by the pool, and loudly, most of the day. It didn't bother us at all, but the environment was a little different than what I was expecting. The ocean suites for families were located across the road and behind a shopping square. We would have liked a little more of an introduction to the layout of the resort upon arrival, but we figured it out eventually. If you rent a car, there is a free parking lot just a short walk from the hotel lobby. We used this lot daily and never had trouble getting a spot.
Overall, would I go back to the Renaissance? YES! We had a fantastic, relaxing, enjoyable, and memorable time there. I wouldn't hesitate to go visit our flamingo friends again in the future.