Island time: Aruba


May 28, 2024

Beach view at Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa and Casino

White sand beaches, knockout sunsets and fabulous Caribbean-inspired fare await in Aruba, a 4-hour flight from Charlotte.

by Cathy Martin

July through August is considered a shoulder season in Aruba, when temps are slightly warmer and crowds thinner. And unlike most Caribbean destinations, Aruba sits outside the hurricane belt, meaning it’s less likely to experience severe summer storms.

At just 75 square miles, Aruba was economically reliant on a large oil refinery until the 1980s, when it became an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and pivoted to tourism as its main industry. Consequently, the island nation is a bit more developed than other tropical locales in terms of infrastructure and visitor amenities. Getting around is a cinch, all the beaches are public, and nearly everyone speaks English, along with Dutch and Papiamento, the Portuguese-based national language.   


Most hotels and resorts on Aruba are concentrated at Eagle Beach — where you’ll find the famously photographed Fofoti tree with its twisted trunk and slanted profile — and Palm Beach, where neat rows of palapas line the beaches and a paved linear footpath runs all the way to the north end of the island. 

At the center of Palm Beach’s hospitality district is the 359-room Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa & Casino, where a gentle sea breeze greets guests in the hotel’s open air lobby. With multiple pools and dining options, the hotel is ideal for families and multigenerational gatherings — in fact, many families return year after year, according to Avery Shipley, the hotel’s resort experience manager who’s worked there for 18 years. The recent addition of the adults-only Trankilo pool, with its private cabanas and ocean-facing infinity edge, an on-site casino, and the newly renovated ZoiA spa make it a nice fit for couples, as well.

Left photograph courtesy Aruba Tourism Authority. Top right: The Trankilo pool at Hyatt Regency Aruba. Lower left: Alta Vista Chapel, courtesy Aruba Tourism Authority.


Diving, snorkeling, sunset sails and more can be booked through Red Sail Sports, which has a convenient outpost at Hyatt Regency. The resort also offers morning fitness classes, including aerial yoga on the beach. The guided, gentle practice for all skill levels combines yoga with aerial arts.

To explore the island on your own, you can rent a car or jeep through Top Drive, which has an on-site location at the hotel. Cruise around Noord, the island’s northernmost region, and visit the California Lighthouse, named for a sunken steamship, for 360-degree views. Faro Blanco, an Italian restaurant next to the lighthouse, offers oceanside patio dining.  

Left: California Lighthouse, courtesy Aruba Tourism Authority. Right: Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa and Casino, courtesy Aruba Hyatt Regency.

Explore Arikok National Park, with its caves and craggy rock formations. Or head south to San Nicolas, a small town known for its colorful public art. Before the day heats up, go for a sunrise hike on the Alta Vista Trail. Arrive before dawn at Alta Vista Chapel, built in 1750 by a Spanish missionary and surrounded by a cacti forest. Along the trail, rolling desertlike terrain gives way to large boulders and the island’s rocky western coastline. It’s a stark contrast to the white sandy beaches on the eastern side of the island, and the sunrise view is breathtaking.

For shopping and some of Aruba’s top-rated restaurants, spend some time in Oranjestad, where rows of brightly colored historic buildings in the Dutch colonial style now mostly house luxury retailers catering to cruise passengers. The city sees one or two ships a day in high season; pay attention to the schedule to avoid large crowds if you’re heading into town.


At Azar, servers in panama hats dart between tables at this lively Palm Beach eatery, a sibling to the popular Lima Bistro in the capital of Oranjestad. Azar is known for open-fire cooking, but don’t skip the appetizers: The roasted feta with saffron peach jam and spicy za’atar is a must-order, along with the shrimp “al ajillo” with chilis and “burned” corn. Entrees range from grilled steaks and seafood to simpler items like the Azar burger with bacon jam and Cambozola cheese and a firewood rotisserie chicken.

For a casual meal in a waterfront, open-air setting, head to The West Deck in Oranjestad. Fresh seafood like coconut shrimp and pan-fried grouper are on the menu, along with keshi-yena — the national dish of shredded chicken, prunes, cashews and spices wrapped in Dutch Gouda with a garlic-basil sauce. Pair your meal with one of their generous margaritas or rum cocktails or a mango pale ale from the local Balashi Brewery.

Ruinas del Mar, tucked downstairs at the Hyatt Regency, offers a tranquil setting overlooking a giant koi pond with stellar cocktails and a seafood-focused menu with Caribbean and Mediterranean influences. The theme is a nod to the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins on Aruba’s north shore. Start with a house specialty Palomita — Casamigos tequila, Gran Marnier, fresh lime and grapefruit juices, agave, and red bell pepper — and the lobster bisque or burrata with avocado, caperberries and tomatoes. For entrees, try the Linguini Frutti Di Mare — large prawns, octopus, squid and scallops in a pomodoro sauce — or a miso-glazed Chilean sea bass with coconut basmati rice.

 Then, settle in for a nightcap at the resort’s Alfresco Bar as the sun sinks into the horizon.   

Getting there: 4-hour nonstop flight from CLT

Featured photograph courtesy Aruba Hyatt Regency

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