Continuing our stay at the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba, see the previous post here.
One drawback that we heard in advance was that it was a family style resort. While we travel with our daughter (16 months old) she would not be of an age to take advantage of the kid friendly activities, and we were worried we would have the worst of both worlds – unruly children everywhere with no sanctuary for adults and a child too young to participate.
We were wrong and there is a very smart reason why this happens. I met with Eva (Public Relations for the property), Christopher (Activities Director) and Shirley (Sales Director) to ask some questions about the property since I am new to the brand. Eva had come up with a concept of zones and while we hadn’t noticed it, they had worked in our favor and for the other guests on the property.
The hotel facilities and activities are divided into three zones: Relaxation, Family and Kids.
Without knowing it, our end of the hotel was in the relaxation zone. There was a spa nearby for massages and manicures, a large pool that was not specifically for children (but did not exclude them) and cabanas that could be reserved in advance. This created a luxurious and relaxing feel like you would find at a pool you would pay to get into in Vegas. What we found as well is that because the area was not marketed for families, you didn’t have kids doing cannonballs, you had people lounging around reading books and magazine and ordering cocktails from the staff. We also appreciated that we were not excluded from this area because our daughter is too young to really cause trouble in the pool, but it’s a place we prefer to spend our time. It’s the best of both worlds for us.
This was also the part of the resort where the upscale, beachside restaurant was located that provided some sports on TV, romantic meals and premium drinks.
There was an area perfect for families in the middle of the resort away from all of the hotel rooms. On one side was a beautiful waterfall and the other was a small wading pool that got progressively deeper. There was also a kids and family geared pool as well that was in the same area. There was a bar and restaurant for the adults that was well appointed and appropriate for a meal (or snack) as well as a beer. There were kids menus available but few kids in the area.
The Kids Zone is home to their Kids Club which is as much for the kids as it is for the parents. For ages 4-11 kids can be dropped off during the day, and interact with other kids and trained adults while the parents enjoy themselves at the pool, beach or shopping. But this isn’t the same as dropping them off at a babysitter. The Kids Club staff are trained in CPR (in fact every employee all the way up to the General Manager carriers the certification) and host a variety of games and activities that are anything but sitting in front of the TV. They are both in and out of water activities and after the adults pick up their kids and go to dinner, they get most of their evenings to themselves and the ones I saw were run ragged from playing outside all day.
It’s like sending your kids to camp for the day, but without the homesickness, and the cost – it’s included with your room at no additional charge.
Ideal for Couples
Having the Kids Zone and Kids Club is perfect for couples who want a romantic getaway though as well. How so? It moves the kids and families into two areas and leaves one naturally where adults can order alcoholic beverages, or just soak in the sun with peace and quiet.
That’s different from other hotels. If you are in a regular hotel and you want to go from an early morning swim to work out and do laps, the only way you can control your environment is to go in the early hours of the morning before kids have been able to drag their weary parents down to the pool.
You could also go to an adults-only property, but they tend to be significantly more expensive and often force all-inclusive. If you are redeeming miles or points you will have a hard time finding a property where this is possible. While the Ritz-Carlton tends to be an adults-only line, it does not exclude families and children, nor does the Radisson down the beach, or the Hyatt in between. In fact the Hyatt did not have the same level of separation and thus could have been less appealing to couples on a romantic getaway, which would counter my normal assumption.
All beaches are public spaces in Aruba and anyone can sit on them, however, some property might be owned by the hotel. For example, there are beach Palapas (grass covered huts with space for chairs, a table and shade) and these are held back for Platinum members but released if not claimed daily by 10AM. We found that the Palapas were in high demand everywhere on the island so if you book a trip to this property (and I recommend you do).
The Sherpstress says she wasn’t surprised when her best friend appeared, but I think the evidence speaks for itself.
There are vendors on the beach that are not affiliated with the hotel that offer all kinds of recreational activities for purchase, and they seemed to be fairly reasonable in price. There was a speed boat that would drag you in an inflatable chair along with three of your friends skipping over the wake. There were also jetskis, parasailing, and even the water-jet shoes that allow you to propel out of the water.
The water was calm, clear and then blue as you look out towards the horizon. It was appropriate for bad swimmers, children and those too lazy to fight waves. Though we have only been to a few Caribbean countries, this was the most still and beautiful water we have seen.