You will see “One Happy Island” on every car plate in Aruba, and it is true – it is definitely a very happy place for one to be in, especially if you are traveling from the cold northeast (i.e. team Nissik). This trip took place from Dec 23 to Dec 31, 2021, and offered a strong conclusion to another challenging year given the pandemic (and yes, I know we were lucky to be able to travel).
We split our stay between the Renaissance Wind Creek Resort and Bubali Bliss Studios, and were intrigued to explore more condo-style living arrangement in our future travels now that Nissik does not want to stay in a crib anymore and a two-bedroom setting might help us better.
We picked Renaissance because we wanted to hang out with the flamingos in the Renaissance private island that are accessible to the hotel guests by a convenient 5-min water taxi (or one could try to purchase a day-pass that from my research could be hard to secure during the peak season). Social media might give one the illusion that flamingos wander on the beaches everywhere in Aruba, but it is not true, and as far as my research went, the private island operated by Renaissance is the only place to see them. Since we were traveling with a toddler, Renaissance required us to stay on the family side of the resort in a suite. The room was standard sized (more on the smaller side) and they could barely fit the metal crib in our bedroom. We arrived just before Xmas and were told that the highchairs were all being kept in the restaurant so we cannot keep one in the suite. Given that our main purpose was to see the flamingos, we could easily write off these inconveniences but for $900 + a night, one would expect more in terms of amenities. The room service was great though and I just wished that there was more room to set up the table and allow for a highchair.
We arrived in the early afternoon and rushed to the pier to catch a water taxi to see the flamingos (free access with room keys and wristbands). In theory, the flamingos mostly hang out on the “adult-only” side of the private island (babies are not allowed there except between 9am and 10am). However, they would also take a stroll to the family side of the island in the afternoon around 2-3pm, and we were lucky to catch sight of them just as we finished our late lunch at the only restaurant on the island (in addition to quite a few iguanas). There is a vending machine where one can get food for these big birds with a quarter near the adult side, but by the time we saw the flamingo in the afternoon, they looked pretty well fed already. Nissik was super excited to follow these beautiful creatures, as they wade threw the shallow water and began to make their way back to the adult-only side of the island. It took us quite some effort to prevent him from actually touching these birds.
We enjoyed our time at the Renaissance resort, and the flamingos definitely made a strong impression on Nissik. By the third day, he got used to these birds and would not run after them, and it was about the right time to move on. In retrospect, the beach was quiet and nice at the private island, but not as impressive as the Eagle Beach where we spent most of our time hanging out at when staying at Bubali Studios right across the street from Super Foods, where one can get all the fresh produce and other groceries that one would reasonably expect from a local WholeFoods. Bubali stood out from the rest of the apartment/condo style accommodations with its happy deco and fantastic reviews (and now I can say that these reviews are true – it is a fantastic place to stay). We arrived around noon and the check-in was contactless and smooth. We had a one bedroom deluxe apartment and the crib and high chair that we rented from BabyQuip with a nice lady named Gerdien were already in place waiting for us (Gerdien obtained the contact info of the property and arranged the delivery herself ahead of time).
We were pretty happy with Bubali’s location. We used it as a base to explore the attractions along the coast, including the palm beach, the butterfly sanctuary and most importantly, the Eagle Beach. Bubali is right next to Super Food, where we got a big selection of mueslis (even better than our local Whole Food), surprisingly fresh strawberries from the Netherlands, and our daily coffee/sandwich. It takes about 10min to walk to the Eagle beach, although one would need to cross a busy road just off a roundabout – most of the cars stopped way ahead of time for us upon seeing the stroller). There is a pharmacy on the Super Food plaza, and we easily scheduled our covid test for the return flight back to Boston. Even though we had a kitchen, we did not really cook, and explored the different restaurant establishments along Eagle Beach. Our favorite was the Screaming Eagle where we returned for our last dinner of the trip (about 20min nice walk from our place), especially its tiradito and beef carpaccio (Nissik discovered his new found love for french fries during this trip and was not too impressed with the kids menu). I also liked the long walking path along Eagle Beach (and Nissik was happy running down the path in his crocs). If we are to return to Aruba for a visit, I will probably look for a property near the beach to avoid the hike across a roundabout, but would be equally contend to stay at Bubali if there is a safer way to cross the road.