Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
This hidden gem attracts a laid-back, adventure sports crowd
To reach the hotel, guests will head north on the main highway that travels along the west coast of Aruba, passing a series of Marriott properties facing Palm Beach as well as the construction site for the colossal, soon-to-be Ritz Carlton. To the right, past an unattractive marshland, a curious orange and turquoise entrance beckons. The driveway is lined with tall palm trees, and the relaxing vibe of this former coconut plantation can be sensed even before stepping out of the vehicle.
The lobby to the front of the hotel is cheerful with bold colors and island accents. Many guests will meet the dog, Lola, first, before one of the friendly owners offers a tour of the grounds. The small pool area is never crowded, and there are lounge areas to have a beer and read a book under the large palapa or in the backyard, next to fresh herb plants.
Each of the 13 casitas -- either on the ground level or up a private flight of turquoise stairs -- has its own kitchen and private patio. The lack of a restaurant and activities on-site contributes to the peace and quiet. It's never totally silent, though, as constant trade winds rustle the tropical vegetation; for guests looking to socialize, the hotel does host weekly rum punch parties in the backyard.
Steps from Palm Beach, but a rental car is recommended
Aruba is a small island 15 miles north of Venezuela, known for having white-sand beaches and constant trade winds. The Boardwalk is situated on the northern end of the High-Rise district behind several massive Marriott resorts. Though tucked away on a former coconut plantation filled with tropical plants, guests of the Boardwalk have close proximity to Palm Beach -- but they'll have to cross a busy road in the process. A rental car is recommended to access other areas of the island, and the friendly owners will offer suggestions for local hot spots. Taxis can be arranged as well, though fares can get expensive.
Spacious casitas have comfortable amenities and a cheerful coastal style
Boardwalk offers thirteen spacious one- or two-bedroom casitas with fully equipped kitchens, adjoining living rooms, and separate bedrooms that are dressed in fine white linens. The decor is minimalist chic, with wood-beamed ceilings, white walls, and bright accents in orange, turquoise and lime. Bathrooms have local toiletries and large walk-in showers. Furnished patios look out onto lush gardens and include quality deck furniture, cushions, hammocks and charcoal grills. Patios are well-used, as there aren't any views of note from bedroom windows. The carafe of fresh lemonade in the refrigerator is a nice welcome touch for new arrivals. The hotel received renovations to its larger casitas in December 2012, adding new floors, kitches, and rain showers.
Steps from the hotel is Palm Beach, with great swimming and restaurants
Boardwalk is set just one block away from Palm Beach, the two-mile-long stretch that's home to High-Rise hotels, restaurants, and shops. Like all beaches in Aruba, it is open to the public and provides a nice, if somewhat crowded, spot for swimming and playing. There are no rocks here, and it is shallow close to shore, but then drops off quickly and gets quite deep. A short walk south on the beach is MooMba Beach Club, where guests have free use of the beach club chairs.
Just north of Palm Beach is the area known primarily for wind and kite surfing. It enjoys constant trade winds and shallow waters, making it a great place to learn either sport, and there are plenty of operators who rent gear and provide instruction.
Guests can drive a bit farther north up the island toward Malmok, Boca Catalina, and Arashi beaches -- all good spots for snorkeling, sunbathing, and swimming.
Beach towels, chairs, umbrellas and coolers are provided free of charge for guests of the Boardwalk. Kid-friendly beach gear includes Frisbees, paddleball sets, floats, surfboards, and body boards.
A big plus: The hotel offers snorkel gear. (Most places in Aruba force tourists to book a tour in order to use equipment.) Boardwalk gives guests freedom to go out on their own, and the owners can recommend local hot spots, including nearby shipwrecks.
An attractive but small pool area surrounded by tall palm trees
The outdoor pool is nice, but -- like the hotel itself -- small, although it rarely gets crowded since there are so few guests. There is a Jacuzzi, a shallow pool section for children, and a deeper area for adults. The terrace surrounding the pool is attractive, and decorated with wooden lounge chairs and bright colored cushions. Tall palms provide plenty of shade for reading, but those who want direct rays will have to wait for certain times of the day. Alternately, guests can snag the two cushioned lounge chairs in the sunny backyard area next to the large palapa.
Spacious casitas with kitchens are a fine choice for families
The spacious casitas are convenient for do-it-yourself families, featuring fully equipped kitchens and outdoor charcoal grills. The one-bedroom units with two queen beds can fit four family members, and the two-bedroom units can accommodate up to six. There are plenty of toys, lawn games, board games, and crafts available at the front desk. Kids may also like the hotel's adorable dog, Lola.
For added safety, Boardwalk can loan guests car seats, beach-proof strollers, and a children's gate to block the front door of the casita.
Older kids will enjoy the free use of body boards, floats, Frisbees, paddle ball sets, and snorkel gear.
Kitchens, charcoal grills, fresh herbs, and restaurant recommendations from the "foodie" owner
Each casita comes with a fully equipped kitchen, as well as a charcoal grill on the furnished patio. For bread and cheese, the staff recommends Super Food's bakery. Ling & Sons grocery store is recommended for purchasing barbecue items, fruits, and vegetables. In addition, there are several commercial centers with grocers near the hotel. For a special addition to a recipe, ask the owners to snip a sprig from one of the fresh herb plants growing in the backyard.
One of the owners, Stephanie, has a passion for food and has made it her mission to discover Aruba's hidden gems so that she can pass on her favorite suggestions to guests. She is animated when it comes to restaurants, and will gladly make reservations for guests.
Walking distance to several bars for live music and entertainment
Two specialists for nail treatments, and a variety of massages
While the Boardwalk does not have an actual spa, Florian (a.k.a Flo) can be booked in advance for on-site massages. He has years of experience in Aruba, as well as Vietnam, where he co-owned a spa and fitness center. Florian's passion for extreme sports has taught him essential skills in self-treating injuries.
Boardwalk also offers manicures and pedicures from Carolina, a nail specialist who is available to visit Boardwalk upon request.
This small property offers an impressive list of services.
This hotel's laid-back vibe attracts adventure-seekers, especially those interested in wind and kite surfing
A quiet atmosphere and big patios contribute to the romantic ambiance
Each of the casitas has a spacious patio decorated with wooden furniture and touches of turquoise, orange, and green against the building's white facade. Couples looking to stay in for the night can cook in the kitchens or on the charcoal grills, and dine on the patio table and chairs. Aruba's constant trade winds rustle the palms and plants around the property, and the relaxed setting feels a million miles away from the High-Rise crowds.
Large casitas are decorated in a cheerful coastal style, and include high-quality white linens and big walk-in showers. Separate living rooms have comfortable sofas and flat-screen TVs. (DVD players available upon request).
Boardwalk does not offer special packages for honeymooners. Let them know in advance, however, and a member of staff will place a bottle of bubbly in the refrigerator and flowers on the bed.
A relaxed, tropical setting for small destination weddings
With its peaceful garden-like atmosphere, Boardwalk is an ideal spot for an intimate wedding. Several weddings and private parties (including engagements, vow renewals, and anniversaries) have taken place here in the past; guests have rented out part of the property or even the entire property.
There is no set price for a basic wedding package, but a discount is offered for wedding parties, and staff members will gladly help plan details, such as catering and boat trips. Popular spots for the ceremony include the large palapa in the backyard, or around the pool area.
A commitment to growing eco-friendly practices on the property
A former coconut plantation turned windsurfers' mecca
Boardwalk's property has an intriguing history as a former coconut plantation, once known as Plantage Tromp. In its heyday, parties and treasure hunts for children were organized here, and the Queen of Holland once paid a visit during an annual tour.
Original Boardwalk owners, Geert and Julia, first bought the property in 1987 to use for their windsurfing business. The hotel started in 1991 with one casita and over time expanded little by little into what it is today. Current owners -- two female Belgian twins -- took over the property in 2011 (the former and current owners met through kite surfing) and today, Stephanie and Kimberly are passionate about preserving the soul and authenticity that attracted so many repeat guests through the years.
Guests can walk around the property and find a few original palm trees dating back to the plantation days. Since then, additional trees and vegetation have been planted to re-create the garden oasis that it once was.
The already charming casitaswere renovated in 2012.
Interior renovations to the casitas took place on a one-by-one basis from September to mid-December 2012. Updates included the installation of new flooring, while bathrooms and kitchens received a makeover in line with the existing coastal style.
Eco-friendly additions during this phase of renovations also included a grey water system to reuse water for the garden; energy efficient A/C units; and water efficient toilets.
The property is kept immaculate by a small team of dedicated and friendly staff.
Unlike at nearby megaresorts, pets are allowed and even encouraged
The tranquil garden-like setting of the Boardwalk makes it a good choice for those traveling with their four-legged companions. Boardwalk is proud to call itself a pet-friendly hotel and furry friends stay for free. To prove it, the owners have an adorable dog named Lola who can often be found around the property.
Areas of the property -- including first-floor casitas -- are handicap accessible
The intimate size of this hotel allows for a relaxed setting for those with special needs. The lower-level casitas separated by walkways are handicap accessible, as are the lobby, pool and garden areas. (Bathrooms do not have support rails, however, and have walk-in showers but no bathtubs.) Parking is situated close to the rooms; guests can ask a staff member for a spot closest to the lobby for additional convenience.
An after-hours security guard
This garden property is located behind the soon-to-be Ritz-Carlton, secluded behind a high wrought-iron fence. The only way to enter is through the driveway, which is manned by security guard after office hours (hours vary). Owners can always be reached in case of emergency, and to be on the safe side, they urge guests to double-lock front doors and avoid leaving valuables in parked cars.
Each casita has a safety deposit box for personal belongings. There is also a safe at the front desk where guests can leave valuables, free of charge.
For those in search of a truly intimate boutique experience on Aruba, the Boardwalk Hotel -- owned by a set of Belgian twins -- is an excellent mid-range choice. This peaceful 14-room property, tucked behind three massive Marriott properties and situated on a former coconut plantation, remains an oasis of calm. Adventure sport seekers have called this their secret vacation home for years, but the property also appeals to couples and families. The bright, spacious rooms -- more like apartments -- have fully equipped kitchens, fine linens, and private patios. Snorkel gear is provided free to guests, as are beach towels, coolers, chairs, and umbrellas. There's no direct beach access, but guests can walk to nearby Palm Beach (full of bustling restaurants, casinos and nightlife) or get in the car and head to a hidden beach recommended by the owners -- they know the local scoop, so guests should be sure to ask their advice.