Okeanos -- a full-service spa at Renaissance Marina
All-inclusive rates are available
Free Wi-Fi everywhere (including on Renaissance Island)
On-site parking available (but only free at Ocean Suites side)
Most rooms at Marina are small, with interior-facing windows
Renaissance Island is near airport, so it can be noisy
Pool at Marina building is tiny
All-inclusive food and drink menus are limited
Located in Oranjestad's bustling cruise port, the upscale Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino is packed with features not many Aruba hotels can match. Stand-out features include two casinos, eight bars and restaurants, two pools, and a luxury mall. The hotel is actually a massive resort complex with two distinct properties inside: the adult-only Renaissance Marina and the family-friendly Ocean Suites. All 556 rooms are impeccably modern, with a blend of sophisticated and retro decor plus coffeemakers, MP3 players, and flat-screen TVs. While the lagoon beach is a little underwhelming, it's hard to beat the hotel's private island (and visiting flamingos), and the beach there is more relaxed than the one at the similarly priced Holiday Inn Resort Aruba.
Upscale 556-room hotel with futuristic, bold decor
An upscale Marriott property in downtown Oranjestad, the 556-room Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino is divided into two distinct sections: the adult-only Renaissance Marina and the family-friendly Ocean Suites across the street. With a luxury mall, twocasinos, and an entire marina to its name, the Renaissance is an imposing place, though that’s not immediately apparent from the initial step inside. In fact, at first it just feels like walking into a typical American mall.
That all changes once you reach the top of the escalator, though, where skylights perfectly frame a large contemporary lobby, the BLUE Bar, and the pool. The decor here has a bold, almost playful feel. Claw-foot armoires are painted in bright colors, egg-shaped lounge chairs and low string chairs are set about the space, and bright blue patterned wallpaper create the feeling of having stepped into a giant dollhouse -- a trendy, futuristic one, that is. A glance down from the lobby grants a view of the glass-enclosed elevator rising towards rooms stacked in a never-ending symmetry on the floors overhead. Keep looking down and you’ll see guests periodically hopping on a free boat shuttle to the hotel’s private island (their version of an on-site beach).
All in all, it’s a visually stunning experience at a hotel that seems to appeal to everyone. While stylish young travelers fill the space around the lobby bar and sip cocktails at the rooftop pool at the Marina, seniors play bingo at Ocean Suites and families dine at L.G. Steakhouse, one of the hotel’s eight restaurants. Guests who stay here come from all over the world, but especially the U.S. and Europe.
In downtown Oranjestad, Aruba's hub for nightlife, shopping, and restaurants
The Renaissance is in downtown Oranjestad, overlooking the marina where humongous cruise ships come to port. There's no beach nearby, but the resort makes up for this with its own private island and a small lagoon on the Ocean Suites side of the resort. It’s the only major hotel that’s smack in the middle of the downtown area -- which is the island’s hub for nightlife, restaurants, and shopping. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from at the Renaissance Marketplace or local restaurants along the marina. This abundance comes with a caveat though: There’s just a single street that winds along the water and it is noticeably jam-packed with traffic for most of the day -- so getting to and from here is always at a snail’s pace. While Eagle and Palm Beach are both officially just a 15-minute drive away, it can take up to double that in practice. The international airport is just under 10 minutes away in a taxi.
Vintage-glam style with beachy colors and modern amenities like MP3 players
The rooms at both Ocean Suites and the Marina underwent renovations in 2015, and now combine bold, modern style with sharp vintage details to create rooms that have a tasteful bit of glam pizzazz. Expect to see lots of warm wood tones in everything from sleek contemporary storage units to retro chairs plus an abundance of ocean blues and accents like island-postcard wallpaper in the closets in some rooms. The starburst pattern carpet in each room is another throwback design choice that feels fresh, while collections of vases and other objets d'art give higher-category rooms even more personality. The walls and leather accents -- both done in cream -- manage to look both classy and a bit sexy at the same time. Some rooms have funky string chairs and eye-catching abstract art to punch up the design yet another notch.
It's worth mentioning that not all rooms here are spacious -- at least by upscale Caribbean resort standards. The entry-level Guest Rooms start at just 23 square meters (260 square feet), and the Ocean King Room (Marina) that we saw comes in at just 27 square meters (301 square feet). It doesn’t help that many windows face the mall and lobby below, so sitting on the narrow balcony is neither private nor a respite. Fortunately the suites at Ocean Suites are bigger -- both the rooms and the balconies. They also have nicer views, especially in ocean or pool-facing suites (otherwise it’s a boring view of the parking lot).
All rooms include air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs, safes, mini-fridges, coffeemakers, free Wi-Fi, and MP3 players. Some higher-category rooms have microwaves, like in the Ocean Suite (Ocean Suites) that we visited. The bathrooms at both the family and adult-only sides of the resort are pleasantly bright, with rainfall showers, lots of counter space, and a generous supply of towels. The cerulean, lozenge-shaped tiling is a particularly nice touch.
Two casinos, a luxury mall, a spa, and eight restaurants
The hotel’s on-site Crystal Casino is one of the classiest places to gamble in Aruba -- it sparkles with Austrian crystal chandeliers, gold-leaf columns, Spanish mirrors, and Italian marble and brass. This almost 15,000-square-foot (1,394-square-meter) parlor features over 370 slot machines, as well as tables for roulette, craps, blackjack, Caribbean stud poker, and Texas hold 'em. It's also the only casino open 24/7 on the island. The waterfront Seaport Casino is the other Renaissance-owned casino: it’s closer to the Ocean Suites side of the hotel and (like all casinos in Aruba) still allows smoking inside.
By day, there’s plenty of shopping to do at the luxury mall that’s attached to the hotel. Of the more than 60 boutiques and shops here, expect to see names like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Dolce & Gabbana. The hotel also owns the outdoor market next to the Marina, which is mostly useful for having so many diverse eateries within a close proximity -- offerings range from sushi to Cuban food to Dutch pancakes. Sometimes they have mediocre entertainment here at night.
Despite its competition with other downtown bars and restaurants, the swanky BLUE bar (in the Marina side) still gets crowded with young singles late into the night. Maybe it’s the cool blue lighting, hip music, or the massive videos that they project onto the far wall -- or it could just be their exceptional cocktails. Whatever the reason, this trendy hub is popular with guests. There's a good array of food on offer, from L.G. Smith's Steak & Chop House to bar food at Papagayo Bar & Grill, and almost everything comes in a la carte or buffet form. Additionally breakfast ranges from continental buffets to full American breakfasts. Breakfast is not included with standard rates, and while all-inclusive options are available, the amount that's available to choose from will shrink.
The hotel has a 24-hour gym on the Marina side, with modern cardio equipment and free weights in a large (but gloomy) space. Inexplicably the business center is also here, hidden away in the basement with a handful of up-to-date computers and printers. Other features include Okeanos Spa, with a variety of massage and beauty treatments, as well as a bookstore and kids' club.
Not so much an on-site beach as an entire private island
A free water shuttle goes directly from the Marina building lobby to the hotel’s lush private island, which like the rest of the resort is divided into two areas -- one for adults and one for families. On the adult side, friendly flamingos hang about, while iguanas camouflage themselves on the grass everywhere else. Guests can count on free beach and hand towels and plenty of daybeds here, as well as drinks and light snacks from the island restaurant. While the restaurant was mostly destroyed in a fire in 2015, the hotel still offers basic fare in the interim until it is rebuilt. On the farthest possible tip of the island stands a breezy wooden hut, which might just be the most romantic (and secluded) place to get a massage in all of Aruba. It’s no wonder that Renaissance Island is often the site for wedding parties and receptions.
Two pools and a lagoon provide plenty of space to get wet
There are two pools here plus a saltwater lagoon. While that may not seem like enough space for such a massive hotel, there's generally enough room for everyone. The obvious choice for getting wet in the ocean is on Renaissance Island, though there is a small saltwater lagoon on the mainland. It sits next to the larger free-form pool on the Ocean Suites side of the complex. That pool is surrounded by lounge chairs and has man-made islands in the center, providing shallow spaces for younger visitors (though there's also a swim-up bar for older visitors). The rooftop pool in the Marina side of the resort is for adults only. However, the combination of sunny Aruban weather, limited shade, and the lack of a breeze means that it gets hot fast. That plus the small size of the pool might be enough to warrant a trek to the other side of the property.
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