I often forget that Aruba is part of the Dutch Caribbean, along with Bonaire and Curaçao, affectionately known as the ABC islands. I mean, I knew that Dutch pancakes were a staple on the island but other than the occasional windmill you see among the buildings, I find it hard to look past the white sand beaches against that incredibly beautiful blue-green ocean.
But as I pulled up to the Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort, there was no missing the resort’s nod to its heritage. Ask anyone who has traveled to Aruba, and they’ll know this iconic resort. It’s not just the classic Dutch colonial architecture that makes it stand out—it’s also the resort’s bright yellow paint and Caribbean color palette that tell you you’re about to have a very festive stay.
Built in December 1989 by architect Jan Hubert, the resort has been undergoing a complete renovation and refresh, yet keeping its charming Dutch features. While travel came to a standstill, the resort took advantage of the downtime to renovate its public areas, restaurant and bar; a portion of the new guest rooms are open now with the remaining renovations scheduled for completion in late 2022.
Family-friendly takes on a new meaning
This AAA Three-Diamond, pet-friendly boutique resort is welcoming travelers back with updated and enhanced amenities. With just 72 studios and suites, the resort’s one- and two-bedroom configurations are ideal for couples and families. Travelers who love having access to a kitchen for quick breakfasts or late afternoon snacks will appreciate the guest rooms’ new modern kitchens with a stove, refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker.
Amsterdam Manor, owned for decades by the Van Schaijk family, makes guests feel like they’re part of the family. Today, the resort is run by the owner’s son, Alfred, who puts hospitality at the top of his daily task list. It’s clear that many of the resort’s guests are repeat visitors as Alfred greets them all by first names and the occasional kiss on the cheek. At sunset, the Horizons Bar becomes Alfred’s office as he throws an impromptu cocktail party for guests, who after just one day are more like family and friends.
Sunrise and sunset have their own surprises
Sleeping in on vacation is a luxury but you’ll want to get up early and stroll the oceanfront walking path. You’ll see locals and tourists walking, jogging, and biking along the Eagle Beach sidewalk. App-based rental bikes and scooters are plentiful if you really want to cover some ground.
Chances are you’ll work up an appetite on your morning exploration. You can dine beachfront at the casual Passions on the Beach restaurant and enjoy a morning libation while watching the sun rise. Adjacent to the resort’s pool, Mangos restaurant serves a hearty and healthy breakfast buffet.
As the day winds down, you’ll find most guests at the newly renovated rooftop Horizons Bar watching the sun set out over the Caribbean. Happy hour will be one of your most memorable experiences at Amsterdam Manor as you take in a perfect sunset with a craft cocktail in hand surrounded by all your new friends.
At night, Passions on the Beach transforms into a one-of-a-kind oceanfront, fine dining restaurant. Lounge chairs where guests sunned themselves during the day are whisked away and replaced with dining tables, white tablecloths, and tiki torches. Unlike most restaurants, shoes are optional at this establishment as you’ll dine with your toes in the sand. It’s no surprise that this is also one of the island’s top proposal spots. For more casual dining, Mangos restaurant hosts nightly themed dinners featuring cuisine from around the world.
Activities on Aruba are a breeze
Aruba is known for its brisk breezes, so kite surfing and wind sailing are popular sports. If you’re up to the challenge, you can get lessons at many of the watersports stands. If just chilling out on the water is more your vibe, opt for Pelican Adventures catamaran cruise and snorkeling adventure. You’ll have an opportunity to explore the island from the water (above and below) on their brunch and sunset cruises.
Aruba inland areas are quite a contrast from its scenic beaches. For those seeking a bit more fun and adventure, De Palm Tours offers a variety of off-road ATV and jeep excursions through Arikok National Park’s rugged terrain, capped off by a visit to the island’s iconic natural pool and natural bridge.
You won’t be ready to leave Aruba but there is one piece of good news as you head back home. If you’re headed back to the U.S., you can actually clear immigration in Aruba so you can breeze through your home airport and lament the fact that vacation is over. The lines can be long, so be sure to arrive at the airport at least three hours before your flight. And if you have Global Entry, you’ll be at your gate in no time.
There are great dining spots to grab a bite to eat before your flight and a fabulous wine bar that’s the perfect place to bid One Happy Island adieu.