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Paradise Reborn: Renaissance Aruba Resort

by Kelsy Chauvin
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Nov 14, 2014

At first you might think the best part of this hotel is how just 20 minutes after exiting the airport, you're already changing into your swimsuit. But that's only the first phase of tropical bliss kicking in upon your arrival at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino.

Located in the heart of downtown Oranjestad, Aruba's capital, the resort serves as central landmark and a destination unto itself. The property consists of two separate hotel complexes: the beachside Renaissance Ocean Suites, serving guests with kids; and, across Lloyd G. Smith Blvd., the Renaissance Marina Hotel, for guests 18 and over.

The appeal of the adults-only Marina Hotel is obvious for LGBT travelers and couples who came to Aruba to bask in a quiet, sunny escape. A getaway here starts with the chic open-air lobby, adjoining BLUE Martini Bar, and, up a few stairs, the sexy infinity pool and lounge area overlooking the harbor. With 300 urban-chic guestrooms and suites, each with a small balcony and views across colorful Oranjestad, this tower lets the vacation mindset kick into high gear (or rather, low-key gear).

The Ocean Suites has plenty of appeal too, even though it may mean kids are splashing around. Its 258 suites have master bedrooms and living rooms, plus pullout sofa beds. The major draw, however, is the sprawling pool area facing the island's south bay, consisting of two huge swimming pools served by the swim-up bar Solé and a saltwater lagoon.

Nature's Paradise

The dreamy, beachside scene continues with Renaissance Island, Aruba's only private beach, accessible by the resort's shuttle boats from each hotel's piers. Trapped out in paradise, you'll again have your choice of the all-are-welcome beach, or the smaller adults-only beach -- which thankfully has great waiter service to and from Papagayo Bar & Grill, along with umbrellas, hammocks and lounge chairs. Don't forget your camera, since the palm trees and pink flamingoes make the perfect photo op to make your friends at home jealous.

Maximize your relaxation at Okeanos Spa inside the Marina Hotel, where you can soak up massages and rejuvenate with facials, most involving silky Aruban aloe. Head to the giant fitness center to work your muscles, or get your sweat on in the sauna. FYI, there's also a smaller fitness room with ocean views on Renaissance Island, as well as tennis courts and nature walk.

Beyond the Beach

Attached to the Ocean Suites is the Renaissance Marketplace, a shopping and entertainment complex that includes a six-screen cinema, more than a dozen restaurants and cafés, and Aruba's largest convention center. Head back to the lower levels of the Marina Hotel for more upscale shopping at Renaissance Mall -- and get ready to give your credit card a workout.

Inside the resort are the Crystal and Seaport Casinos with the full monty of slot machines, roulette wheels, and poker, craps and blackjack tables. The Crystal Theatre, within the casino, jazzes things up every evening with live shows, including the Caribbean's largest stage production, "Let's Go Latin!" The venue also broadcasts live boxing and other big sporting events for your gaming pleasure.

Plenty of dining options surround the resort, but inside the Marina Hotel head to L.G. Smith's Steak & Chop House to fill up on prime meats and seafood while soaking up harbor views. Or try the more casual Aquarius, serving á la carte or buffet-style breakfast, lunch and dinner. Back at the Ocean Suites, Captain's Corner is the place to sip rum cocktails by the pool while enjoying themed dinners like Mexican and barbeque nights.

The Renaissance Aruba hosts weddings several times a week at its various beachy settings, and while same-sex marriage isn't legal here yet, the resort has arranged a number of gay weddings. Renaissance Wedding Planner Randolph Geerman, who happens to be family, says gay weddings are fun for the enthusiasm that inspires couples to "go a little bit more over the top."

But in Aruba, the most over-the-top experience is simply surrendering to paradise.

Kelsy Chauvin is a writer, photographer and marketing consultant based in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in travel, feature journalism, art, theater, architecture, construction and LGBT interests. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @kelsycc.


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