This year, I’m lucky enough to have four days in Aruba for my birthday and it’s completely magical, thanks in no small part to the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino!

Last year,  the Marriott team visited Boston and I enjoyed an evening of traditional Aruban food with their chefs. After learning how to make ceviche, they asked if I’d like to have some on the beach! How could I say no? I’ve never traveled solo before; it honestly never even occurred to me to try! But I’ve been trying to push myself out of my comfort zone more this year, so I thought a solo trip might be the perfect way to celebrate turning 32.

I’m not the best flier, but luckily JetBlue has a direct flight to and from Boston so that makes things easier. Boarding the plane, the lead flight attendant greets other fliers by name on the way down. Seriously, people who travel to Aruba so often that the flight attendant knows them personally! It makes me even more excited to experience this Caribbean island.

Day 1:

Landing at 1:00 pm means all afternoon to get settled and explore! Before leaving, I arranged for a shuttle to and from the airport and opted not to get a rental car. Taxis on Aruba have set prices and many of the things I want to see are within walking distance so I felt renting a car wasn’t necessary.

The famous Aruban hospitality is evident immediately. Everyone is so friendly! Walking into the modern, grand lobby instantly sets the vacation mood! Complimentary tropical juice, succulents, colorful decor, all come together and lead eyes right out to the pool.

Check in is a breeze (with free wifi for my stay thanks to my Marriott Rewards membership) and as the bellman opens the door to my 7th-floor room, I literally gasp! The wall-length window to my balcony gives a direct view of the turquoise ocean and the room itself is bigger than my entire apartment. Plus, is there anything better than a king bed all to yourself? No. There isn’t.

Plans for the afternoon include lunch, exploration, and the pool. I meander down to the beach, past the hotel’s palapas and find an empty chaise lounge by the water. A waiter from Waves, the beachside bar at Aruba Marriott Resort, takes my order for a light lunch and I munch and swim and enjoy the sunshine for a couple of hours. I know that I’ll spend the next day on the beach and need to secure a palapa because my Irish skin can’t handle too much sun.  In case you don’t know, a palapa is an open air, thatched roof hut. At the Marriott, they’re almost like giant, tropical umbrellas with a small ledge around the base to use as a table.

TripAdvisor says that hotel guests can reserve palapas in advance for $30 a day, or try their luck at a lottery every morning around 6 AM and every evening at 4. I have a game plan and at 3:45 I find my way to the towel hut. A line has formed. You’ll see thirteen chairs set up in a line (I’m  chair 11) and the thirteen people sitting there at 4 secure a free palapa for the next day. It’s a gamble but if you’re on a budget (like me) and don’t mind being patient, it’s a perfect deal.

aruba marriott beach palapa
Picking out my beach palapa!

After that, I check out the main pool. It’s big, with a waterfall and swim-up bar. There are tons of lounge chairs, umbrellas, and perfect spots. People have definitely camped out for the day though, so I decide to find the adults-only pool.

Located on the other side of the hotel, H2OASIS is a gated sanctuary (you need your room key to access) with oversized couches next to the pool, private cabanas, and it’s own bar. As a solo traveler, I decide it’s heaven; No splashing kids! I hang out here until well after sunset, chatting with other guests and the hotel staff. A virgin pina colada or two is ordered.  Funnily enough, a couple thinks I’m under 21 and want me to leave! I just laugh and say, “It’s my 32nd birthday! THANK YOU!”

Lounging at H2Oasis
Lounging near the bar at H2Oasis

Getting back to the room, I realize that my bathroom has TWO showers. A beautiful, tiled walk-in that looks like it could be on Flip or Flop, and a shower head in the oversized tub! I finally unpack and get settled in the room (I didn’t want to waste any of the afternoon sunlight) before realizing that it’s nearly 10 and I haven’t had dinner. Gotta love room service!

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