Don't let your mind forget what your heart has felt. I embark upon a few daddy-daughter vacations a year and have noticed a trend: they keep getting better.
A recent foray to Aruba revealed championship-level light-blue Caribbean Sea, silky sand, instinctive hospitality and my 12-year-old daughter Bella's video spokesperson debut (1:24) for the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba. Created spontaneously, every unscripted scene required only one take. She's a natural-and so is this resort.
As opposed to other massive Caribbean insta-resorts clobbering the shoreline, the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba got it right nearly 50 years ago when it set up shop on a pristine quarter-mile of Palm Beach's fine white-clay-like sand.
This place keeps its simple: three "towers," three pools, and three Jacuzzis all nicely set back from the shoreline, not eclipsing it. With so much space between the three main resort buildings, you'd never guess this getaway has 590 rooms.
A large percentage of the guests here return annually, which gives them something in common with the staff: Employee retention is a way of life, as many staff members have been here 40-plus years.
The resort's palapa-capped Sea Breeze Restaurant & Bar also offers the option to dine under the stars with your feet in the sand while a live saxophone player adds even more atmosphere. The stage for this fresh seafood heaven was set by ceviche and the fluffiest sea bass I've ever had. Meanwhile, Bella ripped apart a lobster.
We snuck back here the next night to enjoy the pistachio-crusted lamb rack and were not disappointed.
For quick snacks and sandwiches-especially during happy hour-people beeline for the open-air beachfront Oceanside Bar & Grill. Also shaded by a huge palapa, it features comfort food including chicken tenders and the Aruban Burger (Aruban "sloppy joe" with ground beef, tomato sauce, topped with gouda cheese). The breakfast buffet in Corals has everything you could want from fresh fruit and smoothies to hangover-curing bacon-infused omelets.
Nightly activities rotate with Cirque Du Soleil-style entertainment (carnival or circus nights), wine and rum tastings, pizza and beer specials, lobster night and Tastes of Italy.
Aruba, influenced by the Dutch, has a great infrastructure, very low crime, and is welcoming to families. (The Dutch locals speak a clearer version of English than the English!)
[READMORE]READ MORE: Aruba: Everything You Need to Know Before You Go[/READMORE]
The Dutch have a punctual reputation, so "Caribbean time" here means plus-or-minus 10 minutes. But you, my friends, don't have to worry about time while here. You only need to be concerned about hanging onto your things. Arubans and all regulars are used to stuff blowing away: The lovely breeze rarely takes a break, so hang onto your hat.
Aruba's celebration-oriented people come from 90 nationalities. It's time to kick back with a kaleidoscope of world personalities and chill out.
Our comfortable oceanfront room let us keep an eye on the action outside on the beach-a mix of people relaxing and doing wild things, such as acting like kooky pirates on a ship docked 100 yards from our balcony. Bella was all smiles while rope-swinging off the same Jolly Pirates sail and snorkeling ship, which also segues into a floating cocktail party.
Going "off campus" again the next day, Bella dug the brain-rattling way-off-road De Palm jeep tour, which explored the wilder sea-sprayed side of the island.
Our final non-resort venture was dining at the legendary Papiamento Restaurant, a 127-year-old Aruban house (with early 1800's antiques) encircled by a lush garden where the centerpiece of the outdoor seating area is a turquoise pool.
Atmospheric lights twinkled in the trees while we devoured Caribbean-spiced specialties like (head chef) Edward's Bouillabaisse, a medley of local seafood seasoned with coco/curry and a tinge of Madam Jeanette hot pepper. We also dove into the traditional yet "couleur local" stews and blanched okra.
Aruba is the number one repeat destination in the Caribbean in large part because of its status as the international flights' crossroads of the Caribbean. Translation: flying here from the USA is easy.
Although there is always a gorgeous breeze blowing, Aruba is located outside the hurricane belt, so there is way less likelihood of weather-related delays and cancellations than other Carib destinations. Expect a windswept and sunny year-round average temperature of 82-degrees.
[READMORE]READ MORE: Aruba for All Ages[/READMORE]
Aruba makes the money thing easy, too, as dollars are accepted everywhere. That said, the official currency is the Aruban Florin, which is divided into 100 cents; $1 = 1.8 Florin.
Dutch and the local language of Papiamento are the official languages of Aruba. However, most locals speak a minimum of four languages, including English and Spanish. As a result, you won't experience island fever here unless it's caused by dancing the night away.
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