by Candyce H. Stapen
The Hyatt Regency Aruba has always been a good choice for families seeking a Palm Beach, upmarket resort with a good children’s program and a friendly atmosphere. After a $20 million makeover, completed in December 2007, the resort is better than ever.
Post-renovation, the hotel has a trendy, urban, sophisticate feel — at least in the lobby and guest rooms. Although the Hyatt Aruba calls the design a “blend of casual Caribbean elegance and contemporary chic,” there’s very little of an island feel in the refurbished areas, except, perhaps, the colors in the 357 guest rooms. No matter. It all works.
Through the open-air lobby, you see the gardens and catch a view of the azure Caribbean beyond. Asian influences add a touch of both drama and tranquility. To reach your room, you walk through the lobby’s center aisle. Lined on either side with rows of white, over-sized, waist-high planters, the passageway is a bit suggestive of a temple’s ceremonial walkway. That added both a sense of specialness and tranquility. Contemporary lilac and lime green couches and chairs create conversation nooks behind the white planters.
Palm trees, bougainvillea and other blooms edge the path to the beach. You pass black swans in a pond, cages of green parrots and scarlet macaws. An 8,000-square-foot, three-level pool complex features cascading waterfalls, water slides, whirlpools and a 5,000-square-foot freshwater lagoon.
Upon check-in, families receive a Cranium game, and kids get a flyer about the supervised, children’s program. For parents, the Hyatt Aruba has an on-site casino, as well as a spa. Massages are good, but the locker room and spa facilities could use an update.
Our Editor Loves
- Beachfront resort with beautiful new renovations
- Six restaurants all with kids' menus
- Camp Watapana for children ages 3-12
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The resort's 357 guest rooms, two bars and the Palms Restaurant received new looks during the 2007 renovation. At 380 square feet, even the standard rooms provide enough space for a complimentary crib or cot. Most of the rooms -- except for a few end units -- come with "Juliet" balconies, big enough to take in the view but much too small for a table or a chair.
Lime green drapes and bolsters, as well as coral throws and pillows, accent the beige, contemporary furnishings. Personally, we didn't like the colors; however, the room proved comfortable and bright and came stocked with a mini-bar, safe, coffee-maker and Wi-Fi.
For even more space, book a family suite. Also, the Hyatt has a long-standing tradition of providing an adjoining or second room for children at a 50 percent discount when available. Chain-wide, Hyatt has partnered with Babies Travel Lite, an online service that will ship diapers, wipes, baby food, bottles and other necessary items to your Hyatt property before your arrival so that you don't have to devote a suitcase to such essentials. For most Hyatt resorts, you must order at least a week in advance. Check with the Hyatt Aruba about the required lead time.
Note: Room keys are required to operate the elevators. While this adds a level of security, it also can add problems. First of all, kids old enough to explore on their own must keep a room key with them. Then that key must function. Twice, our key became demagnetized, causing the doors to close and the elevator to remain stationary. After what seemed like a long time, but was only a minute or so, the elevator descended to the lobby, and we asked for a new key. Please warn your children that if their key malfunctions and the elevator doors close, they won't be stuck -- just taken back down to the lobby.
a wonderful experience ..everything is topnotch and would stay again because of it. The feeling you get when you walk in sets the pace for the rest of your experience. Inviting and warm and magical feeling
The property itself if absolutely beautiful - the open-air lobby, the flowers and plants, and the fish and swans. The location cannot be beat either - to me, it is the best beach spot in Palm Beach and right across from lots of restaurants and nightlife. We upgraded to the Regency Club which was awesome!! We liked their new location down by the pool and the attendants in the Regency Club were very friendly and helpful. We took advantage of the full breakfast every day and happy hour from 5-7 each evening. Some nights the selection was much better than others but it was always worth a stop. We also had dinner at Mexicado one night. The service there was excellent and the food was very good.
The hotel (and the island) was extremely crowded the first week in November when we stayed due to the NJ schools being out and I don't think that the hotel was prepared for the volume of people. The service was good, but it could have been better. The Hyatt bars generally seemed understaffed and it was not unusual to wait over 30 minutes for a drink. The check-in process was also somewhat disappointing - they did not offer the warm towel or welcome drinks that they once did. We tried to call down to the front desk once or twice and they did not answer. If you don't reserve your spot at the pool before 8am, there will likely not be any left (at least during busy times)!!! This may change with the opening of the adults only pool in December which will allow for more space. There were TONS of kids at the pool so i can see the need for the adults only space.
Also, we booked the Dolphin snorkeling adventure with Delphi watersports which is right in front of the towel hut - I highly recommend!!!
Hyatt Resorts, long a leader in providing family and children's activities, has partnered with "National Geographic Kids" magazine to add elements of local culture and conservation to the hotel's supervised children's programs. Camp Watapana, named for the island's divi-divi trees, offers daily, year-round activities for ages 3 through 12. The program will operate, even if just one child registers, but parents must reserve a spot 24 hours in advance.
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., kids build sandcastles, learn Papiamento (the local language), take nature walks, hunt for sea shells and giggle down the resort's waterslide. The day program costs $45. Evening activities continue from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m for $35 per child. Kids bake cookies, play shuffleboard, roast marshmallows, create crafts and watch movies. The fee for siblings signed in for either program is $20. The dedicated room for kids is near the waterslide and is a magnet for gradeschoolers.
Although the resort does not have a separate kiddie pool, the multi-level pool has a shallow section. The pool area, however, can be crowded, and the beach can be even more crowded. At any of the resorts along Palm Beach, spots on the sand require obtaining a palapa, a thatched, umbrella-like structure that's built to provide shade. Even if you want the sun, you must be assigned a palapa because most of the chaises are dispensed with the little huts.
About 50 palapas line Hyatt's beach, enough for slow times, but not when occupancy is high. To obtain a palapa, you either reserve one ahead of time for between $25-$50 a day, depending on the season, or you line up before 7 a.m., when the non-reserved palapas -- the free ones -- are given out. For families like us, who require shade, but who refuse either to pay extra or to run to the pool before 7 a.m., Hyatt offers two communal palapas that cover the width of the beach. You can park your family under those for free.
As part of a program to provide more Aruban-inspired experiences for families, the resort hired Coral, a long-time island resident, to serve as the Hyatt's "Family Ambassador." We did not meet Coral, as she was off-island when we visited. Her role, we were told, is to suggest off-property experiences for families. Exactly how Coral's job differs from that of a concierge or an agent who books tours is not entirely clear. Nevertheless, we're glad that there's an additional person attuned to family interests.
The Hyatt Regency Aruba features six restaurants, all of which have kids' menus.
Balashi Bar and Grill
The swim-up snack bar provides a place for lunch and snacks poolside. Open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Asian-inspired restaurant on the resort in open for dinner Wednesday through Monday, 6 to 10:30 p.m.
Serves moderately priced pizzas and pasta. Open weekly, except Mondays, from 6 to 10:30 p.m.
Footprints Beach Grill
This romantic setting offers five tables each evening on the beach. Although billed as a "romantic" escape, we think the feet-in-the-sand, dinner-by-torchlight experience is great fun for families, provided you can order items for children from the kids' menu. It's open daily from 6:30 to 10 p.m.
Renovated to be a trendy, white-washed space with splashes of turquoise, serves a blend of island and South American fare like black bean soup, fajitas, fish tacos and coconut shrimp.
Ruinas del Mar
A fine-dining setting, Ruinas del Mar provides island flavors in a torch-lit setting. Sunday brunch is a must! Open breakfast 7 a.m. through noon, except for Sundays, when brunch is 9 a.m. through 2 p.m. Dinner is Monday through Sunday, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Situated on the lobby level, Shoco proved handy for obtaining grab-and-go items for outings and afternoon snacks. The shop sells ice cream, yogurt, pastries, juices and some sandwiches.
Planning & Tips
All about the Extras
Babies Travel Lite
Hyatt partners with Babies Travel Lite, which will arrange to have all the things you need for baby, without the hassle of packing and traveling with it. Last-minute orders can be placed, but you'll save more if you reserve at least 14 days in advance.
The Art of Smart Timing
High season is late December through mid-April. Low season is May through September or October. Shoulder season rates may apply at some properties from November through mid-December, when Aruba typically gets some rain.
The resort is located on Aruba's famed Palm Beach and is accessible from Queen Beatrix International Airport in Oranjestad. Taxis from the airport are approximately $25.
U.S. travelers go through U.S. Customs and Immigration in Aruba. The island recommends that you arrive at the airport three hours before departure.
On your return to the U.S from Aruba, you don't need to allow extra time when making connections for those formalities.
For Mom and Dad
The resort features an on-site casino and a number of bars, including the Alfresco lobby bar, Palms Beach bar, and Piet's Pier Bar, which is by far the best spot for sunset gazing.