TripAdvisor Review: Tamarijn Aruba All Inclusive

It’s been quite a while since we got back from our “babymoon” in Aruba, and writing a review of our resort has been on my to-do list ever since. So, before I forget what a great time we had on the last tropical vacation we’ll likely enjoy for years, here’s my take:

My husband and I stayed six nights at the Tamarijn back in May, and we loved just about every minute. We’d stayed at a posh all-inclusive elsewhere in the Caribbean the previous year, with marble tile and beach drink service and food available 24 hours. The Tamarijn had none of those things, but we certainly didn’t mind.

We had been concerned that, since this wasn’t specifically an adults-only resort, we might be swarmed with kids. Truth was, we weren’t swarmed with anybody. We ended up in the very farthest building (25) in the very last room (2516), which made for a very quiet time. That was the main pro of having a room so far out, with the con being that we had to either hoof it quite a ways to get back to the restaurants or wait for the golf cart shuttles (which can be sporadic at times). The beaches never got particularly busy, though, no matter how close we got to the main buildings of the resort. There were always palapas available for shade and chairs available for sunning, all down the length of the resort.

We weren’t disappointed in any of the restaurants we tried: Pizza Per Tutti had fresh and tasty bar food and snacks; Ginger, the Asian restaurant, had good Asian fusion (though not overly exotic for anyone who eats Asian food back home); Paparazzi featured delicious Italian-American fare, including tasty lasagna and desserts; even Cunucu Terrace (the buffet) was more than passable, if predictable. I also highly suggest heading over to the Divi Divi to eat at the Red Parrot: the coconut shrimp with curry sauce was absolutely exquisite, and was one of my favorite meals of the week. The downside of dining at either the Tamarijn or the Divi is that they require reservations two days in advance, and you can’t book out any further than that.

At the same place where you request dinner reservations, you can also book tours elsewhere on the island. We chose to book a bus tour (we tend to do that everywhere we travel) and a snorkeling tour (which we try to do everywhere we can). They do accept US currency, so no worries there.

There were only a few aspects of our stay that we found disappointing, and they were all minor. Our room was, as I mentioned, very far away from any food or drink, and required a half-mile walk to get to the main restaurants. The room was relatively small, compared to other, fancier hotels and resorts (but was still big enough, especially with the balcony). The tap water doesn’t come out cold. The shampoo and body wash are in dispensers on the shower wall (no complimentary Aruba Aloe souvenirs for you!). Once Pizza Per Tutti closes for the night, there’s no more food to be had until morning (although each room does have a refrigerator, so plan ahead).

A few related tips:

Buy a large bottled water (or two) from the gift shop early in your stay, then refill it as needed and keep it in your fridge.

If you go downtown, take the bus. Don’t try to walk it. The trip isn’t picturesque enough to justify the walk in the sun and the heat; it seems nice enough on the beach with the breeze, but it’s entirely too easy to get sunburnt and uncomfortable during the walk there and back. That said, there are some interesting abandoned resorts around, and some local grocery stores and other shops en route, and Oranjestad is definitely worth an afternoon of souvenir shopping and eating off-resort.

Unless you don’t mind a half-mile walk to get back to the main part of the resort (multiple times a day), request a building closer than 25. Be forewarned that (during our stay, at least) there was a large outlet of nasty-looking sludge that smelled like sulfur between buildings 21 and 22, I believe it was. If you do choose a faraway building, do take advantage of the golf carts that will take you back to your room.

Make sure you’re outside, either eating dinner or relaxing on the beach or by the pool, around 7pm every night for the most spectacular sunsets you may ever see.

If anyone I know is planning to vacation in Aruba, I’ll definitely recommend they stay at the Tamarijn.

Aruba Slideshow

I had been hoping to incorporate Aaron’s photos into my vacation slideshow, but he’s not the biggest fan of taking the time to upload and title and tag all his photos. So, it’s just mine here, until I get a hair up my ass to upload his pictures to my Flickr stream (properly tagged “taken by Aaron,” of course).

Hopefully I’ll get some TripAdvisor reviews written before I forget what a good time we had on our babymoon… and before I run out of free time to write reviews!

Snorkeling Self-Portrait

Snorkeling Self-Portrait
[Taken 5 May 2011 | 1/90sec @ f/2.8 | ISO 50]

Another photo taken with the point-and-shoot in a marine case. I’m going to keep this little camera around as long as I can, just because the case I got for it is so handy around water!

Tamarijn Patios

Patios
[Taken 1 May 2011 | 1/60sec @ f/13 | ISO 200 | 40mm]

View of the first-floor patios of Building 25, and beyond to Building 24.

TripAdvisor Review: Mayan Adventure

As the third (and likely, the final) TripAdvisor review of our Mexico vacation, I offer my recap of our day on the Mayan Adventure Snorkeling Tour with Aventuras Mayas.

My husband and I booked the Mayan Adventure Snorkeling Tour via the travel rep at our hotel during our April 2010 vacation — we’d known we wanted to go snorkeling, but didn’t know where. I’m so glad that we ended up with this tour!

Our guide, Julio, drove our tour group from Playa del Carmen out to Akumal, our first of three snorkeling locations. There, he distributed life vests (manually inflatable), masks, and individually-wrapped breathing tubes. After renting some slightly suspicious-looking snorkel gear on a previous vacation, I was glad to see the focus on hygiene.

There was also a focus on environmental awareness, mainly centered around sunscreen. My husband and I had been told by our travel rep that only biodegradable sunscreen was allowed; truth be told, though, the guides would prefer that snorkelers not wear sunscreen at all, since even the biodegradable versions need sunlight to biodegrade. We’d already slathered it on in our hotel room previously, though, and I can attest that most of it had washed off by the time we got to the underground cenote at the end of the tour. Julio suggested that those who are highly susceptible to sunburn simply keep their t-shirt on, although he didn’t force us to shower off any previously-applied sunblock.

We snorkeled in three locations: an ocean inlet, an open cenote, and an underground cenote. Julio made sure to point out all the potential dangers and wonders of each spot. We were especially glad that he showed us a map of the ocean inlet, as my husband and I got separated from the group and had to find our way back on our own! (Both of us wear glasses, and there were several red-shirted tour guides for various groups, so one red guy started to look like another…) Apart from that minor scare, the snorkeling at Yal-Ku Lagoon was beautiful.

Our Tour Group

The open cenote that was next on the agenda included a diving platform and a zipline, for the adventurous types. I passed on both, but my husband did the zipline and loved it! Several people jumped off of the diving platform multiple times. Not as many fish as in the lagoon, but the water was crisp and cool and refreshing.

The underground cenote was even colder, but was completely breathtaking. A few beams of natural light filtered from above us down into the deep, and the crevasses below us seemed to go down forever. The beauty was amazing (and was, unfortunately, too dark for my underwater camera to capture).

Lunch is included in this tour, which we hadn’t realized at the time of booking. The food was delicious yet basic: chicken, tortillas, rice, beans, all fresh and very welcome after a morning of snorkeling.

I brought a camera with an underwater case, but there were some staff photographers at certain locations — at the zipline and diving platform, and in the underground cenote. They took some candid shots at the open cenote, and some posed shots of couples and family groups at the underground cenote. The price of the photos was extremely reasonable: about $20 for a CD-R of the candid and posed shots, plus some stock photos of the cenotes and wildlife.

Overall, this was a fabulous experience. Highly recommend!

Snorkeling Self-Portrait