Something New To Look Forward To

This is the year.

It’s finally time to go on a family vacation.

I know that other families with young children go on vacations all the time, whether it’s a road trip to Disney or a plane trip to a Sandals resort. That wasn’t the right choice for us, though — that wasn’t how we thought of vacations. We were used to exploring, letting fate guide our experiences — things like finding our way back to our hotel in Tokyo via the subway system, or walking 45 minutes (one way) from Waikiki to an anime/toy store on Waialae (granted, that was a poor idea), or going snorkeling or parasailing for the first time.

Parasail Closeup


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

[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.