Aruba Diversifies with Overwater Villas and an Emerging Art Scene

  • 01 of 07

    What's New and Cool at the Old Man and the Sea

    Villa at Old Man and the Sea, Aruba
    Sue Campbell

    Overwater villas have arrived in Aruba — not as part of a big resort but rather an expansion of a popular restaurant into the world of upscale lodging. And that’s just the beginning of what’s new in Aruba this year, with luxury villas expanding the lodging options in a destination primarily known for hotel stays.

    The South Pacific style over-water bungalows are on the Savaneta side of the island at The Old Man and the Sea complex. After making a mark for romantic, toes-in-the sand fine dining, the owner has created five stand-alone Tahiti-style villas, including two over the water with more to come. They are gorgeous, creatively appointed, and with stunning amenities like waterside hot tubs, hammocks in the sea, and seashell alfresco showers.  

    The restaurant still operates by reservation only — try the unique brick oven “keshi yena” pizza or the mammoth lobsters plucked right off the wharf — but the focus has changed to becoming a boutique barefoot luxury community. The same owner also has a huge, stand-alone waterfront villa nearby: Casa Alistaire sleeps up to eight people and is akin to having your own seaside mansion without the VIP price tag!

    Check Aruba Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisor

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  • 02 of 07

    VIP Villa Royale Aruba

    Villa Royale, Aruba
    Sue Campbell

    Also new to Aruba with a seriously upscale VIP vibe (but surprisingly affordable if you rent with a group) is the magnificent, three-story Villa Royale Aruba on the north end of the island. The villas isn’t seaside, but boasts a panoramic view with nine bedrooms (one a small apartment), 11 bathrooms, a huge pool replete with pool bar, whirlpool, children’s wading pond, fire pits, barbecues, and an expansive alfresco deck for dining. 

    Inside is a formal dining room that seats 20-25. It’s ideal for large groups, family getaways, corporate retreats, and weddings.

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  • 03 of 07

    New Rooms, Pools and Dining at the Divi

    New wing at the Divi Aruba resort
    Sue Campbell

     The Divi & Tamarijn All-Inclusives – legendary sister resorts that share one of Aruba’s most gorgeous beaches — have also been busy upgrading their offerings and properties. Four two-bedroom luxury suites were added two years ago at the Divi Aruba, and the resort has just opened a brand new wing of 60 modern, spacious rooms overlooking two new pools, a new pool bar, and a new alfresco lounge. Also part of the complex is Pure Lime a Mexican-themed dining spot. The Tamarijn has also seen a total dining makeover, including a brand new modern buffet.

    Check Divi Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisor

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  • 04 of 07

    Bringing the Beach to the Boardwalk

    Boardwalk Hotel beach area
    Courtesy Boardwalk Hotel Aruba

    The Boardwalk Hotel has always been one of Aruba’s most celebrated small luxury hotels, with one caveat: a lack of dedicated beach space (guests would to have to walk to MooMba for lounges and services). That’s finally changed with the addition of the hotel's own beach access directly across the street, near the Ritz-Carlton Aruba.

    Check Boardwalk Hotel Rates and Reviews at TripAdvisor

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  • 05 of 07

    Sunrise City Rising

    San Nicolas art walk mural
    Sue Campbell

    San Nicolas has long lived in the shadow of Oranjestad despite the fact that it is Aruba’s oldest city: home to a huge oil refinery, San Nicholas has always been the working side of the island while Oranjestad was where visitors came to play. Now, the “Sunrise City” (as it's known to locals) is being revitalized with the addition of more attractions and activities, many focused on the arts.

    The weekly Carubbian Festivala mini carnival held in the streets every Thursday night, is held in San Nicolas, and the city recently hosted its first annual Art Fair. That spurred the development of a new art gallery called Artisa that has revolving exhibits of local and intentional works, as well as a second branch of the Cosecha coop (the original is in downtown Oranjestad) where local artisans can showcase and sell their creations. The modern Museum of Industry in the renovated San Nicolas water tower retraces the important (and sometimes surprising) drivers of Aruba’s economic past. Soon to open is a Community Museum in the historic and newly restored Nicolaas Store.

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  • 06 of 07

    A City Transformed by Art

    San Nicholas Art Walk
    Sue Campbell

    The art fair, though brief, left behind an incredible lasting mark in the shape of outdoor art installations and the creation of a new Art Walk: the main streets of San Nicolas have been made over with ceramic benches, sculptures, murals, stand-alone sculptures, and creatively painted buildings. The transformation has attracted cool new bars and cafes like the O’Neil Caribbean Kitchenalready a favorite with locals. JAD’s Watersports Complex and Dive Operator is adding a cool new infinity pool bar and club overlooking beautiful Baby Beach, as well.

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  • 07 of 07

    Longest Linear Park in the Caribbean Coming

    Aruba Lineal Park
    Aruba Tourism Authority

    The longest linear park in the Caribbean is currently taking shape in Aruba, with the first section between the airport and downtown Oranjestad now open. The paved path is perfect for strolling, running and cycling, and fitness fans will love the workout stations set up at intervals along the way.

    Speaking of Aruba’s capital city, the new Moustachef restaurant offers an authentic Aruban-style buffet lunch (you pay by the kilo) that’s popular with locals and in-the-know visitors. A cute extra is the moustaches on the tables so that customers can take “incognito” selfies there — especially appropriate at this off-the-beaten-path eatery. Don’t be surprised if one of the owners breaks into an impromptu concert: that would be Edjean Semeleer, one of the island’s most beloved crooners and Aruba’s answer to Michael Bublé.

    Want to learn more about what's happening in Oranjestad? Take an informative guided stroll with the new Aruba’s Walking Tours.