With the exception of our first night in Aruba, we stayed at the Marriott Aruba Surf Club, a timeshare resort in the Palm Beach hi-rise hotel area of Aruba. It is adjacent to another Marriott timeshare resort and a Marriott hotel. If you're looking for a secluded romantic getaway, the Surf Club is not your place. It is quite large and very family friendly so there are lot's of people running around. It's still a very enjoyable place to stay, but it helps to know what you're getting into before you get there.
We stayed our first night at the Paradera Park Apartments due to our flights arriving on Saturday and our check-in at the Marriott being on Sunday. This is a small hotel in the middle of the island that is run by a very nice married couple. This is a very neat place that is much quieter than the Marriott. It's not near the water, but they will supply you with beach chairs and a cooler and give you directions to one of Aruba's great beaches.
Restaurants we went to:
Wacky Wahoo's - The fish here was excellent. I had Wahoo and Ashley had Grouper and they were both cooked perfectly. It's in a shopping center, so the ambience is not at the level of some of the other places, but overall, it was a great experience.
Yemanja - This restaurant is in downtown Oranjestad. It's got a different feel than a lot of the other places since it is "in the city." There were mixed reviews among our group on the food.
Chefs Tables - This is a really neat restaurant setup in an old house. We ate in the back courtyard which had a really cool feel to it. Everyone in the group enjoyed their food. I had the Grouper Napoli, which was excellent mozzarella, pesto and tomato sauce. The unique thing about this place is their desserts which they serve tapas style in shot glasses so that you can order several if you like. It's a really neat concept.
The Old Man and the Sea - This place takes about 30 minutes to get to, which feels like a long time on this small island. For us, it wasn't worth the drive. This place has a great setup and ambiance. It is right on the water, and you can stick your feet in the sand while you're dining if you'd like to. The restaurant entrance is really cool as you feel like you are walking through a garden. They also have a great staff. However, the food just isn't up to the level you would expect in a place like this. The menu choices are limited, and compared to the other restaurants, just not that enticing. I had the fresh catch which was barracuda, and while it was good, it wasn't good enough to justify the long drive to get there.
Papiamento - This was one of my favorite spots in my first two trips to Aruba, and it didn't disappoint this time. The setting and ambiance are gorgeous. The dining area is set up around a pool in the outside courtyard of one of the oldest houses in Aruba. The food is really good as well. One of the cool things they have are grilled items served on a hot stone. I opted for one of these dishes that had lobster, fish and shrimp. They come out sizzling on the stone and finish cooking right in front of you.
Marandi - This restaurant is set up on a dock over the water and has a huge thatch roof over it. It's a bit of a drive from the hotel zone (though not nearly as far as Old Man and the Sea), but it has great food and great ambiance. It's definitely worth the trip.
Madame Janette - One of the more well-known restaurants in Aruba, Madame Janette doesn't disappoint. It's another restaurant that's in a courtyard setting in the back of a house. This place and Papiamento are at the top of my list for restaurants in Aruba. Rather than get seafood, I opted for the Argentine filet mignon, and it was one of the best steaks that I've ever had.
Pam Pam - This place is attached to a student dormitory. It's not that well known, and the prices are reasonable with some good seafood dishes. It's an open-air restaurant underneath a huge thatch roof.
Bingo - Great apple pie here for dessert.
Screaming Eagle - We went here for a drink before dinner. The decor inside is really interesting, kind of a Miami Vice style.
Pincho's - This is a great place to get a drink before or after dinner. It's set out on a dock on the water.
Other good restaurants:
Linda's Pancakes - great breakfast!
Notes on snorkeling spots (all beaches in Aruba are public):
Arashi beach – which is tiny but easily accessible from Marriott and our favorite spot
Baby beach which is the one with the natural pool very calm and inviting very large chunk of beach - this is a big spot for local families, the snorkeling is only good here past the rocks of the cut.
Palm Beach and Antilla wreck
Palm Beach and Antilla wreck
Other good activities:
4x4 tour of desert side of island
Watch sunset at the California Lighthouse restaurant