In the past couple of years, pictures of pink flamingos chilling on a perfect turquoise-watered beach have been making the rounds on social media. And I'm not gonna lie: those dreamy Instagram photos definitely influenced me to consider Aruba for a vacation.
Because that beach with flamingos is called Flamingo Beach, and it's located on a private island in Aruba.
When my husband Elliot and I were weighing where to go for our first wedding anniversary in early October, we decided somewhere in the Caribbean sounded nice. There was one big problem, though: October is prime hurricane season for most of the Caribbean.
So that left us with the to choose from, a trio of islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao) located in the far south Caribbean outside of the main hurricane belt.
Thanks to those photogenic flamingos, it's probably no surprise that we chose Aruba.
Where to stay in Aruba
After deciding that Aruba would be our anniversary getaway destination, we then had to figure out where we wanted to stay. There are lots of all-inclusive resorts and nice hotels in Aruba (the island's economy revolves around tourism these days, after all).
But because I had read up on those Aruba flamingos, I knew there was really only one place to stay: the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino.
You see, the flamingos in Aruba live on a private island owned by the Renaissance Resort. You *can* technically get a day pass to visit the island even if you aren't staying at one of the Renaissance hotels, but this requires some luck (the hotel only sells passes when they're under 80% capacity), and an early morning (a couple we met was at the hotel at 6 a.m. to get passes).
Plus, with passes running $99 per person, you may as well just stay a night at the Renaissance and be guaranteed a free visit to the private island.
We decided to stay at the Renaissance Aruba for our whole trip, mostly because we're kind of lazy and didn't want to have to switch hotels after one or two nights. It ended up being a great idea!
Staying at Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino
The Renaissance Aruba Resort consists of two separate hotels, both located in downtown Oranjestad, a few miles south of where most of the island's high-rise hotels are on Eagle and Palm beaches.
The two hotels are the Renaissance Marina Hotel and the Renaissance Ocean Suites. They're both included under the “Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino” umbrella, but you'll want to know which one you've booked at since they're located in separate buildings.
(They're also both Marriott properties, which was an added bonus since I'm a Marriott rewards member!)
Renaissance Marina Hotel
We stayed at the Renaissance Marina Hotel, which is a contemporary, upscale hotel that is strictly adults-only. With almost 300 guest rooms, the hotel isn't small – but it didn't feel crowded when we visited. (Though I'll note that we visited in October, which is low season in Aruba!)
The Marina Hotel has on-site restaurants including L.G. Smith's Steak & Chop House and Aquarius, the latter of which has an excellent seafood buffet. There's also a Starbucks on the lower level of the hotel, and a bar called Blue next to the pool in the open-air hotel lobby.
This is also the hotel where you'll find a fitness center, as well as the Okeanos Spa. It's also connected to an upscale shopping center and the casino.
The rooms at the Marina Hotel have undergone renovations recently and are sleek and clean, with lots of blue and white tones making them feel extra beachy. We booked an “Island Room” with a king bed, and ended up having a nice view of the city, as a well as a partial view of the marina.
Lastly, the Marina Hotel pool is a small infinity-style pool that overlooks the marina and one of the main roads in the city. There are some sun loungers around the pool, but it's not a huge pool area. I would actually recommend going over to the Ocean Suites hotel if you want to have a pool day.
Marina Hotel pricing
Their “Resort Rooms,” which only offer views into the hotel atrium, start at $179 per night. We booked the next class up, the “Island Room,” and actually had views of both the city and the harbor; these rooms start at $197. Their “Ocean King” rooms with sea/pool views start at $245 per night. (Expect these prices to be quite a bit higher in high season, though!)
Renaissance Ocean Suites
A 5-minute walk down the street will bring you to the Renaissance Ocean Suites, the family-friendly hotel of the Renaissance Resort. Here they offer 259 one-bedroom suites, which are perfect for both couples and families.
Restaurant options here include Fresco, an outdoor dining option serving up a breakfast buffet and an Italian menu, and the Solé bar. There's also a swim-up bar in one of the hotel's pools.
Rooms at Ocean Suites are larger (after all, they're suites!), but I can't personally tell you what they're like since we didn't stay at this hotel. (Reviews on TripAdvisor are pretty favorable of the Ocean Suites rooms, too, though.)
The pool area at Ocean Suites is large and very nice. There are two proper pools, a saltwater lagoon right on the beach. This is definitely the better of the two pool areas!
Ocean Suites pricing
The Ocean Suites rooms are a little more pricey – but that's because they're suites and are designed to fit more people. An “Island Suite” starts at $225 per night and an “Ocean Suite” starts at $259 per night. An “Ocean Front Suite” (with full ocean views) starts at $295 per night.
Renaissance Aruba all-inclusive
You *can* get an all-inclusive package at the Renaissance (which covers restaurants and bars at both hotels), but we opted to go with a special package that gave us a $50 credit each day instead. Since these hotels are so close to downtown Oranjestad, we knew we wanted to eat off-property at least a few times. (Plus, we don't drink enough to make an open bar tab worth it!)
The best part is, though, that any package you purchase is good at both the Marina Hotel and Ocean Suites. Staying at one gets you access to the other, as well, whether its swimming at the pool or charging a meal to your room. This is definitely a nice added bonus.
Visiting Renaissance Private Island and Flamingo Beach
Okay, okay, so now for the part that I know you're most curious about: the flamingos!
Like I mentioned above, the Aruba flamingos live on a private island owned by the Renaissance Resort. You can access this island for free if you're a guest at either the Renaissance Marina Hotel or Renaissance Ocean Suites.
How to get there
Free shuttle boats run from both Renaissance hotels from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, usually running at 15-minute intervals. There's one pickup for the Marina Hotel, and another for the Ocean Suites. When the tides cooperate, the boats pick up from right inside the Marina Hotel atrium, which is pretty cool.
The ride out to Renaissance Private Island takes about 10 minutes. The route takes you right past the airport, and if you're lucky you might even have a plane fly right over your head!
Renaissance Private Island
Once on the island, you have two separate beaches to choose from: Flamingo Beach to the right of the dock, and Iguana Beach to the left of the dock.
Also near the boat dock are restrooms, a small shop, and the stand where you can get free towels and rent water gear like snorkel masks, floats, paddleboards, and even kayaks.
Flamingo Beach is the adults-only beach on Renaissance Private Island. This is where you'll find the private island spa services, a mangrove nature walk, a small beach bar, and a smattering of sun loungers in the sand. This is also where the Renaissance's 6 flamingos live.
Flamingos are NOT native to Aruba, and these domesticated ones have been brought in specifically by the Renaissance Resort. (So yes, they're a bit like zoo animals, so there's the ethics of that to think about.) The flamingos have free reign on the island, though, and seem well-cared-for. They honestly don't seem super bothered by all the people, either (and, when they are, they simply squawk a bit and walk away).
If you want to feed the flamingos, there's a small flamingo food dispenser on the bridge before you reach the beach, but you'll need USD quarters to use it.
If you want the best photos of the flamingos (or especially YOU and the flamingos), I recommend going early in the morning for both the best light AND the least amount of people. Elliot and I got there before 8 a.m., and there were still a dozen other people vying for the flamingos' attention.
Pro tip: Don't chase the flamingos around. Pick a spot on the beach and just wait – the flamingos meander around (and sometimes move to get away from pushier selfie-seekers), and are bound to wander your way eventually, even if you don't have any food. All my best photos were taken when I went and stood on my own out of the way and waited for the flamingos to come to me.
If you have kids and want to see the flamingos, kids are only allowed on Flamingo Beach from 9-10 a.m. every morning.
The other beach on Renaissance Private Island is Iguana Beach, the family-friendly beach. This beach is slightly bigger with more sun loungers (and slightly more shade!), as well as a waterfront lounge area where you can sit and watch planes landing and taking off at the airport.
You'll also find the new Papagoyo Bar and Grill at Iguana Beach, which serves drinks and light bites. Their wood-fired pizza is actually really good!
Oh and yes, there are iguanas all over this beach, too!
Renaissance Private Island day passes
Like I mentioned before, you CAN get a day pass to visit Renaissance Private Island if you aren't staying at the hotel. If you're going this route, I recommend calling the hotel a day or two before you're thinking of going, to see if they have an idea of whether or not they'll be offering guest passes. They only offer 30 passes per day on days when they are below 80% occupancy.
And you can only get these passes in-person on the day you'd like to visit – so you'll want to get to hotel reception at the Marina Hotel as early as possible.
Passes are $99 per person, and include lunch on the island.
But honestly, if you want to be *guaranteed* a visit to Flamingo Beach, I would just for at least one night. That way you don't have to stress about whether you'll get passes or not!
Renting a private cabana on Renaissance Island
Since Elliot and I were visiting Aruba for our wedding anniversary, we wanted to do something special; splurge a little bit. So we decided to book ourselves a private cabana.
Renaissance Private Island offers a handful of private cabanas – 4 on Flamingo Beach and 5 on Iguana Beach – that can be rented out for the day. Seven of the cabanas can hold 4 people, which the other two are slightly bigger and can accommodate 6 people.
All of the cabanas come with a cooler filled with water and a bottle of sparkling wine; free towels; snorkel masks and water floats to use; a fruit plate; an over-water hammock; and butler service throughout the day so you don't have to walk to the bar to order drinks or food.
And they're all shaded and usually breezy all day long.
We booked one of the smaller cabanas on Flamingo Beach, and whiled away our anniversary day by swimming, sipping bubbly, enjoying cool breezes, and watching the flamingos further down the beach.
This is the ULTIMATE way to relax on Renaissance Private Island, and I think it was worth every penny.
(Speaking of pennies, the cabana we rented runs $200+ tax during the low season, which I think is great value. In high season, though, prices will be going up to close to $500 for some of the cabanas, which may only be worth it if you're traveling with friends and can split the cost.)
Private cabana tip
Here's an important detail: The private cabanas can ONLY be rented by Renaissance hotel guests. In order to inquire about renting one, you need to have your hotel confirmation number and then email [email protected] to see if there's availability for the day you want.
These cabanas do sell out in advance, so I recommend booking as early as you can!
All in all, we enjoyed our stay at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino. The hotels are laid-back and clean, and the service is good. The on-site restaurants are quality (though I do recommend exploring a bit of Oranjestad for food, too!), the beds are comfy, and the pool areas at both hotels are nicely laid out and clean.
I like that the hotels offer an experience for everyone, whether you're traveling with kids, friends, or maybe on a honeymoon or anniversary trip.
And the private island is wonderful in so many ways; the flamingos alone would convince me to stay at this hotel again!
Have I (and the flamingos) convinced you? Would you stay at the Renaissance Aruba Resort?
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