Home News Travel Why the new Embassy Suites in Aruba is an unexpected knockout – The Points Guy

Why the new Embassy Suites in Aruba is an unexpected knockout – The Points Guy

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Why the new Embassy Suites in Aruba is an unexpected knockout – The Points Guy

I can’t be alone when I say the Embassy Suites brand conjures a certain type of image: affordable stays for business travelers who need the conveniences of home (a hot breakfast, space to spread out) even on the road.

For example, I recently spent two nights at the Embassy Suites near Denver’s downtown convention center during a work trip. It may not have been the city’s chicest hotel, but it’s hard to argue with the room rates, particularly when you consider the complimentary amenities (free made-to-order omelets and happy hour beverages, to say nothing of the spacious suite-style layouts for all guests).

Still, the brand has come a long way from chlorine-scented atriums and unmemorable, neutral-hued rooms designed for weary business travelers. And there are few better examples of Embassy Suites’ evolution than its brand-new Aruba resort.

MELANIE LIEBERMAN/THE POINTS GUY

Typically, though not always, you’ll find an Embassy Suites across the street from a convention center or in a city’s bustling financial district. But the brand has been expanding its reach to farther-flung international addresses and, in some cases, cropping up alongside popular resort redoubts. And it’s obvious the Embassy Suites promises to change the value proposition for Aruba-bound vacationers, who often pay premium rates for a single room — and then have to keep spending at the resort throughout their stay.

Snapshot

On Feb. 1, Embassy Suites officially dropped its flag on a quiet stretch of Aruba between the main tract of Eagle Beach and the crowded, albeit vibrant, resort-peppered Palm Beach. The latter has long been home to a Ritz-Carlton, a Marriott, a Hyatt Regency and a Hilton, to name a few. The Embassy Suites Aruba is a quick 15-minute drive to the island’s main airport, Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA).

My immediate impression of the property is that it will be perfect for families: Though there was such a surprising smattering of travelers, it might be a sweeping generalization. There was a group of camo-clad members of the military, parents with young children and groups of friends.

But what stood out most about the property, compared to other Embassy Suites, was that its aesthetic embodied a distinct sense of place. Instead of washes of gray and brown, this Aruba resort featured pops of turquoise and coral — a nod to the ocean just outside. There was also natural wood throughout the property, including a wall feature in the lobby etched with the iconic fofoti trees that emerge from the sand and stretch southwest, their twisted branches echoing the patterns of the trade winds.

What you’ll love about the Embassy Suites Aruba

An unbeatable value

When I booked a one-night stay at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Aruba Resort last month, my entry-level two-room suite (before taxes and fees) cost $465. The sunrise-view room came with a balcony, a wet bar, a small living room and a separate bedroom and bathroom. The price was about half what could be found up the road at Palm Beach, where entry-level rooms with single king beds or two queens at most of the hotels there were demanding double during the busy spring break period.

Travelers should note that an additional 15% service charge was added to my folio — a nightly resort fee that included internet access, daily resort activities and fitness classes (though I didn’t hear anything about those during my stay); use of beach towels and bicycle tours, among other inclusions. For my trip, that cost $69.75, but the fee will vary depending on the price you pay per night.

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But the Embassy Suites is not an outlier — you should expect a resort fee at most properties in Aruba, and few other hotels on the island can boast free made-to-order omelets at breakfast, complimentary happy hour cocktails, free on-site parking and access to a quasi-private stretch of the beach through an underground tunnel.

Of course, travelers with a stash of Hilton points can also redeem points for their stay. Rooms at the Embassy Suites in Aruba cost between 71,000 and 89,000 points per night.

Occasionally, travelers might find a more affordable cash rate at the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino on Palm Beach, but points rates here can reach astronomical heights, ranging from 80,000 to 331,000 points per night during peak periods.

Best of all, travelers who use points won’t have to pay the resort fee — a perk of using Hilton points in general.

A private tunnel to an (almost) secret beach

Many resorts on this edge of Aruba boast beachfront locations, where guests can amble straight from the property onto the island’s soft sands and into the warm waters of the southern Caribbean. Not so at the Embassy Suites, which is severed from the beach by a busy stretch of road (by Aruba’s standards).

Fortunately, developers gave this some serious thought and constructed a tunnel that starts in the back of the hotel’s property, behind the main outdoor pool, and crosses beneath the road before popping up aboveground, just before the beach. It’s well-lit at night and completely accessible, meaning travelers with strollers, wheelchairs or beach wagons won’t have any trouble using this amenity.

After having just spent two days at the resort-stuffed Palm Beach, where the strand was littered with cigarette butts and I was never more than an arm’s length away from a sweaty, sunburned stranger, this was a tremendous upgrade. I’d gladly sit with my bare bottom in the sand, no cocktail service in sight, if it meant fresh air and clean sand and a view unimpeded by a herd of Banana Boat-slick children screaming after a sandcastle is stomped on.

That’s because even though it’s easy enough to get to the beach, there’s no beach service provided here as you might find at neighboring properties. So, prepare to pack a picnic and haul your own beach towels along with you.

Plenty of space to splash out

Perhaps my impression of the Embassy Suites would be different if it had been sold out, every suite filled with a family of four that clambered for pool chairs and hogged the omelet station. Because it was so new, though, likely less than half capacity, I had my pick of breakfast tables and poolside loungers. Only at happy hour, when everyone elbowed up to the bar and chucked their free drink coupons at a friendly but overwhelmed bartender, did I ever have to wait.

MELANIE LIEBERMAN/THE POINTS GUY

But even when the property picks up in popularity, I suspect spaciousness will still be a top selling point.

There’s a sprawling main outdoor pool, a kids-only pool, a playground and plenty of open lawn space for kids to run around.

But it’s the space guests will enjoy in their guaranteed 470-square-foot two-room suites that’s sure to go far in keeping families and groups happy.

I walked into my eighth-floor suite to find a sleek wet bar (complete with a microwave, minifridge and Cuisinart coffee maker), a dining area for four and a living room with a pullout sofa and flatscreen television. There was a separate bedroom, which had a king-size bed, a second television and a closet, connected to the main living space by a contemporary, all-white bathroom stocked with full-size Zero/0 natural bath products.

The two rooms were also connected by a furnished patio overlooking the pool and the sea beyond; a small sitting area was tucked away in the corner.

Why you might not love the Embassy Suites Aruba

New hotel jitters

Upon check-in, the resort’s newness is obvious — during my one-night stay, almost constant construction was underway on … well, I’m not sure what. Some decorative feature in the lobby, if I had to guess. And though the entire property felt new, clean and untouched, I also experienced a few idiosyncrasies that are not uncommon when a hotel is still in its infancy.

My suite wasn’t ready when I arrived in the morning, so I left my bags with the front desk and set out to explore the property.

A massive pool, surrounded by manicured grounds, was the key focal point of the property, which was quiet even for a new resort. It was almost eerie, a mood exacerbated by the large number of military personnel who seemed to be staying at the hotel for an event or meeting of some sort.

When I walked up to the al fresco Splash restaurant for lunch the afternoon I arrived, there was no one around to seat guests (not that there were any guests to speak of), so I switched gears and walked over to the similarly named Splash pool bar, where at least someone was helming the bar.

There was also a lot of inconsistency surrounding operating hours. During my stay, I received complimentary beverage coupons for that night’s happy hour, which was supposed to run until 7 p.m. But when I got there, they said they were going to change the happy hour so that it ended earlier moving forward. I also asked about the grab-and-go market’s operating hours and was told it would open at 7 a.m. When I strolled past around that time, the outlet was still shuttered.

That said, unlike neighboring resorts, where you need to prioritize making your claim on lounge chairs by the pool before even thinking about what you’d like for breakfast, the Embassy Suites — at least, for the time being — feels more like a private retreat. Even the cabanas are available on a first-come, first-served basis, whereas you typically need to plan days in advance and pay extra to reserve them at more established properties.

A love-it-or-leave-it location

One significant drawback of the Embassy Suites is its aforementioned location. It’s not a true beachfront property since a two-lane road separates the grounds from a lovely, albeit small, stretch of sand. Thanks to the tunnel, guests don’t need to worry about racing across the street with little ones in tow.

But as mentioned, there also aren’t rows of beach chairs beneath umbrellas with doting attendants waiting to lay out towels. And you won’t find someone circling throughout the afternoon taking food and drink orders. The result is a stripped-down, quiet, completely relaxed beach vibe that may appeal to many but not satisfy others.

Though it’s not hard to get to nearby restaurants and resorts from the Embassy Suites, it does feel distinctly tucked away.

Food that’s fine at best

Since I had already spent two days sleeping by the pool of my first hotel and hiking in Arikok National Park, I was exceptionally crispy (read: sporting a humiliating sunburn) by the time the sun rose on my last day in Aruba.

So, I took my time at breakfast instead of racing to the pool to soak up as much ultraviolet light as possible before returning to a frosty New York City.

Embassy Suites is routinely hailed as the best free hotel breakfast money can’t buy since nearly every property has a made-to-order omelet station. I ordered an egg-white omelet with tomato, onion and bell pepper, and it was good. By that, I mean, I ordered a pretty bland omelet, so that’s what I got. But it was cooked well — not too dry, not too runny — and plenty of hot and cold extras were available: crispy hash browns, bacon and sausage, platters of French toast, pancakes, fresh fruit and pastries.

Brickstones Kitchen & Bar is the name of the lobby bar and restaurant, the space shifting throughout the day to accommodate breakfast, happy hour and dinner. I grabbed a table outside for dinner and watched a spectacular sunset beyond the pool area while snacking on a hearty avocado wedge salad ($14) and a perfectly prepared fish of the day (market price, $34) over roasted vegetables (namely carrots, bell pepper and potatoes) with cilantro aioli.

Lunch at Splash was a bit of a letdown — the large chopped salad with greens, tomatoes, onions, cucumber, garbanzo beans, shaved red onion and feta was fresh and massive for $14, but the ahi tuna tataki starter ($18.50) was severely overcooked; the thin slices of tuna were tough and the wakame salad reminded me of the prepackaged seaweed salads you get at grocery store sushi stands. The slices of jalapenos on top (not even mentioned in the menu listing) were cut almost too thick to be eaten raw.

Alternatives

Compared to many islands in the Caribbean, Aruba has a profusion of points properties.

Popular options include the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa and Casino, a particularly great property for travelers who want to pay for Club-level rooms (or Globalist members) since there’s an excellent lounge with free food and beverages throughout the day.

Marriott has six properties in Aruba, including two vacation clubs, a Ritz-Carlton and a Courtyard by Marriott.

Hilton loyalists can also stay at the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino, which sometimes costs even less than the Embassy Suites and offers Club-level rooms and half a dozen restaurants.

Accessibility

The Embassy Suites by Hilton Aruba Resort happily has many obvious accessibility features, including an accessible swimming pool with a chair lift; the underground tunnel to the beach that descends and ascends via ramps; and benches in many in-room showers.

There are, of course, also a handful of accessible suites, including rooms with roll-in showers, plus mobility and hearing-accessible suites with roll-in showers and various bed configurations.

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