Located just off the coast of South America, Aruba and Curacao count pristine turquoise waters, Dutch influence with American ease and year-round cooling trade winds among their many assets. The two islands, along with Bonaire, comprise the former Netherlands Antilles, and offer beach lovers, adrenaline junkies and everyone in between a slice of paradise—and some exciting hyper-local options.
Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, situated on Aruba’s white-sand Palm Beach, is the island’s largest property, with 411 guest rooms, featuring large, private balconies overlooking lush landscape and the gorgeous waters of the Caribbean. It also includes the largest casino in Aruba, a 6,500-square-foot spa, and nine restaurants and bars.
One popular new fitness activity offered to groups near the Marriott is stand-up paddleboard yoga in the waters off Palm Beach. The resort strives for mental well-being, as well, with a designated area referred to as the Happy Zone featuring hammocks swaying between palm trees. If happiness means flavor, then groups will flock to Paladar, a Cuban-inspired pop-up cookout experience. Set by the ocean, the vibe is beach-chic and the island tunes make for perfect mixing and mingling.
Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino partners with De Palm Tours to cater to adventure seekers. Event planners can choose from off-road Land Rover tours through Arikok National Park or sunset sail and snorkel excursions that stop at the historic Antilla shipwreck. Whether by land or sea, an exciting time is guaranteed.
Curacao is Aruba’s larger neighbor, and pastel-hued Willemstad is its former Colonial capital. Curacao’s oldest hotel, Avila Beach Hotel was built in 1949 in the 18th-century governor’s home. Modern luxury wings have been added, and it combines stately Colonial architecture with a buzzy modern twist.
The boutique hotel, with 154 guest rooms, fits most small groups, and since it’s only 3 miles from the city, it offers easy access to some of the main sights and the airport. Avila’s Blues Bar and Restaurant is renowned for its live jazz, delicious food and fun locale—a raised gazebo-style structure over the sea. Groups can reserve the space, or large tables near the elevated stage.
Avila Beach Hotel is a member of Pack for a Purpose, an organization that encourages travelers to pack goods such as school supplies and toys in their suitcase to donate to nearby schools.
“The Caribbean’s year-round warm temperature perfectly lends itself to dynamic group activities outside of the board room and traditional meeting space,” says Robbin Vogels, general manager of Avila. “Who doesn’t want to bond with their colleagues while sailing or trying stand-up paddleboard yoga for the first time? The island offers a diverse range of outdoor excursions, such as kayaking, diving, hiking, ATV trips and more. Groups will love the island’s rich heritage, eclectic cuisine and year-round concerts and events.”
Attendees can experience local culture during Chichi VIP Workshop with Bubbles, which provides an opportunity to learn special painting techniques, enjoy champagne and interact with members of the community. (In the Papiamento language, spoken on Curacao, chichi refers to a respected elder sister or female relative.) The Chichi doll is a must-create souvenir.
Read more about the Caribbean’s hyper-local options in the story “Taking a Deep Dive on the Islands” in the February issue of Smart Meetings magazine.