Ask a Traveler: A Safe, Low-Key Spring Break

aruba eagle beach view

In this week’s Ask a Traveler, we have a letter-writer in need of a low-key spring break with sandy beaches, a direct flight from New York, and, ideally, a Hilton points-friendly hotel. Our suggestion involves burrowing owls, a 19th-century gold mine, world-class windsurfing, and more. If you have a travel dilemma, please send it to me! The more parameters of travel desire, the better.


I’m looking for a spring break destination for me and my boyfriend, both tired and cold New Yorkers just hoping to spend a few days getting sunburned on a beach. I’m hoping for a warm-weather destination where you can stay somewhere nice without it being crazy expensive — I’m not interested in places like St. Barts or Anguilla. We’d also like to avoid all-inclusive resorts where the resort is really beautiful but you’ll never leave the resort and if you do it can be sort of stressy. We definitely want something beachfront, even if it means paying a little more. We don’t mind a big, corporate hotel for this trip — actually, extra credit if you can find something where I can use my Hilton Honors points. I’d like to stay somewhere we feel safe away from the hotel. 


My follow-up questions:

Is it important to you to have white-sand (or just sandy) beaches? Do either of you snorkel or scuba dive? 

The response:

Yes to sandy beaches, if possible. No to snorkeling and scuba diving. 

My second follow-up:

How far are you willing to travel? 

The response:

Ideally we’d be on a non-stop from New York — if possible I’d love to avoid a connection. And up to — four hours? As long as we don’t have to connect, we’re pretty flexible on this. 

My answer: Aruba!

I have found Aruba to be beautiful, safe, and unique. I love its beaches — just beautiful white sand, particularly on the less severe western coast, where the huge majority of the hotels are located. It has no shortage of giant corporate hotels, if that’s what your heart seeks. Lots of destinations in the Caribbean(/everywhere) cater to wealthy travelers, most notably places like St. Barts, Necker Island, that island owned by David Copperfield, etc. Great for them!! But there’s obviously more to the Caribbean than that — including the ABCs, three quite southern islands within the Dutch Caribbean: Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. Each of them to me feels like it appeals to smart family travelers more than the millionaire class— maybe it’s a product of their connections to the Netherlands, a culture proudly disdainful of aggressive shows of wealth. If you’re looking for a White Lotus vibe, this isn’t it, though there is a Ritz-Carlton there.

Curacao is lovely, and if M. had said that she and her partner were OK with non-sandy beaches, this would have been my top pick, as it has better attractions, including a moving museum about slavery, the Kura Hulanda. But many of Curacao’s beaches are rocky (sample Tripadvisor post title: Sandy Beaches in Curacao??????). Bonaire, meanwhile, is world-famous as a scuba destination, but if you’re not diving, it wouldn’t rise to the top of the list. All of this means that Aruba reigns supreme.

It’s a five-hour flight from New York City, but a handful of airlines offer non-stop flights: Delta, JetBlue, and United. While traveling safely is a mixture of luck, paranoia, and preventive strategies, the State Department has rated it Level 1, and issued no advisories against travel there, stating that “Crime against tourists consists primarily of theft. The main targets are valuables left unattended in public areas (beaches, cars, hotel lobbies, etc.). Purses, cameras, passports, phones, and other handheld electronics are the most frequently stolen items.” [Full information sheet here.] Notably, they issued a security alert for the Bahamas (Level 2) in January, blaming “retaliatory gang violence” for a spate of murders.

aruba hilton pool

For many American visitors, Aruba will look pretty familiar — I remember on my first visit thinking that it looked a lot like the Texas Gulf Coast, though I’m no longer sure that’s the best reference point. Speaking of Tripadvisor, Aruba’s Eagle Beach won the site’s Best Caribbean Beach in 2023, an honor with which I would agree. It’s beautiful, and wide, and the water could not be more gorgeous — a million stars for Eagle Beach. And on Eagle Beach, I recommend the Hilton Aruba, which was once the Aruba Caribbean Hotel, the oldest hotel in the region and designed by the same famous architect, Morris Lapidus, responsible for Miami Beach’s most famous Fontainebleau and the Eden Roc.

I mentioned that Aruba is unique, and this is in large part thanks to Arikok National Park, the only desert in the Caribbean. Imagine burrowing owls, a 19th-century gold mine, forests of cacti, natural pools and more, all with the dramatically wind-beaten east coast and the deep-blue Caribbean Sea as a backdrop. Aruba’s a small island — it’s 19 miles by 5 miles — so accessing the park is a snap from the hotel zone.

Obviously this is a specific kind of trip. If the idea of Aruba sounds appealing but you’d like something slightly more off the tourist grid than a beach zone of high-rise hotels, Malmok, a little further north on the island’s western coastline, is quieter, pricier, and home to some excellent windsurfing schools.

Speaking of that wind:

chart of aruba wind speed

I literally just took this screenshot, randomly, and check that out: an average of 25 mph winds, every day, for the next seven days — that is intense! If you really hate wind, you might want to skip Aruba, at least in the months of April to May, when they’re generally believed to strongest, in favor of the fall, when they’re believed to be weakest, though I was told by reliable sources that they blow year-round.

If you have a travel dilemma, please send it to me!

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Filed under: travel advice


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Hi, I'm Diana. I've written about travel for The Wall Street Journal, Buzzfeed, The Cut, Travel + Leisure, Outside, and lots of other places. This is my blog.