Looking for the ultimate luxury vacation where you can actually take your dog? I’d suggest the Ritz-Carlton on Aruba. I was lucky enough to personally check out this dog-loving island and stayed at the Ritz-Carlton, a pet-friendly luxury property. Luxury properties don’t always allow pets, but certain Ritz-Carltons do and, of course, it does it in style.
I traveled to Aruba and spent several days there along with Instagram dog celebrities and their humans: Yorkie mix Ella Bean, her human, Hilary Sloan, plus husband Noah Shulman, creative director of video content (@ellabeanthedog); Maltipoo Mochi and her human, Elle Drouin (@mochiandthecity); and Brussels Griffon Sprout and his human, Sigrid Neilson (@brussels.sprout).
No surprise, the Ritz-Carlton rolled out the welcome wagon. That’s what they do. Aruba’s weather was perfect. That’s what it is. However, the first, middle and last thing I noticed was that Arubans are passionate about dogs. Everyone who worked at the Ritz-Carlton, from the managers to the restaurant hostess, the housekeepers and food and drink service team were crazy about dogs. I was shown photo after photo of their own dogs. The guests seemed to love dogs, too. The little dog trio was treated like celebrities.
They ate fresh prepared meals from their own doggie menus, lounged around on their own dog-sized cabanas on the beach and enjoyed doggie massages as part of the spa treatment. What dog could ask for more?
Hilary tells me that Ella’s favorite part was “hands down” the chef-prepared food. “She realllly loved the salmon dish in particular,” Hilary says. “She turned up her nose at her regular food for a few days when we got home.” Hilary and Noah’s favorite part was when they got to swim with Ella in the warm sea. “Where else can you get clear, calm and warm water to enjoy and bask in and — even better — splash with your pup? It was a one-of-a-kind experience.”
Elle and Mochi agree that the gourmet food was definitely a highlight. “The Ritz-Carlton has a special dog-friendly menu featuring a “woof woof” cocktail of light chicken consommé, chicken breast and diced vegetables (so delicious!) as well as other gourmet options like salmon tataki, flank steak and duck liver pate.” She adds, “Mochi also enjoyed watermelon ‘ice cubes’ on the beach, plenty of fresh fruit and a special salmon sushi dinner our last night at the hotel!”
There were guests I met who come back to the Ritz-Carlton, Aruba, every year. I can’t blame them. The resort has beautiful, large rooms with private ocean-view balconies. There are four different places to eat, two swimming pools and several shops, where you can buy anything from bathing suits to cute dog products. You can bring your dog with you to these areas, plus the expansive beachfront where there are water activities you have access to like stand-up paddleboarding, which not only did the dogs try but some of the local Aruba dogs as well. There we met Aruba’s own Instagram celeb and dog rescue supporter Yoga Girl Rachel Brathen (@yoga_girl) and her paddleboarding dog Ringo (@ringo_thegringo).
You can also kayak, snorkel, scuba dive and sail. The Ritz-Carlton is the last hotel at the end of the island, and you can easily take your dog out walking around on the beach away from other tourists. (Keep your dog on a leash since Aruba does have a leashed dog law.) Several areas you’ll want to check out, but get a dogsitter since these are human only, are the resort’s casino (slot machines, table games, bingo), the Fitness Center gym (two thumbs up from me!) and the luxury spa (facial and massage, anyone?). However, your dog can get a doggie massage if he so desires.
Like many luxury hotels, there is a $250 non-refundable pet fee. Although there isn’t a specific dog potty area on the resort grounds, there are plenty of spots your dog can use — just make sure to pick up after. The sun and ocean breeze are wonderful, but you’ll need to keep your dog hydrated, in the shade when possible (like the cabanas!), use dog sunscreen and perhaps protective doggie sunglasses, as the sand does blow around with the winds. (Follow on Facebook @RitzCarltonAruba.)
There are always things you must do when traveling with your dog. For Aruba, your pup must weigh less than 20 pounds to stay at the Ritz-Carlton and to travel in the passenger compartment of the airplane. For American pups, you need a valid International Veterinary Health Certificate issued within 14 days prior to arrival in Aruba endorsed by the USDA, a valid rabies shot and inoculation certificate, and your dog must be microchipped. (See visitaruba.com for more information.)
My dogs were a little too big to come with me, so I asked Hilary and Elle about their experience. “It was actually so easy!” Hilary says. “We were nervous, because part of the process requires scanning and emailing the Aruba customs agency, but they responded within the same day to give their approvals. I simply printed the attachment they sent, brought the papers from the USDA via my vet’s office and showed them when we landed.”
Elle’s experience was also easy. “Since Mochi was already microchipped and up-to-date on her rabies vaccinations,” she explains, “after getting the signed health certificate from her vet, we just had to overnight it to the USDA office in Albany, New York, with a $38 endorsement fee along with an overnight return envelope. Once we got that back, we emailed all of the signed paperwork to the Veterinary Service of Aruba for approval.”
Aruba is known for its white-sand beaches, consistent warm, sunny days (around 80 degrees), warm ocean waters and cool ocean breezes, which is why this 19.6-mile long and 6-mile across island off of Venezuela is so popular. It’s part of the Netherlands, and you can find the Dutch influence everywhere. In fact, many of the Arubans I spoke to at the Ritz-Carlton attended college in the Netherlands before coming back to the island. There are two official languages, both Dutch and Papiamento (Bon Bini means welcome in Papiamento).
If you can tear yourself away from the Ritz-Carlton, there are many places to explore. If you love shopping, you’ll find many stores downtown in the capital city of Oranjestad. There are also several museums, the Arikok National Park and the Bubali Bird Sanctuary. We took a short ride out to the beautifully restored old stone California Lighthouse, which gives you an amazing view of the island. There are as many land activities (ATVs, horseback riding, etc.) as water activities, so you’ll never be bored.
Dogs are well-loved on the island, but, just like in the United States, there is a homeless pet population. I got to meet some dedicated dog welfare devotees at the resort. Aruba Ritz-Carlton’s own hotel manager, Louella Brezovar, introduced us to members of Sgt Pepper’s Friends (sgtpeppersfriends.com), a nonprofit that she and others at the Ritz-Carlton volunteer for. Louella had personally flown adopted pets to the United States, delivering them to Americans who had adopted the Aruban dogs.
Aruba dogs are all mixed breeds called Aruba Cunucu dogs and weigh between 35 to 55 pounds. You can follow these rescue dogs along with the group on its website or social media pages @sgtpeppersfriends.
When you are an Instagram celebrity, you’re in much demand and get to travel all over. Hilary and Elle gave us some of their hard-learned tips for flying with dogs.
Thumbnail: Ella Bean keeps cool in the sun on Aruba’s famed white sands. Courtesy Hilary Sloan @ellabeanthedog.
Tell us: Are you planning any vacations with your dog? Have you ever thought about traveling to Aruba?
Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Dogster magazine. Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Dogster magazine delivered straight to you!
Read more about traveling with dogs on Dogster.com: