Looking back at three decades of Aruba vacations at Boardwalk Hotel

This story starts in the mid-nineties, when American windsurfing couple Karl and Robyn Huck first set foot in Aruba for a much anticipated windsurf vacation. They had learned how to windsurf on the Caribbean island of Martinique and soon learned from fellow surfers that the best windsurfing conditions could be found in Aruba. The couple studies various vacation packages to Aruba and fell hard for a small windsurfing retreat in Aruba called Boardwalk, offered in a packaged vacation by Vela. That was some thirty years ago.

Authentic Caribbean experience

When asked about their very first stay at Boardwalk the couple shares “it was a very rustic place back then, lots of dark wood in the casitas and bright, colorful artwork on the walls. The garden was wild, literally. We felt like staying in an untouched wilderness which definitely had its charm but also meant dealing with lots of living creatures. There were chickens running around everywhere, tons of iguanas, and I even found a scorpion in my towel at some point. We were young and windsurfing all day, so the animals and the wilderness didn’t bother us, it added to the authentic Caribbean experience.

Aruba in the nineties

Don’t forget – Aruba was a totally different island back then as well. When we first arrived, the airport was super tiny and old. It was cute, you landed and walked alongside the tarmac in the breezy open air to the arrivals hall. On the island you felt as if time had stood still, almost from another century. For those who were around in Aruba in the nineties will know what we mean if we say that we witnessed Kong Hing opening as the supermarket in Aruba, a novelty back then yet closed in recent years as newer, bigger and better supermarkets like Ling & Sons and Superfood opened over time.”

Windsurfing all day

The couple chose Aruba for its windsurfing conditions, and Boardwalk for its location within walking distance to the best windsurfing beach in Aruba, Fisherman’s Huts. “We loved the lush property, the private casitas and truly enjoyed our walk each morning across the street to the beach. We filled the cooler that the hotel provided with drinks, snacks and a lunch-to-go and would bring that with us to the Huts. Then we surfed all morning, non-stop, followed by lunch on the beach and then we’d continue for hours and hours of windsurfing in the afternoon. We had one priority back then, and that was to surf all day, every day.”

Private time and privacy

The first casita the couple ever stayed in was casita number 4. “We immediately loved this casita as it offered lots of privacy. Around 1995 this was the only casita that was free standing and had a huge private patio where we could hang and leave our surf equipment”, Robyn shares. After a full day of surfing, we would retreat to the tiny pool, the only pool at the time, and we’d soak in the jacuzzi of this pool for hours. This was a moment to indulge and recharge, as back home very young kids and our jobs were demanding all of our time and energy. We never brought the kids with us to Aruba, until our 30th wedding anniversary, as Aruba was our sacred private time.”

30th anniversary in Aruba

Years went by and the Hucks’ kept returning to Aruba and to Boardwalk, always requesting casita 4. They did not come back every year, as airlift to Aruba from their home in Woodstock, Vermont was a bit of a struggle, plus the vacation budget was tight with an expanding, young family. But sure enough, every two to three years they would find themselves back at Boardwalk and windsurfing the day away. Around 2005 the couple started returning every year, like clockwork and Boardwalk remained their only place to stay. And then, in 2011, the couple invited their two sons, daughter and two daughters-in-law to Aruba for a surprise vacation to celebrate Karl and Robyn’s 30th wedding anniversary. “This is a funny story, as we sent our kids an email with a dinner reservation at The Flying Fishbone and a save the date. Apparently, none of them registered where this restaurant was located, as only later-on they realized that to attend the dinner, they actually would have to fly to Aruba.”

Time for change

Around this time in 2011 Karl and Robyn also encountered Kimberly and Stephanie, the twin sisters who had taken over Boardwalk that same year for the first time. From then on things started to change at the hotel noticeably. “Although we still came to Aruba and to Boardwalk to windsurf, the vacation retreat transitioned in a much cleaner, slicker version as a small hotel. The first thing the twins did was to give all casitas a fresh coat of paint, brightening up the interior of the casitas, and improving the cleanliness of the hotel accommodations as well as the overgrown gardens. Nothing much changed for us, other than the fact we were getting a bit older and I just could no longer be out on the surfboard all day, so would enjoy my morning on the water and then relax or do other things in the afternoon”, says Robyn. The couple also gained a new favorite casita. As casita 4 was not available during one of their yearly Aruba vacations, the front desk team suggested the couple try casita 123 and soon enough this became their new favorite. “The casita is located on the second floor, overlooking the small pool and felt very private, we simply loved it”, adds Karl.

Boutique hotel

Things did change when the hotel started the big expansion in 2018 and transformed to a boutique hotel. “At some point the construction got going and they were also demolishing the old lobby. Staying above the lobby in casita 123 became unbearable so we were offered another casita, which we also loved. On our most recent trip to Aruba we discovered a new Boardwalk favorite; the 360 Palapa Lodge. We love the views from the wrap around balcony, they are truly amazing. And the fact that this is another stand-alone casita offering lots of privacy is what appealed to us. Meanwhile the twins were so super generous with their time and attention during the expansion phase, inviting us for personal tours of the construction site, showing us renderings and mood boards to keep us involved in the transformation process to boutique hotel. A very personal approach that we appreciated very much.”

Luxury experience

When the hotel reopened in 2019 as Boardwalk Boutique Hotel, Karl and Robyn loved the new look and feel of the property. “They kept the vibe and layout of the Boardwalk intact, with its meandering wooden boardwalks, the small casitas dotting the lush grounds with its foliage and flowers, and the warm and welcoming ambiance. Yet in the overall upkeep, maintenance and cleanliness the hotel improved much. It is truly a luxury experience now with the new spacious lobby, the palapas that are offered on the beach, a full-service restaurant. It’s all so high class now, a true wow”.

Marital advise

The Hucks’ are now in their sixties, with Karl still surfing when in Aruba, although not as much anymore. “We go for long beach walks, we snorkel and do other things now. We know the island so well by now, it truly feels like home and it makes it so easy for us to navigate and plan our days.” Having celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary in 2023, the couple also shares some marital advise with us when asked what the secret to their successful and long marriage is. “It’s an adventure. We met in a foreign exchange program right after we graduated high school and liked each other, but I was sent to Finland, Karl went to France”, says Robyn. "We ran into each other again when we both attended the University of Vermont, and the rest as they say is history. That we made it work for us has a lot to do with our faith, and with safeguarding private time for just the two of us, like our windsurfing vacations to Aruba. And you also have to keep wondering about your partner, keep getting to know them as you are never done with that process and remain open to changes. When you’ve been together since college like us, you grew up together and share so much. You become a part of each other’s lives in such a deep, meaningful way", shares Robyn.

Repeat visitors

The yearly vacation to Aruba will remain on the calendar. “The fun already starts on the plane. We don’t ask others on the flight if they have been to Aruba, the question is always how often we’ve all returned to Aruba. We certainly lost count”, says Karl. “Over the years we met so many other repeaters on the beach, on the plane, at Boardwalk. We recognize one another and especially with another couple from California that are also repeaters for many decades we remain in touch. And the staff at Boardwalk treats us like friends and family whenever we return. There is always a warm welcome from Kimberly and Stephanie and staff like Marijn, and in previous years Alice and Katinka, make us feel right at home.”

Adult only

The couple feels so much at home in Aruba that they also volunteered in the Hi-Winds surfing competition in Aruba; once assisting with the kitesurfing race on Eagle Beach and once at the concessions stand on Fisherman’s Huts. And the Aruba bug did get passed on to the next generation. Although their kids only participated in family vacations to Aruba twice, for their 30th anniversary in 2011 and again in 2022 with all the kids and grandchildren, their daughter recently returned for a vacation in Aruba. “Because Boardwalk changed their policy and is now an adult-only property we could unfortunately not stay at the hotel this time, as we had a seven year old child in our travel party. That was our very first time in almost three decades that we didn’t stay at Boardwalk. We ended up renting a vacation house and loved the experience, but next year, we’ll surely be back at Boardwalk!”

More information

Want to enjoy more stories of vacationing in Aruba from repeat guests at Boardwalk who even stayed 30 years in a row at our hotel? Click here for more trips down memory lane.

Want to learn more about volunteering while on vacation? Have a look at our Do Good Program here.

More about windsurfing and kiteboarding can be found here.

Boardwalk News!

Boardwalk Boutique Hotel Aruba will be an Adults-Only property by the 1st of January 2025.

For those traveling with children ages 12-17, reservations with departure by December 31, 2024 will be accepted. Please contact [email protected] for more information.