It’s Official: Palapas in Aruba to be removed

Recently during deliberations in Aruba’s Parliament, a majority of Members of Parliament stood behind the new regulations initiated by the Minister of Infrastructure. Regulations to enforce the law: palapas [grass huts] are to be removed from public beaches. If this rule truly gets enforced then Aruba will have one the strictest beach regulation policies in the Caribbean.

Perspective

I’m going to put this into perspective for the ones who don’t understand what the deal is exactly. Firstly, bear in mind that most of these palapas are built without any kind of permit from the Department of Infrastructure, thus completely illegal. Some resorts insist they have some sort of understanding with some official but  – I insist – this is highly illegal, no one is authorized to approve building on the beaches. Take my advice, don’t make this claim.

Palapas
Only a few palapas on Eagle Beach, unlike Palm Beach

Secondly, after the resorts – biggest culprits – noticed that officials were lenient towards these palapas they started to build other illegal structures such as towel huts and restaurants. Now when you walk around Palm Beach the beach is filled with all kind of structures making the beach less appealing.

The reason as the why the government is taking steps towards regulation now is understandable. Especially in light of the latest developments in Palm Beach – new Ritz-Carlton Hotel – and rumored return of Hilton Hotels, officials feel new stringent rules are necessary.

Below I’ve set out the perspective from various groups.

Me

Aruba’s beaches rank among the best in the world and people come from far to enjoy them. It’s important to protect the beaches and thus to set clear rules about the usage. I believe the access to the beaches should remain unrestricted and clean.

Locals

The most prominent “good” this island has to offer are the beaches. Throughout the years for many it was hurtful to see how the spaces near the beaches became narrow, to a point that the beaches became inaccessible by new development. Most locals support this new measure taken by the representatives and hope it will be implemented as soon as possible.

Hotels & Condos

Several hospitality partners have expressed their opposition to this measure. Some have been vocal in their opposition. Look at the upside, now hotels don’t have to play police every morning any more to prevent fighting between tourists when some wake up early (5 AM) just to annex a spot by putting a towel and a book, only to come down around 10 AM to used them.

Cruise passengers

Some travel agents have already voiced concern and suggest they would recommend cruise passengers traveling elsewhere.

Why this is not a bad thing

To all who think this is a bad thing I would like to argue otherwise.

First and foremost this will enhance the quality of the beaches on the long term. If the hospitality partners are here for the long haul they surely will appreciate a higher quality beach. Beach cleanups are much easier, plus organizing weddings and other activities is much easier as well.

Rental business takes off

As a result of this measure resorts are going to need to buy additional beach chairs and umbrellas to satisfy demand from their guests. Additionally independent vendors will also be able to offer hardware to tourists who are not staying at the specific resort. This, too, could start a free-for-all among the vendors but from what I understand officials plan to introduce a regulatory body to avoid problems.

When?

This is a good question. About a month has passed and I haven’t seen any follow-up on this measure. I’ll keep you updated.

Published by

Gabriel

Former Aruba tour guide, trying to provide value to Aruba travelers.

29 thoughts on “It’s Official: Palapas in Aruba to be removed”

  1. What is the difference between grass and straw? At the Aruba Beach Club (over 30 years now on Aruba) there is no shade without the chickies. what are tourists to do? You cannot put out umbrellas as the tradewinds which make Aruba so wonderful will just blow them away. This is not good.

    1. I’m not sure about the difference but I can tell you that most of the roof-huts are made with palm leafs. For most resorts the amount of huts they had planted were never sufficient to cover demand from the visitors, judging from the conflicts every day among tourists to get one of those huts early in the morning. This happens mostly in the Palm Beach.

      Indeed you are right about the trade winds. However, there are other options. If you search for images of “beach canopy” you’ll see several options for places with wind. So there are solutions. Thank you for commenting.

  2. It is true that there are too many grass huts and people who act like little kids over the use of the huts. These are reasonable reasons to at least limit the number on the beach.
    WE have been visiting Aruba for 20+ years and have seen too many changes that make visiting Aruba less desirable. It seems the government is doing everyting they can to discourage people from returning. Aruba was such a beautiful place, with great beaches. With all the hotels built in the last several years, the changes, in my opinion, have changed my feelings about visiting Aruba.

    1. Thank you very much for your comment Norma. As I’ve received and read similar comments like yours before you made me think about this whole over-development situation. I have some thoughts and will write about it soon.

  3. So, Rather than have controlled and aesthetic looking huts that both tourists and locals can use….you would prefer a mishmash of umbrellas ( which are unsafe ) that will be hawked by any number of hustlers. Great thinking….the kind of thinking that lead Aruba to look like the Bahamas in no time. Might as well allow hairbraiding while you are it.

  4. As an owner at Oceania Condos and member of the finance committee, we allocated funds to maintain the palapas in front of our faciltiy this year and have repaired them in the past. They are also first come, first serve for anyone’s enjoyment. I believe they provide a welcome retrieve from the sun for many tourists and locals alike. Possibly a restriction on palapa density along with more public access at all locations would make more sense rather than banning them.

  5. There’s need for shade but there are too many *new* huts. Perhaps a middle ground must be found somehow.

    One thing’s for sure, current situation of uncontrolled building of huts on public property must be stopped immediately.

    The government started a project where several beaches were rearranged, such as Arashi Beach. They put markings, waste bins and official huts.

    Perhaps a public-private partnership could work where the government put the infrastructure/huts and hotels maintain them and promise not to obstruct usage by locals and non-guest tourists.

    Thanks for the input gentlemen.

  6. I can not imagine using beach umbrellas or those little cabanas on eagle beach. The wind would take them apart in no time. The little cabanas get very hot inside as well and would probably be unusable in the Aruban sun. Eventually palapas would come back, probably for a charge from some ex government official.
    I cant see why the ones that are there cant be used by the tourists and the citizens. We go in the off season at Costa Linda and Aruba beach club and never ever have a problem finding an empty one at any time of day. If you get rid of the palapas, you need to plant a lot more palm trees.

  7. I think it would be a tragedy to remove all the huts. They are
    neat, uniform and add to the island. There is a definate need for coverage and anything else would look horrible. Aruba is changing enough and not for the good. This is a ridiculous idea. The goverment should be controlling all the building and not worry about something that could only hurt the timeshare holders. Banning the palapas would only anger your tourists which is what you rely on.

  8. Pingback: I Come In Peace | arubabeaches.net
  9. I do not get up early to get a “chickee” (as we call them) and always seem to find one. Of course I know plenty of people who do! (it’s their choice not mine!) However, to take them away and use umbrellas that could fly around and hurt someone badly is simply ludicrous! Beach huts, etc. being eliminated I understand but not the chicks — well built, maintained (at least at CDM and ABC) by the resorts/time shares, etc. would be sorely missed! Some of us are not allowed to sit in direct sun e.g. after breast (and other) cancer and we need this protection!!!

    Sincerely,
    Marsha

  10. Personally I believe removing the palapas isn’t the greatest idea as many north american perople use them for much needed shade – Aruba has promoted itself as a resort destination and now the government is getting involved with hut removal – I am sure a compromise may be reached between hotel/timeshare owners and the government to keep these palapas on the beaches – after all it was the government who allowed all this ridiculous building that has been out of control for the past twenty years with no forthought as to where, how and when the newest place will be able to be built – I believe Aruba will loose more people upon the removal of these huts – tourism may take another dive – I’ve owned timeshare for close to thirty years and I can say I am contemplating selling not just from this latest article but many other reasons that have become intolerable over the past few years!

  11. I have been vacationing in Aruba
    24 consecutive years and I have seen the overdevelopment. The government told us they were putting a moratorem on that 20 years ago! Aruba is going downhill between the taxes and imported labor, speeding taxi’s
    and over pricing. We have white sand beaches right here is south west Florida folks! The airfare is a fraction of what we spend to Aruba. Wiseup! Spend your money in the USA. The chickie’s go…I go!

  12. Thanks for the comments. @Jan I’ve been to several Florida vacation spots and there, too, I’ve seen similar problems.

    Having said that I refuse to badmouth any Florida destination as I think Florida is awesome, including its shortcomings.

  13. Hi Love your emails on the updates on Aruba we have been coming to Aruba for 26 years and have a small timeshare at Aruba Millenium. We were told that it is sold to new owners and they will fix it up since it has been going downhill for years. Any news would be appreciated. Thank you

    1. Donna, indeed I’ve seen some work be done there. The east side has been gutted out completely (no roofs, doors or windows) and I can only assume they are fixing it, even though I haven’t seen workers there. Thank you for visiting the island for so long.

  14. The Palapas add character to Aruba’s beaches that other islands don’t have. As well as providing much needed shade without sacrificing the breeze that Aruba is known for.

  15. Gabriel,
    Do you know of a company in Aruba that sells palapa “kits” for export. We own a house on a lkae in Texas, and would love to have one of these for our waterfront/yard

    1. Hi Keith, from what I know this island is not really export savvy. In fact, you best chances are to find a good carpenter for that project.

  16. O. I’m so happy to have found these. Articles on the palapas… but let me tell you as I expected been coming to Aruba for the past 5 years now. Things haven’t really changed in fact in some cases they may have become worse. I stayed with a friend last week at the Holiday inn, she’s loves everything about the Holiday Inn, but one. Everyday around 3.40 p.m she would start almost what I felt can only be described as a panic, or horror on her face, I had to ask what’s wrong, we’re in paradise, palm Beach Aruba. What could be more beautiful. She says yeah, well if I do think go get in line to reserve a Hut. We won’t have one tmrw. I guess they all wait in line like caffeine addicts at Dunkin Donuts. If your from New England you know what I’m talking about. To reserve a hut. ..and I came to visit a few years ago, I asked why are we on the other side of the resort, she answered I’m not sure what happened I’m online to reserve a Hut, everyday but there’s a group who gets all the huts near the reservaction booth and the ocean everyday yet they’re never in line. Enough said.

    1. Hi there, thank you for stopping by. It saddens me to report that even after more than six (!) years since this article was first written much hasn’t improved in terms of “palapa management”.

      In the last few months the island government by way of the Minister of Tourism have started to try to reorganize the beaches and beach vendors, by introducing new legislation, but thus far it seems without much improvements.

      Here and there such as Arashi Beach and Surfside Beach more infrastructure has been put into place to help offer additional services to beach-goers such as restroom and showers.

      By the major high-rise hotels, admittedly, it remains a problem. It is not allowed – it never was – for hotels to put new palapas on the beaches. Quite frankly there isn’t enough room.

      Perhaps they should try removable beach umbrellas? They look nice, but if you plant a sea of umbrellas, you won’t be able to see, well, the sea.

      In case of the Holiday Inn, I read the other day that they received a permit to renovate the property and also expend, although the latter is not confirmed. If that should happen I expect the palapa situation to get worst, as the beach area isn’t growing.

      I wonder how other small islands with public beaches have manage this situation, as I truly don’t believe this is an issue only happening on this island.

      Thank your for leaving your feedback.

  17. Hi Gabriel. We visited Aruba for the first time for a week last week. We stayed at La Cabana and we really loved it! The beach has the Palapas and not having seen it without them I don’t have anything to compare it to but I can tell you that we loved those things! I have learned over the years that the best way to get the right amount of sun on vacation is to try not to get any! Crazy as that may seem, I get plenty just going from place to place, snorkeling, swimming, surfing, mowing the lawn at home etc. so at all other times I’m looking for shade. I’ll walk on the shady side of a street, stand behind things when I can, even if its just for a little while each time – every minute counts. I’m Irish American so I’m never going to be a bronze god anyway so why bother. My wife is from the Philippines and she gets bumps from too much sun so we’re both shade hounds – we wear wide bush hats on vacation, too (who wants to look like the crypt-keeper anyway).

    I think you generally see more provisions for shade at resort hotels these days and we sure appreciate places that have plentiful shade and don’t so much like places that don’t. And having the Palapas just there all the time without having to go ask someone and then stand in the sun while they put up an umbrella is really nice. And the Palapas cast a nice wide shadow also so you don’t have to squeeze in and then still cover the half of you that’s in the sun with a towel. I think that provisions for shade in the resort market are going to be more in demand as time goes on and awareness of the dangers of skin cancer grow (it killed Bob Marley after all).

    Any way, sorry, but as a consumers my wife and I love permanent plentiful shade and we look for it everywhere we vacation.

    1. Hi PJ, thanks for your two cents. Shade is indeed important for beachgoers as it seems that most visitors tend to spend more time on the sand rather than in the water, be it sunbathing, reading or just hanging out. The sun does not discriminate in terms of the harm it can do.

      The problem with the shade is that hotels started building these huts without a permit on land that does not belong to them and the subsequent issues with vendors and guests. Who owns them? The hotel? Vendors begged to differ. Can non-hotel guests uses them, officially yes, but in reality some hotel security unceremoniously send non-guests away on huts that were built by the hotel on public property, something that still occurs to this day.

      This problem only exacerbated throughout the years with the increase in tourism numbers both from air and cruise ship arrivals. Together with the building of new properties near the beaches – mainly condos – more palapas and more problems ensued.

      You probably didn’t experience this issues much because Eagle Beach is much more spacious and comfortable than most hotels where the problems are reportedly more rampant, namely Palm Beach.

      Either way, thank you very much for stopping by and sharing your comments, especially when it seems that you are already back home and still searching for our island on the internet. Thank you very much for that. Cheers.

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