Palapas: Rules and Rights

Palapas at Eagle Beach

On two previous occasions I’ve written about palapas in Aruba and the issues surrounding these seemingly innocent “beach decorations”. Palapas are structures of wood covered with dried, woven palm leaves. It’s also known as grass-hut or tiki-hut. These things are popping out of the ground like mushrooms on Palm Beach, Eagle Beach and Druif Beach.

For some reason palapas create confusion among many, specifically about its ownership and usage. In this piece I’m going to lay out the rules and regulation, taking away all confusion hopefully. This is dedicated to resorts, condos, watersport companies, also for individual users, both local and tourist.

  • Resorts/Condos: You build the palapas illegally on public land/beach, universal usage is permitted by locals and tourists (of other hotels) without charge, without limit. You do not own the palapas, nor the beach. If you don’t want others to use your beach chairs, don’t park them under the palapas.
  • Watersport companies/beach chair rental companies: You didn’t build the palapas, you don’t own the palapas, universal usage is permitted by locals and tourist without charge, without limit. If you don’t want others to use your beach chairs, don’t park them under the palapas.
  • Builders: Because there seems to be a lack of legislation about the construction of palapas, don’t think you own the beach nor the palapas. Aruban building code requires permits for any construction, no exception. If officials turned a blind eye to these activities in the past, this doesn’t give you any rights.

Please take note, that in the past there was little to no control; palapas weren’t seen as a problem. In fact palapas are nice and add to the tropical scene. However, the increase in tourism, followed by the construction of more palapas, this is becoming a major problem (see below picture).

In the old days, the view of the beach was phenomenal. People could actually see it. Now people see each other instead of the beach. Did you know that there are even reports of conflict and fighting between tourists and/or with hotel security?

Conclusion: the rights of the individual (local and tourist) will always prevail above any commercial interest.


Beach near Bucuti Beach Resort [image by Amigoe]

Update: Don’t you think below picture is much better? No palapas, but beach umbrellas instead. Much cleaner and less permanent.


Image by beachchairs.com


Published by

Gabriel

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

9 thoughts on “Palapas: Rules and Rights”

    1. Mark, hotel security's jurisdiction ends where the hotel limits ends. They offer additional security to their hotel guest by hovering around that area. They have absolutely no say whatsoever as to who can or who cannot use the public property. Keep in mind that hotel security follow orders from hotel management.

      Keep in mind that the palapas and beach is public domain, not the beach chairs. They can take issue with that, so the solution is to remove them.

      1. We stay at the Surf Club every year and people pay money to reserve palapas days in advance. Are you saying we can remove the chairs and park under a reserved palapa with no problems from hotel security or the people who reserved the palapa? I believe this would cause a mini riot.

      2. I'm aware of the issues surrounding those palapas. Beyond resort premises no one can “reserve” a palapa. If you get rid of a chair you are allowed to use the palapa. There are some resorts that go their property line and build wooden huts to function as towel hut or hot dog stand. Also illegal.

        The ministers of Infrastructure and Tourism have announced last week that they are going to “remind” all commercial users rules and regulation on the usage and construction of palapas.

        I you ask me, get rid of all the palapas and let tourist use beach chair with beach umbrellas. Perhaps more expensive, but we get rid of this problem once and for all.

  1. Mark, hotel security's jurisdiction ends where the hotel limits ends. They offer additional security to their hotel guest by hovering around that area. They have absolutely no say whatsoever as to who can or who cannot use the public property. Keep in mind that hotel security follow orders from hotel management.

    Keep in mind that the palapas and beach is public domain, not the beach chairs. They can take issue with that, so the solution is to remove them.

  2. Oh, how I wish I had found this site earlier! All of your information is so helpful.

    We are halfway through our vacation in Aruba. Despite the lovely weather, the beauty of the land, and the friendly locals, we are not inclined to return. We are staying at a fabulous boutique resort in Oranjestad–Wonders. (It’s the main reason we’re enjoying Aruba!

    We were told on their website, and by staff, and even by numerous watersport vendors on the beach that the palapas are for public use. They are FREE. But our past few days at Palm and Eagle beach have proved otherwise. I can’t tell you the handful of debacles we’ve had trying to sit under a palapa with OUR OWN chairs and towels. Walking up and down and up and down the beaches, Hotel staff from EVERY SINGLE HOTEL lied to us and bullied us away from the palapas. We understand the chairs are their property, so We didn’t even try to touch their chairs! We scrounged to find EMPTY palapas with NO chairs and no personal belongings, and they still tried to tell us we were not allowed to be there.

    I’ll check back to see when the palapas are removed. I support this! Until then, we won’t return. It shouldn’t be such a fight to enjoy the beach!

    1. Hi there SJ, I’m saddened to hear about your experience with the palapas on our public beaches. As I stated in above article, the hotels nor water sport vendors, own the beach, or any structure build – mostly – illegally on public land. No one who claims ownership illegally will be able show a deed of ownership and/or a valid building permit for the palapas. Throughout the years this situation has been condoned by officials until it got out of hand (there has been several reports of psychical altercation because of palapas). Lawmakers started approving laws and police ordinances to begin regulating the situation but what it did was make it more complicated and no one was the wiser.

      This year (2016) a new law has been approved which theoretically should replace the plethora of rules and regulations from the past and this way allowing for a fresh start. The departments of infrastructure, ships and economic affairs started giving out new permits to vendors, started marking areas for swimmers, areas for motorized water sports users and started regulating vendors for palapas and for hotel usage. Also they said that the property line of each hotel was going to be clearly marked to prevent misunderstandings, especially for hotel security not to cross their property line into public land. If I’m not mistaken the new rules also allow officials to sanction any vendor or hotel that break the rules with fines.

      It has only been a few months since the changes but from your comment it appears that issues are still ongoing. I also noticed the other day when I was walking near the hotels and some hotels still had signs about the “rules of usage” of the palapas as if they owned the palapas or are allowed to dictate the use of them, which they cannot. At least not on the public beaches, I reiterate unequivocally.

      Needless to say it’s hard to believe that this is still a thing especially if you consider I wrote this article more than 6 years ago. I hope the new rules are implemented soon and I truly hope this episode will belong the the past sooner rather than later. Thank you for sharing SJ.

Leave a Reply