Off the coast of Venezuela, the tiny Dutch island of Aruba, known as one of the ABC islands is a great place for your next family vacation. It boasts the most repeat visitors in all the Caribbean so there’s obviously something there that keeps people coming back. It was our first trip to Aruba and the first time we ever traveled as a new family. For our first vacation with kids we were looking for some place that was easy to get to, safe, and would give us a mix of relaxation and some sightseeing. We felt that Aruba delivered.
Why it’s awesome
Aruba squeezes gorgeous beaches and activities galore in a tiny 70 square-mile island. The landscape is fascinating with turquoise water and white sand beaches on the perimeter and a dry arid cacti desert inland. There’s always a comfortable trade wind breeze that causes their famous divi-divi trees to slant to the Southwest (and keeps Aruba well out of the hurricane belt). It’s known for its friendly locals (coined One Happy Island) and offers an array of family-friendly activities.
When to go
Aruba’s peak tourist season is from December to April when you’ll find less availability in terms of accommodations and there’s often a price hike which coincides to their high season. If you choose to travel from July-August several hotels participate in the One Happy Family program where kids under 12 stay and eat for free with paying adults. Traveling in off-season or a shoulder season is the more affordable way to go (we went in November). Most flight carriers have direct flights to the Queen Beatrix International Airport in Oranjestad.
Where to stay
Most of the accommodations are on the Northwestern part of the island. Eagle Beach and Palm Beach are where you’ll find a lot of the action and are home to many of the larger resorts and all-inclusives. We chose the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino (the Ocean Suites are the family friendly option) for its central location to the downtown area as well as beaches, but mainly because we had Marriott points!! It’s positives were its private beach with direct ferry access (there’s an adults only portion with flamingos), the pools and we loved walking all around the downtown.
What do to
The gorgeous beaches are one of Aruba’s main attractions. Aside from the Renaissance private beach there’s Eagle Beach, Palm Beach, and Baby beach among others. Baby beach is at the very Southern point of the island and a favorite with locals since it’s more remote. It’s worth mentioning it takes a bit of time to get out there.
Besides just enjoying the beach and hotel amenities depending on where you stay the littles will like the Butterfly Farm and the Donkey Sanctuary. An entirely volunteer-run operation, you can feed and pet these protected wild donkeys.
For nature and some history there’s Arikok National Park which encompasses 20% of Aruba’s land total. Hike their desert-like forests, take a dip in a natural pool or explore some of their famous caves. There’s also the Ayo Rock Formations where you can discover paintings created by the indigenous people of Aruba etched on these enormous boulders.
Get a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area and fascinating landscape by climbing to the top of the Casibari Rock Formation. For some of the historical buildings on the island there’s the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins, the Alta Vista Chapel and the California Lighthouse. Each one has an interesting history and they’re all brief stops on the Northern tip of the island. Since we had a week and were motivated, we did them all.
For more beach activities there’s snorkeling, SCUBA (it’s known as the wreck diving capital of the Caribbean) and SNUBA, windsurfing, parasailing depending on the age of your children and their interests. Often your hotel concierge is a great resource to get more information on specific trips.
Where to eat
There are endless restaurant options in Aruba which are an interesting mix of Caribbean, Dutch and Latin American cuisine. Most choose to eat on their resort, especially if you’ve booked the convenience of an all-inclusive but if you’re game to try some places off resort I’d check out Linda’s Dutch Pancakes which are more of a crepe style and the Buccaneer Aruba. It’s been a local favorite for seafood since the 1980’s.
There are several ways to see the sights on the island. You can take an organized tour through groups like ABC Tours which take the guesswork out of the logistics. You can also take a taxi to and from the sites. Renting a car, jeep or moped is another option if you want to have more flexibility and see the sights at your own pace or are looking to go further afoot. Lastly, there’s the free trolley system that does a circuit through downtown Oranjestad, hop-on/hop-off style.
With tons to do and see Aruba is a great spot to consider for your next family vacation. By the end of your trip you’ll be feeling like One Happy Family!
- The local currency is the Aruban Florin but US dollars are widely accepted on the island.
- The electrical outlets carry the same voltage (110 v) as in the US and Canada so you should not need an adapter or converter if coming from North America.
- The water is safe to drink in Aruba
- No vaccinations are required for travel to Aruba. As always, check with your doctor on official advice before you travel.
- There is no ride sharing in Aruba (uber/lyft), taxis are government regulated and widely available. Most hotels also offer airport transfers for a fee.
- If you rent a car they drive similar to North America (right side of the road)
- Aruba is on Atlantic standard time (AST) and does not participate in daylight savings
- Car seats are not required in Aruba but you may bring your own if you so choose (we did).
- A stroller or carrier is helpful as depending on your itinerary there can be a bit of walking.