The former Dutch colony of Aruba is one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean. Along with glitzy casinos and honeymoon resorts, Aruba has plenty for families including tranquil waters, animal sanctuaries and natural attractions. Aruba has an interesting town to explore, is considered a safe, friendly island, and is outside the hurricane zone.
Direct flights are a sanity-saver for families - especially those with small children - and Aruba receives them at Reina Beatrix International Airport on the southern coast of the island just east of Oranjestad, the capital. Direct flights are available from major US cities, as well as Amsterdam and London.
Families also appreciate speedy trips from the airport, and taxi rides from Reina Beatrix airport to most resorts take no more than 20 minutes. Check with your resort to see if they have a shuttle (for free or a nominal fee).
How's the Beach?
Aruba's best beaches are on the western and southeastern sides of the island. Eagle Beach and Palm Beach are the most popular, known as two of the best in the Caribbean and home to many of the island's large resorts. Arashi Beach and Boca Catalina have calm waters for swimming and snorkeling; you can also visit the nearby California Lighthouse. The aptly named Baby Beach, on the southeastern tip of the island, is also an idyllic spot to sunbathe and splash around with the kids.
Tamarijm Aruba All-Inclusive: this resort shares facilities with the
neighboring Divi Aruba All-Inclusive.
Families will find kids' camp for ages 5 to 12, watersports, bikes, tennis, and
Family Packages (- check for promotions such as "Kids up to 18 Stay, Play, and
Eat Free".) Location is near Orangestad on Palm Beach.
Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino: Camp Hyatt takes kids as young as three (potty-trained) and up to age 12, at this luxury property with a 12-acre setting on Palm Beach, and a pool complex with waterfall, water slide, and lagoons with fish.
Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino:
Also on prime Palm Beach, this resort has some of the most spacious rooms on Aruba. Adults can entertain themselves in the Balinese spa or the largest casino on the island, while the kids are kept busy with the Bon Bini children's program (ages 5 to 12).
Westin Aruba Resort: Another high-end Palm Beach resort with a spa and casino, this property also has a Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed golf course. The kids' club (ages 4 to 12) offers a range of activities from scavenger hunts to soccer games.
Holiday Inn Sunspree Aruba
Beach Resort & Casino: For those with an eye on the budget, this resort on
Palm Beach has 600 rooms, all-inclusive packages, free kids' club,
activity center and games room.
Occidental Grand Aruba: This is an elegant all-inclusive option on Palm Beach, with an on-site casino and six restaurants. There's a children's program for ages 4 to 10; as at many resorts, babysitting is available at an extra charge.
Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa: On Eagle Beach, this small property offers a more intimate atmosphere than the big Palm Beach resorts. Don't expect a children's program, but kids 11 and younger stay free in their parents' room, and meals and meal plans are discounted for those 17 and under.
MVC Eagle Beach: This small Eagle Beach resort is perfect for budget-minded families. Kids will enjoy the children's pool and playground. If you prefer quiet lodgings with the option to venture out for entertainment, this is a good choice.
Attractions & Fun Outings
Aruba is an excellent place for beginners to snorkel, dive and windsurf, but for a change of pace, take a hike through Arikok National Park to appreciate Aruba's rocky, arid landscape. Nearby on the northeastern coast are three caves you can explore: Fontein, Huliba and Guadirikiri (prepare for bats, which are harmless but may frighten small children).
Oranjestad, the island's capital, is a picturesque Dutch town that merits a stroll for its shops and museums. (Note, however, that it's not a duty-free port, no matter what some shops signs might advertise.) Stop into the Aruba Numismatic Museum, near Oranjestad's bus station, to see over 40,000 coins and paper bills from 400 countries.
Did you know that Aruba is the world's largest exporter of aloe? You can learn more about the skin-soothing plant by taking a half-hour tour of Aruba Aloe, a working farm and factory store offering plenty of aloe-based products.
Aruba has several sanctuaries to interest young biologists and animal lovers: the Butterfly Farm, near Palm Beach; the Donkey Sanctuary, near the Ayo rock formations; the Ostrich Farm, on the northern coast (and where you can sample ostrich meat for lunch!); and the Bubali Bird Sanctuary, near the northwestern coast. You're free to explore the bird sanctuary on your own - it's a great way to introduce your kids to bird-watching - but the other facilities offer guided tours.
More Aruba Tips
- The official languages of Aruba are Dutch and Papiamento, but don't worry - almost everyone also speaks English (and Spanish).
- For resorts and major attractions, always check recent visitor comments at a site such as TripAdvisor.com.
- General information about visiting Aruba
- Aruba.com site - official Aruba Tourism site; check for island-wide promotions for families
* Always check resort sites for updates
courtesy of Aruba Tourist Authority.