For an island that’s less than 10 kilometres wide, you can hardly imagine how Aruba’s terrain changes from one side of the coastline to the other: to the north, rugged rocks, waves galore and hidden pools of crystal clear water where you can cliff-jump with the crabs; while smooth, white-sand beaches with calm, turquoise waters and myriad hotels, resorts, restaurants and shopping are to the south.
But the common denominator in every corner of this One Happy Island? The people. Some of the kindest, warmest and most welcoming you’ll find anywhere in the Caribbean.
It’s also one of the safest destinations. Wandering around after dark is no problem, and you can leave your belongings unattended on the beach for hours without worry; punishments for robbing a tourist are harsher here than robbing a bank.
Here are the top 10 things you need to know about Aruba to make the most out of your family vacation:
1. You’ll (almost) never get rained on.
The weather in Aruba is as close to perfect as you can get. Since it sits outside of the “hurricane belt,” there’s no hardcore rainy season like you get elsewhere in the Caribbean, such as the Dominican Republic. The rainiest month of all is December, which only records about 3.3 inches of rain, normally falling overnight to ensure your days are still filled with sun and fun.
With an average annual temperature of 28 C, it’s never a bad time to book a trip to this tropical paradise. There are more sunny days here than any other island in the Caribbean. Even when temps creep into the mid-30s, the island’s constant breeze keeps you comfortable—day and night.
2. You can leave the car seats and cribs behind.
Rent cribs (real ones, not pack ‘n plays like most of the hotels have), toddler beds, baby carriers, car seats, strollers and high chairs from Aruba Crib Rental. Delivery and set-up of cribs and beds is included in the price—but bring your own sheets from home!
If you only need a car seat to get to and from the airport, get in touch with Bully (firstname.lastname@example.org), a local taxi driver who keeps a car seat with him at all times and comes highly recommended by other vacationers.
Tip: Some resorts and hotels have gear available onsite for guests, so be sure to check with them first if you need something specific.
3. There are lots of hotels that cater to young families.
Stay somewhere that’s perfect for your family and your budget, and keep an eye on high- versus low-season rates. There are only a few all-inclusive options in Aruba, but a good choice that’s also a wallet-friendly one is the Occidental Grand Aruba, which has a Kids’ Club for those aged 4 to 10.
Tip: Save palapas on the beach early at this resort. Like, really early. Crack-of-dawn early.
If your budget is a bit higher and you’re looking for a hotel that has killer pools, incredible beach access, a great onsite restaurant but also gives you the flexibility to explore other restaurants without being tied down to a meal plan, the Radisson Aruba Resort, Casino & Spa is a spectacular choice. Recently renovated, the rooms are modern, huge and have many ocean-view options. The beach can’t be beat. There’s also onsite babysitting (sometimes at no charge!) in case you and your partner want to go out sans kids for a night or two during your stay.
Tip: Check out the bird show every day at 11 a.m. near the towel hut, and meet some of the resort’s macaws and other tropical birds. On Tuesdays from 5 to 9 p.m., there’s a must-see Carnival with dancers and a fire-show appropriate for every member of the family. If you end up with an adjoining room, be sure to request the foam padding between the two doors to nearly eliminate noise from your neighbours.
Looking for an authentic Aruban experience? You won’t be disappointed by Boardwalk Small Hotel. Although it’s not on the beach, this boutique-style property—a former coconut plantation—is a mere two-minute walk from one. Boardwalk has 14 individual casitas that feature one or two bedrooms, and are each kitted out with a kitchen, hammock and BBQ. And they won’t break the bank. Breakfast can be ordered to your terrace every morning, and there’s a tiny in-ground pool onsite that’s perfect for families with babies. Older kids may find there isn’t enough space to run and play here or other kids with whom to mingle, so keep that in mind.
Tip: Be sure to borrow the family-themed “treasure box” that has tips and activities to help make your stay unforgettable.
4. You’ll love the food.
Regardless of where you stay, you absolutely MUST drive or catch a taxi to the town of Savaneta to eat lunch at Zeerover (closed on Mondays). Fish like snapper and barracuda is fresh-caught and prepared openly while you sit dockside. Although the French fries are nothing special, the fish and shrimp (with homemade tartar sauce and a sweet-onion-and-vinegar concoction) are to die for, and the fried plantains are some of the best we’ve ever had.
Eat with your hands and suavé—as the locals put it—which means just chill. Kids are free to run about in this ultra-casual environment; just be sure to keep a close eye on them if you’re sitting close to the water.
5. There are plenty of adventures for older kids, too.
Aruba has something for everyone, young and old. For the adventurous and families with older kids, we suggest trying some of the island’s more daring activities.
SEABOB, along Hadicurari Beach, is a type of water scooter that was originally designed for Navy Seals and lets you see colourful fish, turtles and stunning coral at your own pace.
ABC Tours’ jeep safari trip through Arikok National Park is a high-speed, bumpy adventure that will take you to some of Aruba’s hidden gems.
Tip: It’s a wild ride! So, fasten your seatbelt and do not do the Jeep tour if you have back problems or children who are quite young or easily frightened.