When I travel, I want guarantees. A family of four traveling south can be expensive and if the weather or the accommodation isn’t ideal, your vacation can quickly head south (but not in a good way). Check off all the requirements that apply to you and your family:
If you checked all the above, your answer is Aruba.
Many Caribbean islands have iffy weather in September right through to June. Not so here. Aruba boasts temperatures that vary little from 28 °C (82.4 °F) tempered by northeasterly trade winds. It’s also outside the hurricane belt. So, sunny, hot with a lovely breeze every day. – check.
Safe and Happy Environment
Aruba’s tag line is ‘One Happy Island’. And it is. Aruba is relatively small (20 miles long, six miles across) with a population of about 100,000. It’s part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, so the official language is Dutch and the native language is Papiamento. If your Papiamento is a little rusty, not to worry, English is widely spoken. The people are friendly and you will feel safe. – check.
The Radisson Aruba Resort, Casino & Spa has just finished a $30-million makeover and it is lovely. It has lagoons, waterfalls and beautiful gardens along with 1,500 feet of white sandy beach. There are many swimming pools, long uninterrupted walks along the beach, a casino for those who feel lucky, and lots of restaurants from which to choose. The Aruba Tower is close to all the amenities, including the Larimar Spa, where the signature Aloe Vera and Rum massage is to die for. Pricy, but worth it. Beautiful resort – check.
Lots to See and Do
Jump a bus to anywhere on the island or rent a car, an ATV or even a Harley to get around. Remember, the island is small so everything is accessible. Stroll the Dutch-flavoured capital of Aruba, Oranjestand, and check out the great shopping and restaurants. Prices are reasonable, so bargaining and haggling are not part of Aruba’s culture. Follow the locals to find the best prices.
Scuba diving is big in Aruba. There are tons of water sports, such as windsurfi ng, snorkeling (try Tranquilo Sailing). There are island tours via catamaran cruise or a submarine voyage, or visit De Palm Island which has Snuba (a combination of scuba and snorkeling) and Sea Trek adventures. Aruba is noted for its public sandy beaches and fishing, but take time to learn to play beach tennis at MooMba Beach. It was a nice alternative to tennis. And golf. Yes, always, there is golf.
Kids will enjoy the Butterfly Farm that is home to hundreds of specimens or check out the Donkey Sanctuary and the local Ostrich Farm.
Aruba has also Indian drawings on the walls of underground caves (the bats are harmless!) at Arikok National park that is very cool, and worth a visit.
Take an ATV tour through the park (think desert) with lunch at Boca Prins. It is sure to be a trip highlight. Lots of things to see and activities do – check.
Orangestand’s restaurants range from local seafood shacks to old-world mansions serving continental cuisine. Papiamento restaurant is housed in an old mansion where you're invited to sit poolside. Catch the sunset at Marina Pirate or sample some modern cuisine at White Restaurant. All are delicious and unique. Great food – check.
The Radisson’s day camp has many activities for kids ages four to 12. The schedule and activities go way beyond colouring books. From Acqua Aerobics, beach photo hunt, pizza eating contest to pool volleyball – your kids will never be bored. They may even pick up a little Papiamento from the counsellors. Kids Club fees are $45 per child for a full day, with lunch and snacks, and $25 for a half day. And if the day camp isn’t your family‘s cup of tea, there’s plenty of other kid stuff going on. Family friendly – check.
For more information, visit visitaruba.com.
Jane Bradley is the publisher of ParentsCanada and an intrepid traveller.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, November 2013.