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Aruba

Aruba Family Vacation Guide

Aruba Palm Beach
Aruba family vacations are popular because of easy access to many activities. © 2023 Scott S. Bateman

An Aruba family vacation is likely to make people come back to the island again.

Aruba claims to have the highest rate of repeat visitors for any destination in the Caribbean. This southern Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela is attractive for a combination of reasons.

For families, Aruba doesn’t quite stand out with major educational attractions such as Chichen Itza in Cancun or Old San Juan in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Nor does it have a major family-focused entertainment complex such as Atlantis Waterpark in Nassau, Bahamas.

But our own family found plenty of things to do on the island for all ages.

Family Attractions

Any travel tips about Aruba start with Palm Beach, which is about 20 minutes northwest of Queen Beatrix airport. This beautiful beach is often ranked as one of the best beaches in the Caribbean.

Besides the finest powdery white sand, the beach is long, broad and lined with high quality hotels and a popular shopping and restaurant strip. Many of the restaurants have outdoor patios, and nighttime will find them filled with vacationers enjoying the evening weather.

Palm Beach. Credit: Aruba Tourism Authority

A popular family venue on Palm Beach is available at Palm Beach Plaza on the north end of the strip. It has free outdoor entertainment most nights of the week including light shows, water displays and live entertainers.

The island is known for snorkeling and diving. It has 30 dive spots including shipwrecks.

Visitors to the Butterfly Farm can walk among hundreds of butterflies in a large, mesh-covered closure. The farm is in Palm Beach near Aruba Resort and Aruba Phoenix hotels on J.E. Irausquin Boulevard.

Arikok National Park, which covers 20 percent of the island, is a popular family destination because of a variety of land attractions. They include caves, the Natural Pool, the Baby Bridge, aboriginal ruins, an abandoned gold mine and other things to see and do. My son and I did an ATV ride through Arikok that was fun and educational. The usual cost is about $75 to $80.

The Atlantis submarines takes visitors as much as 100 feet underwater for about 45 to 60 minutes. The cost when buying tickets on the Atlantis website is $105 for each teen or adult and $85 for children ages 4 to 12.

The Donkey Sanctuary, four miles southwest of Oranjestad in Santa Lucia, has about 40 donkeys for visitors to meet and greet. Admission is free, although the sanctuary encourages donations. Profits go to a foundation that supports the donkeys.

Anyone who drinks water in Aruba is probably drinking water from the ocean. This arid island has the world’s third largest desalination plant. It draws water from the ocean and converts it to public use. The plant is open to tours.

Bushiri Karting Speedway in Oranjestad is the only outdoor karting track in Aruba.

The island has three golf courses: Aruba Golf Club, Tierra del Sol and Divi Links. Aruba Golf Club is an 18-hole course near San Nicholas. Tierra del Sol is an 18-hole course on a resort at the northwest tip of the island. Divi Links is a nine-hole course in Oranjestad.

Other Family Things to Do

ATV ride
ATV rides are popular. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Shopping is a common family activity on the island because Oranjestad has plenty of shops and is easily accessible from most hotels and resorts.

The open-air Renaissance Marketplace on L.G. Smith Boulevard is a good choice for families to shop and dine because of the seaside atmosphere. It sometimes has live entertainment in the far end by the water.

Palm Beach and Eagle Beach, two of the most popular locations on the island, are within 15 minutes driving distance of the capital city of Oranjestad. Hotel visitors can take inexpensive public buses to the city for shopping, casinos, restaurants and other activities.

As a result of the arid landscape, the most popular activities on Aruba are water based rather than land based, although visitors who enjoy land activities can go on ATV rides, horseback rides and jeep tours, among other excursions.

Water sports include the usual sailing, fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving, but scuba in particular is popular because of shipwrecks and coral formations. The island has more than 40 dive spots.

Topless Sunbathing

Note that topless bathing is illegal in Aruba, but it can be spotted on remote beaches. Families should swim and sunbathe on the most popular beaches.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
February 10, 2023

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