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Kid Friendly Aruba for your Family Vacation

Aruba is very kid friendly
photo credit:  Stephany Wiestling

With an eight-hour flight to get to this gorgeous island, I didn’t expect to see so many kids in Aruba.  We had gone before actually having kids, but noticed how many fun things for families to do.  The beautiful kid friendly beaches are just one reason to make your next family vacation in Aruba.

The entire island is only about 6 square miles, so it’s really easy to get from one end to the other at just about any time of day.

Everywhere you look is a breathtaking, and diverse,  landscape.  On the south side is tranquil turquoise water lapping bright, white sand beaches.  On the north side is a rocky, desolate, and trecherous shore with cliffs and overhangs carved from powerful waves crashing into the rock.  (I would avoid this area with kids under 10) The interior of the island is desert with beautiful cactus and rock formations.  I joked that you could film an Old-West film here and lie under palm trees on the beach between takes.  In fact, palm trees are only in the resort areas, and only because the resorts plant and maintain them.  They are not native here.

The language is an interesting mix of English, Spanish and Dutch.  Because of it’s tourist popularity, English is widely spoken and understood here.

The main city is Oranjetad and is where all the cruise ships come in.  This is a great day trip and only about 10-15 minutes from the Palm Beach area.  Downtown, the ornate buildings house luxury shopping and dining with a European flair.  Near the beaches and the city, visit the Butterfly Farm for a fun, kid friendly outing.

We spent a week in Aruba and explored the entire island in a day and a half, leaving the rest of the week to just relax on the beach.  A perfect family vacation.  Any of the kid friendly activities can be done in the morning or afternoon, leaving the rest of the day free to relax.

Tip: It’s pretty windy there, so you don’t feel the sun. Be sure to use sunscreen liberally – especially on little ears.

Kid Friendly Hotels in Aruba:

The Hyatt seemed to have the most family friendly hotel amenities.  It definately qualifies as a kid friendly resort.  This is likely where we will stay when we return with our child.  The entire outdoor area was geared toward families.  Waterfalls, separate kids pool, and talking birds to name a few. It’s also attached to a covered walkway leading to shops and restaurants.

The Radisson, next door, is where we stayed.  They had a zero-entry pool and nice rooms, but less amenities for kids than the Hyatt.  This was better for the romantic getaway that we enjoyed.

Kid Friendly Beaches in Aruba:

Palm Beach, Eagle Beach
The beaches along the hotels (including the Hyatt) are connected by a sidewalk… very stroller friendly. Much of the sidewalk is shaded and many of the outdoor restaurants are along the sidewalk as well.  I highly recommend this area as your base camp.  It’s on the west end of the island and is very prepared for tourists.  Anything you’ll need, from shopping, to restaurants, to beaches, you’ll find within walking distance.  A little bit to the northwest is a great golf course.   But the beaches!!  What makes them so kid friendly?  Beaches in Aruba are made of soft, white sand, like a child’s dream sandbox!  Most of the resort beaches have shaded areas and snack bars right on the beach.  Once you go outside, there’s almost no need to return to the room until bedtime.

There’s the temporary tattoos and the hair braiders on the beach, (although, as a hairstylist, I don’t trust their sanitation practices enough to let them touch my hair).  There are also plenty of excursion hawkers offering snorkeling, SNUBA, and other water sport activities.  We tried SNUBA and thought it was great for tweens and up.  I was a bit disappointed in the minimal instruction and loose rules; a 10 year-old in our group had minor trouble, so I would say that a child must be old enough to SCUBA dive to participate safely.

Baby Beach
This is where the local children learn to swim. While we were snorkeling in the 3-ft deep or less water, a school bus pulled up and a dozen or so elementary kids emerged for their lessons. Even with all of them in the water with us, there was plenty of room. It’s probably about a football field in diameter.  It does have access to open water however, so still keep an eye on your kids.  At only a 20 minute drive from the Palm Beach area, it was an easy day trip.  This end of the island is less commercial, and I believe houses the prison, so I don’t exactly recommend staying down here, but felt completely safe visiting and swimming during the day.

Kid Friendly Restaurants in Aruba:

There are dozens of kid friendly casual dining places within steps of your hotel.  We ventured toward Oranjestad and found a great local reastaurant called ‘Driftwood‘.  Best. White sangria. Ever.  From the road, the place looks like an old fishing shack, in fact it only serves fish that was caught that day.  Inside, locals and families are happily enjoying delicious fresh seafood (or kid’s menu) surrounded by a charming decor.  Highly recommend.

Cautions:  With kids under 10, I’d avoid the Natural Pool since getting there really tested the limits of our rented Suzuki Samuri, and we had to walk quite far down the rocky slope to get there.  The Natural Bridge may be accessible from the east more safely, however we came from the west and I would not recommend this for young kids, either.  Tweens and up, however, will LOVE both of these, as the adventure feels almost death-defying, yet is handled by many safely every day.

Money saving tips:

The hotel will be happy to sell you diapers and other incidentals, at a premium.  About 5 minutes toward Oranjestad is a local grocery store where you can find anything you need.  (It also gives you a peek inside the life of a local.)  Nothing on this island is more than 20 minutes away, so there’s no reason to pay the hotel premiums.

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