We may agree that the Caribbean islands always bring a little bit of happiness to our lives just being there under the warm tropical weather soaking up the sun on the beautiful sandy beaches. But, if you haven’t already heard of, exists one, and it is the happiest one, located in the Caribbean: the Aruba island.
This tiny Dutch island in the Caribbean lives by a simple and yet very powerful everyday motto: One happy island. I consider the kids to be the happiest alive beings on this planet so that special attention that’s given to them in Aruba, may come as no surprise since we are on the happiest island after all. Expect lively family vacations with special benefits for the youngest to enjoy.
FACTS Located in the South Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela, Aruba is one of the three ABC island, A – for Aruba, B – for Bonaire and C – for Curacao. With a population of nearly 100,000 living on the island that is 32 km long and only 10 km wide, Aruba is a territory that’s under the jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Netherlands with Dutch and Papiamento as the official languages and Aruban florin is the currency. One of the main economic drivers to the island is tourism, accepting more than a million tourist yearly from which half of them arrive from the United States.
Aruba is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean not only because of the low crime rate but it lies out of the hurricane belt as well, which is the first question that can pop up into our mind when thinking of planning one vacation in the Caribbean. It’s a small desert island, with white sand dunes and cactuses because of the low rainfalls (almost none). The tap water is safe to drink because it comes from the sea and it’s distilled in the desalination plant, gambling is legal and you can pay in US dollars (of course not only for the chips).
The kids and adults will simply love the colorful Dutch architecture with the houses painted in lively pastel colors. Even the capital’s name is wrapped in color, named Oranjestad (literally meaning orange color). Like in a fairy tale. Probably the best way to explore Oranjestad is on foot. All of the small museums and monuments are within a walking distance and streets are too beautiful and colorful not to be strolled under that nice tropical weather that Aruba enjoys. The most imposing place in the capital, first for its unique Dutch architecture, and secondly for the high class branded stores and fine restaurants, is Aruba’s much popular Royal Plaza Mall located in front the main city’s port, in downtown Oranjestad. Here your shopping appetites will certainly meet your needs. One more thing, there will surely be some nice cosmetics of the unreplaceable and locally grown aloe vera. Aloe vera can make miracles to your skin. Besides, it feels so good when is fresh and even better when organic. Don’t miss out buying some since it’s definitely something unique to Aruba.
A thought about the accommodation
Some people liked the island so much that agreed upon visiting Aruba on regular basis during the year. Another quite unique to Aruba – the time-sharing accommodation – which is the first choice for more than a half of the visitors. Time-sharing means that for one same apartment or condominium unit more people are agreed, or hold rights of using it, but on different time schedules. This somehow makes half of Aruba’s visitors to become half-locals I suppose. They return again and again to Aruba and moreover, they are not just visiting the same island but they found their perfect accommodation for a great price to stay every time they come back.
Although the best names of the well-known Hotels and Resorts like Marriott, Hyatt or Hilton are located here, I’ll mention the Renaissance Resort as an exception because of the beautiful pink flamingo birds freely roaming on the Renaissance island (which takes a short boat trip from the hotel) and mingle with the visitors accommodated in the Resort. This Resort is best for couples and adults to spend their laid-back time sunning and chilling at the beach with the flamingos. Kids though are not allowed so to birds not to be disturbed and if you aren’t one of the guests you hardly can visit this beach and see them. But if you are a bird lover and planning a trip without children than this may be the best choice for where to stay on your vacation.
Beaches are everywhere
Aruba is no exception for the endless sandy spaces and turquoise clear waters as any other island in the Caribbean. It is a home to one of the best beaches in the world. Although many of the beaches don’t provide accommodation in the nearest surroundings they are attractive enough to be visited on a regular basis and the usual laid-back sunning, tanning and water activities are practiced on most of them. I like them all, but here are some of them.
The most of the Resorts are located at the wonderful Palm beach, a more than 3 km long stretch of sand, is where the tourist will spend most of their time. Many of the restaurants serve delicates and shopping is within a walking distance or you can take one of those exciting tours provided by water companies located here.
The next quite popular beach around the world, listed among the top rated beaches in the world, where you can be accommodated in one of the resorts or apartments is the Eagle beach. Another beautiful sandy beach for walks on a warm soft sand and a nice swim in the crystal turquoise waters.
On the other side of the island, in the city of sunrise, the sunniest place on the island, San Nicolas, is where the soft sand of the Baby beach stretches. Probably the most popular and attractive beach especially for families, because of the shallow waters that form a lagoon which makes this beach first choice for snorkeling. The Wonderful crystal waters are home to a variety of fish including angelfish and parrot fish. All the amenities needed, such as parasols and chairs can be rented, palapas roofed with palm leaves or branches give a nice afternoon shade and a restaurant upon your wish can serve you a delicious dish. Very close to this beach is Rogers Beach which is mostly visited by local families and offers quieter ambient than Palm or Baby beach.
Now, the timing is great for something very good for the adults too. The largest shipwreck in the Caribbean the German Antilla (from the World War II) is located in the waters surrounding the Aruba island. An excellent chance for a once-in-a-lifetime diving experience. It’s close to the shore, to the Arashi beach which is just one more of the many other attractive beaches here with wonderful underwater marine life for great snorkeling and diving experiences. Arashi beach is very close to one of the significant landmarks of Aruba the Lighthouse totally worth visiting for the stunning views from above.
Aruba is probably the kids friendliest Caribbean island where the Resorts offer excellent packages for family vacations allowing kids up to 11 years to stay for free as long as they are accommodated with their parents or the adults that are traveling with, and meals are included. Pools with water slides and game rooms are available at every Hotel for the youngest to enjoy every minute of it. So, whether at the beach or in the Resorts there will be plenty of things to do.
For a day of full family fun, in Aruba there is one special place called De Palm island, even better it’s a coral island. One unique all-inclusive experience with a lot of fun water activities. Includes lunch, breakfast, snack, and beverages with the amenities at the beach available as well. Kids will enjoy it especially as it has a water park and it’s a great spot for snorkeling where even snuba is allowed for them as well when they’ll have a chance to dive released of carrying any diving gear. Except for the long leisurely walks along the soft white sandy beaches that most of us are used to, here underwater walks at the bottom of the sea are made possible. A very nice place for an exciting day full of activities. Since it’s all-inclusive you won’t have to worry about a thing except for what you’d like to do next. Simply it’s a must-go and must-do all of that offered on the island. With no doubt, kids will love it.
The Atlantis submarine is just one in the line of the underwater endless opportunities in Aruba except for the fact that this time you’ll stay dry. You’ll be sailing underwater in a submarine, up close watching and admiring the colorful marine life, fishes, corals, and shipwrecks too.
There are so many things for kids to do in the water and underwater that the land may look a bit unnecessary. But, not for long I suppose since we are moving on land for a while.
MEET THE ANIMALS
Although they are not quite popular among people, donkeys got lucky here on Aruba and lived happily ever after. Of, course they are not tropical donkeys (they are not native to Aruba), instead they were brought long time ago on the island to help men (Spanish) in their transport and to easier move on the island. Unfairly when cars replaced them they were left alone almost to extinction when the Donkey Sanctuary, completely led by volunteers, was opened and took care of them. They are very interesting animals and probably not many of us know much about them. If you pay a visit to the Donkey Sanctuary undoubtedly the kids will spend trilling time with them. Kids just love to meet up with new animals, to feed them as well cuddle and play. They very much enjoy that so every new animal is one new fun friendship for them.
The biggest, heaviest and fastest birds in the world that actually can’t fly, are the ostrich. Now, who wouldn’t want to meet them in person? Visiting the Ostrich Farm you can feed them straight from your palms. Just hope that they aren’t too hungry. Let’s go a bit tropical now.
Next, Visit of the butterfly farm is a must. I can surely sense some happy faces from here. Just imagine your kid over there among all those tropical flowers and vegetation surrounded by wonderful butterflies flying around him. It’ll look like a movie star in that spectacular tropical scene. Finally, at Philip’s animal garden you can see and meet up close and personal with more than 50 exotic animals which are really friendly.
ARIKOK NATIONAL PARK
You certainly won’t miss the Arikok National Park simply because it covers a 20% of Aruba’s territory and secondly you’ll want to see the plants, snakes, and birds, unique to the island, for sure. The park holds very interesting Arawak ( the first Indian settlers of the island) paintings. This kind of drawings can be found in the caves as well, that are rich in stalagmites and stalactites minerals. The highest point in Aruba is the mountain Jamanota located in this park. From here, the Arikok Park, on foot following the trail you’ll reach the Natural Pool which is a must visit for one nice swim and splash in the middle of nature. Actually, this is just one that we know about, but there are many more natural pools to be discovered. So, don’t be shy and go find them while you are there. Another thing is that Aruba is on its way to becoming the first island that will be running on 100 % sustainable energy by 2020. You can see the giant windmills at the south of Arikok National Park.
How to move on the island?
Although you can rent a car, a boat or take the bus in Aruba, for me, with so much of the good weather, the priceless beauty of nature and the sea there is no better way to explore this small tropical island on foot or by bike. Aruba is a small enough for a bike, except I’m not sure about the tires with all those cactuses over there. This time, it doesn’t sound smart to ride a bicycle in the middle of the beautiful nature, in the desert surrounded by tropical cactuses. Probably the tires will be gone in the blink of an eye. Well, I guess is safe enough and a good option if you could just manage to avoid the cactuses.
In the end, I’d just wanna mention one of the most interesting facts I found about Aruba: starting from the first half of 18th century until the beginning of the 20th-century gold mining was very IN on the island when anyone in Aruba could dig for gold, until the discovery of the oil took place, the golden era ended and the Oil Refinery was opened in the city of San Nicolas. It may not come as that much of a surprise that gold was found in this small island in the middle of the Caribbean. After all in our oceans, there are more than 25 millions dollars of gold. Pay a visit to Bushiribana, the place where gold was discovered for the first time (bring your own shovel to try your luck cuz you can’t rent one :)).