I first went to Aruba four years ago when The K Man was a week shy of two years old and Miss Q was growing in my belly. We got a killer deal from TravelZOO and stayed at the Occidental Grande Aruba. Loved it. Loved Aruba. It’s one of those places that feels like home to me (London and NYC fall into this category as well).
After a recent visit to One Happy Island to cover a story about it for CanadianFamily.ca, there simply wasn’t enough space to write about all of the hidden treasures and share the magnificent photos (all but one below taken with a Nokia Lumia 1020 that I borrowed from TELUS, I might add!).
So here I am to give you a few more details, a few more tips (and perhaps a constructive critique or two, since it is me, after all) and a heap of photos to entice you to visit Aruba for your next family vacation. Or, heck, leave the kids at home and get your romance on.
That’s the beauty of Aruba—it’s perfect for everyone. We saw families with kids of all ages and oodles of couples. And not just straight ones! I loved how gay-friendly the island seemed to be, too, with several gay couples of both sexes walking hand-in-hand on the beaches and through restaurants. You could easily wile away your time as a single traveller here as well. More on how to meet party people when you get to my write-up about the Kukoo Kunuku bus!
Here are my top Aruba tips:
- Check flights well in advance. Flying to Aruba from many of Canada’s major airports may not be direct except one or two days a week (for example, out of Toronto, you can only fly direct on Saturdays with Air Canada or Tuesdays and Saturdays with WestJet) so they may book up quickly. If you have small children, try to plan your trip around the limited number of direct flights available or you’ll spend an entire day travelling on both sides of your vacation
- Pack lightly. It’s a pretty casual island, where you’ll spend most of the day in a swimsuit, cover-up or towel
- Do everything or nothing at all; you can lounge on a spectacular beach for your entire stay or cram in every activity and sport imaginable
- Forget shoes. OK, not entirely; but don’t go crazy. You definitely don’t need heels. A pair of flip flops and a nicer pair for evening is plenty. You don’t even really need to bring water shoes unless your kids have bare-feet texture issues since there are nearly no rocks or seaweed along the beachfront
- SPF it up! Bring the best and strongest sunscreen you can get, or buy some of the Aruba Aloe water-resistant stuff when you arrive, which is pretty amazing (but skip the lip balm, which is only SPF15 and not enough…grab an el cheapo Nivea lip stick with SPF 30 for less than $2 and apply all day, every day)
- Get wind-blown. Don’t bother with hats that don’t fit very snugly or have the option to attach to ponytails; it’s extremely windy in Aruba and wide-brimmed, straw or otherwise loose-fitting hats will be gone before you can say “dushi”
- Be a renter. If you’re planning to visit a few different spots all over the island and you can pack it into one or two days, you’re better off renting a car than taking taxis (which can get very pricey in Aruba)
- Leave the life vests at home! The seawater is so calm in Aruba (south coast only, but that’s where most of the resorts are) that even the most timid of children will be comfortable. Unless you plan on letting your kids play in the water without arm’s-reach supervision, there’s really no need to worry
- Shop ’til you drop. You can buy EVERYTHING you need on the island if you find you’ve forgotten something (or just want to shop because you’re a shopaholic like moi)