10 Reasons Aruba is One Happy Island
If you are looking for a family friendly island vacation, consider Aruba.
With all the many Caribbean islands to choose from, it can be daunting to decide which one best suits your family’s desires. As much as they all offer fun in the sun, each island serves up a unique set of experiences based on its deep-rooted history, rich culture and geographic location.
A beach vacation to Aruba is special for a host of distinct reasons. Known as “One Happy Island,” Aruba is the southernmost island in the region and is only 9 miles off the coast of Venezuela. Luckily for its residents and guests, tropical storms are not a part of the scene because Aruba rests on the fringe of the hurricane belt. Bright breezy days, bleached white, sandy beaches and azure seas are just the beginning of the many magical ingredients that make up island pleasantries. Punctuated by a laid-back, friendly vibe, tourists settle in to Aruban vacations with gentle ease.
I just returned from a conference on the island’s Palm Beach and, in addition to lazing about on the shore and floating in the warm sea, I dove in to learning about Aruba’s history and cultural distinctions. Once inhabited solely by Amerindians, Aruba became a Dutch island back in the mid-1600s. And, although only 19.6 miles long and, at its widest, 6 miles across, this little stretch of paradise is now home to over 113,000 people, representing over 90 nations. Dutch and Papiamento (Creole) are the native languages, but English and Spanish are spoken by the majority of residents.
As the days passed, I continued to uncover amazing things about Aruba that make her special. My top 10 favorites include (but are not limited to):
1. Aruba is the sunniest of all Caribbean islands.
The climate is more desert-like than tropical, with a very low annual rainfall, and average temperatures hover in the low to mid-80s year-round. Cool trade winds provide constant breezes — an added bonus when sunning and bathing.
2. Family activities are plentiful.
From water sports to spending a day at the Island de Palm, an all-inclusive day trip excursion, to visiting historic museums, a butterfly farm and the California lighthouse, Aruba provides many options for all to enjoy together.
3. Great Food
There’s no shortage of great food to be had, including fresh catch from the sea, fine steaks, and Caribbean, Dutch and Italian fare, to name a few. Traditional to cutting-edge cuisine in Aruba consistently ranks as some of the finest in the Caribbean.
4. Safety and Security
Because safety and security are important when traveling with kids, Aruba doesn’t disappoint. It is a no-haggler, no-nonsense environment, making it safe to go off property with comfort. Many guests rent bikes, small jeeps and UTVs to beach hop and explore the island’s perimeter and inner desert.
5. National Parks
Nearly one-fifth of Aruba is designated as protected land. Arikok National Park is rugged and a great place for adventure seekers. Hiking, off-roading and arranged tours offer visitors a chance to spelunk into caves with ancient wall paintings, climb to the highest point on the island, Mt. Yamanota, and roam about in the sand dunes. Cacti are prevalent, and lizards, birds and donkeys live harmoniously in this desert land.
In addition to outstanding snorkeling, Aruba just so happens to be the wreck-diving capital of the Caribbean. There are more than a dozen sunken ships and planes to explore, including a German World War II ship, the SS Antilla. A large array of tropical fish, including seafans and flying fish as well as hawksbill turtles, swim in these waters with visibility up to 90 feet in some dive spots.
7. Beaches, beaches and more beaches.
The western shores are home to famous resort-clad Palm Beach and Eagle Beach. Both of which have been included on “best beaches of the world” lists many times over. On the other shores along the island’s perimeter, there are less populated beaches, some with rough crashing waves (some too dangerous for swimming) and jagged rocky edges. Sunrises on the rugged east coast and sunsets on the west coast are mesmerizing.
8. Water sports options for all ages and levels are vast.
Tubing, paddle boarding, kayaking and kite surfing are popular, and several outfitters, such as Red Sail and De Palm Tours, are located along the beaches for easy sign up and access to the equipment.
The capital city, Oranjestad, on the southwest side of the island and adjacent to a lovely marina, is ideal for walking and shopping among the pastel-painted, Dutch-style facades that are home to quaint shops, boutiques and eateries situated along palm-adorned streets.
10. Hospitable People
The diverse people share an easy-going attitude, and the islanders are hospitable and polite. There’s a local saying that sums it up nicely. Biba Dushi means “Living the Good Life,” and the natives truly emanate this attitude when interacting with visitors and with one another.
Lodging choices range from the attractive seaside Holiday Inn to the high-end, secluded Ritz Carlton as well as smaller boutique hotels. Be sure to keep in mind that some of the resorts have casinos and the drinking age in Aruba is 18 years old.