Aruba, off the coast of Venezuela, virtually guarantees sunny weather and soothing island breezes. Add miles of soft, white sands, jeep tours through the desert-like landscape, ostrich encounters, and an array of resorts and restaurants, and you can see why Aruba has a high rate of repeat visitors. The island receives less than 24 inches of rain a year, mostly in November and December. The trade winds blow at a constant rate of 10 to 25 knot breezes, causing the island’s Divi-divi trees to bend in an iconic formation and making the island a windsurfing mecca. Or decide on a night in, as casinos bloom in most large hotels. Here’s a primer for Aruba fun:
Aruba features two main resort areas: Palm Beach, home to the island’s high rise hotels, and Eagle Beach, across from many timeshare and hotel properties. We personally prefer Palm Beach because its hotels open directly onto the sands, whereas many of Eagle Beach’s lodgings are across an often busy road from the shore. Also, more cafes and shops can be found on the inland streets of Palm Beach, providing good people watching and easy access to restaurants.
The big beware in Palm Beach: not enough palapas, those thatched, umbrella-like stands that provide shade, and sometimes, not enough lounge chairs. The hotels with the most beachfront offer the most supplies, but to be guaranteed a shady spot on the beach, you often must reserve a palapa. Depending on the property, this can be both expensive and inconvenient. The alternative to reservations is to rise early and claim a palapa or a lounge chair. Inquire about the beach chair and palapa situation before booking your rooms.
Jeep tours—‘Tweens and teens especially like the guided jeep tours of the rugged northeast coast, a landscape of rocky shores and fast-breaking surf. You bounce along, stopping at the ruins of the Bushiribana gold mine whose thick stone walls rise apparition-like from the deserted plain. De Palm Tours often combines the jeep outing with an afternoon of water play at De Palm Island, a seven-minute ferry ride from the mainland.
Snorkeling and diving—Good snorkeling spots include Malmok Beach, popular with sailboats, and Mangel Halto Beach, noted for parrot fish, blue tangs, yellowtail snappers, and sponges.
At Baby Beach, although not particularly scenic and a long way from Palm Beach, you can often spot octopus, crabs, and lobsters.
Arikok National Park—The park preserves Aruba’s natural, desert-like landscape, a sweep of scrubland with candelabra cactus, rock, sand dunes, and caves, some featuring centuries-old rock drawings by Caquetio Indians of the Arawak tribe. But be aware of the bats roosting in the cave’s ceiling. Worth a visit, the inland park is hot so bring plenty of water and go early in the day.
Aruba Ostrich Farm—Home to the big birds, the Aruba Ostrich Farm offers interesting tours. Learn about these fast, flightless, feathered beauties, hold an ostrich egg, and feed the long-necked critters.
Where to Stay
Ritz-Carlton Aruba—The beachfront property offers a casino, spa, and a Ritz Kids program for ages 4 to 12.
Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino—Formerly the Radisson Aruba, the hotel debuted as a Hilton in July 2015 and is scheduled to complete a multimillion-dollar renovation this month. Situated on 15 lushly landscaped acres, the property offers more beachfront space than many other Palm Beach properties. Childcare services are available.