We took a vacation to Aruba with kids. Two other families that we know who also have small children traveled with us. The children had a fabulous time. I thought it would be helpful to share travel information if you happen to be planning a family vacation to Aruba.
Time Difference and Jet Lag
Aruba is 3-4 hours ahead of La Jolla, depending on the time of year, as they do not recognize daylight savings. During our trip the time difference was 3 hours. Neither of the 3 year olds were jet lagged. That being said, we unintentionally kept them on California time so that we could enjoy the odd dinner out. In the spring, the sun sets in Aruba at around 7:00pm. By the time everyone had a full day at the pool, beach, dinner, baths, we’d turn around and suddenly it’s 10:00pm. It’s very easy to lose track of time in Aruba for a number of reasons.
Water in Aruba Is Fine to Drink
The water here is perfectly safe to drink. I bet that some won’t be able to taste the difference between Aruban water and bottled water. It tastes great. I find great comfort in this because it makes bath times and going out to eat less stressful.
Taxis In Aruba
Taxis in Aruba are not a certain make, model or color of car similar to what you see in New York City or Hong Kong. They do have a taxi sign on top. We took a few taxi rides with my daughter and her car seat and didn’t have a problem strapping it in with a shoulder or lap belt, depending on the car. The drivers were very courteous about waiting the extra few minutes to get the car seats in. In fact, the people of Aruba are very friendly and family oriented, in our experience.
One taxi driver explained to me that kids aren’t required to use car seats in taxis, however, they are not allowed in the front seat. If you choose to rent a car, the local rental car companies do have car seats. We rented a car, my friends picked it up so I didn’t see the available car seats. They were glad that we all brought our own car seats, as they wouldn’t not have been comfortable with the ones they saw.
On the other side of the island from the Marriott, there is a popular beach called Baby Beach. It took us about an hour to get there and was definitely off the beaten path. Be sure to ask your concierge for exact directions or a very detailed map. We got lost on our way and experienced a road closure that took us in a roundabout way. It was worth it once we arrived. The beach is near a jetty and has shallow, clean (despite being next to a Valero plant), calm water that kids will love. You may rent giant umbrellas and beach chairs, however, I would expect the supply run out during high season. There is a very small, local cafe on the beach. I’m not sure if I’d eat there, but they sell beer, soda and bottled water. The kids all loved Baby Beach and it was so nice to let them play in the ocean and not have to stress about watching their every move.
The beach in front of the Marriott also has very calm ocean water.
Other Tips For A Family Vacation In Aruba With Kids
Sun: The need for sunscreen is a given, but if you have a fair skinned child (like I do) I would definitely opt for a UV swim shirt/rash guard with long sleeves, if possible. A lot of sun damage can be done in a short amount of time in Aruba at 12 degrees above the equator. Don’t forget a hat and sunscreen on their scalps too. I did not put sunscreen on my daughter’s scalp the first day and it burned during her hour at the pool.
Dining Out: Kids menus were at most of the places we ate at, though they have the standard chicken tenders, fish fingers, mac and cheese, etc. which got repetitive. Most of the time I was able to sub out french fries for cut fruit or steamed vegetables (though always a bit heavy on the butter) for an extra few dollars. There were plenty of grocery stores around our hotel. My husband was able to buy organics such as apple juice.
Other activities: The Marriott has kids activities for ages 5+ as I’m sure a lot of other hotels here do. There is a butterfly farm that we meant to go to, but didn’t have time. Iguanas run wild all over the place which the younger kids loved.
Older kids: We saw a water park that claimed it was open, but no water was running down any of the slides. It looked empty and didn’t give off the safest vibe, but I could be wrong. We went on a Jolly Pirate Boat Cruise. This boat had a rope swing that older kids (I’m guessing 8+, excellent swimmers) could swing off the boat into the water. They LOVED this. I would have too. My husband even did it. There are also speed boats that pull banana boats and parasailing. This is about it though–it’s a small island.
The Airport: When they say to get to the Reina Beatrix airport 3 hours early, they aren’t joking. You need to check in, clear Aruban customs, grab your bags and then clear U.S. customs. This means two screening processes. However, our flight was at 7:50am, but the customs portion of the airport doesn’t open until 6:00am (at least when we were there) so we would have been waiting outside for a long time if we had arrived 3 hours early. We were told that during the U.S. election, it was necessary to get there 5 hours in advance.
Our younger kids were happiest at the pool and beach, which is not surprising. As parents, we did well when the kids did. Including a few (or a lot) of tropical drinks and Balashi beers, it was a great, mellow vacation overall. I can’t emphasize enough how nice all of the local people are. If you’ve been to Aruba with your kids, please share your experience.