If business brings you to this sun-drenched Dutch West Indies locale known as the Happy Island, this is one work trip where you’ll want to bring the family along. It’s especially doable for people working and learning remotely.
Aruba, one of the Lesser Antilles islands, lies in the Southern Caribbean Sea. Good things do come in small packages — Aruba measures a mere 70 square miles but delivers big fun. You won’t worry about your family being bored. There’s plenty for them to do while you work — and for you all to enjoy together when you are off duty.
Where to begin the day? Water worshippers know the sea is the answer to all that soothes the soul. Count your blessings: Aruba boasts more than a dozen beaches. Rest assured there is no bad choice among the glistening turquoise waters, be it Arashi Beach near the northwestern tip of the island or Baby Beach on the southeastern end or any of the others in between. The sea takes center stage in Aruba, whether you want to soak up the sun perfecting your tan, swimming, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, windsurfing, canoeing, paddle board- ing, sailing, deep-sea fishing (maybe you’ll get lucky and catch mahi, barracuda or marlin) or simply chilling on a sunset cruise. Divers will think they’ve died and gone to heaven with the many dive sites and shipwrecks, especially the 400-foot SS Antilla, a World War II casualty. Thrill seekers can also parasail, hop on a jet ski or try a JetLev, a water-propelled jet pack that powers you to fly above the water.
No worries if you’re not a snorkeler or diver; that doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on the splendors of the sea. Take an underwater tour via a semi-submarine or a submarine — the kids will love it. For an adventure you’ll all remember, take a guided underwater walking tour. Wear a weighted dive helmet and walk along the selected path. You don’t need scuba certification or even swimming experience.
Much as water proves the star attraction, Aruba’s landscape offers a show as well. Arikok National Park occupies nearly 20 percent of Aruba’s landmass. It provides the backdrop for 20 miles of rugged and wild, desert-like terrain waiting to be explored via ATV, UTV, Jeep safari, horseback or on foot. Nestled among the many cacti on the northern shore, Arikok National Park not only offers hidden beaches, natural bridges and pools but also historic cave paintings, indigenous flora and fauna, rattlesnakes, owls and blue whiptail lizards. Especially buzzworthy, the Guadirikiri Cave boasts two chambers where sunlight streams through holes in the ceiling. The cave extends for about 100 feet. In the deeper parts, you’ll encounter hundreds of bats, harmless but likely to stir your adrenaline. In the Fontein Cave you’ll find the drawings of Arawak Indians on the ceilings, bringing to life Aruba’s history. You’ll need a flashlight to check out the 300-foot-long passageway in the Huliba Cave, dubbed the Tunnel of Love because of its heart-shaped opening.
When you have had your fill of bats; deep, dark places; and the desert, look upward for your next big thrill. Skydive Aruba offers one of the most scenic drop zones in the world. Soaring from 10,000 feet up, be exhilarated by the free-fall at 120 mph while harnessed to an instructor. If you dare open your eyes, enjoy the view of the Southern Caribbean, including the nearby islands of Bonaire and Curaçao, as well as Venezuela’s Paraguaná Peninsula. You and your teenagers will experience an Instagram-worthy moment.
If you’re into horseback riding, you’ll find plenty on the island. Then, too, you can explore via motorcycle and e-bike tours. For quieter land adventures, try birdwatching. Aruba hosts more than 200 species of birds. The island’s semi-arid climate, diversity of flora and fauna, beaches, reefs, mangroves, marshes, countryside and manicured resorts offer a breeding ground for all manner of birds, not to mention those en route to North or South America. Do check out Palm Beach’s Bubali Plas Bird Sanctuary, where a watch tower overlooks marsh areas.
Despite the pandemic, you can explore part of The Butterfly Farm, an enclosed tropical rainforest with hundreds of exotic butterflies. If you’re a shopper, head to downtown Oranjestad’s shops, from designer to small boutiques.
When you’re ready to settle in for a good meal, your biggest issue will be deciding among the more than 200 eateries in Aruba, offering a rich variety: Japanese, Brazilian, Peruvian, Belgian, Italian and traditional Aruban cuisine, among others. The food scene, as diverse as the community, represents a mix of more than 90 nationalities from more than 130 countries. You’ll be in good hands whether at a food truck, dining beachside or in a white linen, fancy-pants place.
A place called the Happy Island raises expectations. Aruba keeps its promise.
Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
The Marriott boasts the largest guestrooms, suites and casino on the island. Swim in the family pool or the H2Oasis adults- only pool. Relax on the beach and enjoy small outdoor fitness classes or play beach tennis.
L.G. Smith Blvd. 101, Palm Beach
This all-inclusive resort offers abundant dining and activity options, including the Barcy Kids Club. Royal Level accommodations get the best views, exclusive access to the Royal Level Restaurant, complimentary room service and WiFi and more.
J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 83, Noord
Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino
Families appreciate clubs for kids and teens (babysitting services available), pools with waterfalls and a freshwater lagoon. Chill at the spa or pursue scuba lessons, paddleboard and bike rentals, yoga and aqua fitness.
J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 81, Noord
This casual, beachside restaurant is all about the seafood. Go for battered red snapper or garlic shrimp skewer. Local fishermen bring their fresh catch daily.
J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 96, Fisherman’s Pier, Noord
Pinchos Grill & Bar
Enjoy a romantic dinner at an overwater table where twinkling candlelight sets off the serene mood. Try the Black Angus tenderloin with truffle butter sauce or pan-seared grouper with seafood stew.
L.G. Smith Blvd. 7 at Aruba Surfside Marina, Oranjestad
Qué Pasa? Restaurant, Bar and Art Gallery
Cozy and comfortable, serving fusion cuisine — think Caribbean, South American, Middle Eastern with a European sensibility. Beloved for its seafood (try the shrimp dishes or tuna tataki), the eatery showcases local artists’ work.
Wilhelminastraat 18, Oranjestad $$$
INFO TO GO
Major carriers fly from North American gateways to Queen Beatrix International Airport. Arrange easy transfer to your hotel via bus, taxi or limousine, but check with your hotel or resort, as your reservation may include a transfer. All visitors must complete the online embarkation/disembarkation card process and be approved in order to enter Aruba. The new card process includes five components; complete them carefully, as you will not be granted access to Aruba without completing the process. You will also need a valid passport and a valid email address.
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