We recently took a family vacation to Aruba. We were there 6 night and did a mix of activities, beach/pool time, and dining out. Our 6 year old daughter (Sienna) came with us, so everything we did on our trip was family friendly (but most could be enjoyed without kids as well).
There are tons of things to do in Aruba, but these are the things we did….making this really more of a recap than a travel guide 🙂
Air Travel Tips:
Getting to Aruba from the US is the easy part. Just make sure you have your passport. The flight from Atlanta was about 4 hours. Once we landed in Aruba, their Airport was easy to navigate for retrieving our luggage and picking up our rental car.
And yes, we rented a car, which I found helpful since we did not do an all inclusive and left the resort frequently to explore and go to dinner. It was around $500 for the week for a basic sedan.
Now getting home from Aruba is the tricky part. A few very important things to know…
- Currently a negative COVID test the day prior to your departure is required. Both PCR and Antigen tests are accepted. We were able to do the Antigen test at our hotel for $50/person. It was $35 at a lab down the street but we opted for convenience.
- If you are a non-US citizen re-entering the US, then you need a negative COVID test and proof of vaccine.
- Allow yourself at least 3 hours at the Aruba airport. You go through customs in Aruba instead of the US, and it is very confusing and inefficient. It is basically a series of lines, then more lines, then a few more. We made the mistake of thinking we were done with security and stopped mid way to browse shops and eat at the food court. Don’t make the same mistake.
Where We Stayed:
We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa & Casino. The top question I was asked was if the resort was all inclusive, and no it was not. I actually prefer not doing all inclusives (not to say I never do them), but I just prefer doing my own thing and not eating resort food all week.
We are normally Marriot people, but the resort I was originally looking at was booked for the week we wanted to go. I did a quick google search for the best kid friendly hotels in Aruba, saw that the Hyatt had a water slide, and I was sold!
Overall, we really loved the resort and would stay there again. The only issue was that the noisy neighbors and thin walls did not mix well.
- Via an app or website you can pre-book your pool umbrella/chairs or beach palapa/chairs. Many options are free, but you can upgrade to premium seating (like front row of the beach) for a cost.
- There are 2 pools. The Family pool and an Adults only pool. The Adults only pool had several cabanas you can rent for the day that looked really nice. We obvisouly did not hang out there though. The kids pool has the water slide, if that’s your thing (as it is most certainly my daughter’s)
- There are a few restaurants at the Hyatt; including a fine dining one, a casual breakfast/lunch option, a juice bar, and pool bar/restaurant
- Did I mention there is a water slide?
- The gym was nice, with a good bit of equipment and machines (always important to me)
- There is a water sports hut right outside the hotel on the beach. We went tubing one day….it was bumpy, but fun. https://www.delphiwatersports.com/
- The hotel is not too large, so easy to navigate (always a plus for me too)
- It is in a great location, with several restaurants and shops that are easy to walk to
- Oh…and there is a kids club, but we did not use it
Things We Did:
Beach/Pool – We made sure to not overbook ourselves with activities so we would have plenty of pool and beach time. Our first full day there, we left open and just chilled at the pool all day. The rest of the week we alternated between beach and pool. Aruba has beautiful and calm beaches. The water does not get too deep, so it is perfect for kiddos. Our hotel was located on Palm Beach, but there are other beaches that I hear are worth the visit (and I plan to visit next time we make the trip). I hear Eagle Beach and Baby beach are both great. Baby beach is super shallow…hence the name, making it a perfect spot for younger children (or adults who don’t like getting their hair wet). Definitely make sure not to over book your schedule, so you can enjoy some relaxing days on Aruba’s beautiful beaches!
Seaworld Explorer Semi-Submarine – This is a 90 minute semi-submarine excursion, which is kind of like scuba diving without getting wet. We took a boat out to the submarine (since the water is too shallow to get directly on it from the pier). Like everything in Aruba, it was quite the windy boat ride over. Once we were on the submarine, we spent some time viewing a coral reef and the Antilla (the largest shipwreck in the Caribbean). This was very kid friendly! My daughter enjoyed watching all the fish and even was able to see a few turtles.
De Palm Island – Everyone talks about see the flamingos in Aruba. One way you can see them is through the Renaissance Wind Creek Aruba Resort. If you are not staying there, you can apparently pay a hefty fee to visit the island, but they make it really hard to figure out how to book. Also, one side of the Flamingo island is for Adults only, and that is where the flamingos are located. Kids can go over for a specific 1 hour time slot each day, which didn’t seem worth it to me.
So back to De Palm island and the flamingos…..so since the Renaissance seemed like a no go, we book a day at De Palm Island. De Palm island is a super kid friendly option, and I am so glad we went. De Palm Island has a pool (with kiddo water equipment and slides and such), 3 water slides, a beach, flamingos, and Banana Boats rides. There are also other little excursions you can book for an additional fee. De Palm island is also all inclusive, as in all you can eat and drink is part of the package you pay for. Jonathan and I enjoyed a couple frozen drinks and the basic vodka soda. As for the food, if you are a picky eater, then bring snacks. I knew going into it that there would not be many options for a vegetarian, so I brought snacks. Sienna lunched on French fries, and Jonathan had a hot dog. Besides the grill (where they serve the hot dogs, fries, burgers and such) there is a buffet. I went and took a peak, and ended up on getting a couple desserts to try.
We took advantage of the water slides and went down multiple times. It was probably my first water slide in 10+ years, but my daughter asked me to do it, and I have a hard time turning her down.
As for the flamingos, they were on the opposite island from where we spent most of our time (not that the island is that big). If you have booked premium seating or a beach cabana, then you can hang with them all day. When we first got there, there was a long line to get you pictures with the Flamingos, so we left and went back later. When we did go back, Jonathan stepped on a piece of coral funny and cut the bottom of his foot. So be careful on the sand – lots of coral. He had to go to first aid (I really wish I taken a picture of his wrapped up foot). Since we were a man down, Sienna took my flamingo pic, and I took hers. Her pictures turned out super cute!
You are able to book cabanas, but by the time we called, they were booked up. It ended up working out because we found chairs by the pool, which is where Sienna spent most of the day playing. If you plan or booking chairs, I would book the Beach Cabanas or premium beach seating. The regular Cabanas were kind of in a weird spot, where you still had a walk to beach and the pool (inconvenient if you have kids to watch).
A couple of tips…
- I would not do the transportation through De Palm Island. The people who booked transportation through De Palm had to leave the island a whole hour and a half earlier than we did. This was nice for us who provided our own transportation, because we basically had the island to ourselves for a whole hour. I imagine those people also had a sit on a bus for an hour going hotel to hotel, while we enjoyed the water slide and beach.
- Get there early. They said the Island opens at 11am. We got there at 10:45am, and I felt like we were the last ones on the Island. I got frustrated for a minute when we couldn’t find chairs on the beach, but turns out the pool chairs were a better option anyways
- There is not food or drink allowed on the pool deck. We learned this after being scolded.
- If you want to book a cabana or premium seating, call well in advance. We actually tried calling several times weeks leading up to our trip and could not get anyone on the phone. Once we finally did, everything was booked.
Overall, we had a really fun day, and I am glad we went.
Donkey Sanctuary – The Aruba Donkey Sanctuary is open from 9am-4pm, so we visited one morning before heading to the beach. It was a 25 minute drive from our hotel. On the way, we stopped at the store to grab apples to feed the donkeys. We brought 8 apples, and I wish we had brought more. You can also bring carrots to feed them, which may actually be an easier, less intimidating option. When we first arrived, some donkeys greeted us at the gate. We very nervously fed them the apples we brought with us.
After feeding the donkeys we headed to the main building, which is where most of the donkeys were hanging out. We had to be very careful not to step in anything on our walk there. At the main building you can purchase food to feed the donkeys, as well as souvenirs, ice creams, and other random knick knacks. We purchased feed for $3 (the largest option) and fed more donkeys. Make sure you lay your palm flat with the food in it, and they will eat straight out of it. I am happy to report, we left with zero donkey inflicted injuries.
The Donkey Sanctuary is donation based, so make sure to bring some cash to show them some love. It was a really cute and sweet experience.
Sunset Cruise – We did a sunset cruise one evening though Pelican Adventures. They offer several other excursions and cruise types. We had a really fun (and windy) evening, on the Pelican Adventures catamarans. The sunset cruise is for ages 4 and up (and kids are 1/2 price), but Sienna was the only kid on the boat. She got over it real quick once we sat on the boat trampoline where we could see the water below, and she was able to sing, dance, and nibble on fruit kabobs. The cruise is all you can drink with a couple passed around appetizers (fruit kabobs, empanadas, cheese and olives).
The cruise was a really run atmosphere. There was even a couple on the boat who had done the cruise the night before, and they loved it so much that they had booked it again for that night.
Definitely wear your hair up, and definitely do not wear a short dress. I suggest wearing a maxi, shorts or pants.
The cruise offers a 3 course dinner afterwards at the Pier restaurant. We did not book this, since I do not eat seafood. We did have problems finding a restaurant without a long wait once we did get off the boat, so the after dinner option may actually be a good idea.
Butterfly Farm – We visited the Aruba Butterfly farm on our last day before heading to the airport. The tour guide told us everything we could ever possibly want to know about butterflies (plus some). Did you know that some butterflies are drunk all the time? The drunk butterflies like to hang out on the fermented fruit, and are usually so wasted that you can actually get one to sit on you finger. I wasn’t able to get one to chill on my finger (though one landed on my shoulder for a minute). Jonathan was able to get a butterfly to sit on his finger, and then he passed it on to Sienna. So cute!
Tubing in the Ocean – There was a water sports hut on the beach at our hotel. Our first day on the beach Sienna saw tons of people doing the tubing (basically a large raft that is pulled super fast by a boat), and had to do it to. The first day, I let Sienna and Jonathan do it without me. Sienna had so much fun that she requested we do again later in the week and I come, so I did. It was actually really fun. I spent most of the time stressing that Sienna would be flung into the ocean….but it was still fun. The tube was large enough for all 3 of us, and you could probably squeeze a 4th person on there too. The ride only lasts 15 minutes; which was more than long enough for me.
What We Ate:
Note: My daughter (Sienna) and I are vegetarians, my husband (Jonathan) is not
Lola Taqueria – A cute mexican spot within walking distance from the hotel. I had the Thai Vegan Tacos, Brussel sprouts taco, and jalapeño margarita. Jonathan had the Carnitas taco (and one of my vegan tacos) and a Margarita. Sienna had a cheese quesadilla and elote (corn). It was so good we tried to go back to eat there a 2nd time, but the wait was too long.
Gelatissimo – This is a Gelato truck we stopped at for dessert after dinner at Lola Taqueria. It is right outside Gianni’s (which also came highly recommended for dinner). I got a Black Hawaii scoop (dark chocolate with coconut), Jonathan got Brownie Ala Mode scoop, and Sienna went rogue and got a cookies and cream milkshake.
Yemanja Woodfire Grill – This came highly recommended from someone who frequents Aruba, and I was excited we were able to squeeze it in when our dinner plans changed Monday night. Yemanja was a 15 minute drive from our hotel. Jonathan and I shared the Filo Dough with Goat Cheese appetizer. For dinner, I had the Vegan BBQ platter and Spicy Passion Fruit Margarita. Jonathan had the Herb Crusted Atlantic Cod Filet & Garlic Butter Scallops. Sienna had mac & cheese (yum) and broccoli. We all shared the Chocolate Molten Lava Cake for dessert (Sienna ate most of it). Everything we had was really good.
Ruinas del Mar – This is the fine dining restaurant at our resort. Make sure to sit on the outside patio overlooking the koi fish pond. A black swan lives in the pond too…and you may catch them floating by while you are dining. This place was really nice, and obviously very convenient. To start, Jonathan and I had the whipped burrata (I’m always a sucker for burrata). Sienna started with a side of the friend sweet platano. For dinner, Sienna and I shared the crispy tofu stir fry. Jonathan had the grass fed burger. For dessert, Sienna choose the chocolate cake again, and subbed out the vanilla gelato for chocolate (she’s a wild one).
Salt and Pepper – We ate here on our honeymoon (the only place we dined at outside our resort), so we mostly went here for sentimental reasons. It was also super close to our hotel and easy to walk to. My favorite thing about the restaurant was the Sangria. We got a pitcher of the Rose Sangria, and almost went for a 2nd. To eat, we all shared the S&P dip (spinach and cream cheese) and Mozzerella sticks. I had the veggie burger for dinner, Jonathan had the garlic shimp and baby back ribs (both on the Tapas list), and Sienna had alfredo cheese pasta from the kids menu. We are early eaters (6/6:30 ish), so were able to dine here without reservations. The food is decent. Nothing noteworthy but definitely nothing bad.
Faro Blanco Restaurant – The food was good, but definitely go here for the views! It sits hilltop by the Aruba lighthouse, and has amazing views of Aruba Palm beach below. It was quite windy being hilltop, so I suggest wearing your hair up. To start, Jonathan and I shared the Mozzarella Di Capri. For dinner I had the minestrone soup and vegan flatbread. Jonathan had the Butterfly breaded jumbo shrimps (there is a fancier name for it on the menu) and Sienna had cheese pizza (which we had as leftovers the next day).
Eduardo’s Beach Shack – We ate lunch here 3 times while in Aruba. They have the best smoothie bowls! I tried the Pitaya bowl, Pipeline Bowl and Green Goddess bowl. The Pipeline bowl was my favorite. I also tried Sienna’s Mermaid bowl one day, and it was really good too. We also enjoyed the vegan tacos (you get 3, so Jonathan and I shared). Sienna enjoyed the vegan pancakes until a bird landed on them and we had to throw them away (but to the bird’s deference, she had been snacking on them on and off for 2+ hours). I definitely recommend grabbing lunch or a snack here!
Alright, that’s all I got. Aruba is absolutely beautiful and was exactly what my family needed. We planned this trip pretty spur of the moment, about 5 weeks out. If you visit in the near future, I’d love to hear about your fun adventures too!