Lobsters, stingrays, eels, fish and turtles can be found in and around Aruba’s coral. // © 2014 Thinkstock
Feature image (above): The oceanfront Aruba Marriott Resort // © 2014 Marriott
If your clients are looking for a warm winter getaway, it’s not far. The tropical island of Aruba is just a few hours by plane from a dozen major U.S. cities. And it’s also the ultimate family-friendly destination. The only hard part of an Aruba vacation? Choosing among all the white sand beaches, adventure tours and great restaurants.
If your clients want a relaxing day with the kids, tell them to head to Eagle Beach. The surf is calm, the sand goes on for miles, and it’s easily accessible by car or public transportation.
For a more active day, suggest they book a tour to De Palm Island, where the snorkeling can’t be beat. De Palm Tours offers an affordable full-day package that includes breakfast and lunch, an open bar, banana-boat rides, waterpark fun and even salsa lessons.
Looking for the perfect picnic spot? Visitors rave about Mangel Halto, with its tucked-away location and beautiful snorkeling reef. Less well-known than other Aruba beaches, it’s also ideal for an afternoon nap.
Kids and adults alike will remember their visit to Donkey Sanctuary Aruba. Donkeys have lived on the island for more than 500 years, and the sanctuary provides a safe home for the animals. Visitors can feed and “adopt” a four-legged friend and even help with chores.
To explore the island by land, visitors should book an ATV tour with Kini Kini Transfers & Tours. During one of these adventures, guests will also have the chance to check out various beaches, ruins and Aruba’s famed Natural Pool, where volcanic rock forms a small, quiet pool off the beach.
Active families will enjoy a hike through Arikok National Park, where bats hide away in natural caves — native drawings dot the walls — and wild goats and donkeys roam. When it’s time for a rest, visitors can sit on a cliff and watch the spectacular crashing waves.
And Aruba is the place for beach tennis, a combination of tennis and beach volleyball played with tennis racquets or specialty paddles. It’s fun for all ages and makes for great exercise.
The turquoise waters off Aruba’s beaches are the main attraction for many visitors, especially those who love to scuba dive. The living coral is home to Caribbean lobsters (more prickly than their New England counterparts), moray eels, stingrays, turtles and dozens of fish species. For visitors new to the sport, several resorts offer courses for beginners. Experienced divers should book a morning two-dive excursion with Jads Dive Center, known for having excellent instructors, safe equipment and flexible itineraries.
For those who prefer to stay on top of the water, sea kayaking is a great way to spend a day. Aruba Kayak Adventures offers trips to De Palm Island and Mangel Halto. The staff picks up guests at their hotels and provide all the equipment needed for kayaking and snorkeling.
If clients are looking for a thrill, suggest a parasailing tour with Aruba Watersports Center. The company offers several tours per day (weather-dependent) that give visitors a bird’s-eye view of the island. Also available: WaveRunners, paddleboards and sailboats for rent by the hour or half-hour.
Lodging and Dining
Returning visitors to the island often choose Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino for its proximity to the beach and local attractions. The resort recently completed a $50 million renovation and features a pool with cascading waterfalls, seven restaurants, a spa and a casino.
For great seafood and beautiful sunsets (and a romantic dinner without the kids), Aruba Marriott’s Simply Fish is unmatched on the island. Tables sit right on the sand, soft music plays and candles flicker — and, of course, the food is first-rate.
Pinchos Bar and Grill, which sits out over the ocean on a pier on the island’s west side, offers a varied menu of seafood and steak, terrific sangria and a casual atmosphere. It’s the perfect place for a family to look out at the water, enjoy the sound of the waves and celebrate a memorable Aruba vacation together.