Just 15 miles off the coast of S. America lies the small island of Aruba. Best known for its white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, Aruba has been consistently earning its place on the Best Beaches of the World lists.
With direct flights from many US gateways, this destination attracts a high amount of return visitors each year. This year I wanted to experience it for myself, and I took my husband and two small daughters on a family vacation to Riu Palace Aruba.
If you are a fan of all-inclusive resorts, then it’s likely you’ve extensively explored and enjoyed Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. Those 3 are the top all-inclusive destinations in the Caribbean and with good reason! Should you switch up the scenery on your next trip and give Aruba a chance? Here are a few facts that can help you make that decision.
Guaranteed warm weather
- no matter the month
Aruba enjoys year-round temperatures of mid-80F-s, so no matter the month, you are guaranteed to have warm weather. Annual rainfall is only 16-20 in/year- this means the chances of getting a week in paradise ruined by rain and storms is very unlikely. It is also one of the 3 islands situated below the hurricane belt- so if your ideal months of travel fall within the hurricane season, Aruba is one of the safest Caribbean destinations to choose in this regard.
One thing I didn’t expect to experience was the wind! Aruba is a windy island year-round! The constant trade winds keep the humidity lower and the temperatures bearable, but ladies, be prepared that the only hairstyle you’re going to be flaunting here will be an up-do!
During the week of our stay (mid-May), we had alternating high- and low winds. Often, walking or standing on the beach near the water wasn’t possible, because the wind would pick up the grains of sand and slam them against our bodies as if mother nature was on a mission to provide us with free exfoliating treatments. The best thing to do was stay in the water, or further on the beach away from the shore.
- soul-warming scenery
All the resorts in Aruba are situated on the Western shoreline. This provides for gorgeous sunsets every evening.
Shallow waters and no seaweed
- perfect for families with young children
Powder-sugar-like white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters await visitors, and for my family, this was the first vacation where we never even tried the resort’s pool - but spent our entire days in the ocean. The waters are shallow and there are no waves - which was perfect for my daughters who are 5 and 1.5. They both felt comfortable with their floaties in the water, swimming around us, happily watching the fish float by, seagulls fly above, and the warm breeze on their faces.
Over 400 restaurants
- with discounts at various dining venues
Aruba is not your typical all-inclusive destination! The island prides itself on the variety of its restaurants (over 400 of them on the island) and the diversity of the cuisine, so they have a nice program in place that allows for discounts at various dining venues. There are only 3 all-inclusive resorts on this destination and a few hotels that offer a different kind of add-on meal plans. Two of these hotels- the Riu Palace (and adults-only sister property Riu Antilles), and the Barcelo are both located on Palm Beach within walking distance from each other. I’ve stayed at Riu and did a site inspection of the Barcelo, so if you’d like a more detailed insight on those, please see my upcoming blogs about it.
Not your typical beach hotels
- no swim-up suites, few ocean front rooms
Many of the properties in Palm Beach have been built at least 50 years ago, and the design and layout of it are different from what we’d typically expect from a beach hotel. They don’t have a lot of full ocean view or oceanfront rooms, many only come with French balconies. They don’t have the typical grand palapa-style entrance or huge open spaces, as we’re used to in Jamaica, DR or Mexico - to me many places felt dark and not airy. Definitely a surprise, considering the gorgeous outdoor and beach right in front of the property- yet these buildings seem to have been built to hide the destination, not to showcase it. But that really is only the inside of it, and quite frankly, if you make it to Aruba, you’ll be spending most of your time outdoors anyway.
Most resorts don’t have the multitude of pools, hangout places, waterparks, kids clubs and entertainment typical to the all-inclusives of the above-mentioned 3 destinations. Most kids clubs I’ve seen have been a small indoor place, with not much to do. I have seen family entertainment on the program such as hand painting, balloon fight, tagle war and the likes, but it didn’t really compare to the options we were used to. Nightly entertainment and options for children also depended on the resort, and options seemed limited.
Aruba is perfect for beach lovers
- who aim to spend their vacation relaxing, not seeking resort planned entertainment
What this destination is all about however, and why I consider it a good place even for an all-inclusive vacation is its beaches and friendly people! There haven’t been many Caribbean vacations where I have seen my children enjoy the ocean this much! Either the waves or the temperature of the water made it almost impossible for them (being at a young age as they are) to enjoy the beach the same way as they did here. The shallow waters of Aruba, the lack of any waves, the crystal clear azure color of the water mixed with bright greens made the sea so inviting, that kids and adults alike would find it hard to resist it.
This destination is perfect for beach lovers. If your family wants to relax, swim, enjoy the Caribbean in a relaxed manner this place is perfect for you. If you are traveling with kids that are in need of constant entertainment, who get bored easily and spending days on the beach sounds more like a punishment then reward, I’d probably be choosing a typical all-inclusive destination over this one.
This island is only 70 square miles in size, smaller than Manhattan - around the size of Cozumel for your reference. It is easy to get around, the length of it is under 20miles- so in less than 1 hr you can drive from N to S. We rented a car and visited many different areas, our favorite being Baby Beach. Another gorgeous cove, with waters that are even stiller, where you can walk deep into the ocean and the water high never goes above your waste.
More about this and other favorite spots I recommend in my next article.
US immigration pre-clearance in destinations
- Aruba has US-pre-clearance in destination
The flight to Aruba is slightly longer from the US (from Chicago it was just under 5hrs), and the average cost of an Aruban all-inclusive vacation is at least 25-35% higher then a similar trip to Mexico, DR, Jamaica. Having a very limited all-inclusive hotel options here also means you’ll have to plan your vacation way further in advance- at least 6-12months out. A great thing is that Aruba has US-pre-clearance in destination, so when you actually get back to the US you no longer have to wait to go through immigrations and customs. You arrive to a domestic terminal, pick up your luggage and be on your way - fast and easy.
Did we enjoy Aruba and would we come back? Definitely YES!
While many of the Caribbean deals with an abundance of seaweed issues, every beach that I’ve visited in Aruba had none of it! Pictures hardly do the beaches justice; it is a sight that I could never tire of.
Service was always accompanied by a smile, locals and visitors alike were far friendlier than I’ve expected.
I was excited to make new friends from all over the world, and for the first time in years (because traveling with kids it’s not the easiest) I’ve come back from vacation relaxed, reinvigorated and thrilled to share the secrets of this destination with all of you.
Thank you for following along, and stay tuned for more destination and resort updates!