With so many Caribbean destinations to choose from, it can be tough settling on an island that will provide your family with the right atmosphere. Pick the wrong beach resort and you could end up partying with spring breakers. On the other end of the spectrum, you could find yourself fruitlessly looking for some fun among a gaggle of retirees. One safe bet that keeps families coming back year after year? Aruba, One Happy Island.
Regardless of the type of travel style your family most ascribes to, Aruba offers plenty to do. It all starts with beach lounging and sun soaking; two of the most popular beaches on the island are Baby Beach and Eagle Beach. Depending on the hotel you choose (and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a luxury property), you may have private beach access with cabana reservations available, beach service for dining and drinks, rentals for things like jet skis and possibly even a sea turtle habitat.
However, while it’s tempting to spend all your vacation time with your toes in the sand and a cocktail in hand, and the kids may be just as happy splashing in the low-wave waters, you’d eventually regret leaving Aruba without seeing the rest of the island.
The best form of transportation for checking out the 20-mile-long, 6-mile-wide island? ATV. Whether you choose to explore within a tour group or head out into the desert on your own, you’ll have a great time. The desert side of the island is like another destination entirely, filled with craggy rocks, rough shoreline, cacti and dusty roads. Wear something you can get a little messy (the dust, sweat and sand will leave their mark) and make sure to pack plenty of water. Best stops on any ATV tour of the island include California Lighthouse, the Aruba Natural Bridge and Alto Vista Chapel.
If you’d prefer to see parts of the island on foot rather than speed across the dunes on a four-wheeler, Arikok National Park is a great spot to do so. Hike the volcanic rock formations and get a glimpse of ancient cave paintings. Keep your eyes peeled for the local wildlife. Aruba has plenty of lizards and other reptiles, as well as herds of wild goats and donkeys.
For more wildlife, purchase a one-day pass to the Renaissance Island (if you’re not already staying at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino), and spend the day hand-feeding flamingos as they flock about with unabated curiosity. The 40-acre private island is the perfect place to enjoy a little bit of paradise, tucked within an even bigger slice of paradise.
Not every great Aruban activity requires adventure, though. You can have your own fun shopping in Oranjestad, an easy walk or drive from nearly every resort. The colorful Dutch Colonial architecture welcomes you to the multitude of shops, from local purveyors of cheap souvenirs to luxury retailers.
Santa Barbara is perfect for couples. It’s no wonder the city nicknamed the American Riviera is a place to walk hand-in-hand through the urban wine trail, gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes over dinner at an award-winning restaurant or listen to the crash of waves and call of seagulls along the country’s oldest operating wharf. Yet, it’s also a great place to bring kids.
Walking across The National Mall, I literally crossed paths with Lonnie G. Bunch III, the Smithsonian Institution’s first African American CEO. Dr. Bunch, who first visited the Smithsonian as a 10-year-old Civil War buff, was told by his father, “Here’s a place where you can understand yourself and your country and not be worried by the color of your skin.” Bunch, who famously created the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, was quoted as saying, “I wanted to give back to those institutions that shaped everything I am.”
Sure, we’re barely dipping our toes into winter weather, but isn’t it more fun to think ahead to the warm weather family fun your crew could have at the Jersey Shore? Luckily, Atlantic City, New Jersey, offers far more than sandy beaches and casinos — enough to entertain all ages in all sorts of weather.