Until recently, I considered Aruba just another one of those sunny honeymoon destinations. There is certainly nothing wrong with that but since I am long past the honeymoon days, I never really considered Aruba in my travel plans. All of that changed when I was invited to join a group of ladies in Aruba for three days – and I was invited to bring along my 7-year-old granddaughter, Katherine. We found plenty of fun things to do in Aruba on what was, for us, a priceless experience.
Things to Do in Aruba with Kids
Forget 50 shades of gray, Aruba is 50 shades of blue. This jewel in the southern Caribbean Sea is one of the Lesser Antilles islands. Divi Divi trees permanently bent southwest due to the constant trade winds dot the coastal landscape. Pristine beaches are blanketed with silky white sands. Locals speak Papiamento, a Creole language formed from a mix of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English, French and African dialects.
I met up with my son at Miami international where he handed off his baby girl to me for her first international trip. We boarded our plane and in a few hours Katherine was excitedly chattering about the turquoise waters beneath us as we made our descent onto the island. She was delighted to go through immigration and get her first passport stamp – and as a Globetrotting Grandmom, I was thrilled to be there for that special moment!
Our home for the trip was the luxurious Aruba Marriott located amid a group of high-rise resorts on Palm Beach.
A beachfront location with gorgeous pools, plenty of lounge chairs and a swim-up bar serving margaritas to Grandmoms and Shirley Temples to children, the Aruba Marriott had everything we needed for our Aruba adventure.
We joined our group for dinner at Simply Fish, a pop-up restaurant right on the beach serving mouth-watering seafood. We placed our sandals in cubbyhole shelves and dined with our toes in the sand and a sunset in the sky.
The next morning, we picked up breakfast from the resort’s café and sat out on our terrace overlooking the pool. Just beyond the pool, sailboats bobbed in the sea as all the shades of blue came to life. We were fueling up for the day’s adventures – a jeep tour of the island with De Palm Tours.
Touring Aruba by Jeep
Climbing into the open air Land Rover, we braced ourselves for a wild and rocky off-roading ride! I was surprised to see Aruba’s landscape change to a semi-desert rocky terrain peppered with cactus plants as we moved away from the coastal regions.
Our first stop was the Donkey Sanctuary, a nonprofit organization dedicated to caring for the donkeys on the island. Tender-hearted Katherine shied away from the aggressive donkeys demanding food and moved instead toward the shy older donkey waiting patiently at the edge of the covered porch. (I hope she will do that for me when I’m old!)
Leaving the satisfied donkeys behind, we headed for the island’s Natural Pool. On a deserted stretch of coastline where waves crash over the rocks, volcanic stone circles a small depression creating a natural pool.
It was in this stunningly beautiful spot that Katherine learned to snorkel. Most of us learn in swimming pools…not this adventurous kid.
On the Beach
We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging on Baby Beach on the southeast end of the island where the shallow sheltered lagoons are perfect for practicing those newly learned snorkel techniques.
Our adventures continued with a lesson in Aruba’s signature sport, beach tennis, which is played on the soft beach sands using a solid racket. Armed with loads of patience, beach tennis champion Aksel Samardzic encouraged us as we clumsily swung our rackets.
Cooking Island Cuisine
The resort’s Chef Teddy welcomed us into his kitchen for a cooking class. Aruba is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Chef Teddy introduced us to a traditional Dutch dish, Keshi yena.
The dish originated during the country’s slave trade when the Dutch would eat the moist insides of Gouda cheese and send the rinds back to the kitchen. Plantation workers would then stuff the rinds with bits of discarded meat from stews and steam it.
Our version was made from prime slices of Gouda filled with chicken, peppers and a spicy tomato based sauce then baked to perfection. It was a history lesson, cooking lesson and all around delicious experience.
We sampled another Dutch treat at Linda’s Dutch Pancakes located in the Renaissance Marketplace, Linda’s specializes in traditional pizza sized Dutch pancakes. With more than 65 options of sweet and savory toppings, there was something to please everyone.
Our final dinner in Aruba was at the waterfront restaurant, The West Deck. Located in Aruba’s new Linear Park, the restaurant is set on a large wooden deck overlooking the beach. The West Deck serves up delicious Caribbean cuisine with spectacular views. And for Katherine, chicken fingers.