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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, Starwood Preferred Guest® Luxury Credit Card from American Express
Aruba is one of my all-time favorite islands to visit with the kids. While many other islands are more secluded and are maybe more preferable for an adults-only trip, I find Aruba to be easy and enjoyable with my now 2 and 5-year-olds. The weather is almost always perfect, there are a ton of low-key restaurants within walking distance from the hotels, the beach is wide and long, the ocean is calm and there are a ton of kid-friendly activities.
In addition to being kid-friendly, there are also many opportunities to use your hotel points from many different programs. Most Caribbean destinations have chain hotels from just one or two loyalty programs (if any), where Aruba includes properties from four different major hotel programs. This gives you many different options to choose from when you want to redeem points. If Aruba is on your family’s horizon, start saving your Marriott, IHG, Hilton or Hyatt points.
Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
If you are looking for a full-service hotel in the Marriott Rewards program, pick the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino. It is a beautiful hotel offering two separate pool areas — a lively kid-friendly pool with a swim-up bar and an adults-only pool — as well as many on-site restaurants. Every room includes a balcony (which is perfect when the kids are sleeping and you want to chat) and all of them have a view of the pool or the ocean.
While there is no kids club at this Marriott, there are a few lawn games at the hotel and a ton of water sports right on the beach. There is also a volleyball net set up in the pool, and a waterfall.
Unfortunately for those with elite status, there is no club lounge (although everyone can pay to be upgraded to the Tradewinds Club Floor, if available) and upgrades to a suite are hard to come by. This hotel is typically always booked even during “off-peak” dates. Those with Platinum Marriott elite status, however, will still receive breakfast for two at the on-site restaurant.
This is a Category 6 property, which means you’ll have to redeem 50,000 points a night for a free night stay or use an annual certificate from the Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card. But remember, with the Marriott program, you’ll receive your fifth night free on points, which means a five-night stay booked with points averages out to only 40,000 points a night. You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Marriott Rewards points.
If you are looking for larger hotel rooms with full kitchens, you might want to check out the Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club and Marriott’s Aruba Ocean Club, which are right next door — they have everything from a studio to a three-bedroom villa. While they are both Category 6 properties as well, redeeming points for a free night stay is harder to come by during peak seasons because they are both timeshare properties. However, for paid stays, you’ll still earn Marriott points.
Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino
The Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino is the only in-town property you’ll find on this list. You are right in the middle of everything, from shopping to restaurants to nightlife. Just realize that you won’t be able to walk a few feet and enjoy the beach. Not to worry though, the beach is really not that far and the property has a private island at your disposal. Just take the water taxi and you’ll experience 40 acres of exclusive beach and even see flamingos. I have not stayed at this property but I’ve heard from others that it is fabulous. You can also think of the water taxi as a free activity with the kids. Who doesn’t love a boat ride to flamingos?
The real appeal of this property is the low points price per night. This is a Category 5 property so you can redeem a free night for 35,000 points. Compared to the 50,000 points at the Aruba Marriott Resort, this is a great deal and can allow your family to tack on a few extra nights for the same amount of points. And, since it is a Category 5 property, you can use your free night certificates that come with the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card and Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.
The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba
The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba is located on Palm Beach, but a little more secluded from the other hotels right on the beach. Its location means that it is less crowded, but also further away from the off-site restaurants by foot. There are two swimming pools at the resort and five restaurants, including BLT Steak. You’ll also find beach tennis and beach volleyball.
When traveling with family, I don’t believe The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba is worth the extra points over the Aruba Marriott Stellaris. Being a Category 7 property, The Ritz will run you 60,000 points a night — which is 10,000 points more a night than staying next door at the Marriott. These hotels have access to the same beach, so be sure you really want to spend more points just to stay at the Ritz Carlton.
That said, “Ritz Kids” is one of the big advantages that the Ritz Carlton has over the Marriott Stellaris next door. The kids club, for children ages 4–12, is great if you are looking for some hours to yourself while the kids can play within a supervised program. As you would expect though, this kids club does not come cheap — you’ll pay $20 per hour per child or a flat $80 for the evening program. This can get costly, but for families seeking a higher-end resort with a place for their kids to be entertained, The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba might be the perfect resort for you.
Holiday Inn Resort Aruba
The Holiday Inn Resort Aruba is smack in the middle of the long strip of beach hotels, making it a great location that’s near everything. While this property might not be as secluded as some of the other chain properties on Palm Beach, it is a resort property with many family amenities. It is also one of the more economical choices in Aruba; you only have to redeem 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points for a free night stay. And, if you are able to purchase IHG points for as low as 0.45 cents per point (during some promotions throughout the year), that means you are paying a fixed $180 per night to stay in Aruba.
Or, you can always use your free annual night certificate that comes with the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. (The certificate can only be used at properties that charge 40,000 points or less per night.) Also, if you are a card member, you’ll receive your fourth night free when you redeem points. Or, transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to your IHG Rewards Club account.
There is a supervised kids club for children 4 through 11 and activity center open from 9am–5pm with a large space with crafts, video games, Ping-Pong and air hockey. You can see the activity center from the beach and there are always a ton of kids playing and having a good time.
Another favorite benefit of this property is that kids ages 12 and under eat free (with a paid adult) when ordering in the hotel’s restaurant. And each adult can have up to four kids with them, which is pretty generous. Of course, this only works for items ordered off the kids menu, which is perfect for my 5 and 2 year old, but might be limiting for older kids. The only caveat is that the terms do state that rooms booked with points are not eligible for the kids eat free promotion.
Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa & Casino
The Hyatt Regency in Aruba is by far one of the nicer resorts on the island, with many on-site restaurants, a huge pool complex and a two-story waterslide. For your thrill-seeking kids, the waterslides are bound to be a big hit and might keep them occupied for the better part of the day. The grounds are beautiful and it is a nice hotel to walk around, especially with the various koi ponds.
The hotel is 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night and offers two tennis courts with weekly tennis clinics and tournaments. There are also daily activities, such a bingo or even waterslide contests, at the pool deck. There is also a kids club available for a fee for 3 to 12-year-olds, or you can book a babysitter through the concierge.
If you are looking to use a Hyatt suite upgrade, you will be booked into a family-friendly suite, which offers a separate bedroom — great for families who want to spread out a little.
There is also a Club Lounge with a great view of the ocean available for those with Hyatt Globalist elite status, those who wish to redeem one of their club lounge certificates or who buy-up to a Club Lounge room. The lounge is great for a free and easy breakfast with happy hour food and drinks between 5–7 pm every evening.
Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino
The Hilton Aruba Resort recently entered the market in July 2015 when it took over the Radisson Aruba. For those who have visited the Radisson in the past, know that the Hilton undertook a massive renovation on the rooms, which was very much needed. It is also one of the very few Hilton resorts in the Caribbean. The Hilton Aruba has a great beachfront location and is very accessible to many off-site restaurants just across the street. There is also a low-key pier bar with singing and dancing some nights (which I found to be perfect for my kids) right at the beach of this property.
There are two expansive zero-entry pools, perfect for small kids to walk right into the water and play. Or, they can play in the sand while others enjoy the pool. There is a kid’s program for children ages 4 – 12 that is $60 per day with a 15% discount for Hilton Honors members. On the whole, this is probably my favorite hotel in Aruba for young kids.
The Hilton Aruba typically ranges between 74,000 and 80,000 Hilton Honors points per night, but if you have Hilton Honors status (available with all of the Hilton credit cards), you’ll receive your fifth night free. During off-peak times, paid rates can also be worth a look, though during the most peak times, paid rates can creep towards $1,000 per night.
If you are looking for a great family-friendly beach vacation where you can redeem your hotel points to stay right on the beach, consider Aruba. You won’t be disappointed. If you want to put your miles to use to cover the flight portion of your trip to paradise, here are some tips for using miles to fly to the Caribbean — and remember to also price out JetBlue Mint seats to Aruba if you want to arrive in style.
Have you vacationed on Aruba with your kids? Which resort is your family’s favorite?
Featured image by Jon Bailey / 2DadsWithBaggage
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