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Before August, my family had never been to the Caribbean (living on the West Coast, our beach vacations were usually to either Hawaii or Mexico). But it’s hard to resist the siren song of the Caribbean.
When we were researching our tropical getaway, we knew some islands might be more (or less) welcoming to the LGBTQ community than others. Aruba has a reputation for being one of the most open Caribbean islands — it isn’t called One Happy Island for nothing — which made it an obvious choice.
During our stay, we found Aruba to be truly LGBTQ family-friendly. There were no raised eyebrows or mistaken identities here, and our hotel request for a king bed was met respectfully: “Of course, gentlemen.”
Wherever we went in Aruba, our two-dad family was treated just like any other. This was true not only of paid hotel staff, but also of locals we encountered and other visitors.
Of course, families of all stripes clearly know that Aruba is a great family-friendly destination. We encountered parents with children everywhere we went. Yet the island always felt uncrowded, so first-time visitors like us felt comfortable taking our time to enjoy the new experiences.
Although there are no direct flights to Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA) from our home airport in San Diego (SAN), we were able to find good routes operated by American Airlines that got us to Aruba happy and rested. We purchased two tickets for $790 round-trip each, and then redeemed 100,000 American AAdvantage miles for the other two tickets. We amassed these miles primarily via using the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. These probably weren’t the all-time best value redemptions, but they got our family where we wanted to go.
As a Platinum Member of the AAdvantage program, I was able to book more comfortable seats with extra legroom and priority boarding.
Fun things to do in Aruba with kids
1. Go snorkeling
Aruba beckons snorkelers with its crystal clear waters. My family has snorkeled in many destinations across the world and this was easily one of the most impressive. We took a catamaran day trip, sailing north from the hotel area up the coast to more remote waters. Our captain moored us in the shallows, where we jumped off the boat to admire Aruba’s colorful marine life. We even snorkeled over to a sunken ship, viewing the wreck from above. With lunch and drinks included, we were a pretty happy (and satisfied) family.
2. Cycle around the island
Aruba is a rather flat island, and not very large, making it easy to bike around. We peddled to the beaches and into town for a leisurely tour. We also rode up the beach boardwalk to Eagle Beach to see the famous kiteboarders gliding over the sea. Some Aruban bike rental companies will even deliver the bikes directly to your hotel, and retrieve them when you are done for the day.
3. Play with butterflies
If your family is looking for a more relaxed activity, consider a trip to the Aruba Butterfly Farm. With gorgeous gardens inside a giant netted enclosure, the butterfly farm is home to dozens of species of butterflies and moths from around the world. Our kids were thrilled when they saw a giant, iridescent-blue butterfly float slowly overhead. Guided tours are available to explain the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly, with live examples of eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises, pupae and newly-hatched butterflies. Tickets are available for $15 per adult and $8 per child, and permit entrance that day as well as return trips during your stay.
4. Head off the road
My entire family loved bumping along a rocky path carved into the north side of Aruba in a modified Jeep with an open-air bench seat. This adventure afforded spectacular views of the craggy terrain, though the uneven ride made capturing photographs difficult at best. It was a spectacular adventure that took us to see the island’s natural bridges, swimming holes, beaches, the historic California Lighthouse and even an abandoned gold mine. Though a bit pricey (upwards of $100 per adult and nearly $80 for kids between the ages of 8 and 12), the off-roading exploit occupied a full five hours of our day.
5. Spend a day in town
There are so many fun places to explore in Oranjestad, visitors can easily spend an entire day in town. There are sweet little shops filled with collectibles, art, jewelry and memorabilia that line the streets, and everything is air-conditioned — very appealing after a few days in the Caribbean sun. Grab an ice cream cone and enjoy it while sitting on the dock, watching boats drop anchor along the shore.
6. Laze around on the beach
Aruba is a place you must relax — there really is no other choice. The moment you get off the plane, you can feel your blood pressure drop. Although our family loves a good adventure, we love lazy afternoons on the beach, too. We took several days throughout our trip to do nothing, save for reading a book or napping beneath a beach palapa. Though we made an effort to experience other aspects of the island, we wouldn’t blame you for wanting to spend your entire vacation sunning on Aruba’s powdery white beaches. After all, people come from all over the world for this and this alone.
Featured photo by of Getty Images.
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