10 Best Family Activities in Aruba, Beyond the Beach - Family Traveller (USA)

Taking a family vacation to Aruba? With dozens of nationalities living together in harmony, residents accurately call Aruba "One Happy Island." An ideal climate, pristine beaches, hospitable locals and multi-cultural flair are a big part of why Aruba gets more repeat visitors than any other Caribbean island.

Aruba enjoys strong cultural ties to the Netherlands. Everyone speaks fluent Dutch and English. Locals speak to each other in Papiamento, a lyrical blend of Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish and English.

There are dozens of resorts welcoming families, from the high-rise hotels on Palm Beach to the boutique properties on Eagle Beach. With white sand as soft as flour and sparkling turquoise water framed by divi-divi trees and wild orchids, it’s tempting to never leave your sun-drenched beachfront hotel. Resist the urge to keep your toes in the sand for your entire vacation; the island offers families much to do and see.

Here are the 10 best family activities in Aruba, beyond the beach.

Arikok National Park

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If you think the entire Caribbean is lush and green, Aruba surprises with a striking desert landscape. Arikok National Park covers nearly 20% of the island, assuring the native flora will remain forever wild. Hike with a park ranger or watch a film under the starry sky at the popular “Movie in the Park” series. Take a Jeep excursion and get an overview of the dusty spectacle of exotic cacti accented with spiky aloe plants. Don’t miss exploring the caves; you’ll see stalagmites, bat nests and ancient drawings by the Arawak Indians.

The Butterfly Farm

The Butterfly Farm is an oasis of colorful winged creatures just steps from popular Palm Beach. Stroll the enchanted garden and observe the butterflies laying eggs and pollinating flowers. Guides provide thoughtful, age-appropriate commentary.

Mural Art

Courtesy of Aruba Tourism

No family vacation to Aruba is complete without getting a taste for the culture. Graced with over 40 street murals, San Nicolas is Aruba’s cultural capital. With a bold color palate and free form, open-air mural art is appealing to many tweens and teens who might not tolerate the confines of a traditional museum.

Take a guided tour of the neighborhood with Aruba Murals Tours before you head into their studio and allow your creative juices flow.

Donkey Sanctuary

For centuries, donkeys were the island’s main mode of transportation. As Aruba’s infrastructure modernized, many of these sweet (and sometimes stubborn) creatures were left adrift.  Run entirely by volunteers, the Donkey Sanctuary gives them a safe home. Visitors may help with simple chores.

Aruba Ostrich Farm

Courtesy of Ostrich Farm Aruba

A flock of 80 of these prehistoric-like birds are waiting to meet you at the Aruba Ostrich Farm. The tour provides a window into their behavior as well as up-close encounters.

Take a Walking Tour of the Capital

For an in-depth look at Orangestad, take a stroll with the experts at Aruba Walking Tours. You’ll explore this port city’s sites and landmarks including a stop at the Archeological Museum and Anne Frank statue.

Your guide will have you sample local delicacies along the way and show you the best spots to purchase products made with island-grown aloe.

Swim in a Natural Rock Pool

Courtesy of Aruba Tourism

Aruba is home to a natural pool known as Conchi. Situated on the island’s rugged northwest coast, this breathtaking body of water is protected from the open sea by a circle of big rocks. It’s fun to splash and watch the surf from the pool’s cocoon. It’s located a 10-minute walk from the parking lot with slippery patches, so it’s best for older kids.

Bubali Bird Sanctuary

The observation tower at the Bubali Bird Sanctuary presents the opportunity to see dozens of species of migratory birds including herons, egrets and skimmers. It’s just a short walk from the many hotels that line Palm Beach.

Visit the California Lighthouse

Courtesy of Aruba Tourism

One of the best family activities in Aruba is climbing to the top of the California Lighthouse to get an amazing view of Aruba’s land and seascapes. Constructed in 1910, it has long been one of the island’s most famous landmarks. Visit at sunset for a glorious goodbye to the day’s last rays.

Sample Aruba's Version of Fast Food

Pastechis are Aruba’s homegrown fast food. These portable pockets of flaky fried dough are filled with a variety of cheeses, meats and veggies. In a nod to Aruba’s connection to Holland, Gouda cheese is a popular filling; it melts beautifully and is a superb foil for the crispy golden pastry that envelopes it.

By Allison Tibaldi