Part II: Living the sweet life in Aruba
Planning a winter escape? As promised, here's the real-deal details of my Aruba trip: where we stayed, what we did, and how we did it with six kids and adults in tow.
Where we stayed
We stayed at the Holiday Inn (sure, go ahead and sing the Chingy + Snoop Dogg song - cause it's stuck in my head!) We requested a ground floor room in the newest part of the hotel (called the Sea Tower) and we were glad we did when we saw all the people crowding around the elevators waiting to get up to their floors. We were lucky enough not to have strollers to worry about, but a ground floor room is high on my recommendation list, especially with young kids.
This is not a huge resort - it doesn't have nightly entertainment and all the other frills you'd get at a larger holiday destination. But, the pool was awesome. It had a shallow walk-in portion which was not only great for the kids, but great for parents who don’t want to commit to a full dip and yet still be close enough to keep an eye out.
The beach had calm water and white sand - and there's not much more this Canadian girl can ask for. Holiday Inn is situated on Palm Beach which is perfect for the little ones diving in. The beach was steps away from the pool and we could switch back and forth without having to set ourselves up for the day in one spot or another.
On the other side of the island, between the airport and hotels, are some timeshare villas and condos on a stretch of much wider but much choppier water called Eagle Beach. You definitely want to stay near Palm Beach with small kids.
Food, even just the basics in Aruba are expensive, so we’re glad we stayed at an all inclusive (AI). If this was an adults-only vacay, I would have gone the non-AI route just because there were so many great restaurants around and all within walking distance. I've put these ones on our first-vacay-with-no-kids list: +297, Benihana, and Gianni's . We tried a couple dinners out at Smokey Joe’s and Amore Mio Pizza - but eating out is HARD with a group of 12 (and six kids under 7yo).
My picky eaters (who's diets are basically chicken fingers and pasta) all inclusive was hands-down the way to go. It also allowed us to order lunch straight to our lounge chairs by the pool every day without having to pack up, dry off, and head into a restaurant.
What we did
Most of our time was spent at the beach or at the pool (obvi), but we did take some time to walk around during the day and hit up places like Eduardo’s Beach Shack for some amazing healthy fruit/acai/protein bowls. In the evenings, we’d take a stroll through the busy shops and restaurants, and mostly grab a gelato, sometimes a Dunkin’ Donut. There are some great shops, lots of jewelers, but these two were my favourite: Vadavas & Aruba Aloe.
What I wish I'd packed
During the day I wish I had brought hats that would actually STAY on my kids heads. With its close proximity to the equator, the sun is super strong in Aruba and no matter the time of day, the kids needed them. I also wish I had brought a rash guard for myself. Like one of the cute JCrew ones I should’ve ordered while trolling the site everyday for my kids.
The constant ocean breeze can make nights a little chilly in Aruba. So a denim jacket or light sweater or even a pair of jeans would have been the perfect bring-along piece. Thank goodness there's a giant 4-floor Zara in the downtown area for these types of situations.