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Take the Family › Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao

Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao family holidays

Girls hula-hooping in Aruba.Girls hula-hooping in Aruba.© Aruba Tourism Authority
A beach on Aruba.A beach on Aruba.© Aruba Tourism Authority
A flamingo.A flamingo.© Aruba Tourism Authority
Submarine excursion.Submarine excursion.© Atlantis Submarine Aruba
Conch birds in Bonaire.Conch birds in Bonaire.Chris Richards© Tourism Corporation Bonaire
Curaçao view.Curaçao view.© Curacao Tourist Board
A market in Curaçao.A market in Curaçao.© Curacao Tourist Board
Flying Time 9.5hrs
Timezone GMT -4
Currency US Dollar

Today

Overview

The tiny islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao guarantee sunshine 365 days a year, beaches that look like they’ve been doctored for the brochures, and a laidback friendliness you’ll be hard pushed to find in such quantities elsewhere. They do lack the lushness of other Caribbean islands – there’s no rainforest in the interiors – but they make up for this with their pristine waters and beaches, gorgeous pastel-coloured Dutch gabled houses, space, and lack of hurricanes!

Each beach or island has its own make-up, but everything is so close together, you can move from casual beach to glamorous resort within a matter of minutes. And because of their close proximity, it’s easy to do a lot of things without feeling as though you’re killing yourself in the process. Though the islands are small, the infrastructure you need for an easy family holiday is in place and the standard of accommodation, even in basic hotels, is typically great.

Things to do with kids in Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao

Snorkel, swim, sail, kayak, surf, water-ski, para-sail, horse-ride on the sand, and go fishing, then lounge about as the kids take part in some of the activities offered by the resorts. Land-sailing has become more common here; Bonaire has a purposebuilt track for it. Lac Bay, also on Bonaire, is the place for wind-surfing tuition (ages 5+).

On Aruba, take the kids to the Bubali Bird Sanctuary or better still Arikok National Park, home to a list of birds longer than your arm, including yellow orioles and hummingbirds. There’s also the Donkey Sanctuary, where kids can cuddle and sometimes help bottle-feed orphans, and the Aruba Ostrich Farm, with fun, interactive tours, a restaurant with kids’ menus and ice-cream, and a huge playground. Then head to the Butterfly Farm, dressing kids brightly so the butterflies will think they’re enormous flowers and land on them.

Also on Aruba, kids love Blue Parrotfish waterpark with its slides for all ages. It's on De Palm Island, where you can also enjoy snorkelling, ziplining, banana-boat rides, air-jumping, activities including beach volleyball and football, and salsa lessons. And grown-ups and kids alike get excited by the Atlantis Submarine, taking you 40m beneath the waves to see marine life and a couple of wrecks.

Otherwise, just relax with the kids on any number of Aruba’s beautiful beaches. The aptly named Baby Beach near the island’s easternmost tip is a prime spot for family holidays with young children, with the sea resembling a big tub of warm shallow bathwater, protected by rock breakwaters. Snorkelling, paddling, and sandcastle building are favourite pastimes.

On Curaçao, head for Playa Lagun, a super-family-friendly beach with tranquil shallow water and lots of marine life for snorkellers to admire. At Westpunt, kids enjoy watching locals jump from the cliffs into the sea, while at Willemstadt, the capital, they’ll enjoy strolling to Fort Amsterdam, site of the Governor’s Palace, with a church that still has a British cannonball embedded in it. Willemstadt’s floating market is a lovely sight, with schooners tied up by the canal, laden with fruit and veg from Venezuela and Colombia to sell. The Museum Kura Hulanda, one of the largest and most unusual in the Caribbean, has a life-size reconstruction of a slave ship that once sailed from the Ivory Coast, plus fossils, fertility dolls and musical instruments.

Discover Bonaire, a well-kept secret that was really only known to divers for a long time, and which remains low-key. As well as engaging in the usual sporting activities (snorkelling, swimming, kayaking…), you can wander around Fort Oranje and admire some of the Dutch Caribbean architecture.

Eat

Islanders eat a lot of fruits, including calabash, coconut and papaya, and seafood is integral to their diet too, with conch, grouper, snapper, shrimp, tuna, crab and lobster all regular offerings.

Practically nothing grows on Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, however, and everything has to be brought in from the USA or Venezuela, so don't expect eating out to be cheap. That hasn’t stopped an astonishing amount of restaurants sprouting up, offering a diverse range of foods from Caribbean to French, Cuban, Mexican or Asian fusion.

The water, straight from the tap, is amongst the best drinking water in the world. 

When to go to Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao

The weather is lovely year round, so when to go to Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao is more to do with what everybody else is doing. Americans and Canadians tend to flock here when it’s cold at home, so high season is December–April. European summers (April–August) tend to be cheaper. Give September a miss as the tradewinds drop off and it gets unbearably hot. The average annual temperature is 28°C, with highs ranging from 29°C to 32°C and lows from 24°C to 27°C.

The One Happy Family program (August and September) includes freebies at specified resorts for under-12s, including breakfast, daily activities, snorkelling, scuba lessons, and complimentary accommodation in a parent’s room, plus discounts on other stuff such as horse-riding. Its covers two kids for every paying adult, which means big bucks off your overall bill.

Cost

Expect to pay around £800–1100pp for a week’s all-inclusive family holiday package on Aruba, with free kids’ places sometimes available.

By Rachelle Keyes

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