Marriott's Aruba Ocean Club, Palm Beach, Aruba | My Family Travels
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Find out how this welcoming Caribbean resort on one of visitors' favorite islands rates according to Family Travel Forum's resort expert.

Bon Bini! Bon Bini! From the minute we touched down on the Caribbean island of Aruba, we heard the words “bon bini” over and over again. We heard it from the pilot as we landed, from the flight attendants as we exited the plane, from airport greeters and taxi drivers, from the bellman at the hotel as we pulled up to the curb, and from restaurant maitre d’s as we entered their establishments.

I finally asked the concierge what it meant. “Bon bini means welcome,” he explained, “so we use it to greet visitors to the island or guests coming into our homes. But for many of the tourists,” he went on, “we should really say ‘bon bini atrobe,’ or welcome again, because we have more repeat visitors than almost any other Caribbean island.”

As I chatted with parents on various beaches around the island, I began to see that his words rang true. Many families do indeed return again and again to this easy-going island just 20 miles off the coast of Venezuela. Aruba has the requisite talcum-soft sand and balmy blue water, and its colorful underwater sea life makes it ideal for snorkeling right offshore. Its landscape is arid and austere and you’ll find rocky deserts with exotic cacti and otherworldly rock formations edging up to crashing azure waves.
But more importantly for many families, it is one of the safest and easiest islands to visit, thanks to convenient airline access, friendly and helpful residents, and a lack of serious poverty due to an unemployment rate of about zero. Families looking for a reliable beach experience without the harder edge of some of the other Caribbean islands find that Aruba is the place that repeatedly gets their vacation business.

Marriott’s Aruba Ocean Club

Marriott Aruba Ocean Club is situated right in the middle of one of the island’s prettiest and calmest beaches where babies and toddlers can splash at the water’s edge without any fear of surges or swells. There’s a large section of water roped off just for swimming and playing in the ocean, and there are water sports available nearby such as banana boat rides and parasailing. Teens should definitely schedule a kite surfing lesson — it’s like windsurfing but much easier to learn and enjoy since it doesn’t require as much upper body strength. Aruba’s steady cooling tradewind breezes fuel a lively kite surfing and windsurfing industry, including several world-class competitions. Trademark divi-divi trees on the island all bend in the direction of the tradewinds, and a bad hair day on Aruba is known simply as “divi hair.”

The Ocean Club is one of three large side-by-side Marriott properties on the island, and guests at one can use any of the other properties’ pools or services. The Ocean Club, a timeshare (now referred to as a “vacation ownership property”), contains comfortable and spacious two and three bedroom “villas” that have full kitchens, fresh and colorful furnishings, and balconies. It’s flanked on one side by the Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino, a conference-oriented hotel and casino, and on the other side by Marriott Surf Club, another vacation ownership property that has one- and two-bedroom villas.

All three have facilities for families such as wading pools, playgrounds, children’s programs, and elaborate pools and waterscapes. Of course, such a concentration of hotel rooms can make the beach rather crowded during peak holiday periods, but the configuration of meandering swimming pools helps manage the overflow. Also, having the Marriott Resort’s casino offsite keeps the Ocean and Surf Club atmosphere very family friendly.

No matter when you go, families should sign up early in the day for a “palapa,” a palm-thatched beach umbrella on the sand that offers protection from the sun. Limited numbers of palapas are available, and the early-birds get the best shaded spots and can park for the day with their lounge chairs, beach towels, and sand toys.

Under the Sea & On Land: Unique Culture

Don’t miss the chance to snorkel somewhere on the island. If you have a car, grab your snorkel equipment and head to Baby Beach where there’s fabulous snorkeling just offshore. Or, arrange to take a ferry to tiny De Palm Island where you can snorkel through brilliantly colored schools of sizable tropical fish. You can rent snorkel equipment right there and sample a number of other underwater activities as well, such as SNUBA (a combination of snorkeling and scuba for ages 8 and up) or Sea Trek where you walk underwater with a special helmet and air supply system. Or, arrange a Jolly Pirates Snorkel Cruise complete with a rope swing into the water and visits to three different top snorkeling spots.

As far as island culture goes, we were fascinated to discover that the locals speak four languages. They grow up speaking Papamiento, a local language that has adapted words and phrases from Dutch, Spanish, African, and Portuguese. Upon entering kindergarten, students learn Dutch since the island was once one of the Netherland Antilles and its official language is Dutch. Children begin learning English and Spanish in fourth and fifth grades.

Because the island sits so close to Venezuela, Latin Americans are frequent visitors, as are Europeans, Americans, and Canadians. Consequently, many residents speak Spanish and English to tourists on a daily basis and will often switch between all four languages in the course of their day. Won’t that inspire your kids to study harder in school?

Learn more about this and other resorts at www.Marriott.com.

Resort Report Card

Name: Marriott’s Aruba Ocean Club
Address: LG Smith Boulevard #99
Palm Beach
Aruba
www.marriott.com
Phone: 800/845-5279, 297 58 69000
Seasonal Rates: $$ – $$
Hotel Setting: A-
Hotel Staff: B+
Choice of Activities: B
Quality of Amenities: A-
Bonus: The island’s "One Cool Family Vacation Program" offers discounts at a variety of family-oriented activities and restaurants.
Note: If you like to gamble, the popular Stellaris Casino is next door at the Marriott Resort.

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