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Teens on Vacation in Aruba

“Hi mom, just wanted to let you know that when I come down for spring break, I am bringing three friends with me.”  That’s the message that was left on my answering machine by my fifteen-year old son, Taylor, whose few words sent me into a major tailspin. 


As a journalist living on the island with my thirteen-year old daughter, life is relatively peaceful.  Frequent visits from my son, who attends private school in Chicago, also flow smoothly and pleasantly—but handling four teenage boys on vacation all by myself was a whole new ballgame.


How to keep them occupied, entertained, and—most importantly—out of trouble were my dilemmas.  Vacationing with children in tow and pleasing the masses is always a challenge, especially when teenagers are included in the mix.  Too old and too cool to do many of the organized “kiddy” activities offered by the resorts, a determination to limit public visibility with parents, and too young to take advantage of Aruba’s nightlife can drastically narrow down the possibilities. 


I knew that Aruba has a reputation as a “kid friendly” destination and is frequented by families from all over the world, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover just how much the island has to offer this finicky teenage bracket.  With a little help from some of my friends and contacts on the island, I was steered in the right direction and able to fill the days and nights of my son and his gang of teenage cronies. 


My two-bedroom abode was too small to comfortably accommodate all, so I opted for temporary lodging at the Radisson Aruba Resort and Casino.  Spacious adjoining suites allowed for plenty of wingspan, while the island’s largest beachfront acreage and two pool areas gave the boys freedom to cruise and hang out with other teenagers at the resort without, God forbid, being seen with me. I, on the other hand, had a better appreciation of the beautiful grounds and relaxing downtime. 


Away from the resort, we found plenty of daytime activities that were deemed as “awesome” by the adventurous foursome.  From snorkeling and horseback riding to submarine rides and kayaking, our days were filled. Living here for four years, I have been on many snorkeling trips, and one of my favorites is De Palm Watersports’ Palm Pleasure. This majestic catamaran provided a smooth sailing experience and professional guidance for the boys on the dos and don’ts of snorkeling. Three different snorkeling stops, unlimited beverages, a lunch spread featuring deli sandwiches and salads, as well as a buffet of hot items, were all part of this half-day excursion.


With the boys developing enthusiasm about Aruba’s underwater world, we took it a step further and booked a trip with Atlantis Adventures on one of their submarines.  Diving down to a depth of some 150 feet below sea level, we experienced shipwrecks, schools of exotic fish, and the island’s amazing coral reefs up close.



We were also able to experience kayaking—a first for all of us.  Aruba Kayak Adventures offers a half-day journey that skims the coastline by the island’s Spanish Lagoon.  Paired off in kayaks of two, the boys quickly turned the outing into a competition, while my daughter and I honed our teamwork proficiency in our kayak.  Mostly tranquil waters allowed us to perfect our paddling skills under the watchful eyes of our guides.  Taking a two-hour break on the shores of De Palm Island, we enjoyed an all-you-can eat buffet, beach volleyball, and snorkeling with the island’s famed blue parrotfish.   The day wrapped up with a slightly challenging paddle from De Palm Island back to the mainland but left us with a rewarding sense of accomplishment (two of the boys wimped out and took the ferry back to the mainland, but I’ll save them the embarrassment of mentioning their names!).


After our days of fun in the sun, “What’s for dinner?” was always a late afternoon query.  Quantity was the boys’ main concern, while quality was mine; I needed to find alternatives that fit all our needs and wants.  Fortunately, Aruba is one of the top culinary destinations in the Caribbean and our choices were endless. 


Amazonia Churrascaria offers a most unique dining experience, and was something altogether new for the boys.  Featuring an endless parade of more than ten cuts of beef, chicken, pork, and lamb, this enticing Brazilian steakhouse with an inclusive fixed price was a hit for the bottomless stomachs of teenage boys.  Carvers continually brought skewers of grilled meats to our table, while I filled my plate with items from their gourmet salad bar and soaked up the ambiance and their house Caipirinha made with Brazilian rum.





Dining and entertainment was on the agenda during our evening at the Black Hog Saloon and their popular Barbecue Bash that included miniature golf and paddleboats.  After dinner, the fun really started as music, dancing, and outrageous interactive games headed by a talented emcee kept the place hopping.  The fantastic finish was thunderously loud, as a parade of Harleys pulled in for quick ten-minute rides around the block for anyone interested.


Japanese was a unanimous request, so a visit to the internationally recognized and critically acclaimed Blossoms Japanese and Chinese Restaurant, located in the Wyndham Aruba Beach Resort and Casino, was a must.  Colorful and exciting chefs performed their culinary artistry for us at the teppanyaki tables; they even let the boys in on the act, teaching them a few tricks of the trade!


On some of the evenings, I was just too exhausted to venture out of the resort.  Luckily, the Radisson offers three dining venues to choose from, including Gilligan’s Beach Bar and Grill with a nightly menu served family-style at the table.  A weekly Caribbean Splash event held at the resort, with an all-you-care-to-eat Caribbean buffet served poolside, live steel pan music, and a Carnival show featuring fantastically exotic costumes, was a definite dining highlight.


After seven days and nights, the boys left the island with satisfied smiles, sun kissed noses, and a stockpile of happy memories that I hope stay with them and carry them through many cold Chicago winters.  Although a bit exhausted, I felt quite accomplished myself—and have my own stockpile of irreplaceable memories of a perfect vacation with my children and their friends.

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