Taking a vacation in the Caribbean is a dream for any individual or family. This region has several islands to choose from—making such a choice is not easy.
Two of the most popular ones include Antigua and Aruba. Deciding which island is the best between the two is no small feat. Both places are beautiful and worthy of vacation dollars.
However, when forced to decide which island is best for families, it came down to this:
Aruba is the best island!
How did I come to my decision? It was not an easy one. Deciding where to take a family break involves several factors. I made considerations about the weather, safety, expenses, ease of getting around, accommodation options, activities for kids, couples, and families as a whole.
In the end, it was a difficult decision because Antigua and Aruba are both magnificent places.
There is no denying that both islands are gorgeous. With their pleasant climates, spacious beaches, and a myriad of fun activities to partake in, what is not to love about them?
- Quality of Food
- Ease of Getting Around
- Things to Do
- Are There Festivals?
- Which Has the Best Shopping?
- Local Culture
With regards to the weather, both islands are inviting. It does not matter when you visit either place because the temperatures are decent. Aruba only gets 18 inches of rain a year compared to Antigua’s 45 inches of rain. Luckily, if you get caught in the rain in Aruba, it is usually a quick burst of rain.
Antigua has an average temperature of 79.3 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius). This temperature does come with higher humidity levels averaging at 82%. In addition to humidity, the island has a dry season and a rainy season.
On the other hand, Aruba has a constant average temperature of 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius). The island’s humidity levels average at 78%. As you can see, the temperatures in the two islands are close to being equal.
However, due to the humidity levels in Antigua being much higher than in Aruba, it is a deal-breaker. Humidity is not fun—especially on vacation time with a group of kids.
Aruba tends to have an arid climate. This type of climate makes it much more tolerable than humid weather. While I would not want to be in an arid desert, being on an island with the humidity levels being a bit lower is always preferable.
Then I had to compare the likelihood of hurricanes. Here is where Antigua starts to lose points. Antigua has experienced a few hurricanes in the past due to its location. Because of this, there is always a slight chance that a tropical storm could occur again. It is much cheaper to go there from May to November since it is hurricane season.
Aruba, on the other hand, has a prime location. It sits on the southern fringes of the hurricane belt. Thanks to its safer spot, the island has had only six hurricanes pass within 62 miles in the past 140 years! The last hurricane it saw was 2007’s Hurricane Felix. By the way, Felix was only a level 2.
Because hurricanes are far less likely in Aruba than in Antigua, this is where I had to give the win to Aruba. Antigua has a hurricane season, but the occurrence of hurricanes is low. The island still has a much greater chance of tropical storms than Aruba.
So, with this in mind, Aruba wins the weather category by a hair—or two.
In terms of price, I looked at different factors. The cost of staying in Antigua and Aruba are almost identical as far as hotel rooms go.
According to some rankings, Antigua ranks at #2 in expenses but Aruba is listed lower as the sixth most expensive Caribbean country.
How Much Does It Cost to Get There?
You can find deals on these islands if you book well in advance. These islands are close to Florida but can still have insane prices at certain times of the year. The average price of a roundtrip flight between the US and Aruba is $563, whereas the average cost for Antigua is $631.
Let’s say you want to fly out from the most southern point in the United States, Miami, Florida. When I compared a roundtrip flight to both places, a Miami to Aruba ticket could be as low as $188. A direct option was available for $274.
The lowest ticket for this same period between Miami and Antigua cost $285. Unfortunately, the direct flight option was $622—much higher than a direct flight to Aruba.
Of course, when one is traveling with a family, you need a ticket for everyone. It looks like Aruba will be kinder to the vacation budget—at least while traveling there.
Average Accommodation Price
Aruba has a range of vacation options including hostels, 3-star hotels, and all-inclusive resorts. Since hostels are not ideal for entire families, we will focus on pricing for other options.
More comfortable vacation options include apartment rentals starting at $47 a night to an average of $329 for a luxury hotel.
When it comes to Antigua, an overview of Kayak brought up low-budget accommodations for as low as $20. I noticed these lower-priced places did not look as nice as compatible options in Aruba. Many of these options had average or no reviews. The average price for nicer hotels is $360 per couple.
Average Meal Prices
Aruba boasts some amazing restaurants—some including the world’s top chefs. These are classic places where you can bring your family to enjoy a nice dinner without having to break the bank.
Past vacation reviews mention spending $60 to $100 on drinks in Aruba. Today you can go to a simple cafe like Garden Fresh Cafe for an average of $12 to $22.
Antigua also has a range of food options at various prices. A good meal at the well-reviewed Roti King may cost an average of $10 to $12. At some point, the kids may want a fast-food burger in Antigua. If so, it will cost around 8.30 USD for McDonald’s. A cappuccino coffee may set you back 5.40 USD.
Both islands have a range of food prices for a family budget. However, according to other travelers, it may not be safe or convenient to venture off the resort on Antigua. So, one may be limited to eating at your chosen resort. On the other hand, it seems easier to branch out for food options in Aruba.
On both islands, you can end up spending a lot on food if you are not careful. With that said, you can find affordable restaurants for dining out in Aruba.
Quality of Food
Both Aruba and Antigua have excellent food at diverse prices. You can have a simple $10 meal or a 5-star one.
The quality of the food in Aruba is rated as high. Some outlets rank its food as the best restaurants in the Caribbean.
As far as the safety of both islands, Aruba scores a big victory due to it not being a prime target for hurricanes. Antigua had tropical storms in recent years, such as Irma in 2017.
Like any destination, safety is always a concern when you are traveling. Both islands have unique challenges to take into consideration.
I love animals as much as anyone, but one thing that has given me pause in previous travels to other countries was coming across stray animals. The last thing I want for my family is to get rabies.
Aruba does have some stray dogs on the island, but past visitors have noted those dogs have not been a problem. According to frequent visitors, the few stray dogs on the beach don’t bother people.
Over the years, the island has worked to deal with their stray dogs with a program called the Aruba Animal Relief Foundation. When vacationers bring pets to the island, they must have a valid certificate from a veterinarian that states health and rabies clearance.
Antigua also has a big problem with feral dogs. The country also has a program to send stray dogs and cats to homes in other countries. Before bringing your fur baby on a flight to Antigua, check that you have the proper import license. The license must state your pet is clear of rabies and microchipped.
Both islands have feral animals, but they are doing something about it. I also take comfort in the fact there is a health requirement regarding any dogs coming on vacation. When it comes to feral animal safety, I think both countries are equal at this point.
Both islands have safe drinking water. However, don’t be shocked to see visitors sticking with bottled water for their preference.
However, Aruba wins since its water ranks as one of the best in the world.
How About Crime?
However, in terms of safety, I started to see there was a big difference. Aruba is considered to be safer than Antigua.
Sure, there is crime anywhere—including Aruba. However, Aruba’s name often comes up when talking about safety in the Caribbean and in general. According to recent statistics, the island has a moderate level of incidents concerning drugs and bribery, but all other types of crime rank low.
Antigua’s crime stats are more daunting. Overall crime level rates as high. The moderate level of robbery, theft, and high corruption make it rise. Tourists with common sense can be safe in resorts and other tourist zones. However, it is vital to understand the overall safety level if you leave your vacation bubble. So with crime safety, Aruba takes the top spot.
Ease of Getting Around
Aruba and Antigua are only separated by a short plane ride from Miami or Fort Lauderdale in particular—about an hour on average. However, as mentioned earlier a direct flight to Aruba is much cheaper than Antigua.
On the other hand, it may be difficult to get from Antigua to isolated destinations. For example, visiting Saint-Lucia by direct flight is difficult. You may have to fly through other islands such as Barbados before hitting Saint-Lucia.
Do You Have to Rent a Car?
When it comes to renting a car, this can be a hassle. I suppose if you are traveling with your family, it would be simpler to drive around the island. With your household in tow, you will want to rent a car.
You can find affordable cars on Aruba for $25 per day on average. The main roads are in good condition, parking is easy to find, and you can use an American driver’s license. Those with an International Driver’s License can use that as well. Online reviews give driving in Aruba high marks.
With that said, you don’t have to drive on the island because it has cheap and convenient public transportation. Feel safe with taxis—they are regulated by the government.
On the other hand, renting a car in Antigua involves an additional $20 for your International Driver’s License. Some sites like Priceline claim deals that include Antigua car rentals for $10 a day. You can safely drive in Antigua.
Unfortunately, driving is not an option but a necessity if you want to see life beyond your resort. Public transportation on the island does not go to places of interest to tourists. Taxis are also expensive.
Regardless of which island you are on, it is good to know that thieves can target a tourist rental car, so be vigilant. With that said, it seems like car rental/driving in Aruba is simpler.
Things to Do
Both Aruba and Antigua are in the Caribbean, so it should not be a hassle for individuals and families to enjoy something about each place.
Family-Friendly Activities in Aruba
Antigua is known for its beautiful, lush environment and lovely beaches. That does not mean Aruba doesn’t capitalize on its natural beauty.
Aruba offers a long list of kid-friendly activities such as Jeep Safari Tours and the Alhambra Water Park. You can also visit the Natural Bridge in Aruba, a natural strip of land formed from coral limestone.
While in Aruba, the whole family can enjoy deep sea fishing, parasailing, kite surfing.
What kid does not enjoy rock climbing? Look in awe at the Casibari Rock Formation as you transverse walking trails that go through them. These unique rocks form artistic formations out of the sand and are a must-see for hikers and photographers. If those rocks are not enough, explore the Quadirikiri Cave or rent a 4X4 and drive to the Conchi Natural Pool.
Take the kids to Aruba’s 25-year-old Donkey Sanctuary, so they can enjoy 15 to 30 minutes worth of hugs with the animals. If you prefer petting something that flies, visit the Butterfly Farm, a small sanctuary for butterflies.
One of the largest shipwrecks in the Caribbean is the stunning Antilla. This 400-foot German freighter sunk in 1940 and now serves as a massively popular diving site.
Speaking of diving, there are several diving tours available. Go on a group cruise or hire a private charter.
When couples want to get away from the kids, Aruba has a vibrant nightlife. There are many casinos for adult gambling and drinks.
Family-Friendly Activities in Antigua
While there are way more things to do in Aruba, I will mention some of Antigua’s highlights as well. If you visit Antigua, you can visit Jolly Beach or have fun snorkeling at the coral reef. The beauty of Antigua beaches outshines those of Aruba.
The kids will have no problem enjoying the beaches of the island. Antigua has several beaches such as Galleon Beach, Ffryes Beach, Runaway Beach, and Valley Church Beach. If you want to visit a free public beach, go to Long Bay. Like Aruba, there is a Donkey Sanctuary on the island, and kids may enjoy Swash Water Park.
Like Aruba, Antigua has vast scuba diving and some nightlife options. Some nightlife options are beachside.
Of course, Antigua has its beauty and highlights, but Aruba has these things and more.
Are There Festivals?
Bring the whole family to Aruba for various annual events and activities like the 34th Annual Hi-Winds Kitesurfing Tournament, the Aruba Marathon, 4th of July celebrations, Halloween at the resorts and hotels, etc.
Some Aruba festivals include:
- Aruba Art Fair
- Island Fest
- Aruba Soul Beach Music Festival
- and of course
- Aruba Carnival Season
Antigua has the following festivals:
- Antigua Sailing Week
- Taliska Whisky Atlantic Challenge—ocean rowing competition
- The Pineapple Mango Festival
- Independence Festivals
Which Has the Best Shopping?
Antigua has a night market and high-end shopping. The island has some malls—but not on the level of Aruba.
With that said, Aruba wins the shopping wars hands down. In Aruba, there are better shopping options in different areas. It has several malls such as the Palm Beach Plaza Mall, Seaport Village, Royal Plaza Mall, and Renaissance Mall.
The largest mall is the Palm Beach Plaza which has s movie theater, bowling, and spa.
When it comes to local culture, both islands have nice people, but Antigua wins the culture battle. The islands differ because Aruba is a Dutch island with more of an American/European vibe. By several accounts, Antigua very much feels like a Caribbean island. The people are not only laidback but very friendly.
The pace of life of Antigua is slower and the island is smaller. These characteristics all add to the island’s intimacy. Aruba however, comes with the size and activities many Westerners are used to. For a family with diverse needs and interests, a place like Aruba can be a great choice. But Antigua is the place to get that Caribbean flare.
As I stated at the beginning, deciding between Aruba and Antigua was not easy. These are two stunning islands in the Caribbean that are easily on many vacation lists.
So, I looked at this comparison from the point of view of a traveling family. The same people in one family often have different needs and preferences, so the more resources available, the better.
While I am certain children and parents alike enjoy the lush scenery and tropical beaches of Antigua, Aruba provides beaches, more activities, and the chance to spread out more safely.
In short, for a family with kids, Aruba is the better pick. However, when it is time for an intimate romantic second honeymoon, it may be time to book those more expensive plane tickets to Antigua.