When arriving in Aruba, the customs form requires you to declare a reason for your visit. “Sun, Sand, and Sea” is the choice that I get a kick out of and is always what we select. One of the best ways to enjoy the three main purposes of your Aruba visit is to go on a tour with one of the island’s many sailing options.

There are some fantastic boating excursions in Aruba. For example, some boats have water slides on-board and others create a themed environment, like a pirate ship. But my family tends to gravitate towards the smaller boats with around 8-20 guests. Although this puts us at risk of making it harder to get a reservation on my family’s favorite boat excursions, we’d like to share our two favorites.

Aruba Snorkeling: The Octopus
The Octopus is a trimaran sailboat operated by Captain Jethro and First Mate Jeff which boards at Pelican Pier on Palm Beach, just a short walk from Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino.

We chose a 2 1/2-hour afternoon snorkeling tour that included a light lunch and open bar. I recommend the Aruba Ariba, while my kids said their Shirley Temples were top notch. Captain Jethro gave a light-hearted rundown of the boat rules and itinerary while the first round of drinks was served. The crew made good conversation with all the guests on-board and helped everyone get to know each other.

We set sail for Boca Catalina, a popular Aruba snorkeling spot. On the way, you can take in the view of luxurious waterfront houses along Malmok beach, each one more spectacular than the next, including one rumored to belong to Tom Cruise. This area is also full of kite surfers taking advantage of the prevailing winds and catching some great air.

After reaching our spot, we grabbed our snorkel gear and hopped in the water. We saw zebra fish, angel fish, trumpet fish and starfish galore. We were supposed to make an additional snorkeling stop at the Antilla shipwreck, but I think that we were all having so much fun and seeing so many fish that we just didn’t make it.

On the way back, we spread out and caught a little late afternoon sunshine. My daughter fell asleep, and my son traded corny jokes with the captain. One really great surprise was that at the end of the trip, the captain gave each of my kids a handmade yarn octopus, made by his 80-something-year old mother, to remember their trip on the Octopus. Really cool Aruba souvenirs are somewhat hard to come by because most stores just offer the usual mass-produced key chains, etc, so we were really thrilled with this unique gift. We decided that they would make great Christmas ornaments (and would probably not get lost that way).

Aruba Sunset Cruise: Sunshine Watersports
If you prefer a little less sun, or have other activities planned during the day, an Aruba sunset cruise is a great option. Sunshine Watersports offers a catamaran sailboat with a covered deck and a trampoline, which is a major selling point for my kids. Because we had taken trips on this boat before, on our most recent trip we decided to charter the boat for our group of nine extended family members, and it did not disappoint.

Sunshine Watersports offers pick-up locations at the resorts along Palm Beach, or you can also board at the pier near Moomba Beach. The sunset cruise begins at 4:30 pm and includes an open bar and a light snack. This sailing trip follows the same trajectory as the Octopus. They give you the opportunity to do a little sunset snorkeling near Boca Catalina, and for those adventurous enough, a rope swing. We had a blast taking turns jumping and flipping off the rope swing, but I think my 3-year old daughter had the most fun with it.

The boat has a large deck and we had a Caribbean dance party going on as we waited for the sunset. We watched the beautiful Aruba sunset, and made our way back to the pier with smiles on our faces and our kids ready for bed.

Although there are countless options for Aruba snorkeling and sunset cruises, we have found some great smaller boats that allow you to support small local businesses and get to know your crew and fellow passengers during your trip. Whatever sailing option that you choose, you can’t go wrong with that “Sun, Sand and Sea” itinerary in Aruba.

This article was originally published by Hilton Mom Voyage.

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