Got back from Aruba last week. I think this was our 7th trip and first with our children (3 and 19 months). We rented from Econo Car Rental. We went with a specialty wagon for the five of us. A little worried when we picked the car up, very little gas and the attendant went over every little scratch and dent. The ABS light was on a majority of the time we had the car but it got us where we needed to be and check out was fine. If the price is good, I would rent from them again.
We stayed at Ocean 105. It is listed as a vacation rental on Trip Advisor. We love Boca Catalina and this place is right next door. Good AC with 2 bedroom and 2 baths. They provided beach towels, chairs and a cooler. The kitchen had a full size fridge, microwave and stove but no oven. There are some more details in my review and I would stay here again.
For the beach, we spent our time between Boca Catalina and Baby Beach. The snorkeling at Baby Beach was not impressive but my 3 year old loved swimming here. We rented a tent at Baby Beach, which was an absolute must for us. The snorkeling at Boca Catalina was fun and the water is also easy for little ones to swim in. I would recommend water shoes for kids as there are some rocks.
In addition to the beach, we took the kids to Philip's Animal Garden and the Butterfly Farm. I stayed outside for the Butterfly Farm but the rest of the family stayed in there for around 30-45 minutes and came out all smiles. The Animal Garden was also a lot of fun for the whole family and would definitely recommend it for families as well.
Food: We took the children to Pizza Bobs, El Gaucho, Lindas, and Matthews. El Gaucho's playroom is a bit overstated on their website but it kept the 3 year old happy while we waited for our food. I got the mixed grill. The tenderloin and beef short rib were excellent and the rest was good. The other adults had the tenderloin and loved it as well. The kids macaroni satisfied the 3 year old and we were all jealous and ate some of the 19 month's grilled chicken.
Pizza Bobs was our first meal. Good pizza and can sit outside. Perfect for my kids. My wife loves Lindas and we went there twice for breakfast. I got an omelet the second time around and it was good but they are really known for their pancakes. In my opinion, go with the gouda cheese and meat or the chocolate chips and keep it sweet. All of the fruits tasted great except for the blueberries as they were not very sweet. If you go here, be relaxed as no one is in a hurry here.
Matthews is another great option for kids. Outside seating and we were near the large TV for the USA - Portugal soccer game. We had the spicy chicken sandwich, chicken sandwich with pineapple and maybe bacon, burger, coconut shrimp, and a couple of rounds of frozen drinks during happy hour. Since having kids the drinking is almost non-existent which was similar to the amount of alcohol in the frozen cocktails. But they tasted good and the Brown Lady made a great dessert.
Grandma got to watch the kids for two of the nights. We went to Barefoot and Madame Jeanettes. Barefoot was our best meal while we were there. Since this has come up some, if your kids know how to stay in a chair the entire meal and how to talk in a normal to low voice, I don't see a problem with them eating here. However, my kids are not there yet and the reason we went alone. The mango grouper and snapper were both excellent. The banana tiramisu was equally delicious. They also don't mind taking your picture and actually taught my wife some tricks for taking pictures during sunset.
Madame Jeanette's. This was our favorite restaurant but we had not been to Aruba since 2009. My almond crusted grouper was good but everything else has dramatically changed in the negative. Prices up, food and service quality down. The potatoes au gratin did not taste good at all and the creamed spinach was just okay. The place is still packed but I doubt we go back our next trip. Probably the most disappointing part of our trip.
Little depressing to see so much more commercialization of the island but the whole family had a blast and I am sure we will return.