The whole family loves vacations centered around the water. We have experienced incredible snorkeling in Hawaii, Belize, and the Galapagos. While Jeff and I earned SCUBA certification in college, we had taken an extended break from diving since the kids couldn’t participate. We would do random dives here or there, and typically had to do a refresher course before the vacation because so much time had passed between dives.

Last year at Boy Scout summer camp, Ryan earned his Open Water certification and a new world of possibilities opened up to us as we planned trips. Our summer trip to France didn’t lend itself to diving, but the three of us dove the Predator Tank at Two Oceans aquarium in Cape Town, South Africa and we were eager to have the chance to explore under the sea on this trip.

Cole didn’t want to be left out, and as I explored dive outfits in Aruba, I discovered that several had the option of a “Discover SCUBA” dive for uncertified divers, where they get instruction on land, in a swimming pool, and then one on one attention with a divemaster during a relatively shallow open water dive. Aruba Watersports Center worked with us to schedule Cole’s training time in the morning and then the rest of the family (all certified divers) joined him for his open water dive a few hours later. What an amazing first dive! We dove in about twenty feet of water to explore the SS Pedernales oil tanker wreck. This boat had been torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1942 and while some of it was salvaged, about a third of the tanker remains on the ocean floor. The water was a balmy 84 degrees and we saw tons of bright fish, two stingrays, and a turtle on our exploration. Cole fell in love with SCUBA and can’t wait to become certified so he can dive more.

The next morning Jeff and I returned to do two more dives. The first was another of Aruba’s numerous wreck dives, the Star Garret. This wreck was even cooler than the Pedernales with a huge propellor, 300 feet of wreck to explore, and awesome garden eels that drifted in the current before zipping under the sand to find protection. After a short ride and some fresh pineapple, we dove the Arashi Reef, where parts of a Lockheed Lodestar are scattered and a young, colorful reef has formed. We saw a large, green eel swimming freely through the water, scores of parrot fish, and amazing coral formations. The rest of our group were lucky enough to spy an octopus on this dive as well. Since this was a relatively shallow dive, we were able to spend a full hour exploring the bright life just off the coast. We highly recommend this SCUBA shop. The staff were friendly, helpful, and super approachable, it was centrally located, and the prices were similar to everywhere else on the island without catering mainly to cruise passengers. We are excited to plan our next dive trip.

SCUBA is absolutely one of the things Aruba is known for, and there are many dive shops as a result. As I researched, there wasn’t much to set them apart. They all seem to head to the same dive sites, they have similar equipment, and the prices were comparable. After reading a million reviews and doing extensive research, we settled on Aruba Watersports for a number of reasons.

  • They don’t cater to the cruise contingent. There’s nothing wrong with those companies that do, but they are often constrained by time, crowded, and feel less personal.
  • They offer a Discover Dive for uncertified divers AND were so flexible in planning the day so we could dive as a family. We worried that this dive would be lame because it was shallow and close to shore, but we couldn’t have been more wrong.
  • They worked with us to spread our dives over two days, and were flexible with dates and times. Their communication before and after the dives was great.
  • The last reason ended up not being completely accurate. I looked for a dive outfit that was independent of one of the large resorts in the hopes of getting a less expensive, more local, and more intimate experience. While this dive shop is located in a beach shack (as they should all be), it is smack between two huge hotel complexes, and you actually have to use the hotel parking and walk through the Hilton resort and pool area before you find the watersports center. It’s not well labeled and we had to take several wrong turns and ask for help before we found it. You should allow extra time for this.

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