The Caribbean really comes into its own as a sunshine destination in winter and the island of Aruba is ideal for those who enjoy snorkeling, diving and high-end shopping. It is part of the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) which make up the Dutch Antilles. Visitors will find the locals friendly, standards high and the island very safe.
Its location in the extreme south of the Caribbean Sea, just 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela, means that it is outside the hurricane belt. The tropical climate and refreshing light breeze from the trade winds keeps it feeling pleasantly fresh. Aruba is very flat and dry with white sandy beaches and beautiful aquamarine waters that are perfect for watersports and underwater pursuits. The generally dry climate supports aloes which can be seen all over the island, and divi-divi trees which take on a characteristic lop-sided shape in the constant breeze.
The main town and capital of the island is Oranjestad which welcomes cruise ships and tourists with a casino and the Renaissance Mall full of designer names to encourage visitors to drop dollars to boost the islands economy. Those renting a villa on Aruba will find small grocer’s shops selling most of their everyday needs as well as market stalls, clothes shops and tourist shops.
Prices are higher than you might expect as everything has to be imported.US dollars are accepted everywhere, so don’t bother to exchange your currency into the local Florins.
Eating out offers a wide range of eateries from American fast food chains to luxury restaurants, particularly in the five star hotels. There are also some good mid-priced local restaurants which sell good food at more modest prices. Some of the excellent local foods to look out for are ostrich steaks which are raised on Aruba, seafood and baked cheese (harking back to the island’s Dutch roots).
Things to Do on Aruba
The beaches are the #1 attraction, from the aptly named baby beach, with shallow waters like a giant paddling pool, to Eagle beach, regularly named one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. Snorkeling, swimming, fishing, jet skiing and other watersports can be enjoyed at most beaches. Hadikurari Beach hosts the Pro Am Windsurfing World Championships every year and is a good place to windsurf or spectate.
You can explore the island easily by car, or one of the more unusual safaris such as jeep tours, horseback rising or quad bikes. Visit the Hooiberg (Haystack Mountain) which has great views of the island if you manage to climb all 561 steps to the top. The Arikok National park has interesting lava feature and the Casibari Rock and Ayo Rock are fun to scramble up and explore.
Families will enjoy the Butterfly farm and tour guides explain the life cycle of various showy butterflies which they identify. The Bubali Bird Sanctuary has over 80 species of migratory birds, especially in winter and the Donkey Sanctuary is always a fun place to visit, feed apples to the donkeys and enjoy free admission.