Aruba is part of the Dutch Caribbean and is located 15 miles north of South America. The island is 19 miles long, and six miles wide. Oranjestead, a small colourful city with shops, cafés, bars and restaurants on the waterfront. Also home to the main cruise terminal and the Windcreek Renaissance Resort – which has an adults only Marina hotel and private island. Dutch and Papiamento are the official languages. English is widely spoken. Aruba enjoys a continuous sunny climate, making it a year-round destination.
Featured Aruba Hotels
Friendly little Aruba, where the legend "One Happy Island" is carried on every car licence plate, could turn out to be one of your most exciting holiday choices ever. Natural scenic wonders, balmy sunshine with soft breezes, fabulous nightly entertainment, and irresistible shopping -- you will find all this and more in Aruba. However, you may need to rid yourself of some preconceptions about the Caribbean.
For a start, though Aruba has its share of mega all-inclusive resorts, you may be better off not being chained to one of these. By booking into one of the delightful and intimate neighbourhood motels, not far from the beach, you can not only have more money to spend on other things, but also enjoy the endlessly varied dining options all over the island. And don't just think in terms of beaches -- even though Aruba has some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, there are also wild landscapes and dramatic geological formations, making the island an explorer's paradise.
No Wrong Time
One of the greatest attractions of Aruba is the almost constant sunshine, with the trade winds that blow for most of the year, keeping the weather balmy and free from humidity. What's more, Aruba is outside the hurricane zone -- hurricanes are not completely unknown, but they are much less frequent than elsewhere in the Caribbean. With very little rain -- less than 20 inches a year -- you can enjoy calm sea and sunny skies at virtually any time of year.
This really means there is no wrong time to visit Aruba. The trade winds die down in September-October, and the island gets a lot hotter, with average temperatures of around 90 degrees, but if you don't mind the heat, this is actually a great time to visit. Beaches and restaurants are far less crowded, and everything is a lot cheaper, including hotels.
The dry climate makes Aruba a unique place to explore, closer to a desert than a mountainous rainforest, with landscapes full of rare exotic cactus plants. You really must visit the Arikok National Park, with its rough volcanic hills, its caves with prehistoric Indian drawings, and the famous Natural Pool, a secret place tucked away in the island's most rugged terrain. Not far away are the mysterious Ayo Rock formations and huge monolithic Casibari Boulders, so awe-inspiring that they were considered a sacred site by earlier inhabitants.
These places are mostly inaccessible by car -- you could hire a jeep, but a better idea is to book yourself on an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) or jeep tour. This way you avoid the risk of getting lost, or of causing expensive damage to your hire vehicle, and you can just take in the scenery instead of concentrating on driving. Better still, you could join a horseback riding tour through Arikok National Park.
Relax in the City
Of course Aruba is an island of contrasts, and having spent one day wandering on the wild side, the next day you could be relaxing in the delightful capital Oranjestad, on the western coast. It's very compact, and easy to explore on foot, or there's a free tram service you can just hop on and off. Enjoy the brightly-coloured colonial-style buildings round the harbour, the palm-lined streets, the boutiques and the waterfront market -- the town is famous for its opulent casinos too, if that's what interests you.
The Best Beaches
Although there's so much else to enjoy, you can't ignore Aruba's stunning beaches -- clean, with white sugar-like sand and calm, gentle surf. Palm Beach is the best known, has the most luxury resorts and the most tourists, while Eagle Beach, often called the best beach in the Caribbean, is quieter, with a really spacious feel. Fringed with waving palms and Aruba's characteristic divi-divi trees, all bending towards the south-west thanks to the north-east trade winds, Eagle Beach is a favourite background for wedding photos. Down in the south-east corner, Baby Beach, a crescent- shaped lagoon, has safe shallow water, perfect for families, or you can find crashing waves and thrilling surfing at Dos Playa on the east coast.
Why You're Happy
However, it's not just the superb beaches or the sensational scenery that keep people coming back to Aruba year after year. The people are incredibly proud of their island and delight in making you happy. Crime is low, you feel safe on the streets, and -- something many people especially value -- you never get harassed by beggars, people selling trinkets, or timeshare vendors.
In fact, the joy of Aruba holidays can be encapsulated in the feeling of well-being that envelops you within a short time of arriving, and that stays with you long after you leave. The constant sunshine, the balmy breezes, the happy atmosphere, the relaxed pace of life, are just what you need as a cure for life's stresses and strains. You will find it so addictive that you will almost certainly come back for more.