Aruba — Overview
Home of the divi-divi tree, aloe, and the Arawaks, semi-arid Aruba is a top destination of the Lesser Antilles ABC group of islands, which includes Curaçao and Bonaire. It sits off the coast of Venezuela in the South Caribbean, just 12 degrees above the equator, and laps up the sun like no other.
The incredible weather and tropical beaches are the obvious highlights of Aruba, drawing visitors year round. The water is pristine and loaded with coral and marine life, making boating and diving eternally popular. You can snorkel onto a reef from the sand, or head to the continental shelf on a deep-sea fishing charter to snag a sailfish.
The windsurfing is also world class in Aruba, and while there are more traditional water sports, catching sight of the colorful array of sails is sure to put a smile on your face. Away from the beaches is the intriguing capital of Oranjestad, a thoroughly Dutch city with loads of landmarks, great shopping along its dazzling waterfront, and plenty of Caribbean charm to boot.
Hotels are high end and you’ll leave wanting nothing. They are mainly clustered along the beaches near the capital and often come with star-rated restaurants, spas, and casinos. There are oodles of dining options serving all cuisine types, including the freshest seafood and tasty dishes of the region. The nightlife on Aruba is the best in the ABC group, with many bars and clubs along the water’s edge and Vegas-style shows in the casinos.
The locals are friendly, polite and easy to converse with as they also speak English. They enjoy the bars and restaurants of the beach resorts and capital as much as the tourists and can be seen showing off the best of their culture at the weekly Bon Bini Festival in Oranjestad. Aruba is slightly more expensive than elsewhere in the Caribbean, but you get what you pay for.
Along with the main sights including the old Fort Zoutman in town are many other worthwhile attractions spread island-wide. Check out the Arikok National Park, renowned for its caves and walking; the Hooiberg haystack, for climbing and views; and the Natural Pool, for quieter swimming on the rugged side of the island. Offbeat things to do include the Casibari Rocks, Donkey Sanctuary, and Aloe Factory.
Boat excursions are hugely popular and go up and down the coast or to nearby Curacao or Venezuela—the latter being closer. You can also get well away from things on Aruba on a scenic horseback ride along empty trails, taking a four-wheel drive (4WD) tour, or perhaps heading to one of the quieter beaches in the south.
Aruba has a busy airport with direct flights from the US and Europe, along with a bustling port with three cruise terminals. Getting about the island is typically by (slightly expensive) taxi or (cheap) public bus, but many visitors pre-book rental cars to explore on their own.
- Year-round sun and minimal rainfall
- Divine beaches, notably Palm Beach in the High Rise area
- Shopping for local crafts and Dutch items; low duty, not no duty!
- Some of the most accessible scuba diving in the world
- Unbeatable windsurfing in Aruba between May and July
- The cool waterfront capital of Oranjestad
- Unique attractions like the Casibari Rocks
- Complementary cultural festivals and sports events