Aruba is just off the South American coast, in the deep southern part of the Caribbean and is known by most as “One Happy Island”. It boasts 20 miles of pure white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and as it lies outside the hurricane belt it offers great year-round weather. Aruba is mainly flat with the famous Divi-Divi tree and its numerous cacti making the landscape quite unique. The capital Oranjestad offers colourful buildings and dockside bazaars, which are ideal to explore on foot and the island really is an exotic paradise of stylish resorts and charming Dutch colonial architecture.
Things to see & do in Aruba
Attractions: If you fancy a break from lazing on the beach and catching the Caribbean rays, Aruba’s capital Oranjestad is a wonderful place to explore. This pretty city is named after the Netherlands’ first king, William of Orange-Nassau and perfectly reflects Aruba’s Dutch heritage in style, architecture and as well as name. The city is awash with colourful colonial buildings with traditional dutch tiles and is a great place to simply wander, taking in the pretty harbour, waterfront market and boutiques along palm-fringed streets. Nature lovers will enjoy a day trip to the Arikok National Park which serves as a sanctuary for many varieties of flora and fauna and also houses plantation house ruins, ancient Arawak painting and the native divi-divi trees.
Events/festivals: Aruba is far from a sleepy island and its calendar of events, festivals and celebrations is testament to that. Some of the major events include the annual carnival whose Grand Parade takes place on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday through Aruba’s capital city of Oranjestad – with spectacular costumes adorned with feathers and sequins, plus live music and stunning floats. In May each year, the island hosts its Soul Beach Music Festival where top acts including the likes of Chaka Khan and Lauren Hill perform for a 2-night concert. This event has recently been voted by American newspaper USA Today as one of the top five Caribbean Celebrations.
Sports: There is a hive of water sports activity along the west coast of the island, including sailing, deep sea fishing, kite surfing, waterskiing and parasailing. Aruba has a championship golf course at the island’s northwest tip at Tierra del Sol. Holidaymakers can also explore some of the island’s countryside and coastline on horseback, or if mountain biking is more your thing, hire a bike and try out some of the challenging 350km of mountain bike trails which cover the island.
Nightlife: Aruba’s nightlife is largely based around the hotels and resorts on the west coast of the island. Most bars can be found in the capital of Oranjestad, Palm Beach and Eagle Beach. There is something for everyone from beach bar shacks to more sophisticated bars and an couple of nightclubs.
Eating/Drinking: Aruban cuisine leans on its Dutch heritage with certain dishes such as keeshi yena, which is baked Gouda stuffed with meat, spices, cashews, raisins and capers. Fresh seafood is popular in many restaurants and you can taste some fabulously fresh grouper, snapper and crab on the island. Many dishes of the traditional dishes are flavoured with coconut and Caribbean spices and other popular favourites include stoba (lamb or goat stew) and sweets such as coconut candy. . It is safe to drink the tap water in Aruba and for drinks of the alcoholic variety, the aruba rum punch is one of the island’s firm favourites.
Shopping: If you like snapping up a designer bargain, you will love Aruba’s shopping centres such as the Royal Plaza Mall in downtown Oranjestad, which offer designer brands and labels at discounted prices. You will find hand-rolled cigars at the Cigar Emporium and local handmade crafts in boutiques dotted around the island.
When to go
Aruba enjoys a consistently warm and sunny all year round temperature of 24-29 degrees. As it is one of the ‘ABC’ islands situated just outside the hurricane belt, it is lucky to be very rarely affected by tropical storms.
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