The smallest of the Dutch Caribbean islands, Aruba is a friendly and relaxing oasis just 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela. With one of the highest rates for repeat visitors, Aruba offers warm hospitality, perpetual sunshine and white, sandy beaches. Visitors can find tranquility on a secluded stretch of beach, explore the marine life of the Caribbean Sea, or take advantage of the island’s vibrant nightlife at its many casinos, clubs, bars and folk festivals. Whether here on your honeymoon, with family or as a singles getaway, odds are there is an Aruba vacation that fits your style.
Located on the western end of the island, Oranjestad is Aruba’s capital and largest city. Pastel-colored Dutch colonial buildings line the main streets, along with a variety of restaurants, bars and markets. The downtown area and Seaport Village are the primary shopping areas on the island, where tourists can find everything from jewelry and clothing to perfume and electronics. The southern and western coasts of the island are where the majority of tourist activity can be found, as these regions are sheltered from the fierce ocean currants that tend to batter the northern and eastern rocky shores.
This is an island where you can do as little or as much as your want. Explore the abandoned gold mines and native cactus and divi-divi plants that overtake the desert landscape of Arikok National Park. Hit the links with sparkling, cerulean waves at your back while playing a round on the world-class Tierra del Sol golf course. Choose from one of Aruba’s 11 casinos for non-stop gaming and live entertainment. Or do what many visitors to Aruba do -- just relax. This sun-soaked island will tempt any vacationer to do nothing but lay on a hammock overlooking the lulling Caribbean tides.
With a distinct Caribbean and international flair, Aruba’s restaurant scene ranges from national fast-food chains to high-end and locally owned dining rooms. For a wonderful open-air restaurant named after the road it’s on, B55 serves up some of the island’s freshest fish, including mahi-mahi and grouper. For live outdoor entertainment along with an inexpensive meal, check out Salt and Pepper for Spanish-style tapas dishes including shrimp in mango sauce and fried brie. For an intimate dinner literally right on the beach (prepare for some sand between your toes), head over to Flying Fishbone in Savaneta. The pesto cream wahoo and spiced pineapple with homemade chocolate ice cream are house specialties.
All flights into Aruba will arrive into Reina Beatrix International Airport (AUA), located on the western side of the island. With no national airline, Reina Beatrix serves many American and international carriers, including American Airlines, Continental, Delta and Jet Blue. Aruba is also an extremely popular stop for cruises. Cruise ships dock in the Port of Aruba, located in Oranjestad, and visitors have easy access to the city center or neighboring beaches. For navigating around the island, there are taxis as well as car rentals. If renting a car or jeep, be aware of local traffic laws (for example, no right turn on red).
Aruba enjoys a tropical marine climate with little seasonal temperature variation. It’s this perpetual summer that makes the island a prime destination to visit any time of the year. The near-constant sunshine and 82° F weather is coupled with light sea breezes off the Caribbean. The northern and eastern regions tend to receive harsher weather, including occasional harsher trade winds, yet overall, Aruba can be considered the perfect destination for dependable island weather.
Audrey Hyman is the owner and CEO of the Hyman Travel Network, a full service travel agency located in the suburbs of Washington, that specializes in cruises and all inclusive vacations