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Aruba

Aruba

Great Destination:

4

Value for Money:

3

Total Stars:

7.0

Personality Types that Like it Best

Strongest appeal is to Centric-Authentics and Mid-Authentics; much less so to Venturesome personality types

Did You Know…?

  • At 72 square miles, Aruba is slightly larger than Washington, D.C.
  • The island had a gold rush, set in motion by the discovery of gold in 1824.
  • Aruba’s name probably derives from the Arawak word oibubai (meaning guide).
  • Aruba claims it has more sunny days than any other Caribbean island.
  • There was a time when florin as a popular name for currency, but today only Aruba uses the florin.

Studying the ABCs

Aruba is distinguished by an ambience with a Dutch hue and a climate that is surprisingly desert-like. The island — the “A” in the so-called “ABC” islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao — appeals to a wider variety of people than some islands because it offers a reasonably broad range of activities.

When Aruba’s weather is good, travelers rave about the warm, consistently perfect conditions. Actually, the island has a unique combination of climatic elements. The constant winds that blow across the landscape — and bother some visitors — are dry rather than tropical, and the island that greets travelers has a rocky, cactus-studded terrain that people who like it consider very beautiful. The winds blow in one direction only, which produces the roughly L-shaped divi-divi trees that are an Aruban trademark.

Many influences shape the island’s social atmosphere: the Dutch who own the island, the African heritage of its populace and the Latin touch from nearby South America.

Aruba’s accommodations are varied and comfortable, service is good and its people are happy to help visitors enjoy themselves. The Dutch influence is clear in the architecture, which pleases the eye, and in the food; one may have Indonesian rijstafel one night and spicy local seafood the next.

It also is a change of pace because Aruba is not totally English speaking. Due to the Dutch influence, this is a slightly more reserved society than that found on some other islands. Hosts prefer that visitors observe some decorum, which mostly means dressing appropriately downtown and in nice restaurants which no doubt enhances the sense of glamour here.

In return, Arubans extend a warm welcome. Indeed, visitors comment on the “clean” island, friendly people and the sense they are safe while here.

The more adventurous travelers are cooler in their assessment because the range of sports activities doesn’t meet all needs and because of some commercial development. Still, they can pursue water sports like diving, fishing and snorkeling and especially windsurfing with the constant, predictable wind patterns. And everyone can enjoy the distinctive mixed culture of Aruba, which manifests itself in music, manners and food.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Rent a mountain bike for a self-guided sightseeing excursion (and carry lots of sun block). Alternatively, you can take this bike tour with a group. Ask at your hotel.
  • Scuba dive at stunning reefs or shipwrecks. If you are not a diver, take lessons here.
  • Try dune-sliding at the Boca Prins dunes. Aruba is a desert, remember? Wear jeans, tennis shoes and long sleeves.
  • Go windsurfing and kite surfing. If you are a novice, stick with the southern shore; if experienced, choices expand to the northern and southeastern coasts.  In June, attend the 10-day Hi-Winds Amateur World Challenge windsurfing tournament.
  • Sign on for any of a number of volunteer activities while in Aruba. The Annual Aruba Reef Care Project is the largest of these projects.
  • Aruba is a good place for deep-sea fishing; after your outing, ask one of the island’s willing restaurants to cook your catch for dinner.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Try one or more of Aruba’s distinctive drinks, ranging from Balashi beer and Palmera rum to a local liquor called coecoei and Balashi Cocktail. That last “cocktail” is water.
    Also, try the local hot sauce and Aruba’s coconut candy, but not at the same time.
  • Snorkel on De Palm Island, which is a five-minute ferry ride from the mainland. The island boasts abundant coral formations — plus the colorful blue parrot fish.
  • Visit the Aruba Ostrich Farm for a little quality time with ostriches and emus. Then, sample ostrich meat in the farm’s restaurant.
  • Jazz in June? Arubans like festivals, and this one in Oranjestad is great fun for music lovers. This festival, tellingly named the Jazz and Latin Music Festival, offers visitors Aruba’s take on this subject.
  • Experiment with the varied cuisine of Aruba. Classic French, Dutch and Indonesian specialties, Spanish paella and Aruban-style seafood are among your choices. You can sign on for a dine-around program. Don’t forget to dress up a little.
  • Take a sunset cruise that includes dinner. Several of the ships will drop anchor in a quiet cove for dancing and a moonlight dip, as well. There are plenty of other options for boat trips around the island.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Attend one of the Tuesday evening parties called the Bon Bini Festival at Fort Zoutman in Oranjestad. For a small admission fee, you can mix with other guests and locals, sample drinks and browse local crafts.  On other nights, sample a couple of the island’s upscale casinos and attend one (or more) of the extravagant shows.
  • Visit Aruba Aloe factory to see how the aloe vera leaf is utilized to make Aruba Aloe lotions, then buy a few samples to take home.
  • Drive to San Nicolas, the second town on Aruba. It’s on the southern end of the island, so you’ll see some of the picturesque terrain. San Nicolas was once THE place to live on Aruba, but now is a quiet contrast to the developed tourist areas.
  • Play golf. Try the Tierra Del Sol or The Links course. Remember, these are desert courses and they use recycled water because of the low rainfall and flat terrain (no mountains to provide running streams).
  • Visit Aruba’s bird sanctuary where more than 80 species of migratory birds stop by at various times of the year, for rest or breeding. Birds include cormorants, egrets, gulls, herons and several species of duck.  Also, visit the local butterfly farm and the donkey sanctuary. Take your camera everywhere.
  • Travel aboard a 48-passenger Atlantis Submarine to 150 feet below the sea’s surface in order to get a good look at coral reefs, a wide array of colorful marine life and two shipwrecks.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Aruba Tourism Authority at www.aruba.com.