Aruba: the Caribbean island you need to visit
They call Aruba 'One Happy Island', and it doesn't take long to figure out why. The vibe is calm and chilled with plenty of turquoise water - your toughest task may be deciding which beach to choose.
Get started at Arashi Beach near the northwestern tip of the island and Baby Beach on the southeastern end of the island. Whatever you do, don't forget your sunglasses, hat, and suncream. The sun shines brightly, and forget about rain. You also don't have to worry about hurricanes - Aruba has the good fortune of being virtually unaffected by hurricanes given its southerly location.
For active types
Never played a game of beach tennis, the island's signature sport? If you haven't, take a lesson. On Moomba Beach, you'll find Beach Tennis Aruba. The teachers are beyond patient; they don't laugh, even when they should. Expect to work though. Unless you resist, they might make you start your class running laps. If you get the ball over the net, be ready to hit the deck and do pushups. It's all good, spirited fun. They don't really enforce the pushups; there would be more of that than beach tennis!
Water lovers do your thing. Snorkel, windsurf or try your hand at stand-up paddleboard yoga with Vela Windsurf in Palm Beach*. What can be better than doing a downward facing dog in the middle of the sea? The water is shallow and warm, so even if you fall off your board, it's no biggie. Aruba is also a haven for wreck diving enthusiasts - check out everything from sunken aircraft to abandoned ships.
There's no sunset quite like that in Aruba. For a very memorable evening, take a sunset sail with De Palm Tours. The two-hour ride aboard a catamaran is fab. The music is rocking, lots of reggae to set the island mood plus light bites and an open bar.
Aruba's wild side
As much as Aruba is all about the beach, it's also about adventure. Nestled among the many cacti, which dot the landscape on the northern shore, Arikok National Park not only has hidden beaches, but pools, ancient cave paintings, indigenous flora and fauna, rattlesnakes, owls, and blue whiptail lizards. The buzz around the Guadirikiri Cave is its two chambers, where sunlight streams through holes in the roof.
The cave extends for about 100 feet - keep a look out for the friendly resident bats. The Fontein Cave is where you'll find the drawings of Arawak Indians on the ceiling, bringing Aruba's history to life. You'll need a torch to check out the 300-foot-long passageway in the Huliba Cave, dubbed the Tunnel of Love because of its heart-shaped opening.
When you have had your fill of bats, deep dark places, and the desert, look upward for your next thrill. Skydive Aruba Air Adventures will get you going. It offers one of the most scenic drop zones in the world. Soaring from 10,000 feet up, be exhilarated by the free-fall at 120mph while harnessed to an experienced instructor. If you dare open your eyes, enjoy the view of the southern Caribbean, including the neighbouring ABC islands of Bonaire and Curaçao, plus Venezuela's Paraguana Peninsula, a mere 17 miles to the south of Aruba.
If you like looking up to bird watch, you're in the right place. Aruba has 236 species of birds. The island's semi-arid climate, diversity of flora and fauna, beaches, reefs, mangroves, marshes, countryside and manicured resorts are a breeding ground for all manner of birds, not to mention those en route to North or South America. Do check out the Bubali Plas Bird Sanctuary, with its bird-watching tower that overlooks marsh areas.
Don't miss the Butterfly Farm, a tropical garden with thousands of butterflies from all corners of the planet. Another spot worth dropping by is the Aruba Aloe Factory. You'll see how the aloe vera leaf is transformed to Aruba aloe lotions. If you're a shopper, go downtown for your fill of shops, from designer to small boutiques.
Sample tasty treats
When hunger calls, Aruba doesn't disappoint. Options are plentiful, there are more than 200 restaurants. With more than 90 nationalities calling the island home, you can find all kinds of cuisine. Cuba's Cookin' is a throwback to Havana in the late 1950s. Its authentic Cuban cuisine, and the chefs, musicians and dancers are mostly from Cuba. Black beans, rice, fried plantains, an array of pork, fish, and steak await.
Another favorite is Pinchos, a chic grill and bar on the pier at the Aruba Surfside Marina. There's not a bad seat in the house. Pinchos is known for its dark rum infused blue cheese tenderloin and pan seared Caribbean Grouper. The Yemanja Woodfire Grill will wow you with its stuffed pork tenderloin, herb crusted New Zealand rack of lamb, as well as gluten free and vegan fare.
Aruba the party island
For those who fancy nightlife, Aruba has that too, and not just casinos. Check out Gusto where the crowd is very international and lively. Don't be surprised if someone whispers to you about the after party. Worry not if you don't feel like dancing, there's a lounge scene, bars on the beach, and places like The Soprano's Piano Bar.
Is Aruba on your desert island wishlist? You can book a great value holiday to Aruba with TUI* departing from London Gatwick and Manchester. Remember, you can also check out the weather in Aruba, and see when we think is the best time to go to explore those caves and enjoy those beaches.
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