Caribbean: Aruba, an Overview

Just off the coast of South America, this beautiful tropic isle will have you planning your next trip before you even leave.

Flat, arid, and outside the hurricane belt, this Dutch island off the coast of Venezuela, the "A" island of the so-called ABC Islands (Bonaire and Curacao complete the trio), enjoys low humidity and breezy blue vistas year-round. Instead of tropical foliage, you'll find rocky deserts, silky sand, and the trademark divi-divi tree (bent at a 45-degree angle by strong trade winds). You'll also hear the ka-ching of casinos and the infectious steel band beat of beach barbecues and fish fries. This is, as car license plates proclaim, "one happy island."

In a Word: Gambling

Feeling lucky? Aruba has the games for you: blackjack, poker, craps, roulette, baccarat, slot machines, and an island original, Caribbean Stud Poker, invented in 1988. This high-stakes game is like blackjack but tempts players with a progressive jackpot that can skyrocket!

Why We'd Go: 5 Features You'll Never Forget

  • Underwater sightseeing: Sunken ships include the eye-popping, bombed-in-half German freighter Antilla -- its shallow wreckage is easily and eerily visible in the clear ocean waters -- and the Jane Sea, a freighter lying in an almost vertical position. Baby Beach is best for shore diving, while Mangel Halto Reef offers fascinating night dives.
  • Theme parties: Aruba resorts love theme parties, which include a buffet dinner, entertainment, and dancing.
  • Windsurfing: Aruba is the ideal surf spot, thanks to tranquil waters on the southwestern coast and a steady wind. Lessons and rentals are available.
  • Cruising: From mellow lunch sails to dirty-dancing blowouts, there are plenty of chances to sail Aruba's waters.
  • Shopping: Enjoy duty-free sprees at craft shops and Caya G. F. Betico Croes, the chief shopping strip in Oranjestad, the pastel-painted capital. Dutch porcelain, Dutch cheese, hand-embroidered linens, and skin creams made from the native aloe vera plant are good buys.

When to Go: Aruba at its Best

  • Best weather: Aruba enjoys a mean temperature of 82 degrees, a fairly constant 10 mph to 20 mph breeze, and blissfully low humidity year-round. July and August are less windy, and short showers occur more often from mid-October through December.
  • Best prices: Mid-April to mid-December; exact dates vary by hotel
  • Festival highlights: Colorful Carnival events whirl through the streets each winter

Photo: Aruba Tourism Authority

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