Aruba has one of the highest visitor repeat rates in the Caribbean because it mixes an upscale ambiance with family-friendly hotels and activities. The island is exceptionally clean, modern and easy to navigate, while the beaches are among the best in the ABC islands. The island itself is a study in contrasts, where silky white beaches line placid aquamarine seas along the south and west coasts, while an expansive desert skirts the jagged coast along the north and east corridors. In addition to that, the capital city of Oranjestad is a bustling cosmopolitan urban center with Las Vegas-style entertainment, packed casinos and boutique shopping. Variety is a key selling point, and all of the various activities are easily accessible on this small Dutch Caribbean paradise.
Most of Aruba’s hotels and restaurants are situated in three regions. The hi-rise resorts with the major brand names are centered around Palm Beach; the low-rise properties skirt neighboring Manchebo and Eagle Beach; and a few hotels occupy the waterfront in Oranjestad.
Barefoot at the Beach
About 20 minutes west of the airport, Aruba’s long and wide-open, white-sand beaches run along the western shore where most of the hotels reside. Every imaginable watersport is available, and tourists should try to visit one of the windsurfing shops because Palm Beach hosts a variety of international pro windsurfing competitions throughout the year. Aruba’s weather is known for its consistent tradewinds and 82 degree temperature, so hop on a board after taking a lesson with one of the many friendly instructors.
Diving and snorkeling are big business a little to the north, and a whole slew of watersport outfitters offer daily excursions to visit some of the island’s nearby sites. In WWII, German subs patrolled these waters looking to sink Allied ships steaming out of Venezuela loaded with crude. Close-in wrecks from the era include the 400-ft. German supply ship Antilla and the Pedernales oil tanker.
Somewhat new to Aruba’s underwater scene are snuba and sea trekking. Snuba is a combination of scuba and snorkeling where participants don regulators used in traditional diving, except the mouthpieces are attached via long air hoses to air tanks on the water’s surface. This is a fun way to get up close and personal to sea life without having to go up for air. Likewise, sea trekking is an exciting and unique adventure using space-age helmets with air hoses connected to surface air tanks. Trekkers can walk along the ocean floor while breathing normally, without ever getting their face or hair wet. Both sports are safe and exhilarating opportunities for families to discover the mysteries of the depths together.
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