According to the Aruba Tourism Authority, half of all visitors who come to the island for a vacation will return — often multiple times. There must be a reason why Aruba is deemed to be the most revisited destination in the Caribbean. There are beautiful beaches and lots of sunshine, but that’s nothing unique. What makes Aruba, the self-described “one happy island,” so enticing?
Easy to get to know
Colonized by the Dutch in 1636, Aruba is positioned in the southern Caribbean about 17 miles north of Venezuela. It is only 19.6 miles long and 6 miles at its widest point. Getting around is easy, with both public transit and taxis available. Turquoise waters beckon from white sand beaches, and most Arubans speak English and Spanish in addition to their native Papiamento and Dutch.
Tropical without the humidity
Aruba’s got sunshine in abundance, and the temperature generally lazes between the mid-70s and the mid-80s. The island lies just outside the Atlantic’s main hurricane corridor and is typically hit less by tropical storms, though if you’re looking only for sunny days, know that fall is the rainy season. (Though it’s a great time to visit if you’re looking to avoid winter’s high prices.)
Fall hotel deals include the beachfront Hyatt Regency Aruba’s Sunshine on Sale, which gives a fifth night free on a five-night stay (through Dec. 18, rates from $259). The Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort and Casino reopens this fall after a massive renovation, and offers a daily $50 resort credit as a welcome back (rates from $249).
Water sports lovers, take note: Aruba boasts gusting trade winds, which lowers humidity through spring and summer, and helps create some of the best windsurfing conditions on the planet. No wonder that Women’s Freestyle Champion at the PWA Grand Slam is 25-year-old Aruban Sarah Quita, whose incredible unbeaten run landed her the windsurfing title for the ninth time.
More beyond the beach
No need to hit the hotel gym, just grab your gear for some hiking or biking through the beautiful Arikok National Park. Comprising almost 20 percent of the island, the park offers a glimpse of pre-human history in wonderful geological formations and includes Aruba’s highest peaks, with breathtaking views over scrubland and desert, the coastline and sea. Unique cultural and historical sites include ancient indigenous drawings inside the Guadirikiri, Fontein and Huliba caves. Don’t miss the Conchi, or natural pool.
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The spirit of the island
It’s the Caribbean, which means rum. Specifically Palmera Rum, the local brew, which you will possibly drink more of than you should, and you will want a party. Visitors this year are in luck: The first-ever Aruba Fashion Week takes place Dec. 1-5 and will highlight Caribbean fashion during shows, talks, a trade fair and, of course, several parties. Ongoing festivities include the Bonbini Festival every Tuesday. Bonbini means “welcome” in Papiamento, the Creole language spoken on Aruba. This weekly folk festival includes music and dancing in downtown Oranjestad, the capital city, in the outdoor courtyard of Fort Zoutman, Aruba’s oldest building (every Tuesday, 6:30-9:30 p.m.).
The Carubbian Festival takes place in the San Nicolas district and includes an Aruban feast, an outdoor market and entertainers. The main street becomes a pedestrian-only mall filled with colorful booths selling food, handicrafts and souvenirs. Look for locally produced goods and support Aruba’s artists, crafters and the island’s economy (every Thursday, 6-10 p.m.; packages including transportation are sold at most hotels).
The biggest party of the year is the Grand Parade (Feb. 26, 2017), which is part of the month-long winter carnival in February. The procession of impressive floats, glittering costumes and dancing winds its way around Oranjestad beginning at noon through late into the night. Hoist a Palmera Rum or two and join in.
For more information on all things Aruba, visit the Aruba Tourism Authority.