Like its neighbors, Aruba has plenty of sun, sand and sea, but that’s where the similarities end. Because where other islands have lush green landscapes, Aruba is desert-like, home to cacti, arid-loving aloe plants, and divi-divi trees.
Being so far south — a day at sea if you’re cruising from Miami or Puerto Rico — it escapes the hurricane belt. Whether visiting in summer or winter, the temperature will average 82°F, the humidity will be low and the only water you’ll likely see is in the sea as there is rarely a rainy day.
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It’s one of the Dutch ABC islands (the others are neighboring Bonaire and Curaçao), colonized by Holland in the 1600s and still an outpost of the Netherlands. That’s how the capital, Oranjestad, got its name and came to be full of the gabled houses that are commonplace in Amsterdam. Only here the façades are brightly-colored, giving the island its fun-in-the-sun feel.
Aruba’s beaches are a big attraction, but step a few feet into the water and there’s an world of colorful corals and fish to explore. Catamaran trips take you to the best reefs, or why not have a go on a Seabob underwater scooter that powers you through the ocean? Non-swimmers can don a diving helmet and walk underwater through shoals of tropical fish.
For those who prefer to keep their feet dry, jeep, ATV (all-terrain vehicle), or Harley Davidson motorbike tours are a fun way to see the sights. Top stops include the California Lighthouse, a 100-year-old beacon named after the USS California, which was wrecked nearby, and the Casibari Rock Formations, a cluster of huge boulders where Arawak Indians, the island’s first settlers, used to listen for approaching thunderstorms. Or saddle up and enjoy the arid landscapes on a horse-back ride.
Oranjestad, an easy walk from the cruise port, has shopping, casinos, and lively restaurants serving local specialties, including Dutch pancakes, of course.
For more travel tips, go to www.insightguides.com.