Country guides Caribbean
Aruba Travel Guide
The tiny island of Aruba, off the coast of Venezuela, is world-renowned for its flawless beaches dotted with divi-divi trees bent by the constant trade winds. These winds moderate the tropical temperatures, and provide the propulsion that turns Aruba into one of nature's great playgrounds for the world's most fanatical windsurfers and kitesurfers.
For such a small strip of land, there is an astonishing variety of landscapes. The southwest of the island is all idyllic white sand beaches and calm blue sea. The northeast, by contrast, is wild, rocky coastline with rough seas and strong currents. The interior is desert, dotted with cacti and sparse trees, while Oranjestad, the capital, resembles a quaint European city and it the main port for the cruise ships that roll through the Caribbean.
Cruise ship passengers on a stop-over will enjoy a couple of hours just strolling through the town doing a bit of shopping, or sitting down for refreshments and some friendly service. For those staying a little longer, there are countless beach resorts offering all the comforts anyone could want for on a relaxing summer holiday. The adventurous traveller can explore the more remote parts of the island by foot or on horseback, go snorkeling in crystal blue waters over sunken ships and plane wrecks, or even climb 'The Haystack' for stunning views out over the island and even as far as the coast of Venezuela.
Best time to visit Aruba
Aruba has the least rainfall in the whole of the Caribbean and sits outside the Hurricane Belt. So, weather-wise there is no bad time to visit. Peak season from December to April is more crowded with higher prices, meaning tourists may need to book in advance. This is also a popular time to go for the Carnival celebrations. The trade winds die down in September, and this can be a good time to visit for those who don't mind the heat. There are also often good deals available at this time of year.
What to see in Aruba
-The Natural Pool (Conchi) is a unique rock formation on a deserted stretch of coastline in the Arikok national park, well worth the tricky approach by either foot, horseback or 4x4.
-The Antilla shipwreck is the largest in the Caribbean, just off Malmot beach, and is turning into an artificial reef, covered in coral and sea life.
-Eagle Beach features regularly on lists of the top beaches in the world. This strip of perfect white sand lies just north of Oranjestad, close to numerous resorts.
-The Aruba Archaeological Museum is an engaging new exhibit of pre-colonial Arawak life, set in a beautifully restored colonial-era merchants house.
What to do in Aruba
-Fishermen's Huts, at the end of Palm Beach, is the perfect spot for windsurfing and kitesurfing, two of the most popular and exhilarating activities on the island.
-Baby Beach is home to some of the best snorkeling in Aruba. The clear waters are no more than 5 feet (1.5 meters) deep at any point.
-Climb the 561 steps up the Haystack, a mountain in the centre of the island providing awesome views as far as the coast of Venezuela.
-Take a horseback tour to see the Arikok national park, Sand Dunes, Natural Pool, and Natural Bridge.
Getting to Aruba
Passengers can arrive in Aruba either via the cruise ship port in Oranjestad, or at Queen Beatrix International Airport. There are flights from most major US cities, and daily flights from all major hubs around the world, including the UK.
Tropical Kiss by Jan Coffey, An Island Away and Under a Blue Flag both by Daniel Putkowski.
Wally Warning, Tsunami, and Orange Grove.
Natalee Holloway (2009).
Balashi Beer (Aruba's national beer).
Fresh fish and seafood; Pan Bati (a local sweet flatbread).
What to buy
Great souvenirs to buy in Aruba include fine ceramics, Aruba license plates, aloe products, gourmet cheese and chocolates, a range of jewellry, and Mopa Mopa Art.
What to pack
Visitors should pack plenty of sun cream, a swimming costume, light summer clothes, a hat and sun glasses, and a sturdy pair of shoes for those days spent exploring the remarkable sights in Aruba.
What's on in Aruba
Carnival season runs every year from January to March, and there are weeks of events and celebrations involving colourful floats, music, and elaborate costumes. Carnival closes with a Grand Parade in Oranjestad.
Did you know?
-Aruba has one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world. In a population of just over 100,000, there are more than 90 nationalities and ethnic groups represented.
-Aruba has the most sunny days and least rainfall of any island in the Caribbean. On average, just 15 inches (38cm) of rain falls each year.
-As a desert island with no major source of fresh water, Aruba has been a pioneer of water purification and desalination technology for more than 80 years.
A final word
With pristine white sand beaches, crystal blue sea, the best weather in the Caribbean, and some of the friendliest, most welcoming people, Aruba is the last word in tropical island holidays.