The Best of Aruba

Aruba, part of the Dutch “ABC” islands (along with Bonaire and Curaçao), is a good choice for a summer visit to the Caribbean. Like Bonaire and Curaçao, Aruba is situated below the “hurricane belt” in the Southern Caribbean. As a result, big storms remain unlikely, although possible. Since the island receives less than 20 inches of rain a year, mostly in November and December, your summer vacation will typically feature sunny days made comfortable by the constant trade winds of 10-25 knots. Temperatures average 82 degrees-Fahrenheit year-round. Here’s a guide to some of the best of Aruba:

Aruba features two main resort areas: Palm Beach, home to the island’s high rise hotels, and Eagle Beach, across from many timeshare properties. We prefer Palm Beach because its hotels open directly onto the sands whereas Eagle Beach’s lodging is across an often busy road from the shore. Also cafes and shops dot the the inland streets of Palm Beach, providing good people watching and easy access to restaurants.

The big beware in Palm Beach: not enough palapas, those thatched, umbrella-like stands that provide shade. The hotels with the most beachfront such as the Radisson Aruba, offer the most palapas. To be sure of obtaining a shady spot on the beach, you often must reserve a palapa. Depending on the property this can be both expensive and inconvenient. Inquire before you book your rooms.

The non-stop breezes make Aruba a windsurfing Mecca, host to international competitions. At Hadikurari beach you can watch the experts skim the waves.

Take a guided jeep tour of the island’s rugged northeast coast. The landscape of rocky shores and fast-breaking surf is nicknamed “California” because of the constant splash of whitecaps on the boulders. Most tours stop at the ruins of the Bushiribana gold mine whose thick stone walls rise apparition-like from the deserted plain and the “natural bridge,” a much touted tourist attraction that we find rather disappointing. Some tours continue inland to the Ayo Rock formations, remains of centuries-old Indian caves. For those who want less bounce, book an air-conditioned bus tour.
The Aruba Ostrich Farm is home to the big birds: ostriches and emus. On a tour learn about these fast, flightless, feathered beauties, hold an ostrich egg and feed the long-necked critters, our favorite activity.

Go snorkeling and diving. At Baby Beach, although not particularly scenic and a long way from Palm Beach, you can often spot octopus, crabs and lobsters. Other good snorkeling spots include Malmok Beach, popular with sailboats and Mangel Halto Beach, noted for parrot fish, blue tangs, yellowtail snappers and sponges.

Explore Arikok National Park. The park, which preserves Aruba’s natural, desert-like landscape, features sand dunes, hiking trails and caves with centuries-old rock drawings by Caquetio Indians of the Arawak tribe. Worth a visit, the inland park is hot so bring plenty of water and go early in the day.

Among the island’s newest properties, the Ritz-Carlton Aruba opened November 2013. The beachfront property offers a casino, spa, and a Ritz Kids program for ages 4 to 12.

Set on 15 lushly landscaped acres, the Radisson Aruba offers more beachfront than many other luxury resorts as well as a children’s program for ages 4 to 12, a spa and a casino.

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