Aruba is a tiny Caribbean island that isn’t anywhere near as well-known as say Jamaica or Antigua and, it remains part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands too. So what’s there to see and do in this small slice of paradise? Here’s our top 5 things to see in Aruba;
Caribbean islands provide the backdrop for many a dream beach holiday, but if you’re bored of the Bahamas, or tired of Tobago, how about heading for one of the region’s hidden gems? Awesome Aruba. One of the Leeward Antilles – an island chain in the southern Caribbean Sea – it’s also part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the nationals living there are Dutch citizens. Unlike many of its neighbouring islands, Aruba also has a dry climate, and a cactus-filled landscape. Visitors can reliably expect warm, sunny weather with temperatures rarely dipping below 28C. Most of the tourist resorts are centred around the western and southern coasts of the island which are relatively sheltered from the fiercer of the ocean currents. So, that’s the beach and the sunshine sorted – what else can Aruba offer?
Well, Aruba holidays can be as action-packed or as laid-back as you choose. If its adventure you’re after, try kitesurfing. Every year in June or July, Aruba hosts the Hi-Winds Amateur World Challenge windsurfing and kitesurfing tournament. This five-day competition attracts contenders from around the world and includes a Round-the-Island race where they complete a 70-mile circuit, braving the fiercer winds and currents of the north and eastern coasts. If you’re not quite up to this standard, but feel inspired to give it a go, there are professional instructors who can show you how it’s done.
Scuba diving is another great way to enjoy a seaside holiday, and diving off Aruba is nothing short of spectacular. You can expect to see stingrays, moray eels, barracuda and manta rays on the coral reefs off the western and southern coasts. Novices can learn with qualified instructors or more advanced divers might like to explore one of the largest shipwrecks in the Caribbean, the Antilla. This war-time German freighter was scuppered by her crew when they surrendered, and now lies in the shallow waters and is a great wreck to explore both inside and out. Try a night dive for a really eerie experience.
Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital, is another must-see for any holidaymaker. Take time to wander through the charming palm-lined streets admiring the pastel-coloured buildings, or head down to the wharf to see the fishermen land, and sell, their daily catch, often straight off the boats. Stroll through the area and see the schooners and houseboats moored near the fishing boats, or head to Wilhelmina Park – a small tropical garden dedicated to the Dutch queen from 1890 to 1948. If shopping’s your thing, you can either haggle for bargains at the dockside bazaars (be warned, these will be bustling on days when cruise ships are in), or go to the upmarket boutiques in downtown Oranjestad or Seaport village.
Towards the centre of the island and along the northern coast, and covering almost 20% of the island’s land, is the Arikok National Park. This enclosed wilderness has 21 miles of marked walking trails which showcase the islands’ natural flora and fauna. Look out for the famous dividivi trees, the branches of which are shaped by the trade winds and always point to the west. You can also expect to see local lizards and rabbits, and possibly the Cascabel rattlesnake. There’s plenty to explore in the park – you can see the ancient Arawak petroglyphs in the Fontein cave, ruins of peasant settlements and plantation houses and the ruins of an old gold mine in Miralamar. The park is also home to Mount Jamanota, the highest point on the island. It’s a short but steep walk to the top, but well-worth it for the views.
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