Flat, arid, and outside the hurricane belt, this Dutch island off the coast of Venezuela, the "A" island of the so-called ABC Islands (Bonaire and Curacao complete the trio), enjoys low humidity and breezy blue vistas year-round. Instead of tropical foliage, you'll find rocky deserts, silky sand, and the trademark divi-divi tree (bent at a 45-degree angle by strong trade winds). You'll also hear the ka-ching of casinos and the infectious steel band beat of beach barbecues and fish fries. This is, as car license plates proclaim, "one happy island."
In a Word: Gambling
Feeling lucky? Aruba has the games for you: blackjack, poker, craps, roulette, baccarat, slot machines, and an island original, Caribbean Stud Poker, invented in 1988. This high-stakes game is like blackjack but tempts players with a progressive jackpot that can skyrocket!
Why We'd Go: 5 Features You'll Never Forget
- Underwater sightseeing: Sunken ships include the eye-popping, bombed-in-half German freighter Antilla -- its shallow wreckage is easily and eerily visible in the clear ocean waters -- and the Jane Sea, a freighter lying in an almost vertical position. Baby Beach is best for shore diving, while Mangel Halto Reef offers fascinating night dives.
- Theme parties: Aruba resorts love theme parties, which include a buffet dinner, entertainment, and dancing.
- Windsurfing: Aruba is the ideal surf spot, thanks to tranquil waters on the southwestern coast and a steady wind. Lessons and rentals are available.
- Cruising: From mellow lunch sails to dirty-dancing blowouts, there are plenty of chances to sail Aruba's waters.
- Shopping: Enjoy duty-free sprees at craft shops and Caya G. F. Betico Croes, the chief shopping strip in Oranjestad, the pastel-painted capital. Dutch porcelain, Dutch cheese, hand-embroidered linens, and skin creams made from the native aloe vera plant are good buys.
When to Go: Aruba at its Best
- Best weather: Aruba enjoys a mean temperature of 82 degrees, a fairly constant 10 mph to 20 mph breeze, and blissfully low humidity year-round. July and August are less windy, and short showers occur more often from mid-October through December.
- Best prices: Mid-April to mid-December; exact dates vary by hotel
- Festival highlights: Colorful Carnival events whirl through the streets each winter
Photo: Aruba Tourism Authority
Caribbean + S. America
Caribbean + S. America