Welcome to Aruba!
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Aruba is located in the very heart of the southern Caribbean, a 2 ½ hour flight from Miami and about 15 miles north of Venezuela.
One of the Caribbean's most popular island destinations, Aruba is at once breathtakingly serene and dramatically rugged at the same time. Sheltered from the Atlantic's vicious currents and pounding waves, Aruba's southern and western coasts are famous for their pristine white beaches framed by swaying palm trees. The beaches here are among the world's best, and there are literally dozens to choose from. They're surrounded by tranquil turquoise seas which plunge to 100 feet in some areas, and they provide remarkable visibility for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts.
In particular, Hadikurari Beach, located a little south of the lighthouse near the northwestern tip of Aruba, is known for terrific snorkeling. Those looking for exceptionally calm waters will enjoy Palm Beach, located alongside the island's collection of high-rise hotels and casinos. Eagle Beach is another highly popular beach, especially with locals. It's a beautiful picnic spot with plenty of shaded areas. Baby Beach is a great choice for families with children or for those who are not strong swimmers. The calm, shallow waters can be easily explored, and stunning coral can be seen in the channel. Most of the island's best hotels are located on the islands northwestern coast.
On the other side of the island, the northeastern coast along the Atlanta Ocean does not enjoy this same protection from the elements, and they are routinely battered by heavy seas and thunderous waves. However, the incessant waves here carve out fascinating rock formations such as the famous coral Natural Bridge, most of which unfortunately collapsed in late 2005. There are plenty of other formations to explore, though, and due to the fact that this part of the island is exposed harsher conditions, it's quite undeveloped.
In between these two coasts lies an exceptionally flat terrain which has often been likened to a Martian landscape. The air is dry and arid, and the landscape is dotted with cacti as well the wind-bent divi-divi trees. Hidden coves, winding roads and huge piles of boulders beckon to the more adventurous tourist who wants to get off the beachy path. Aruba is the perfect size for those who want to explore all that the island has to offer – at 19.6 miles long and six miles across at its widest point, the island total size is only 70 square miles. To the east of Aruba are Bonaire and Curaçao, two island territories which form the southwest part of the Netherlands Antilles; Aruba and these two Netherlands Antilles islands are sometimes called the ABC islands.
Unlike most of the Caribbean islands, Aruba has a dry, arid climate, and constant trade winds help produce year-round temperatures which hover around 82 degrees. Since Aruba is virtually flat, these trade winds easily blow across the island and do not allow any moisture to collect. In fact, less than twenty inches of rain fall on the island each year, usually in late autumn. Aruba is fortunate to lie just outside of the hurricane belt, and serious storms are a rarity.
An island of approximately 120,000 people, Aruba heavily depends on tourism; 70% of its gross domestic product is created by the thousands of visitors who flock to the island every year. About 730,000 visitors come to Aruba every year, as well as another 550,000 cruise ship passengers, 70% of which are from the United States. Venezuelans make up a large number of the remaining visitors. Aruba is fortunate to have one of the Caribbean region's highest standards of living, as well as the lowest crime rate. Poverty and unemployment are both low, making the island a safe and enjoyable tourist destination. Together, the State of the Netherlands, the State of the Netherlands Antilles, and the State of Aruba form a Commonwealth. Linguistically, Aruba is dominated by a language called Papiamento, which is a mix of Dutch, African dialects, Portugese, Spanish and English. Dutch is the island's second official language, though Spanish is also often used. English is known by many of the island's inhabitants as well, especially those closely connected to the tourism industry.
Visitors and locals alike never have a shortage of things to see and do on Aruba. Those looking for activities after dark are happy to discover that the island is well-known for its exciting nightlife, fine dining and eleven flashy casinos, some of which are open around the clock. Gourmands speak highly of Aruba's restaurants with cuisines ranging from Indonesian to French to Japanese. Numerous dance-clubs, Vegas-inspired shows and dinner/party cruises provide endless options for energetic night owls.
Some of the best parts of Aruba, however, are best enjoyed during the day, when visitors can tour the island's fascinating cultural history. A Dutch colony since 1636, Aruba became an independent state in 1986. Walking tours provide an excellent overview of the island as well as insight into Aruba's distant and more recent past. Aruba's capital city is Oranjestad, located on the southern coast on the island's western edge. Here, visitors can get a taste of Aruba's Dutch history as they explore Fort Zoutman's Museum, the island's oldest building. The William III Tower is here as well, and the omnipresent early twentieth century Dutch architecture on quaint streets like Wilhelminastraat can be easily enjoyed on foot. Those who venture into the surrounding countryside will behold mysterious, undeciphered writings on the walls of Arikok National Park's caves, and the Church of Santa Anna, with its famous 115-year-old oak altar. Hikers will enjoy a climb to the top of Hooiberg, one of Aruba's tallest mountains; on a clear day, Venezuela can be seen from the top. Other popular sites include Fontein and Quadiriki Caves and Daimari, a coconut plantation which was the site of the first gold discovery.
All of this considered, it's easy to see why Aruba continues to be one of the Caribbean's most popular and well-loved islands.
Size: 70 square miles (19.6 miles long and 6 miles across at the widest point).
Population: About 120,000
Main Industry: Tourism
Currency: Aruban Florin
Time Zone: Atlanta Standard Time
Average Temperature: 83 degrees Fahrenheit, year-round