Close your eyes and imagine the ideal vacation location: white sands and crystalline blue waters; warm, golden sunlight; exotic wildlife; and adventure, action and relaxation all rolled into one perfect place – a perfect paradise. You’ve just imagined the enchanting island of Aruba.
More laid-back vacationers may prefer to lie in the sand and soak up the sun while the peaceful drone of surging waves and warm breezes lulls them to sleep. (Don’t forget to slather on some sunscreen before you drift off to dreamland!) More adventurous visitors, however, should try diving or snorkeling, two of the most colorful and unforgettable experiences that Aruba can boast. Aruba is famous for its incredible underwater attractions: vibrant, brilliantly-colored natural reefs and lonely, haunting shipwrecks. The wrecked S.S. Pedernales, a British oil tanker sunk by a German submarine during World War II, is a popular shipwreck for snorkelers and divers. Many of the ship’s features, including fully-furnished cabins, can be explored just twenty-five feet below the ocean’s surface. Several snorkeling sites, such as the Arashi Reef or Renaissance Island, even display submerged aircraft. And of course, as you swim among the reefs, you’ll catch glimpses of all kinds of exotic aquatic wildlife – angelfish, crabs, octopi, grouper and many more.
While the day is still young and your energy level is high, take a trip to Mt. Hooiberg, a volcanic peak that offers a marvelous view of the island. Climb the 562 steps to the summit for a breathtaking glimpse of Oranjestad, Aruba’s colorful capital city. On clear days, you can even see the South American country of Venezuela. Don’t forget your camera. You’ll want to take pictures of the fantastic panorama that spreads out before you.
If you’re an animal lover, there are plenty of ways for you to sneak a peek at Aruba’s wildlife. Visit Arikok National Park to see birds, iguanas, snakes, lizards and many other animals amid the beautiful scenery of Aruba’s sand dunes, caves and cliffs. Your whole family, kids included, will enjoy the Ostrich Farm and Donkey Sanctuary, where you can learn about, meet and feed these endearing animals.
During the heat of the afternoon, you may want to make your escape to one of Aruba’s cooler attractions, the enthrallingly mysterious caves located within the Arikok National Park. While these caves certainly are geologically impressive, there’s more to them than stalactites and stalagmites. You’ll be transported back in time by viewing the ancient artwork of the Arawak Indians at Fontein Cave. Take a romantic trip through the Huliba Cave, also known as the Tunnel of Love because of its heart-shaped entrance. Watch out for bats, though. While these soft, squeaky creatures won’t do you any harm, they can be skittish!
If you’re hoping for a complete view of Aruba, don’t miss Aruba’s famous helicopter tour. You’ll be issued headphones to communicate with the pilot and other passengers, and from the clear skies above Aruba you can look down on the island’s cities, beaches and landscapes. For a closer look, rent an ATV or, if you’re athletically inclined, a bicycle.
As the day begins to wane, visit Oranjestad to get a feel for Aruban culture. Walk the streets and enjoy the quaint, pastel buildings. Soak up some local color at the two-hour Bon Bini Festival, an Aruban tradition featuring lively music, dancing, costumes, food and drink. Stop by one of Oranjestad’s shops or malls, such as Renaissance Mall, but be aware that many stores close by 6 p.m.
When your stomach begins to remind you that it’s time for dinner, don’t miss an opportunity to sample Aruba’s finest cuisine. Marandi, on the Laguna Bay pier, features Caribbean flavors and an open kitchen (in case you’re curious about how the food is made). The Screaming Eagle provides a more urban, contemporary atmosphere with French-fusion cuisine. If you just can’t stand to tear yourself away from Aruba’s addictive, beautiful beaches, try Barefoot, a restaurant founded on the ideal of dining literally on the beach, with sand between your toes and a cool ocean breeze on your face.
As the sun sinks below the horizon, don’t miss a chance to catch a final glimpse of the Caribbean sky streaked with pink and orange. Savor the last few fleeting breezes as the stars begin to glisten above and the waves endlessly surge up on the shoreline.
Your day in Aruba is complete, and your heart and mind are full.
Aruba’s charms are for anyone searching for the ideal vacation spot. The athlete, the “beach bum,” the tireless adventurer, the chic shopper and the wildlife-lover will all fall in love with this destination. From the moment the sun first peeks up over the ocean horizon to the second it slips back into hiding, Aruba’s endless opportunities have the ability to captivate and enthrall, gifting visitors with memories that can never be forgotten.