Aruba offers long gleaming beaches, many water sports activities, and is a favorite port for cruise ships, but visitors also lodge here to take advantage of upscale restaurants, lively nightclubs, and some of the best windsurfing in the world. Oranjestad is the island’s capital, and the bustling city has a distinct Dutch feel with colorful buildings painted in historical Antillean style. Shopping is abundant, with duty-free stores offering jewelry, perfume, linen, liquor and designer clothing. Discos and nightclubs abound and gaming is on offer at 11 resort casinos.

Most of the beaches are found along Aruba’s Northwest coast. There are two main resort areas – one with lowrise buildings, the other with highrises – with a series of glorious beaches: Druif, Eagle and Palm, with much of it fronted by a pedestrian walkway. The Palm Beach area offers parasailing, glass-bottom boat rides, excursions aboard the submarine Atlantis, and high-octane turbocharged jet boat rides. Just north of Palm Beach is a world-renowned windsurfing and kite-surfing mecca.

Scuba diving is popular, offering good visibility, coral reefs and wrecks – most notably the Antilla, a German freighter sunk during World War II, which is the largest in the Caribbean. For golfers there is Tierra del Sol, an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones II, and the nine-hole Divi Links near Oranjestad. Half-day horseback tours take visitors along beaches and into the cunuku.

Aruba is noteworthy for its arid interior cunuku, or countryside. Casibari and Ayo boast curious rock formations. At the Fontein cave, visitors find natural stone pillars and Amerindian paintings. Nearby, the Guadirikiri caves are home to hundreds of bats. Bus tours are popular but visitors can also tour the cunuku in a convoy of Range Rovers or ATV’s. In addition to the geological scenery, there is the Chapel of Alto Vista, built in 1750 by Spanish missionaries, and the Bushiribana gold mine ruins. Also explore the summit of 541-foot Mount Hooiberg; Arikok National Park, a 13 square-mile preserve filled with iguanas, rabbits, migratory birds, goats and donkeys; and Jabaribari, home to parakeets.

AIRPORTS/GATEWAYS/FLYING TIMES: Airport: Queen Beatrix Int’l Airport, approximately 8 minutes from Oranjestad, the capital. Gateways/Flying Times: Miami – 2.5 hours. New York – 4.5 hours. Charlotte, NC – 3.5 hours. Philadelphia – 4 hours. Chicago – 5 hours. Atlanta – 3.5 hours. Boston – 6 hours. Canada – 5 hours.

CLIMATE: Average annual temperature is 82 degrees F. The average annual rainfall is less than 20 inches per year and occurs in showers of short duration during the months of November & December. Aruba is outside the hurricane belt.

DINING: Restaurants available – Local. Fast Food (International). Seafood. Brazilian. Mexican. Belgian. French. Italian. Spanish. Cantonese. Indonesian. Chinese. Japanese. Dutch. Argentinean. German. Cuban. Caribbean. Service charge is usually included on your bill. Otherwise tip at your own discretion. Dress code (varies depending on place) is jackets sometimes for men and the equivalent for ladies.

LANGUAGE: Papiamento is the native language (a mixture of Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese with a sprinkling of Indian, English, French and African). Papiamento and Dutch are the official languages. English and Spanish are widely spoken and understood.

NIGHTLIFE: Entertainment available includes – Discos. Nightclubs. Casinos. Cabarets. Dinner/dances. Live music. Local and international shows. Theaters. Cinemas.

SIGHTSEEING: The old California lighthouse and sand dunes of California and Boca Prins. The gold mill ruins in Balashi and Bushiribana. Bubali Plas Bird Sanctuary. The Ostrich Farm. The Butterfly Farm. Guadirikiri. Fontein Caves. Arikok National Park. Alto Vista Chapel. Ayo and Casibari Rock formations. The historic Olde Molen. Historical buildings in Oranjestad. The Willem III tower and Fort Zoutman.

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