So close to South America that you might even see it from the island’s southeast coast, Aruba lies safely south of the hurricane belt, so it’s a tropical island you visit in late-summer and fall without getting midnight phone calls from anxious relatives. In fact, this member of the Dutch Antilles chain is pretty dry year-round, so it’s a favorite among North Americans who want sure-thing sunshine. The Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino, the all-inclusive Hotel RIU Palace Aruba, the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort and Casino, the Radisson Aruba Resort and Casino, and the Westin Resort and Casino are just some of the luxury high-rise hotels and condos lining Palm Beach, a long, deep swath of fine, white sand on Aruba’s northwest coast. Just south of Palm Beach is Eagle Beach, another splendid strand where smaller hotels like the Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort and the adults-only Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts are found.
As you’ve no doubt noticed, casinos are big—in every sense—in Aruba, and several, including the one in the Renaissance Aruba, are right in the capital city, Oranjestad. As popular with cruise ship passengers as it is with travelers staying on the island, Oranjestad is a clean, modern little city (albeit with historic architecture, too) that offers extraordinary restaurants and shopping. Name a world-famous brand, and these stores carry it—and at competitive prices. Speaking of money, Aruba, which functions like a state within The Netherlands, is currently spending $1 billion on infrastructure and beautification efforts, with a pronounced focus on Oranjestad. Remarkable, because the burg is already one of the nicest towns in the entire region. It’s worth noting, too, that the public buses that connect the hotels with Oranjestad are modern, inexpensive, and comfortable.
Best party in town? The weekly Carrubian Festival, which takes place each Thursday evening from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. in San Nicolas. Best snorkeling spot? The Antilla, a World War II shipwreck that’s close to shore and just barely below the surface of the water. The fish just love this wreck, which is one more reason why snorkelers love it. Wackiest you’ve-gotta-try-this activity? Rachel Brathen’s paddleboard yoga class.
BEST TIME TO GO: Year-round—Aruba lies south of the hurricane belt
FUN FACT: Aruba is just 17 miles from Venezuela
GETTING THERE: Delta flies from New York (JFK & LGA) and Atlanta to Aruba
ENTRY DOCUMENTS: Valid passport
CURRENCY: Aruba florin, but U.S. dollars widely accepted
MUST-TRY LOCAL FOOD: Dutch apple cake with ice cream at MooMba Beach Bar & Restaurant
BEST BUYS: The tax exemption for items from Oranjestad’s duty-free shops is $800 for U.S. citizens
INFORMATION PLEASE: Aruba Tourism Authority—aruba.com