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Learn about Aruba by reading Aruba—Little Island, Big Adventure by Charlie Spence, Aviation Writer. It features a mini, but thorough tour of the destination, plus all you'll need to know to plan your trip including getting there, objective information on places to stay and eat, and things to do. At the end of the article, we've provided a summary of the contact information for your easy reference. Enjoy!

Aruba—Little Island, Big Adventure

By Charlie Spence, Aviation Writer and IFA Member

Divi trees on the beach

Divi trees on the beach.
Photo courtesy of Aruba Tourism Authority

It covers only 70 square miles of land and has a year-round average temperature of 82° Fahrenheit, is rimmed by sparkling beaches and quiet, more-secluded shady expanses, has nights crammed with excitement, and food to delight even the most discriminating palate. It is everything you look for in a getaway trip any time of the year. Aruba is only a few miles from Venezuela over waters of the Southern Caribbean. It is a quick flight from Miami in the United States and is served by a number of airlines with connections to almost anywhere in the world.

Aruba is a place where you can do everything from relaxing and unwinding in the splendor of plush resorts through explorations of any of the more than half-a-dozen shipwrecks off the coast. Do your own exploring of the waters or take guided tours. Parasailing, scuba diving, wind and kite surfing, deep sea fishing, underwater tours—select your adventure.

About 100,000 persons live on the island but six times that many come annually as visitors. The small island attracts so many visitors they are limited as to the length of their stays and the number of times they may visit is a year. Maximum time for a single visit is 30 days and cannot exceed 180 days a year. While this may seem ample for exploring and enjoying the island, visitors soon find it difficult to sample what the destination offers in those short times.

Lovers of water sports have only one problem—deciding which activity to enjoy next. Aquatic adventures seem almost endless. Little rainfall and daily sunshine matched with the variety of beaches make Aruba a place to spend hours of tanning interspersed with refreshing dips in the turquoise Caribbean waters. Resorts line much of the seven mile strip along the west coast. Soak up sun, enjoy a book, or delve into any one of the other adventures. Swimming, water skiing, parasailing, tubing, kitesurfing, and banana-boating, are just a few steps away.

Experienced divers may plunge to explore one of the shipwrecks where the visibility is up to 100 feet in the clear waters. Explore the reefs. If you haven’t yet mastered snorkeling, Aruba is your opportunity to take training and get certified. If you are not ready for scuba diving, try snuba, that is a combination of SNorkling and scUBA which lets you breathe easily underwater without wearing heavy underwater gear.

Beaches along the windward coast are in contrast with secluded coves and less developed areas. You will find great beauty with views of the Caribbean and more privacy along that side of the island but because of the strong undertow, swimming is not recommended.

Cruises offer a time to either relax or revel. Some departures take you on romantic moonlight interludes; others rock the boat with a party atmosphere. If you like the water but don’t like getting wet, go aboard the famous Glass Bottom boat, the Sea World Explorer, or the Atlantis Submarine. Any of these will take you to the Antilla Shipwreck.

Don’t get the idea you will become waterlogged on a visit to Aruba. Much is available on dry land. Enjoy a leisurely horseback ride along the beach or hike along the twenty miles of rugged trails in the Arikok National Park. Golfers will find new challenges playing against the constant trade winds. Want to relax even more? Tour the island in an air-conditioned motor coach or on a jeep safari.

Aruba nights are as diverse and enticing as are the day attractions. Scores of casual beach and pier bars are along the southwest coast where you may mingle with the locals and other tourists. For nightlife, you will have about a dozen casinos from which to choose. Some are open 24 hours. At some you will find Las Vegas-type shows. You can find state-of-the-art slot machines, a wide range of table games, cash Bingo and other games of chance.

Shopping mall

Main entrance Paseo Herencia Mall & Entertainment Center
Photo courtesy of Aruba Tourism Authority

The capital city, Oranjestad, has the stores and boutiques but you will also find shops in the major hotels and at the airport. Select from a wide verity of international brands with prices in Aruba usually 10-35 percent lower than they are in the United States. Oranjestad is the historic Dutch city with its tall structures, government buildings, the multi-colored houses with their carved wooden doors and traditional Dutch tiles. Another area known as the Highrise strip also has many shops, malls, after-hours haunts, karaoke and martini bars, theaters, cafes and restaurants.

Cuisine on Aruba has been developed from an abundance of seafood so many of the dishes you will enjoy include mahi-mahi, tuna, wahoo, conch, or snapper. Traditional meals are accented by native herbs and spices.

Until January 1, 1996, Aruba was a part of the Netherlands Antilles. At that time it became a separate entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Governor is appointed by the Queen. The official languages are the native-tongue, Papiamento, and Dutch. English and Spanish are also widely spoken and almost universally understood. Aruban florin is the official currency. It is divided into 100 cents. The United States dollar is widely accepted but many places will not accept the $50 or $100 bill because of world-wide counterfeiting. Travelers with ATM cards can withdraw cash in U.S. dollars but before starting on a trip, one should check with the home bank if their cards will work in Aruba. Major credit cards are accepted at most locations.

U.S. citizens will be required to have a valid passport. Some countries require a visa to enter Aruba.

Details

Getting There

There basically three ways to fly from the United States to Aruba. The simplest and easiest is flying your aircraft to Miami and taking a commercial flight for the other two-and-a-half hour flight to Aruba. But what pilot wants to give up the adventure of flying to new destinations?

Fly your own aircraft on one of two routes: through Mexico, Central America, over Colombia and just a few miles over water to Aruba. Advantages are overflying many new and different places featuring rich 16th , 17th and 18th century colonial history and pre-hispanic cultural legacies such as Mayan and Olmec archeological sites, as well as natural beauty in numerous natural biosphere reserves and only a brief period of over water. Disadvantages are additional paperwork and requirements such as over-flight and/or landing permits, and liability insurance.

A third option is depart southern Florida and follow the string of islands through the Bahamas and Caribbean to Aruba. Advantages are less red-tape, paper work, and permits and some breathtaking Caribbean scenery: the gamut of turquoise and blue colors of the water and long stretches of white sand beaches. Disadvantages are many relatively short hops over water followed by one of about 380 nautical miles.

Whatever option you take you will want expert advice and help with the charts, approach plates, and paperwork. Just such an expert is Caribbean Sky Tours.

Where to Stay

Accommodations are as diverse as the Island itself. Options include small, intimate hotels to those with hundreds of rooms, including plush suites. Most are along the beach.

You can check rates and book your room and rental car at IFA's Online Travel Booking Service. Significant discounts may apply.

Where to Eat

Visitors to Aruba will find many restaurants offering a wide variety of selections for international cuisines. More than 100 international restaurants are available offering cuisines ranging from French, Italian, Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese, and, of course, local dishes. Many restaurants offer dine-around programs or early bird specials so you may taste the different availabilities. Many fine restaurants are in the hotels. A variety of fast-food establishments are in handy locations

Notice: This information is current as of April 2011. It is recommended that you contact the numbers, and/or visit the websites above to determine any changes to the information.