By Erin McQuilkin

Aruba is the quintessential Carribean island. A getaway here promises endless days lounging on shimmering sands and gazing at glowing aquamarine water. Time truly seems nonexistent on these blessed shores, and the sun-filled days combined with it’s thriving culinary scene, and diving amongst otherworldly shipwrecks, make the island spectacular at any time of year.

This Dutch country has a fascinating backstory involving indigenous people, maritime discoveries, European colonialism, a gold rush, and waves of immigration. It’s dramatic past results in a compelling destination whose visitors make the most return trips of any island in the world, and it made the Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel for 2020 list.

Image courtesy Dave Drury

What is in the soul of this tropical refuge that makes it so compelling? The answer lies somewhere in between its sunny shores, warm hospitality and the vivid blend of native Indian, Dutch and South American cultures. 

Scintillating Sights 

Welcome to alluring Aruba, or as the locals say in native Papiamento, “Bon Bini”! Travellers around the world set sail for Aruba to chill on the flawless beaches and gaze at those azure skies without a care in the world. Palm Beach is at the epicentre of the beach scene with serene water and cabanas within easy reach. To the south lies stunning Eagle Beach, one of top 25 beaches in the world on TripAdvisor.

These two are the best settings to enjoy the art of doing nothing. If you want a more active beach experience, make your way to Arashi Beach, for snorkelling, or Hadicurari Beach to harvest the trade winds and soar above the sea while windsurfing. If beaches aren’t your thing, Arikok National Park is a wild landscape, with a turtle nesting site and spectacular viewpoints. Aruba holds a special kind of treasure for divers. Beneath the ocean’s calm surface, there are multiple shipwrecks, like the Antilla, and even two explorable plane wrecks, the S-11 and DC-3, which divers can explore in the company of curious angelfish and anemones.

Island Hopping

If the shores of Aruba are not enough to fulfil your wanderlust, take a voyage to the other ABC islands, Bonaire and Curaçao. Where Aruba is buzzing, Bonaire is tranquil. Its pristine coral reef is a national marine park full of sea turtles and rainbow schools of tropical fish, where you can dive and snorkel your trip away. Your only company will be other outdoor lovers who came to hike, bike or kiteboard and an occasional donkey. Then on to Curaçao with its capital Willemstad, a World Heritage City awash in colourful houses and shops, and the Museum Kurá Hulanda, which chronicles the brutal history of slavery on the islands. 

Culinary Riches In The Carribean 

Aruba’s blend of Dutch, Carribean and Latin American cuisine has produced a fascinating culinary mix. From traditional dishes to the hundreds of fine-dining spots, Aruba has every possible gastro desire covered. The seafood is mouthwatering, especially the freshly caught mahi-mahi or snapper, served fried, raw, sauteed or stewed. Pan Bati, a corn and flour-based flatbread, is an essential part of every Aruban meal, but the crown prince is the buttery Pastechi.

These small crescent-shaped pastries are stuffed with  cheese, and occasionally ingredients like chicken or mushrooms. Other popular classics include stews full of fish, goat or beef. Beyond the local favourites, the thriving restaurant scene has places you won’t want to miss. Zeerovers is top of the list for locals and guarantees the freshest seafood overlooking the sea. There is also the famed Screaming Eagle, known throughout the Caribbean for its impeccable quality and inventive chef. 

Artsy And Sustainable

Aruba has a progressive approach to sustainability. It is focused on renewable energy and low carbon emissions, with the hotel industry following suit. The island boasts the Caribbean’s first certified carbon-neutral hotel, Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort. In the capital, Oranjestad, there are many eco-friendly initiatives, such as the creation of the new Linear Park and the weekly Bon Bini Festival. Not to be left behind, the city of San Nicolas is experiencing its own rebirth as local and global artists create a mural district, turning buildings into bright artworks. There’s also a weekly Carubbian Festival with artists, live music and local food. 

If you are planning an Aruban getaway, keep in mind that it is not a budget destination.  At the lower end expenses average about $70 USD per day, $145 USD for a mid-level trip and $300 USD and beyond for a high-end vacation. 

Aruba is the queen of the Carribean with some of the world’s best beaches, unparalleled diving and an inventive culinary scene. Whether you hole up at Echo beach, hike through rugged Arikok Park, or explore the urban wilds of Oranjestad and San Nicolas this jewel of an island beckons from her Carribean hideaway, inviting you to step out of the everyday and into the mythic.