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Aruba Spotlight

Beautiful beaches and sizzling nightlife lure visitors back again and again

By Stephanie Johnnidis

February 21st, 2007

Of the hundreds of Caribbean islands - all boasting tropical appeal and brilliant turquoise waters - why does Aruba get the most repeat visitors? Three major reasons top the list: There's no rainy season; constant trade winds keep climates bearable (even in summer); and many direct flights make getting there a cinch. Not enough to get you packing? Picture this: You, lounging on the sugary sand; snorkeling among old shipwrecks and reefs; off-roading in an ATV in desert-like landscapes unique to this island; or pulling the handle at the slots at one of the many island casinos. Indeed, if your idea of the perfect vacation is a marriage of leisure, entertainment, and activities, you'll surely find Aruba is right for you.

One of three islands to compose the Dutch-owned ABC islands (the B and C are Bonaire and Curaçao), Aruba's location, just 20 miles off the northern coast of Venezuela, has produced a noticeably Latin vibe – to wit, though Dutch is the official language, you're far more likely to hear Spanish and Papiamento (a local dialect) spoken here. This isn't the island's only surprise, either: Though it has all the quintessential trappings of a picture-perfect Caribbean beach retreat – miles of white sand bordered by the aquamarine sea – the topography of the northern coast, especially around Arikok National Park, with its desert-like terrain dotted with cacti and peculiar rock formations, is remarkably unique in the Caribbean.

At just 20 miles long and 6 miles wide, Aruba is also the smallest of the ABCs, a size that makes it easy to explore on even a short trip. If you have three days, you'll have enough time to relax on the beach, plus snorkel, sail, and explore Oranjestad, Aruba's capital. With five days, you can make a pilgrimage to Aruba's wild north coast, where you'll find the old California Lighthouse and the Ayo Rock Formations. A week allows for plenty of island activities, from horse-back riding to golfing and hikes through Arikok National Park and along the sand dunes of Boca Prins.

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