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There are many reasons to visit the beautiful island of Aruba. This Caribbean island that lies just 15 miles north of the Venezuelan coast is renowned for its striking white sand beaches and tropical climate that’s moderated by constant trade winds from the Atlantic. It also offers some impressive wildlife, historic ruins and even underground caves to explore. If Aruba is on your travel agenda, you may have a difficult time narrowing down the things you want to do, but these ideas are sure to make that infinitely easier.
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Aruba’s flamingos have become famous thanks to being spotlighted on Instagram, with many visitors capturing selfies feeding and enjoying close encounters with the pink birds. While you can see them all over the island, the best spot is Renaissance Island, a privately owned island in Oranjestad owned by Renaissance Aruba Resort. If you stay at the resort, you’ll get free access, but you can also purchase a day pass and visit as a non-guest too. As passes are limited and can’t be pre-booked, be sure to arrive early in the morning to avoid disappointment.
Palm Beach is world-famous, a spectacular two-mile-long strip along the coast that’s lined with trendy beach bars and cafes, upscale hotels and elegant eateries, with lots of high-end boutiques and other shops mixed in. Its edged by crystal-clear, calm water that makes it a haven for swimmers and snorkelers alike, and if you need gear for your watersports you’ll find concessions with rentals too. This is a fantastic spot for catching amazing tangerine-colored sunsets, and after dark, it’s a party on the beach, with bars, nightclubs and casinos hopping until the wee hours of the morning.
Nearly 20 percent of Aruba is a protected national park, with Arikok National Park stretching from the its arid center to the east and north coasts, framed by brilliant blue seas and steep ocean cliffs. The best way to experience it is to get out and hike the trails, with some 29 miles of rugged routes for a variety of hiking levels. Along the way you can see the quartz glisten through the desert soil, along with aloe and other flora and succulents that flourish in the landscape. Park ranger-led tours are highly recommended and include in your entrance fee, but you’ll need to reserve a spot at least one day in advance.
Aruba offers the chance to go underground too, with a fascinating world awaiting right at the edge of the national park. The refreshingly cool caverns are a great way to escape the heat and filled with stalactites, ancient paintings, skylights and a few bats too. It’s also an ideal way to escape the crowds, with the majority of tourists choosing to hangout on the beach most of the day. Guadirikiri Cave is the most popular cave, with two large main caves linked by the “Tunnel of Love” which is illuminated by skylights and features one-thousand-year-old Arawak Indian handprints and paintings.
Sandwiched between Wairiruri beach and Andicuri beach, the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins are the remnants of a long-abandoned gold mill that processed gold ore during the 19th-century gold rush in Aruba. The treasure was discovered on the island in 1824, while the Bushiribana smelter was constructed by the Aruba Island Gold Mining Company the following year in order to extract the gold from the nearby hills of Ceru Plat. It was in operation for a decade and produced over three million pounds of gold during that time. All that gold and colorful history of prospectors shaped what Aruba is today. The ruins now serve as a popular attraction, often visited on the way to the Aruba Natural Bridge.
Aruba’s clear, calm waters make it one of the best islands in the Caribbean for snorkeling. Going underwater is really a must here, where you can view countless tropical fish and a host of other marine life. While there are many outstanding snorkeling beaches, Arashi is one of the best. Situated on the northern coast, it’s ideal for beginners thanks to the shallow water and sandy bottom. If you’re hoping for sea turtles, larger fish and brilliant coral, head to Boca Catalina, a small secluded bay in the Malmok beach area. While it can get busy at Mangel Halto, here you can see blue tangs, parrot fish, squid, butterfly fish, anemones, sponges and much more – in fact you may even spot stingrays here. At deeper depths of 110 feet, you’re likely to see lots of morays, octopi and barracuda hanging around.
Aruba celebrates a traditional Carnival every year, when many Arubans take to the streets in elaborate costumes and masks. Attending is an ideal way to enjoy a more authentic experience and get to know the locals, most of whom speak the local language Papiamento, as well as Spanish, Dutch, and English. The lively event features parades, music, dancing, and lots of tasty food, kicking off just after New Year’s Day and running through February.
Sailing the Caribbean waters that surround Aruba is an especially unforgettable experience, with the trade winds providing outstanding conditions for the sport. It allows one to enjoy taking in a full view of the island while visiting all sorts of great snorkeling spots throughout the day. A variety of cruise options are available in addition to snorkeling tours, including sunset sails.