Aruba Island

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Where Happiness Lives
Aruba is not your typically lush margaritaville. Located deep in the southern Caribbean, just 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela and outside the hurricane belt, its arid interior landscape appears to be straight out of Arizona. But people do love it. Like its sister isles of Bonaire and Curaçao (together, the three make up the "ABC" islands), Aruba has a character and architecture defined by its Dutch heritage and its proximity to South America. As a modern vacation spot, this Netherland Antilles island covers all the bases.

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ISLANDS editor Eddy Patricelli has lived on Aruba and recommends Fisherman's Huts as the ideal spot to learn both the classic sport of windsurfing and the newer sport of kiteboarding. This spot earned a place on our list of the Best of the Caribbean 2008.

Plan Your Trip

Stay at the all-new Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino. Discover perfect beaches, teeming reefs and vibrant Dutch heritage while based at this resort that features a three-level swimming pool, Stillwater Spa, fitness center and beachfront location. Plus two round-trip tickets, courtesy of Hyatt Regency Aruba, At Bucuti Beach Resort, enjoy stunning Eagle Beach -- a broad belt of silky sand that tapers ever so gently into the sea. The resort is in the low-rise resort quarter.

Kiteboard at Fisherman's Huts, with warm waters and reliable winds. It's long been considered a windsurfer's paradise, but new advances in kiteboarding gear, like four-line and bow kites, have made the young sport of kiteboarding safe here.;

Eat at the Pirate's Nest restaurant, which features a replica of a 16th-century Dutch galleon -- plus snapper, tuna, grouper and mahimahi.

Walk through Arikok National Park, best undertaken beneath the full moon. No, no werewolves -- just better light for seeing owls, land crabs and rattlesnakes. Walks typically last about three to four hours, including driving time.

Relax on the beaches. Aruba's southern leeward shoreline offers a veritable banquet of white-sand beaches. One favorite is Palm Beach, a prime spot bordered by hotels. For a special oasis on this desert island, ask for directions to Cura di Tortuga, a natural rock-rimmed seawater pool hidden away on the windward coast.

Enjoy the nightlife. They sure don't pull in the sidewalks of Oranjestad at sunset. You'll find bars, discos, clubs, casino after casino, and Vegas-style shows that even feature water ballets. At the hotels, Caribbean theme nights complete with limbo contests are just part of the fun. And on De Palm, a private island, they pack 'em in at restaurants that hold hundreds.

Dive on the Antilla shipwreck. Underwater visibility is great for dives to famous wrecks like this 400-foot German freighter.

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