Aruba sits just 18 miles off the northern coast of Venezuela and is one of the six islands that make up the Dutch Caribbean. Unlike many of its sister Caribbean islands, Aruba has an arid climate with virtually no rainy season and the trade winds keep the high temperatures pleasant. With the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Caribbean Sea on the other, Aruba is blessed with a unique desert landscape of cacti, trees, rocky cliffs and white sand beaches.
Aruba was colonised twice – first by the Spanish in 1499 and then by the Dutch West India Company in 1636 – creating a rich and varied culture. From a mining hub in the 90s, Aruba has evolved into a tourist economy due to its perfect weather, surfing beaches, diving expeditions, casinos, theme parks, hotels and resorts and duty free shopping. There are great shopping and dining options close to the cruise terminal, like the Royal Plaza Mall (good for local Aruban handicrafts and artwork) and Sea Port Village Mall. Aruba has 11 casinos; Crystal Casino and The Seaport Casino are in close proximity to the cruise port.
Popular beaches include Baby Beach, great for families and beginner snorkellers, and Malmok Beach, which is a popular swimming beach and frequented by snorkellers for its array of colourful fish. Close to Malmok is the Antilla dive site where experienced divers can explore a WWII ship wreck.
Alto Vista Chapel, or the Pilgrims Church built in 1750 offers a spectacular view of the North Coast. Visitors can go horseback riding around the 100 year old California Lighthouse or take a morning visit to the Butterfly Farm on Palm Beach, just 15 minutes from the cruise terminal, which is home to hundreds of butterfly species.
PLACES TO STAY
The Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino, Divi Village Golf and Beach Resort and the Tropicana Aruba Resort and Casino are some of the popular luxury properties in the capital, Oranjestad.
Who goes there: Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, MSC Cruises, Silversea.
Best for: Families, couples, adventurers
Getting around: The main shopping centre is five-minute walk from the cruise terminal; get a taxi or rent a car to visit nearby beaches.