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Aruba takes great pride in being called the world’s happiest island. Located just a stone’s throw from mainland Venezuela, it’s known for its fab, turquoise beaches and white sands, plus maritime activities like snorkeling, kayaking, diving and paddle boarding. But Aruba is much more than just a tropical water world. Adventure seekers, foodies and nightlife lovers take note: Sunny Aruba will not disappoint.

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Aruba Tourism Authority

Arikok Rocks | Photo courtesy of Aruba Tourism Authority

Arikok National Park takes up nearly 20% of Aruba’s landmass and provides backdrop for 20 miles of rugged and wild, desert-like terrain waiting to be explored on an ATV, UTV, Jeep Safari, horseback or on foot. Arikok not only has hidden beaches, but also cacti, natural bridges, pools, historic cave paintings, indigenous flora and fauna, rattlesnakes, owls and blue whiptail lizards.

While exploring, don’t miss buzzed about Guadirikiri Cave with its two chambers. Thecave extends about 100 feet with sunlight streaming through its top. In the deeper parts there’s a surprise—hundreds of bats. Although harmless, they are likely to give your heart a start nonetheless. Meanwhile, Fontein Cave is where you’ll find ceiling etchings by Arawak Indians that bring to life Aruba’s history. You’ll need a flashlight to check out the 300-foot-long passageway in Huliba Cave, dubbed the Tunnel of Love because of its heart-shaped opening.

Once you’ve had your fill of bats, deep dark places and the desert, look upward for your next thrill. Tandem skydiving in Aruba will get your adrenaline pumping. It offers one of the most scenic drop zones in the world. Soaring from 10,000 feet up, be exhilarated by the free-fall at 120 mph while harnessed to an experienced instructor. If you dare open your eyes, enjoy the view of the southern Caribbean, including the neighboring islands of Bonaire and Curacao, plus Venezuela’s Paraguana Peninsula a mere 17 miles to the south.

Bird watchers are in luck. The island’s semi-arid climate, diversity of flora and fauna, beaches, reefs, mangroves, marshes, countryside and manicured resorts are a breeding ground for 236 species of winged creatures, not to mention those en route to North or South America. Do check out the Bubali Plas Bird Sanctuary, with it bird-watching tower that overlooks marsh areas. It’s across from the Mill Resort & Suites in Palm Beach.

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Downtown Oranjestad

Downtown Oranjestad | Photo courtesy of Aruba Tourism Authority

All that action is likely to stir your appetite. The options in Aruba are plentiful. Cuba’s Cookin’ is a throwback to Havana in the late ’50s. It serves authentic Cuba cuisine and its chefs, waitstaff, musicians and dancers are mostly from Cuba. Black beans, rice, fried plantains, an array of pork, fish, steak—it’s all good.

Another favorite is Pinchos, a chic bar and grillon the pier at the Aruba Surfside Marina where there’s not a bad seat in the house. Talk about a stress buster: The calm waters and sunset views are as serene as they come. Pinchos is known for its dark rum-infused blue cheese tenderloin and pan seared Caribbean Grouper. Meanwhile, the Yemanja Woodfire Grill wows with its stuffed pork tenderloin and herb-crusted New Zealand rack of lamb, as well as gluten free and vegan fare.

After dinner, the party keeps going. Aruba has a busy nightlife, and not just at the casinos which include the Alhambra Casino, Seaport Casino and also at many resorts (see below). Favorite nightclubs include Gusto and Señor Frog’s. Don’t be surprised if someone whispers to you about the after party. Going back to the hotel before 4 or 5 am is frowned upon. Don’t be the wimpy American among Aruba’s international crowd. Don’t feellike dancing? Not to worry—there’s a thriving lounge scene for those in a quieter mood. Try Soprano’s Piano Bar.

If you’re just ready to crash, the Renaissance Aruba Beach Resort & Casino and the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino are among the many solid options. As you call it a day, it will surely be remembered as one that put a smile on your face. Its then you’ll know why they call Aruba one happy island.

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Tagged: Caribbean

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Sheryl Nance-Nash

Sheryl Nance-Nash

Sheryl is a writer and editor, specializing in travel, personal finance, business and career topics. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, Money,,,, Upscale Magazine, Essence, Black Enterprise and others.

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