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They call them the A-B-C- islands—Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao— three Dutch islands in the Southern Caribbean that comprise the ultimate sun-kissed getaway. They share a colonial history with gorgeous beaches, warm hospitality, an exciting culinary scene and a desirable location outside of the hurricane path. As much as they have in common, you’ll find these islands are very different from each other. Aruba is known for its glittering casinos and bustling night life; Bonaire for its spectacular diving and snorkeling; and Curaçao for its rich colonial history and laid-back vibe.

RELATED: Aruba (after you’re bored of the beach)

A is for Aruba
If you’re looking for non-stop action, Aruba is your happy place. Hit the links, shop in paradise and party hearty at the casinos and clubs. Capital city Oranjestad is a magnet for international cuisine and you’ll love dining at the Kitchen Table with exquisite eats and wine pairings overlooking the water. Also, head to Eagle Beach for  fantastic French-fusion cuisine at the Screaming Eagle.

Photo courtesy of Curacao Tourist Board

Explore the island on a colorful open-air Banana Bus, 4×4 guided off-road tour, trikes or via horseback. See Aruba’s underwater world in a submarine or go deep sea fishing. The gentle trade winds make windsurfing a literal breeze. Discover other “wet ‘n’ wild” adventures in this watersports mecca like parasailing, banana boating and kite surfing. When the sun goes down, the action heats up with live music at Soprano’s Piano Bar, Señor Frog’s and Hard Rock Café. Turn the clock back at the live Aruba Sinatra Show. Recommended hotels include the newly renovated Renaissance Aruba and Casino and adults-only Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort on Eagle Beach. Aruba is also the easiest to get to with direct flights from many U.S. cities.

B is for Bonaire

Bonaire may be the smallest of the A-B-C- islands, but its eco-friendly tourism, sustainable practices and international reputation as a diver’s paradise, make it BIG news. You’ll think you’ve discovered nirvana with more than 50 types of coral and over 350 fish species, including everything from parrot and angel fish to nurse sharks and stingrays. This award-winning scuba destination accommodates beginners to advanced divers with more than 60 official dive sites.

Take a water taxi out to Klein Bonaire (which means Little Bonaire) a tiny uninhabited island about a half mile from the shore to No Name Beach, featuring both shallow reefs and deep drop offs or venture out to 1,000 Steps Beach, known for its abundant corals and other marine life.

Plan to visit the massive Washington Slagbaai National Park, filled with fascinating wildlife, quiet beaches, lagoons, caverns and desert-like hills just waiting for discovery. In the capital city of Kralendijk, you can take a historical walking tour, learn more about the island’s history and shop main street Kaya Grandi for hand-crafted souvenirs. In Bonaire, everything is your pleasure. Recommended hotels are: Bellafonte Luxury Oceanfront Hotel with its amazing views and Coral Paradise Resort for great value.

C is for Curaçao

Photo courtesy of Curacao Tourist Board

The largest of the three islands in both size and population, Curaçao is known for its more than 35 spectacular beaches, pastel buildings and Dutch tourists—in fact, the whole island feels very much like Europe. Walk through the capital city of Willemstad, also an UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its burst of pink, blue, yellow and gold buildings (the colors indicate a government building or monument). Watch the iconic floating Queen Emma Bridge swing open to let the boats through.

Be sure to visit the floating market along the waterfront, where boats make the 35-mile sail from Venezuela to sell their fish, fruits and vegetables, adding to the colorful ambience…you can taste the freshness. Tour the 400-year-old Mikve Israel Synagogue, the oldest active synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. (Yes, that’s actual sand on the floor to remind the Jewish people of wandering in the desert.)

Stop at the Chobolobo Factory, a 19th-century historic mansion where the famous Blue Curacao liquor is made. Taste a sample and be prepared to bring home a bottle of the island’s most famous drink. Try the secluded beaches on the western coast of the island, from Willemstad north to Westpunt, which are popular for snorkeling and sunbathing. Recommended hotels are Avila Beach Hotel, walking distance to downtown; Renaissance Curaçao Resort & Casino in downtown; and Papagayo Beach Resort on Jan Thiel Bay.

Tagged: Caribbean

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Mira Temkin

Mira Temkin

Lover of lore with a thirst for adventure, Mira has her bags packed -- ready to go in a flash. She writes with spirited soul about destinations, hotels and spas.

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