You can’t talk about Aruba’s nature without mentioning the Arikok National Park. This sprawling mass of land blankets 18% of the island, and is home turf to the majority of Aruba’s flora and fauna. From iguanas and lizards, to birds like the Aruban burrowing owl, and desert-dwelling cacti, you’ll find it all here. Stretching your legs couldn’t be easier, too, thanks to the 29-miles worth of hiking trails, which come in three difficulty levels. And, for something a bit different, you can even arrange to do a full-moon hike. If you’re up to the challenge, why not take on the 620-foot trek to the top of Mount Jamanota, the island’s highest point? The vertigo-inducing views from here are worth the exertion, plus, on a clear day you can see as far as South America.
Festivals and carnivals are year-round events in Aruba. Soul Beach Music Festival, in May, is a great way to get into the summer’s high spirits. R&B favourites like Mary J Blige and Usher have taken to this sandy stage. And in September, you can don your dancing shoes again for the Annual Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival. There’s a range of names on the bill, from local legends, to international artists. Back in 2011, Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi featured in the line-up – you’ll probably know him nowadays from his collaboration with Justin Bieber. If you don’t manage to catch these, once a week, the Bon Bini Festival takes place in Oranjestad. It’s a great place to try some local food and get involved with Aruban traditions.
If you didn’t know it already, Aruba’s one of the four destinations that make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands. And, a trip to Fort Zoutman, in Oranjestad, showcases Aruba’s Dutch roots. Built in 1796, it’s Aruba’s oldest building. From government offices, to the Town Hall, where the legal part of wedding ceremonies is conducted, these colourful buildings have their fair share of stories. Although sending a postcard may take a while, with free Wi-Fi over the island you can take real-time selfies to share with your friends. And, if you want to immerse yourself in days of old, visit the Historical Museum and take a look at a range of Aruban artefacts through the ages.
Dip below the bath-warm waters around Aruba’s west coast and get up close with neon-coloured parrotfish, and pretty coral reefs. De Palm Island, which is just a five-minute ferry ride away from the mainland, is one of the best diving spots. It’s got a 6-slide water park, too. Palm Beach, however, is the place to be if you’re a watersports lover. Windsurfing, jet-skiing, kitesurfing, you name it. And, don’t worry if you’re a beginner, you can sign up for starter lessons on the beach.
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Author: Sarah Clayton
Published: July 28, 2017
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