Aruba is the Caribbean's sandy, arid escape: plush white beaches slope softly into the fizzle of foaming surf, edged sometimes by a scarlet sunset, while fences inland are built of cacti. Mostly flat, almost always 81 degrees farenheit and friendly, you'll get square coins in change for your ice-cream cone on this Dutch isle. Just a short hop north of South America, expect top-notch diving sites, carefully groomed resorts and English spoken with a charming accent. The CIA lists the island's resources as 'white sandy beaches' (arguably some of the Caribbean's sandiest), and here their intelligence is accurate. Even if you're not here to build castles in the sand, Aruba is a pleasant pocket-sized interlude with plenty of aloe plants to ease your sunburn.
Just over 18 miles long and shy of six wide, the main city, Oranjestad, is adjacent to the resorts along the northwest shore. To explore Aruba's natural land bridges, the California lighthouse or the sand dunes and remote beaches of Arikok National Wildlife Park, rent wheels for a day - though if you plan to head into the park, get something that can handle a little rough road.
Tee off at one of Aruba's three golf courses, where oiled sand sometimes takes the place of grass on this arid island. Once you've made par for the course, stow your clubs and mount a steed for a horseback tour of island sights.
Most of Aruba's activity centers on ocean-related pursuits. Divers can bubble around the wrecked German freighter lying off the north coast. Part of the ship extends above the surface for those who would rather do their exploring with a snorkel on the surface. Bright reefs along the southwest shore are also popular with underwater enthusiasts. Palm and Eagle Beaches have extremely soft, warm surf that is suitable for family use and superb sunsets, while less accessible beaches on the southeast shore provide more solitude.
Aruba, the 'A' in the Netherlands Antilles 'ABC' Islands, is a short flight (42 miles) northwest of Curaçao and 18 miles north of the Paraguana Peninsula in Venezuela.