Aruba: Get Rummy

White sands and blue skies in Aruba  (DigitalVision)

Ahhhhh, Aruba—sun, rum and fun. Part of the leeward group of the Dutch Antilles (along with Curacao and Bonaire), this slender island measures just 19 miles long and six miles wide, but its wide white-sand beaches, nearly year-round perfect climate, and tranquil, turquoise waters have turned it into a dream destination for sun seekers.

While not far from the coast of Venezuela, Aruba still retains elements of its Dutch colonial heritage, but with a Caribbean flavor all its own. English and Dutch are widely spoken, but the locals often get their business done in Papiamento, a dialect mixing Dutch, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. The island is also known for its lively after-dark scene; there's no shortage of nightclubs, casinos, bars, and restaurants to add a little groove to your sun-kissed days.

Aruba has placid waters on the island's southern side, the home of some of the Caribbean's most beautiful beaches. On the northwest side (just above the capital and main town of Oranjestad), Palm Beach, Eagle Beach, and Manchebo Beach are simply dreamy, despite some overcrowding.

High-rise hotels front most of these beaches, but for a change of pace, try the tranquil Bucuti Beach Resort (L.G. Smith Blvd. #55B), located on a ravishing stretch of Eagle Beach. Intimate in size (compared to the island's many sprawling resorts), Bucuti offers a combination of rooms, suites (many with ocean-view terraces), and spacious beachside bungalows, plus an outdoor pool, a restaurant, and two bars. At the resort's outdoor Tara Beach Spa, the two of you can get pampered as soft breezes blow through the coconut palms. Best bet is the couples' good-enough-to-eat chocolate-raspberry massage followed by a chocolate-mint scrub. Scrumptious.

Amazingly clear waters and abundant coral reefs mean great scuba diving; numerous outfitters on the island, such as De Palm Tours (297.582.4400, www.depalm.com) and Dive Aruba (297.582.7337, www.divearuba.com) rent equipment and offer tours to particularly spectacular underwater reefs. Another great way to escape the crowds is to saddle up and head east into Aruba's rugged, cactus-strewn interior, including Arikok National Wildlife Park (297.582.8001). Horses and guides are available from Rancho del Campo (297.585.0290, www.ranchodelcampo.com) and Rancho Notorious (297.586.0508, www.ranchonotorious.com).

But let's be honest; dinner is where the serious groundwork is laid for that late-night rendezvous. Culinary options include an intriguing mix of contemporary and Caribbean dishes at Papiamento (Washington 61, Noord, 297.586.4544, www.papiamentorestaurant.com), housed in an old manor house with an outdoor terrace overlooking a pool. Also in the town of Noord is the charming, art-decorated Gasparito (Gasparito 3, Noord, 297.586.7044, www.gasparito.com), a country house-turned-restaurant featuring local Aruban dishes. If you can't bear to leave the beach (and when on a trip to Aruba, nobody will blame you), the stylish Marandi (L.G. Smith Blvd. 1, Oranjestad, 297.582.0157, www.marandiaruba.com) offers an open-air dining room and thatch-roof-shaded tables right on the sand.

Should the mood strike you and you've got to get loose (no pun intended), cruise over to Club Havana (L.G. Smith Blvd. 1, Oranjestad, 297.582.0152) or Tantra (Royal Plaza Mall, L.G. Smith Blvd. 93, Oranjestad, 297.583.8842) to shake and shimmy to pulsing beats until the wee hours. That is, if you've even left your hotel room at all...

Published: 24 Jun 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Aruba

$360
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Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino
$217
Average/night*
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Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort
$80-$90
Average/night*
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Club Arias Bed and Breakfast

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