Aruba has all the qualities a Caribbean island should have – white sands, swaying palm trees and bath-warm waters. The best swathe of coast is the 11-kilometre stretch that connects Palm Beach and Eagle Beach on the island’s western side. This swathe clinched third place on TripAdvisor’s poll of the world’s best beaches in 2011.
Kingdom of the Netherlands
Aruba is actually part of a trio of islands known as the ABCs – Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao – and, together with Holland, they make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands. As such, there’s a Dutch influence on the island. De Olde Mollen in Palm Beach is a bona-fide Dutch windmill, which was shipped over from Holland in the Sixties.
Dutch isn’t the only culture that’s shaped Aruba. There’s a strong American influence, too. A lot of the restaurants in Oranjestad and Palm Beach serve USA-style food like Tex Mex, Buffalo wings and ribs. Plus, free newspapers, like Aruba Today and Aruba Daily, focus on American current affairs.
Over in Palm Beach, one of the island’s most popular coastal resorts, high-rise hotels and swish casinos line the sands. At the other end of the spectrum, Eagle Beach is Aruba on a go-slow – think thatched beach hangouts serving up pina coladas.
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Set on Aruba’s southern coast, Oranjestad is the island’s capital. Its Dutch name translates as Orangetown, and it’s certainly got a zest about it. A lot of the colonial landmarks – and the newer lookalikes – in the cobblestoned streets of the Upper Town bear more than a passing resemblance to gingerbread houses. With their façades painted in bubblegum pinks and sherbet lemon yellows they’re almost good enough to eat. The Lower Town, meanwhile, is home to the old port and ruins from the island’s bygone days.
Palm Beach is Aruba’s flagship resort – a 3-kilometre stretch of breathtaking tropical coastline on the northwest of the island. It’s gradually filled up with luxury, high-rise hotels that back onto the beach. Add to that a line-up of chic restaurants, plus luxury shops that could give 5th Avenue or Bond Street a run for their money, and you’ve got Palm Beach in a nutshell.
Druif Beach is Aruba's answer to a Robinson Crusoe-style set-up. Languishing on the western side of the island, it’s a peaceful place that revolves around a textbook Caribbean beach, unravelling over 11 long kilometres. You’ll find a few bars, restaurants and bijou shops here and there – reminders that you’re not totally alone. There are a couple of low-rise luxury hotels at either end of the beach, too, and a 9-hole golf course nestled among wind-sculpted divi-divi trees at Divi Village Golf and Beach Resort.