Lean back and take it easy on Aruba, which combines the best that the Caribbean sea, sand and sunshine have to offer. Aruba's balmy breezes and relaxed pace are just the tonics for any frazzled visitor; just like the soothing aloe vera plant that is found everywhere on the island.
The surrounding waters are populated by colourful creatures such as parrotfish splashed with teal and gold, while bright pink flamingos populate the national park. Aruba's capital, Oranjestad, also dazzles – it's great for shopping. Orange facades brightly array the architecture, indicating the island's historical ties with The Netherlands – Aruba's head of state is still the Dutch ruling monarch.
Favoured by Americans keen to escape extreme weather in winter, Aruba is one of the most popular touristic islands in the southern Caribbean. Sometimes the mob has it right. This island's beautiful beaches, pristine resorts and charming city of Oranjestad are difficult to knock. You'll also find a lively nighttime scene, with glittering casinos, gourmet restaurants and beach-side diners.
Many come on day trips as part of a cruise, but it's really worth spending a bit more time in Aruba, soaking up its nature, all its rugged coasts and gorgeous beaches. In the interior, you'll find rocky deserts, expanses filled with cactuses and the iconic divi-divi tree. It's a good idea to hire a car to really make the most of it. Many tourists don't stray far from Oranjestad, but a drive to the northern and eastern shores comes highly recommended. Look out for the California Lighthouse and Seroe Colorado. Modern road signs are still being developed here, so try not to get lost.
As for history, Aruba's first inhabitants are thought to be Amerindians from the Arawak tribe. The island was later colonised by the Spanish, before being taken over by the Dutch in the 17th century. Today's Arubans are for the most part an interesting mix of Amerindian and European heritage, with the island boasting the strongest Arawak heritage in the region. There is also a considerable black population, as well as more recent Venezuelan immigrants. Altogether this makes for a lively local scene that's both welcoming and distinct.