Aruba, just 18 miles off the coast of Venezuela, is known for its beaches, world-class resorts and impressive casinos. Outdoor activities such as scuba diving, deep sea fishing, windsurfing, parasailing and boating are offered in abundance. First claimed by the Spanish in the 1400s, Aruba has been part of the Royal Dutch Kingdom for more than 350 years. Dutch is the official language, but most island residents also speak English and Spanish. The island's colorful past also provides many attractions for guests.
BEACH TIME Aruba is windy year-round; the rocky northeast side of the island has the strongest winds and the roughest water, while the leeward, west, side is calmer, with palm trees and most of the hotels. Picture your perfect island: If the vision encompasses long gleaming beaches, almost any imaginable water-sports activity, a familiar and friendly infrastructure, and easy access from major American gateways, place Aruba high on your list. With its array of duty-free shops and casinos, the island is a favorite port for cruise ships, but visitors also lodge here to take advantage of upscale restaurants, lively nightclubs, and some of the best windsurfing in the world.
Caribbean Island of Bonaire
Sleepy Bonaire has always been known primarily as a dive destination, and for good reason: It's ringed by a series of glorious offshore reefs. Bonaire has started to take its place as a landlubber's destination also, with a developing art and dining scene, and a slew of fascinating land-based activities. In the main town, Kralendijk, art lovers flock to several Art Galleries, founded by local artists. The permanent displays feature evocative oils, photographs, sculptures and more. Sophisticated visitors are taking advantage of an increasing number of fine restaurants featuring French, Italian, Argentine and creative cuisines.
credit: Erik Conover
Caribbean Island of Curacao
Home to more than 35 captivating beaches, a diverse heritage spanning 55 different cultures, 'live and let live' attitude and unrivaled European architecture; Curacao remains one of the most exceptional islands of the region. Its capital city, Willemstad — a UNESCO World Heritage site — with its iconic colorful Handelskade backdrop and roster of museums, monuments, flavorful restaurants and shopping, was selected in 2013 as one of the Top 5 Cities in the Caribbean by Conde Nast Traveler's readers. Curacao's natural beauty, pristine diving and snorkeling sites are a favorite with divers and adventure seekers, and its beaches and idyllic weather, situated on the outer fringes of the Hurricane Belt, has won it further accolade and recognition.
credit: Travel Caribbean
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