AAH-RU-BA- THE DUTCH ANTILLES POLISHED LITTLE GEM

Main street, Oranjestad

Main street, Oranjestad

One of the most seductively styled and enduring of all the Caribbean islands, Aruba actually sits less than twenty miles from the northern coastline of South America. Aruba is part of the ‘ABC’ group of islands in the Netherlands Antilles- the other two are Bonaire and Curacao- and today, it retains more than just memories of its Dutch colonial days.

The capital of Oranjestad (literally ‘Orange Town’) is where most of the cruise ships dock. It’s a funky, breezy little brew of fussy, overly ornate shops, restaurants and buzzing waterfront bars, many of them with upper level balconies that offer stunning vistas out over the sparkling Caribbean itself. For some reason, Aruba seems big on casinos and, indeed, gambling in general.

Still more bars crouch along the edges of the languid, sun splashed waterfront, with umbrella shaded tables within strolling distance of fleets of idle, immaculate yachts bobbing at their moorings. The more eclectic establishments might boast life size pirate mannequins haunting the waterfront, or the odd cow, grazing contentedly on the roof. No, I don’t know why, either.

Aruba is also well known for being one of the Caribbean’s premier petrol refineries. The German navy certainly knew. Back in 1942, a surfaced German U-Boat attempted to shell the refineries here, but without much success.

Eagle Beach

Eagle Beach

Unlike many of the Caribbean islands, Aruba has a dry climate. It also lies outside of the main summer time hurricane belt. As a result, it’s temperature is pretty constant year round. If you ever needed an excuse to enjoy a day at the beach, you now have it. Those on the south west coast are more sheltered from wind and waves than on the other shores.

Fortunately, you’ll find the likes of Eagle Beach are fully set up for some serious hedonism, Dutch style. Hammocks slung between palm trees resemble nothing so much as a series of slow, languid smiles, framed against the dreamy blue expanse of the ocean. Thatched huts and thrilling jet ski rides, para gliders and pina coladas compete for your custom and attention.

And if all that showing off is exhausting, just smile, slouch back into a hammock, and grab an ice cold, aptly patriotic Dutch Heineken. After all, this is Holland in the Caribbean.

Waterfront bar, Oranjestad

Waterfront bar, Oranjestad

Not that you need an excuse, mind you. But the symmetry is kind of sweet….

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